Poo, Patton and a bar called Pony

Whether it be poo or Patton there has always been something wonderfully debauched about Melbourne’s famed dive bar Pony, writes SARAH SMITH.

Melbourne has its fair share of fancy bars, hipster hangouts, sticky carpeted pubs and Club Xs, but it’s only ever really had one party den. A true pit of debauchery where the toilets are used for copulating, the exit for urinating and the band room for making noise, at any hour. It’s easy to get nostalgic about a place as it faces extinction, but when Pony – the grimiest corner of Melbourne’s “Bermuda Triangle” – closes for “refurbishments” next month it truly will be the end of an era. Because for over eight years now that sleazy little cave on Little Collins street has become a universe unto itself; a hypnotizing vortex that sucks in those chasing the night, only to vomit them back out, head over foot, at first light.

Pony is still the same old mare she was back in 2000. Sure, that security guard with the face-tattoos may have moved on – he’s probably managing a bank now – but on its walls hang the same pictures, the same graffitied toilet doors and the same TV playing the same stock footage of Cher doing aerobics.

Its history is palpable. It’s smeared all over the carpet and that inexplicable bed-couch in the bandroom. It’s fermenting in the crack that leaks “boy” smell from the urinals to the upstairs bar. It’s etched onto (what’s left of) the bathroom walls, and it’s kept alive through the torrid tales recalled by the cloudy minds of its patronage: Remember that time Mike Patton was there, by himself, just staring in disgust at a room full of drunkards until someone started doing the ‘Epic’ dance in front of him? Or that time The Darkness turned up, without Justin? Or when the morning staff found human feces behind the arcade games?

Whether it be poo or Patton there has always been something wonderfully debauched about Pony. Wild and just a little bit disgusting, it’s stumbled into, stumbled around in and, tumbled out of.

“That sleazy little cave on Little Collins street has become a universe unto itself.”

It’s also been host to some of Melbourne’s most uninhibited shows, thanks in large part to its famed “2am slot”. Long after most gigs have wound up in Melbourne, Pony’s bandroom is just getting started. On weekends well-oiled punters clamber on stage and lurch around the dance floor as unhinged as the toilet doors, absorbing noise and Carlton Draught with tasteless abandon.

Among endless nights of writhing bodies and slack-jawed revelers the music has somehow always taken precedence, because while the 2am slot is coveted, it is by no means exclusive. Nor is playing the Pony bandroom on any given night. Between Tuesday and Friday it’s always a bit of a gamble as to whether you’d arrive upstairs to find a bill of Melbourne favorites or an abrasive three-piece punk band from Narre Warren. Somehow it always works

As booker Andy Moore told FL this week. ”[It’s] a classic room that is too small to have big shows and has a PA that should be in a venue three times its size, where the musicians and the audience have no separation and can smell each other’s breath. Shit always got loose at Pony and I don’t think we’ll really see that happening again in Melbourne.”

Whether the new owners retain live music or not is besides the point. When the Pony we know and love closes on December 9 it’ll leave a gaping, beer-drenched hole.