Photo by Tin Nguen

before it closes forever, melbourne tries to remember the mercat

Sticky floors, sweat rain and D-grade toilets — the doomed club’s friends and family look back on eight messy years.

by Wendy Syfret
27 October 2016, 4:45am

Photo by Tin Nguen

In Melbourne, the Mercat is special to people who stay up late. For eight years it's hosted some of the city's best parties, and incubated its favourite DJs and collectives. Sure it's dark, dank and the toilets are infamous (even among venues with 24-hour licences) but there's a little bit of magic mixed in with whatever makes the floor so sticky.

In less than a decade the venue managed to carve out a very specific place in the city's scene. It's where you go to see your friends, heroes and new favourites — to be clear, on a good night you can't actually see anyone through the smoke. So, when it was announced in 2014 that the the Mercat Cross Hotel block had been bought for $76 million to be developed into a high-rise, hearts broke across the county.

While we've known the end was nigh for sometime, a ribbon of hope remained with many speculating owner Daragh Kan would rehome the Mercat when its basement home was lost to inner city development. Last month, Daragh told the media that an inability to be granted a new late-night liquor license meant the Mercat wouldn't be resurrected elsewhere.

Photo by James Martin

In a Facebook post the Mercat team stated: "Unfortunately the time has come for us to deliver the bad news. Due to the QVM redevelopment, we will be closing down. We'll save the soppy shit for February, but in the mean time, please join us over the next few months for some last dances."

They might be loathed to get so sentimental, but we're not so stoic. After all, this is a venue that gave us C Grade, Bamboo Musik, HHH, REUP and Animals Dancing. It also took away some stuff: hours of memories, several phones and most of our dignity.

With the venue's last party scheduled for 11 February next year, we're choosing to spend the last part of its life remembering the good times — or at least trying to. We asked some of the Mercat's friends and family to share their favourite moments from the past eight years.

Photo by Tin Nguen 

Daragh Kan, Owner
A lot of things that have happened in the basement that are lost to time, but one that always sticks in my head was when we had the final C Grade party. It had been in the 40s for a few days and the basement was boiling before we had even opened. Half way through the night the records started skipping because the roof was dripping with condensation, we had to get two umbrellas and put one over each turntable. — @daraghkan

Sarah Matthews, Bar Manager
Working at the Mercat started as a bartending job while I was studying, I never imagined I would be here for over two years. I can honestly say the Mercat has changed my life, as I'm sure it has for many others. It's a special venue with a community vibe.

I was chatting to a promoter about the closure, we were saying that tragic is the best word to describe it. As dramatic as it sounds, to think one the best clubs in Melbourne will be replaced with another sky rise apartment block is pretty shit. We've got a couple of good months left though with some hectic line ups, at least it will get the send off it deserves. 

Photo by Tin Nguen

Lewie Day, Tornado Wallace/Animals Dancing/C Grade
I was friends with Daragh and Myles who had reopened the Mercat Cross Hotel as it's last and most influential iteration. I met Tom and Nick from Otologic here, we DJ'd together in the basement for hours, during a time when — apart from immediate friends and a handful of regulars — no one really knew about the Mercat.

Our party (C Grade), the club, and our careers all grew together. I met my friends here, I met my musical collaborators here, I met my girlfriend here. The Mercat has had one of the biggest influences on my life. I will miss it forever. — @tornadowallace

Nick Murray, Animals Dancing/C Grade/Otologic
Apart from my bed, The Mercat is where I have spent the most of my time over the past eight years. Taking over C Grade with Tom, Lewie and Daragh became a huge part of my life, a regular residency where we could play for hours to an open-minded crowd always willing to party hard. This led to the Animals Dancing party being born, we wanted to see our favourite DJs from abroad make use of this special space too and they all appreciated it as much as we did.

Group hugs, ridiculous last-minute decors, never ending afterparties, wiping sweat off records as it rained from the ceiling, people's faces in the strobe as they cheered for records that became "classics" for the party and lights-on encores will always be remembered fondly, albeit hazily. Mercat will be sorely missed and leave a huge hole for Melbourne clubbing. — @Otologic

Photo by Tin Nguen

Tom Moore, Animals Dancing/Otologic
My second gig with Nick (as Otologic) was at the Mercat. It's been a very a big part of my DJ life, I've probably played there once a month for the last seven years. It's where I met Lewie (Tornado Wallace), Daragh, Myles and many others, plus where we started Animals Dancing. It's where I've met some of my best friends.

From the early days when we would pull all the couches into the middle of the dance floor at 8AM listening to maggot brain drinking with friends to years later still playing at 9AM to a full club in various states of undress with sweat dripping from the ceiling like rain, while our phones died from condensation and overheating. I've never played another club that has felt quite the same as that basement. I remember a particular guest DJ filling six Corona bottles when he didn't want to stop playing to run to the bathroom. — @animalsdancing

Alysha Fleiter, Nite Fleit
I have hazy, mashed together memories of time spent at Thee Pet Shop, Bamboo and C Grade before moving up to Sydney in 2009. During that time my boyfriend and some friends were starting the Pelvis parties; it took them a year to find somewhere to have them because every venue was compared to the Mercat. It set the standard.

