Fewer clubs have built an air of mystery, intrigue and notoriety so strong it spans interstate – and probably international – borders, than Revs. Nestled in the trenches of Chapel Street, south-side party Valhalla, Revolver Upstairs is one of Melbourne’s longest-running, highly respected and notorious party institutions.
It’s an if-you-know-you-know type of venue – if you’re uninitiated, the rumours are probably enough to keep you away. But for those of us who have done our Revs stints, the reality is that it’s… a club. A strange club, sure, with a unique combination of infamy plus a 24-hour licence that brings a peculiar medley of cookers out of the woodworks every weekend.
But it really is just a club. A good, fun club, a community and one of Melbourne’s most iconic venues. One you can always count on when the party inside doesn’t want to die, but everywhere else is closed. Like all great venues, behind it all is the work of some incredibly hard working individuals.
In all seriousness: Nothing hits the reset switch on your psyche quite like a depraved trip to Revs.
What on God’s abysmal Earth did you do to end up at Revolver on Sunday morning? You can’t really be sure. All you know is that you’re still there, grinding on the dance floor, as the near-midday sunlight peeks through the curtains, illuminating the couches, kitsch decor, and DJ cage. Then, you’re tumbling out of the venue, a whole new crew of friends in tow, down the stairs and onto Chapel Street below. As your eyes adjust to the blinding sunlight, you see families pushing prams, young professionals out to brunch, the elderly having a Sunday stroll. Terrifying stuff. Your bent brain can’t comprehend it.
This started out as an oral history of Revolver, but barely anyone who currently works there or had worked there in the past wanted to speak. It’s entirely possible that Revolver has some sort of gnarly handshake NDA agreement with all of its staff – almost certainly due to the enormous effort it takes to keep the nightclub open amid pandemic losses, spurious allegations, licensing, cops, and the watchful eyes of whatever other administrative gremlins are out there hell-bent on shutting it down. The funniest part of all of this is that the rumours about Revs are way worse than the truth.
What’s something that everyone gets wrong about Revolver?
Hank, former employee
The techness of it. That place runs like a well-oiled machine. People think of it as this dank, lawless place, but they have the most intense security cameras and overall capability I have ever seen.
Also, that the staff hate their jobs. I remember getting asked this all the time. It’s actually a pretty fun place to work with a lot of perks. Basically, you pay to be there, we get paid to be there.
What’s the close/ clean up/ pack down like?
To be honest, it’s a pretty standard packdown, but the Sunday/ Monday morning closes were the most fun because you got to go through all the couches. I pretty much made my wage back through the amount of baggies I found underneath cushions. But also there was tons of random shit. Multiple dildos. Multiple occasions.
What are some stand-out memories?
One time some French dude tried to trade me a bag of ket to let him through the back door.
When Fatboy Slim did a surprise show I witnessed one of the other bussies try to get someone who was climbing the DJ cage down by whacking him with a broom.
Once I saw someone vomit in a bin in the bathroom and then have to fish his false teeth out of the bin.
One time we were trying to move a couch out of the main dance floor and then the patrons kinda took it from us and crowd surfed it around the room.
What’s your Revs story?
Lavender, attempted patron
I recently tried to pop my Revs cherry and was denied entry. I believe I’m probably the only person ever to be rejected by Revs.
Carmen, previous attendee
I went to a summer series party in 2014 at Revolver to see Nina Kravitz play. In the early hours of the morning I went out in to the smokers’ for a moment of respite from the borderline sauna upstairs. My friend and I were leaning against the fencing, chatting, smoking. At this time there wasn’t any trellis or barb wire on the fencing like there is now, that prevents people from jumping over the fence.
The fence was only a few meters high, it was very much accessible from Greville Street if you wanted to jump over. As I was leaning against the fence, I noticed this woman in front of me who looked like her life was flashing before her eyes. She was pointing directly at me and I couldn’t understand why – until I felt the flutter of feathers in my face and talons in my hair.
Someone had gently placed a turkey on my head, from the other side of the fence.
I smacked the turkey off my head and propelled it forward in to the masses. The chaos was rife, one girl had tears welling in her eyes. It wrecked havoc for some time until one of the bar staff whisked it away. Supposedly he had spent the rest of his shift babysitting the turkey until someone from the RSPCA could come and collect it.
I heard through the grapevine some time later that allegedly it was two private school boys that woke up one day and thought it would be hilarious to drive out an hour east, purchase a live turkey on Gumtree and let it loose in the Revolver smokers’. I think about the turkey often, and the life it lived after that trauma it endured. I believe that turkey an unsuspecting icon.
Lily, frequent attendee
This one time I was there with a few friends and we were all dancing and one of them disappeared for a bit and all of a sudden he comes back out of nowhere and tells me some random guy gave him a massage on the couches and it was so good he came.
The first time I went I stayed until 10a.m. the next day. I tried ket and amyl for the first time and got caught taking said ket in the toilet by security. They didn’t chuck us out or take our ket, they just sounded disappointed and asked us to stop.
That first time ruined my life for at least two weeks. The second time I went much less hard. I also did the most caps I’ve ever done: 3.5, I gave my last half to the ket dude [they guy who sold us ket] when I woke up to myself.
Despite all that, it felt safe and chill, and if I ever wanna have another massive blowout like that I’ll be back.
Tell me about Revs.
Nic, former employee
The whole “someone died there” is definitely a false rumour going around [authors’ note: while many people love to believe this, it actually didn’t happen].
Craziest shit I’ve seen was one time I had to go through and check the toilets, there was always shit everywhere but they were surprisingly clean on this day. A few minutes later one of the patrons came up and told me I really had to clean the toilets so I went back in and found someone had taken a big dirty poo in the trough where you wash your hands.
Best thing I’ve found apart from all the drugs, ciggies and gold coins would be a couple of $100 crown chips.
Peach, OG Revs rat
One time my friend got a life ban for splashing toilet water in someone’s face.
A different friend had their life ban overturned by licking Techno Viking’s shoes.
I’ve also watched someone lick the smokers’ floor for a cigarette.
Who is Techno Viking?
He was one of the OG “iconic” bouncers. Then, maybe five years ago, they must’ve changed companies or something because all the seccys changed (and the rest of my friend’s life bans were inadvertently lifted lol).
I guess knowing Techno Viking just became an OG Revs rat litmus test.
What’s the truth about revs?
Maddy, OG attendee
Revolver gets a really bad rap. Look, don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen some cooked shit there, but you just gotta accept it for what it is ya’ know. A pretty alright good time.
About 11 or 12 years ago I met two of my best friends there, separately. One of them, we chatting in the smokers room for hours, made fake names (which he still uses) and got married (naturally). The other one I met a few weeks later and now she’s asked me to be maid of honour at her wedding, I said yes of course!
Revolver holds a place in my heart because I experienced it a little differently. We used to catch the V-line up Sunday morning and hang out with the same massive group of people week after week. This lasted for years. Some of those friends I met then are still a big part of my life now. It wasn’t just going to get fucked up. We were just hanging out. Kind of like kick ons but at the club.
The longest time I’ve spent there was like 22 hours.