On any given night at this Collingwood bluestone stalwart, punters of all ages, genders and sexualities are sinking $6 pints of Vale Lager at happy hour by the roaring fireplace, smashing beer burgers and parmas or veg, vegan or gluten-free meals, and standing shoulder-to-shoulder watching gigs on the mezzanine level of the 350-person bandroom.
All of this is thanks to a new direction that the Gaso took several years ago, when publicans Shan Vanderwert (formerly from Coburg’s Post Office Hotel) and Clint Fisher (Brunswick’s the Retreat) stepped in and saved the venue from closure. Their mission: to create a warm, welcoming environment that would reflect Melbourne’s incredibly diverse music scene, and the people who make up that ecosystem.
It’s a philosophy that you feel the moment the doors to this grand old corner pub swing open. Pull up a plush swivel chair at the bar or sink into a couch (take note of the cute nanna lamps and ’70s vintage planters on the brick walls) and put yourself in the hands of the friendly staff. On the walls are posters and blackboards advertising upcoming events; you could spend an evening eating free pies (meat or veg options) while watching women’s AFL, listening to local and international bands, or sweating your glitter make-up off at a raging queer electro dance party like Outpost or Daydreams. Band bookers Alex Gleeson and Emily Ulman work alongside Katie Pearson who heads up LISTEN (a taskforce addressing sexual harassment and gender parity in music venues) and have implemented gender-neutral bathrooms, at least one female security guard at all times, equal representation on all line-ups and even a rule that bartenders should avoid using gender pronouns when addressing customers. Because why do things in halves when you can go all the way to greatness?
In the warmer months, the bandroom’s huge moon roof pulls back, so that the sun streams in or, by night, party people dance under a canopy of stars. The sky’s the limit for the Gaso – an evolving project that represents a welcome cultural shift in Melbourne’s pubs scene towards a future where everyone is invited to the party, and has a bloody great time.