NOTE: This article was made possible by Travellers Autobarn, who gave me a campervan to drive around Australia and review things. If you're considering a drive to Adelaide, go no further than Travellers Autobarn.
Shit clubs are awesome, but then that's why you clicked, isn’t it? Because you know shit clubs are awesome. They’re awesome in the same way Froot Loops are awesome. Sticky and kind of unpleasant, but rich in nostalgia.
A lot of firsts happen in shit clubs. Your first bandage dress. Your first power spew. Your first Playboy Bunny-embossed pinger eaten in the toilet and followed by a whole deck of Alpines smoked in under an hour. Then there's your first scuffle, and your first fingering. And the time a bouncer lifted a rope, casually announcing your ascension to shit club VIP and how you and the boys got a booth. And you remember your very first Blue Curacao-flavoured durry/pinga combo comedown and how you wanted to die. You remember it all bathed in pulsing Froot Loop-coloured lights and you innately know and understand—shit clubs are awesome.
Or maybe it’s just me. Because I genuinely love shit clubs. I think it’s the boutique clubs with the celebrity DJs and the $35 drinks that are bad, and I believe you do to. Which is why I decided to redo an old VICE article on the city’s worst clubs, and update it for 2018.
Now, according to a mixture of reviews on Travel Advisor, Yelp, and Google Maps, these are the four worst places, in descending order of quality.
- Super California
- Red Square
Then I dragged out my girlfriend and another legend who didn't want his name mentioned, and we set out to review the best of the worst.
If you’re out partying with your mum, and you want your mum to think you exclusively party with clean boys from nice families, take her to Super California. Everyone there has a golden future. They’re like those blonde children on boxes of Weeties.
The music was smooth and preppy, as played by a guy who listened to Flume once and experienced a moment of clarity. And the whole place had this fun, beachy vibe, and smelled a bit like fish tacos. I’m not saying they actually serve fish tacos, but let’s hope.
And now I’m scratching around for something mean to write but I’ve got nothing. If anything, Super California was too nice. In fact, it shouldn’t even be on this list of bad clubs and I’m annoyed the internet made me go there. So we left.
You’ve been here. We’ve all been here. It’s that rodeo shed thing for people who like to get wasted and shear sheep. Or not actually shear sheep, but feel as though they could. Like it’d be an option, if they wanted it.
By this point it was 10:30 and Hindley Street was pumping, which meant the bouncers were mean. It’s funny, isn’t it, how 10:30 for bouncers is like midnight for werewolves. At 10:29 the bouncers are all cheerful and fist-bumping the guys and air-kissing the girls, but suddenly it's 10:30 and they're frisking everyone for knives. They didn’t find my knife, but they did find my camera and weren’t happy about it. Then they turned us loose inside.
Woolshed is very Australian, which means it’s decorated with rusty things. Lots of rusty road signs and scraps of rusty galvanised iron. There's even some rusty farm equipment. And look I didn’t get the point of all the rusty things, but the crowd seemed happy. Two separate guys even slapped me on the back and complimented my moustache. It was all very Australian.
The DJ was so unpretentious he was possibly in the wrong job. I watched him from across the dancefloor, doing thumbs-ups and drinking from a tinnie like a dad sitting in a car at Auskick. And the music wasn’t quite what you’d expect either. I know you’d expect an alternating mix of “Down Under” and “That's the Way it's Gonna Be, Little Darlin”—or whatever that song is called—but the mix was actually just garden-variety electro. Like the guy was playing a beat, and that’s fine, but shed parties call for shed music imo. You don’t want your mate’s dad to break out the decks and spin his own shit. You just want him to crank the volume and play “You’re the Voice” on loop for as long as he possibly can. But he didn’t. And so we left.
Outside, the lads were getting spewy. We hurried on.
Ah, Red Square. The place with the one-hour line and the omnipresent smell of violence. The place where at any moment you can be asked to step out of line and told you’ve had too many. “But I haven’t had any!” you’ll say earnestly, trying to keep your voice level. “Seriously I’m sober!” But the bouncer will have already forgotten your existence and will be ushering in a gang of I.AM.GIA-clad influencers, each with exactly 12K followers and a powerful thirst for more.
So you’ll try again: “Hey! Excuse me! I'm not…” but you won’t even get to finish because invisible hands will clamp around you and move you on. And you'll succumb to yelling and kicking as you're dragged around the corner to Red Square’s very special and camera-less Bashing Spot where they’ll mash your teeth into some walls.
Or at least this is what I was told Red Square was about. But I didn’t believe the rumours until later.
Red Square was a bit like a futuristic dog kennel. There were lots of wire fences and pulsing lights, and large males prowling around trying to root. There was also a great sense of primal hierarchy, like everyone at Red Square used eye contact only for rooting and jugular-biting.
In the centre of the room was a dancefloor of gacked teens, while a ring of buff dudes watched on. The dudes mostly stood in silence, pretending to have itchy stomachs and “scratching” themselves to caress the ridges of their own six packs. They also shrugged lots, highlighting their very large and cool trapezius muscles. If you know what traps are, you’ll know they’re the coolest muscles, and making them big takes love and dedication.
And then suddenly, while I was taking this particular photo, I felt arms close in from either side. “What are you taking photos for? Huh? HUH?” And then I was being marched down a corridor and through a fire escape door and I knew it was on. I was going to get stomped in the traditional way. But then my girlfriend jumped in and asked if they’d hit a girl. The bouncers said no without actually saying “no,” which meant simply not hitting us. And then we left.
For a particular demographic, HQ Complex represents the only true and proper way to get messy on a weekend. The place is vast. Like a gutted shopping mall, and it’s filled with millions of the horniest people I’ve ever met.
I’m not sure if it’s always like this, but HQ was a glimpse into what it’d be like if humans had a mating season. And in this particular hypothetical it seemed to be the first Friday of spring, with a state-sanctioned orgy planned for the weekend. And everyone was just warming up: grinding and pashing and perspiring in a lather of Acqua Di Gio and pheromones.
This woman was giving a kind of long distance lap dance. She squirmed around in her chair doing sex eyes while the guy divided his attention between her and his phone.
It was a weird scene.
I found this guy standing in the middle of the dancefloor, watching people cheer as other people made out. He seemed to be the calm centre of the room, around which all else was in orbit.
The music came from this guy. It was fast and urgent, but with enough lightness to allow smiling. And really I thought, if these were Adelaide’s worst-reviewed nightclubs, the internet has a problem. And as I lost myself in dance—and also, my like, 70th schooner—I thought again how much I love shitty clubs. And sure they’re enormous and loud and filled with beefcakes, and the floors are all coated in glue, but that’s what nightclubs are. That’s what they should be. And in 2018 I’m happy to report: the shit club scene in Adelaide is exquisite and thriving.
All except for Red Square. That place sucks.
This article was made possible by Travellers Autobarn. Want a campervan? These guys know what's up in campervans