Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Student Guide to Hitting the Town

"Clash of the Titans" @ Home House 2009

I've been quietly pondering where in Geelong to go out for my birthday next week, and realised that there are a bunch of O'Week students about to hit town, many of them new to the area, who probably have no idea where to head out once the organised activities are over. I know my brother is certainly one of them! Many a Thursday has been spent debating the location of that night's partying. Here's a quick rundown of some of the regular haunts in Geelong…


Every uni student in Geelong knows about The Ponds, which until the end of last year was just a short stroll down the path from the Deakin Waurn Ponds campus. It's still a short walk down hill, but it's no longer down the handy path from res, which will make it a slightly longer stagger back to caf after Wednesday night Happy Hour. Happys down the Ponds is something of a tradition, in particular with resies, from 5-7pm on a Wednesday night. Yes, it is usually dodgy as, with plastic cups and manky beer or goon sunrises, but it is cheap, and a great way to catch up with your friends, and de-stress on Hump Day. The few pool tables get taken pretty early, and you can rarely hear the music, but good times to be had before the last minute rush back up the hill for dinner. The Ponds is also home to the 'Dodgy Disco' late Wednesday nights, as nasty as it sounds, but popular after unit functions, or for those people who started after walking out of their last lecture of the day, and have yet to stop. However, in the last year it became rather sporadic in occurance, so check with the bar staff during Happys to avoid disappointment when you've walked down the hill at 10pm.


Across the road from the Deakin Waterfront campus, The Max appears to have fallen from uni student favour in the last year or so for anything other than killing time or holding functions, though I have no idea why. Great live music a few nights a week, decent food, and proximity to the uni would make it a prime candidate in my opinion. Still, popular or not, the drinks are good, the staff are great, and many a Mix-and-Match function has been conducted between its multiple levels. Good place to start if you are driving into town, as the uni carpark is right next to it, and everywhere else is a short walk up the road.


The Carlton Hotel on Malop Street has become one of the more popular pre-drinks spots for a Thursday night, due to discounted drinks, finger food, and live music for Thursday Uni Nights. It has a cool, laid back atmosphere, with booths, arm chairs by the fire, and sweet as staff. A lot of pub crawls (aka. Mystery bus tours) go through this pub, so expect to get to know it during the first few weeks of uni. Apparently the food is pretty good too, but I've never had anything other than the finger food, so don't take my word for it! The Carlton usually closes around midnight on a Thursday, making it a great spot to meet, have a few drinks, enjoy the music, and decide where to head next.


Right next door to the Carlton is Mr Hyde, a super styling cocktail bar. Yes, cocktails are slightly pricey for a uni student ($15 may be cheap for a good cocktail in Geelong, but it's still more than most students are willing to spend). However, if you're celebrating something, like a birthday or graduation, it's a top spot. The cocktails are simply amazing, and even if it's not on their extensive menu, the chances are the bar staff will know how to make it. Add to this an awesome high ceiling, interesting lighting, a few little private rooms, large comfy couches, and it's heaven to me! Another cocktail bar has recently opened on James St, called Opium Cocktail Bar, and it has been getting rave reviews, but have yet to try it out. Stay tuned for updates!


Beav's Bar is on the intersection of James St and Little Malop St, and is probably my favourite place to just chill out and have drinks with a few friends. It looks like it was once a church that has been converted into a bar. The mix-matched, pre-loved sofas and couches are regularly rearranged by the clientele, there is a painting on the wall that looks like Elvis was Gary Ablett's wingman, and the bar is watched over by a collection of Barbie and Ken dolls (and possibly an Action Man?) in various lewd positions. The lighting is seductive, the Open Mic nights and live music are bliss, the prices are pretty good (including being pretty much the only place with NO COVER CHARGE!), and they make a damn good cosmo when you're not spilling it all over yourself (yes, my birthday last year got a bit messy at Beav's!). I think I just talked myself into another birthday trip! Still on Little Malop, and over Moorabool St, there is a little alleyway that hides the gem that is Tannin Lounge. Nerdy bliss, it is also an internet/gaming café during the day. Another lounge bar, it's trendy, again has huge comfy couches (I'm seeing a trend in my favourite places…), and a fairly large group of regulars who are always happy to welcome a new face. I've only been a few times, usually early in the night, but it was pretty damned sweet, and is well worth a look.


