If you were to cross Maxwell Smart's bachelor pad with a retro porn set, the result would be OneSixOne.
The bar’s more redeeming features strike you instantly upon ascending the stairs; a floor lit dancefloor, large leather booths, flocked wallpaper and a retro colour palette which sets the tone for the rest of your evening.
Small groups nestle here and there with cocktails firmly in hand, and if you’re after a more intimate experience, head down to the cosy cocktail bar and grab yourself a new date for the night. Behind the bar you’ll discover OneSixOne take their spirits quite seriously, sourcing top shelf spirits and liqueurs from across the globe, all in search of mystical flavours and divine experiences for your tastebuds.
If the weather is in your favour, the rooftop beer garden is the place to be seen. On the dancefloor, local and national DJs cut it up with upbeat funk and soul infused house beats. Open till the early hours, this bar tends to be the end to many a person’s evening.
Archive interview: Onesixone’s live music program
It’s been 20 months since Victoria went into its first lockdown, and six lockdowns later OneSixOne is ready to bring live music back to Chapel Street. The venue has traditionally operated as a club, primarily offering DJ sets, although it has hosted Australian legends such as Wolfmother and Presets. During their time in lockdown, they’ve been planning and renovating to prepare themselves for their return, bringing a new face with them.
“During lockdown, specifically for that first one, we ended up doing quite a few renovations in the venue. But at the same time, I think it gave us a chance to actually look at what we do musically,” says Jay Ramon, OneSixOne’s Entertainment Manager.
“We looked at our electronic DJs, we looked at some of the things that we did in the venue, and I think this is where the idea of OneSixOne Live got planned.”
As of December, OneSixOne Live will be a weekly live music night held on Wednesdays. Joining the OneSixOne team is Taylor Poole, previously the entertainment manager at staple Melbourne venues Yah-Yahs and Cherry Bar. Poole has been working on securing line-ups and easing the transition to live music.
“[OneSixOne] didn’t have the infrastructure. They got the new sound equipment in and the lights in. But they don’t have the live music worksheets, you know, or understand how to do bump-ins and bump-outs,” Poole says, “live music audiences are different than just your DJ sets.”
OneSixOne has already booked a plethora of acts, with Sophiya, KVNYL and Junor kicking it off. OneSixOne wants to focus on local acts to support the emerging scene.
“I really just wanted to create a platform for them, especially in the South because a lot of them do live down here,” Poole says. “Live music is heavy in the north, you know, Fitzroy and Brunswick. So I just wanted to create a space down here for emerging artists and their fans.”
The pandemic has not only hit the venue economically but caused a cultural and emotional rift for its staff.
“When you’re [making memories] you don’t really see it as anything different because that’s all you knew. So coming up, you know, after that first lockdown, all of a sudden you realise that those experiences are actually something quite massive,” Ramon reminisces.
Ramon doubles as one of the venue’s resident DJs. During the brief lockdown reprieve in July, he was able to do a set and have a taste of a time before (and the future). “It was 75 [percent capacity],” he says. “We didn’t need masks indoors, and people could actually walk around. It felt very very surreal. You know, like after not doing it for so long, being in the middle of a full room with people dancing. How do you even explain that? It was a very very surreal experience.”
Along with other venues and artists, OneSixOne engaged in live stream nights, keeping their locals entertained whilst they were locked in their homes.
“When the first lockdown hit, we put something on our Instagram saying, you know, have you got any summary requests that you’d like to hear,” Ramon says, “the response from that was quite overwhelming. So we decided to do a little live stream session here at the club on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
“The Thursday was dedicated to live music which is more like a sit-down. [Then the weekend was] “let’s bring some DJs in, let’s spit, let’s talk about rock and roll”.’
OneSixOne Live has had a few setbacks, with each prior date stunted by lockdowns; however, these setbacks have come with silver linings. “We’ve done a whole rebrand from the original idea. I think it’s a blessing in disguise,” Poole says.
“I saw the mistakes that we maybe had made in the first couple of lockdowns. So this time around [we’ve been] tweaking everything that was maybe could have gone wrong. So I feel like this announcement is a lot stronger and personally, I’m a lot more organised.”
The Victorian Government has anticipated venues will be able to reach full capacity as of the 24th of November, just shy of a week before the first OneSixOne Live.
“You can expect other local amazing artists who need more of a platform down here and a safe space as well. It’s about hip hop, R&B, jazz, disco. It is live music, but it is a party.”