Upon first visiting Melbourne’s iconic jazz precinct The Night Cat, I preceded with an hour long self discussion about whether or not adorning a black beret to the venue would “A” hail me queen of Ladysmith Black Mambazo or “B” get me kicked out for making fun of serious jazz culture. So without my black beret in hand, was I smooth enough to bongo drum down with the cats of Fitzroy? I was ready for the verdict.
I purposely made a late departure from home towards The Night Cat. I don’t want to seem too eager to the “cultured, older crowd.” My interior dialogue continued (don’t worry, the following three Coronas will switch the ponderous part of my brain off within the next paragraph). As I spotted a line spanning hundreds of metres down Johnston Street, I realised where my first mistake of the night had incurred. With two clicks and a slide I made my way to the back of the line, soul sisters can’t be letting long lines get all up in their junk, after all.
Unlike many other clubs, the line moved quickly and orderly, by the time I edged my way into the front, the bouncers definitely deserved a ten minute break to come and join the booming beats that echoed inside.
Being greeted with instant warmth is always the first thing us skin-bearing ladies notice, but the warmth of this particular joint was on a completely different level. No, I’m not just referring to the lovely, all too familiar sweat of others; The Night Club radiates warmth in an array of other ways. The red and orange interior, dimly lit by lamp shades (which I could have sworn had been stolen from my Grandma Betty’s drawing room) met my freezing face. Framed pictures and arm chairs crowded the open space, while dim lanterns hung from the ceiling. Through the haze of smoke white smiles and clicking fingernails were all I could see.
As the dance floor lies towards the entrance of the club, my first task of the night was to get myself through the crowd to the long bar located towards the very back of the club. With a few hip grinds and booty shakes I was able to make my way through the crowd. By this stage I didn’t even want a drink; I would have been more than happy being part of the dehydrated fun which was now behind me.
Upon ordering, I noticed that it was not only the bouncers who were keeping a fast production line, but also the bar staff. I managed to get my Corona with no more than a 5 minute initial wait. I looked at the men to my left and my right and couldn’t help praising God for the bonuses of being a woman at a bar. The drink prices were average for a night club, and as per usual after just two drinks I found myself sending out a search party for the closest ATM.
The music at The Night Cat was a great distraction from blowing my entire savings, as when I joined the groove once more, the bar was all but forgotten about. Live music rung throughout the venue for the vast majority of the night, with the performers only lifting their hands from their bongo drums briefly. The music varied from African beats which made me feel like a cast member of The Lion King, to 90’s hip hop and other classics.
No matter what your taste in music is, the variety of the drums will keep those white smiles going until your feet give way.
By Sophie Lane for Melbourne Bars and Function Rooms