Over on Yarra Street, The Bended Elbow is a self-styled 'British Ale House', which basically means pub with lots of random farm tools, taxidermy, and other random stuff. Still, another of my favourite places to party, there is something on every night at Bended, be it Thursday night Karaoke, live music upstairs, steak/burger/parmi/whatever night, poker, trivia, the food is almost always good, and apparently they have a decent selection of beer. Previously their top floor has been open as a nightclub on weekends, but 'Level One' was recently shut down, amid promises that the live music would continue, and that bigger and better things were planned. Still, I was a rare visitor to that level, preferring to stay with the regular live band, cider on tap, and low, soft lighting of the pub-atmosphere on ground level.


The National Hotel, aka. The Nash, on Moorabool St, is not for everyone. Deep-fried blondes, for example. One of the few pubs in Geelong with a good reputation for live music (and great noodles), my first introduction was in my first year when they still had Brit Rock night in the back room on a Wednesday night, where the tartan skirts got broken out and mohawks came out to play, with some serious head banging, and great local acts. The beer garden is like walking through a cloud of smog, the bathrooms look like you should be rolling up a sleeve and finding a vein, and there is reputation for fights breaking out outside, but that can all be overlooked for the music, the mad pool room wallpapered with old gig posters, and Nash noodles. After a few, be careful not to get distracted while ordering drinks by the fish tank behind the bar, sure way to get ejected. There are usually two things going on in the Nash at once, one up front, another in the 'Groove Room' out back, and they run a rad trivia night once a week. Did I mention noodles?


My other pick for live bands is The Barwon Club, right down Moorabool St near the river. This is also now my local, so I am expecting to spend a lot more time there than previously. Poker Thursdays, Sunday acoustic sessions, a regular feature gig, the local cover band, your weekend is fairly covered. With sweet sleeper-like tables, a massive bar, the big screen TV in the corner to catch the latest sport, a beer garden that is actually nice, pool table, and the big room out the back for gigs and functions, the Barwon Club is another popular spot for pub crawls, and last year hosted the resi recovery day, much to their credit.


Not really my thing, but where I end up spending the most nights out (Viva la democracy) are the nightclubs in town, and there are pleanty of them. Blue Martini Lounge is on James St, and after a massive climb up, there are two rooms, usually one playing RnB or Top 40, and another playing house. Cheap drinks, cover bands, popular as an afterparty spot and for uni society functions and for partying into the wee hours. The first room when you walk in is visually pretty cool, with a wall of lights, a cool bar, a dancing box up top for the deep-fried blondes to shake their non-existant booty, a couple of big comfy booths and what appear to be giant ottomans on the mezz section. Home House on Moorabool St is insanely huge, with two floors, four bars, and looks like a cloud of fairies exploded everywhere. Seriously, downstairs is super sparkly, with the stairs lined with celebrity snaps, and upstairs sporting a decent collection of pop art. Lots of dark cozy corners, and places for high-heeled feet to rest, it is owned by Darryn "Mr Paparazzi" Lyons, who appears entirely at home when you see him there, so perhaps aptly named? When I first started at Deakin, it was decorated with pieces from the set of Moulin Rouge, and had a much more burlesque feel than the current décor, but it is no less OTT after the refurbishment a few years back. Hugely popular for Thursday nights, and in particular for uni society functions such as those run by Juggernauts. Also owned by Mr Lyons is Eureka. Once the grotty sports bar that you only went to at the end of the night, when everywhere else was closing, and you could barely stand, it was transformed by a multi-million dollar renovation and refurbishment last year into a one of the hottest club tickets in town. Unfortunately, everyone's favourite sports wall disappeared in the refurb, along with the dancing ledge, but the result has been an undoubtedly classier end to the night. The upstairs garden is something to behold, just be careful not to fall down the stairs like one former housemate did!

So, after Happys on Wednesday, Uni night Thursday, and footy at the pub Saturday, it comes to Sunday night and you're up for one last night out. There is, of course, only one possible place. Lamby's Tavern on the corner of Moorabool and Brougham streets. Underground in the old wool exchange, this pub comes to life on Sundays, when everyone is trying to deny that they have to front up to work/uni/life in the morning. Live coverband on the dance floor pumping out the classic floor fillers, at least 4 deep to the two bars, and a whole heap of super comfy couches round the back, it's the prefect Sunday night out, so long as you're not over 6ft. Yes, there is a rather low roof on the dancefloor, and many a tall patron has almost knocked themselves out on a rafter while dancing. Especially if there's moshing involved. Still, somehow they survive, and everyone has an awesome night, or so the photographs and the pounding headache say the next day!


Hopefully this will be helpful to some of the new people floating around Geelong looking for a good night out!

If you live in another town, or know of somewhere in Geelong you think should be on the list, please share the details of your favourite party place! Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Adelaide, Brisbane?

n.b. Club4Play on Moorabool was recently rebranded 'Cruze', and has not yet reopened. Therefore, it has not been included on this list. Opens later this week I believe!

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