I played my first "proper" DJ set there (the PAM Mutant DJ party) in March 2015. I was a nervous wreck, practicing for weeks. Afterwards all I could do was exclaim to anyone who would listen, "THE SOUND THE SOUND THE SOUND, DID YOU FEEL THAT? I WANNA PLAY THAT LOUD EVERY TIME OH MY GOD OH MY GOD!" It took me by surprise, I thought I'd be excited about playing late or to more people than ever before, but I just wanted to talk about how good it sounded and felt. It was so sick. — @nitefleit

Photo by Tin Nguen

Chris Tranter, REUP/Hood Pass
The Mercat has been my home for so bloody long. Recently it's allowed me, Steezy and our friends to host our party, REUP. The Mercat is a testament to allowing people to do amazing stuff you can't get away with at other venues. For us it was turning our radio show Hood Pass into a party. The Mercat helped us and supported us through all of it. They had so much faith in us. It saddens me that they are closing. The mid-size cool venues are all disappearing and it's terrifying. I have so many unsharable and NSFW memories — what happens at the Mercat stays at the Mercat. — @tranter

Rob Steezy, REUP/Hood Pass
Once Skerrit Bwoy performed at the Mercat. He was famous for being the dancer from Major Lazer's Pon De Floor clip who brought daggering to the mainstream. His big move was to leap from the top of a ladder and dagger a girl on the ground. He was gonna use the Mercat's ladder but it was too tall and too dangerous. I had to go to a friend's gallery to borrow a bloody ladder and carry it across the city. When he went to do his finale of daggering off the ladder our friend Nami had to help the volunteer girl that was about to get daggered so as she didn't break her knees or Skerrit's ribs. Imagine breaking your knees on the dirty Mercat floor after being daggered by a man with a dyed blonde mohawk.  — @BigBabySteezus

Jess and Fletch from Hip Hop Hotties. Photo via Jess Hopcraft.

Jess Hopcraft, Hip Hop Hotties
I have mixed feelings about being asked to write about the Mercat. I am half honoured to be included and half embarrassed at the amount of time I've clocked in that basement. I started going years back for C Grade, there was something comforting in the "anything goes" vibe. When Animals Dancing started the calibre of artists you could see in such an intimate space was incredible. Around 2012 Fletch, Larrie and I started putting on Hip Hop Hotties, an all female DJ hip hop night, and found the sticky floor, ace sound system and hard working smoke machine were perfect for it. There's something to be said for a place you can roll up to at 3AM and find a crammed dance floor and solid energy levels. It will be missed, but I have a bulging bank of blurry memories to draw on for years to come. R.I.P Merc-y. — @hiphoppygram

Laila Sakini, DJ
I've had my fair share of moments playing at the Mercat: in support of Tom of England, at the late C Grade night, at a PAM party that was to become a short film, and of course, at Bamboo Musik. Run by Misha (P.A.M) and Rohan (Bell Towers) Bamboo felt like it really honed into the particular needs of my friends and I, it was a given we would all go each time it was on. It was the kind of party that made you feel like you were participating in something by simply being there. Dressing in theme, dancing, catching up — the community was a big part of the experience. — @laila-sakini

Laila at a Bamboo party. Photo by Tin Nguen.

Kish Lal, DJ
The first time I went there I drunkenly pretended to know the owners to get in for free. I begrudgingly paid the entry fee when the door girl didn't bite my BS. I became a C Grade regular, counting the days till the next month rolled around, itching for another bad theme I'd secretly love. Sometime after C Grade I started to hate the Mercat like a salty ex-girlfriend for ending what was a beautiful relationship with little warning. Recently however REUP has stolen my heart, turning the once dank techno basement to a heaving, sweaty mecca for all my hip hop guilty pleasures.

I'm sad to see it close, I feel like every year we see more venues shut up shop under relentless pressure. I'll always remember it fondly — pingers, Nick Murray and those D-grade toilets in all it's glory. — @infinity__blade

Danny Hotep, Misty Nights
The Mercat is the source of some of my fondest, completely missing, memories. I was pretty late to the party with C Grade but it still had its impact on me — as it did on anyone who went. One time I was hooking up with this guy on the dance floor and we were desperately trying to find somewhere to... continue. We were so desperate that we actually went into that infamously filthy male toilet where we were busted by a security guard. When it gets heaving and hot down there it really is a dank slimy dive bar and that will be sorely missed.  — @mistynightsdisco

A note of encouragement in the toilets. Photo by Kish Lal.

Photo by Rohan Bell-Towers

Photo by Tin Nguen

Photo by Tin Nguen

The Bamboo Musik funeral. Photo by Tin Nguen.

Photo by Tin Nguen

Photo by Tin Nguen


Text Wendy Syfret

Animals Dancing
c grade
bamboo musik
the mercat