It’s a hipster pub. No getting around it. But however you feel about the ironic ugly sweater set, it’s hard to turn your nose up at Northcote’s live music hero. Out front is a slightly sticky old mans bar, with Coopers as the main pour, a pool table and bottle shop, and old carpet gently perfumed with sweat and beers. Head out back to the timber deck – it’s the biggest and best-heated beer garden in the ‘hood – for extra space, sun or a smoke.
If you like your artists in their awkward/awesome early years, you can’t lose. Emerging and left-of-field musicians get stage time in the 300-capacity band room so it could as easily be one guy playing the keytar as the Rechords.
After 10pm you may sight someone pissing in the alley, but before sundown it’s a respectable local. They even have activity bags and mini meals for kids. Grown up eats go beyond the parma and pie frontier – you can get deep-fried brie, vegan dumplings and confit duck with lavender mash if you want to go wild, although we’ve both struck gold and struck out depending on who’s cooking and how busy they are. Consider a pizza from down the road if it’s heaving, or just split your $30 between a jug of Boags and a ticket to that band you totally haven’t heard of.
Three reasons to love the Northcote Social Club
1. You never know who’s going to show up
It’s a wild generalisation, but Andrew Mansfield is pretty sure that if you’re a regular punter at the Northcote Social Club or the Corner Hotel, you probably love The Pixies. Mansfield couldn’t quite believe it when he got a call before the V Festival in 2007, where the band was headlining: “[They said], ’Would you like to do a Pixies tune-up gig?’ ‘Um, yes, I would. Very much so’.”
The gig’s gone down in Melbourne music arcana. “It’s similar to the Mick Jagger show at the Corner,” Mansfield says. “The band room holds 300 people, but depending on who you talked to it morphed into one of those shows with two or three thousand people.” Oh yeah, and Gaga had a secret(ish) fourth of July bash at the NSC, too.
2. Its bar staff (past and present) are awesome
Courtney Barnett used to work behind the bar before hitting the big time. “One of the nice things about what we do is our ability to work rosters around local and touring artists. We did that with Court for quite a while, until it got to the point is was very clear that Court wasn’t coming back.”
3. The NSC is getting a refurb, but Mansfield’s making damn sure that no one’s ruining it with blonde wood
There’s nothing worse than when your favourite bar gets a makeover and they rip out all character. “I’m not a cocktaily, fancy, shiny bar type of person,” says Mansfield. “Our bread and butter crowd is not that either. People have a really strong connection to the live music spaces. We’re not building out that heritage.”
From old man pub to one of Melbourne’s finest live music venues, the Northcote Social Club has come a long way in the past ten years. This September, the NSC has our rockin', most soulful and best alt-pop local artists at the ready to celebrate its tenth birthday bash: Jebediah (Wed Sept 2), Regurgitator (Thu Sep 3), Adalita (Sat Sep 6), Hiatus Kaiyote (Thu Sep 10), The Bamboos (Fri Sep 18), Clare Bowditch (Sun Sep 27) and Andy Bull (Wed Sep 30).