The Localist

Hugos on Sundays: A cultural experience


One of the best things about living in the Surry Hills/ Redfern area of Sydney is the fact that my entire life is conducted, in an entirely fulfilling way, within about a 2 km radius. I can literally go for weeks without having to branch out beyond the confines of my suburb, yet still enjoy the best coffee/food/ bars/markets/parks/people watching this city has to offer. However, after a few weeks I do start to adopt a slightly warped view of the world, whereby I expect my cocktail to be served in a tin can, with pickles as a garnish. Even worse, I actually, slowly, start to find the wild Santa beard attractive. Shudder. Getting stuck in a suburb rut happens to the best of us, but luckily, it’s easily cured.

So last Sunday, I thought I would step a few blocks out of my comfort zone and check out the legendary Hugos Bar in Kings Cross (or “the Cross”). I’m not usually a fan of the Cross, as I find its citizens to be a little scary. Some may argue that the prostitutes, drug addicts and homeless give an uber-cool, grungy feel to the place, continuing the historical legacy of the area (see Underbelly: The Golden Mile). Personally I don’t recommend making eye contact with people wandering the streets with mad looking eyes. I know they’re fascinating and you want to stare, but believe me, it’s hard enough to stay sane in this world without being psychotically reminded of the dangers of UFOs and portals which suck you into other planets.

Although situated in the Cross, Hugos’s magnificent staircase promises to ascend the patron to a balcony above the ‘clutter’ filled with beautiful people, laughing, dancing and shouting conversations at each other over loud bass lines. With its scary looking bouncers, quite strict dress-code, and women rendered ageless by plastic surgery, you could be forgiven for being a little intimidated. It’s very what we call ‘Sydney’, said in a kind of posh tone, which means it epitomises the superficial, beautiful body, champagne lifestyle stereotype that people outside the city imagine of us.

Although it’s really not my scene, my hosts for the evening assured me that there was absolutely no other experience like Hugos on a Sunday. And with an entire balcony of screaming people above me, well, it would have been rude not to see what all the fuss was about.

Though it looked like not even a single anorexic teenager could have squeezed onto that balcony, our $20 cover charge was taken at the door, leaving us to fend for ourselves in the crowd. Semi dancing, semi elbowing our way through to the pre-determined ‘spot’, we got drinks and started um, clubbing? We drank, we danced, we interacted. Glowing lanterns adorned the ceiling, giving the place a cool, almost quirky atmosphere. At one point a lantern fell off and as I held it, I wrestled with the ethical dilemma of dropping it to certain death by dance floor trampling vs. the effort of pushing though crowds to find the nearest surface. As I contemplated its fate, a mid 40s, slicked-back hair number leaned over my shoulder, surprising me with the topical and original pick-up line: ‘I like a girl with balls in her hands’.

Now-now, don’t let that one incident put you off too much, the vibe is generally very light-hearted on a Sunday. At this point I should explain the Sydneysider’s obsession with boozing on a Sunday. After spending the week slaving away at work, Saturday night can often loom as a double-edged sword.  On one hand it could be ‘that night’, the glowing, round the campfire type story-worthy night that epitomises what it is to be young and free. Alternatively, you could end up with your head stuck down a toilet somewhere, vomiting up your dreams. Alcohol can be unpredictable.

It’s generally agreed that Saturday night exists on some sort of expectation / let down binary. There’s the expectation that actions, scenarios, moments, tinder dates, etc. should be extraordinary, so as to become become etched in the memory for years to follow. If just normal, nice things happen, it’s considered a massive bummer for all involved.

Sundays on the other hand, are a blank canvas. The weekend has happened. Nights have been discussed and reviewed. Anything that occurs now, beyond a glass of red wine in bed watching re-runs of South Park, is quite miraculous. So then, can you imagine how these people at Hugos feel? They’ve escaped the shackles of expectation. It’s time to party!

Party we did. Dancing away to commercial hip hop-ish music. I looked around the room and saw a bunch of people, relaxed and having fun. Not ‘good clean fun’, but fun all the same. I won’t go into too many details.

While off exploring the other end of the balcony, I stumbled upon music zone 2: a smoky laser-filled dance floor, also packed. The unsolicited ass pinching put me off slightly, however, my host explained that this was an important part of the Sunday at Hugos experience and friendly interaction was nothing to fear.  He pinched a few asses himself to prove a point. I suppose you could say it’s a super friendly place, possibly not ideal for introverts, but probably somewhere that everybody should go at least once. Definitely a cultural experience.

To get the practical side of things out of the way, ‘Hugos Lounge’ is the place I’m talking about. There is also the grammatically unusual ‘Hugos Bar Pizza’ downstairs where you could go for a sort of Hugos-lite experience, but I’d hate you to turn up expecting to dance the night away and end up eating pizza and having a casual beer instead, possibly discussing the irritations of $20 cover charges with other patrons. If you want to do Hugos (and you should), I definitely recommend you do it properly.

If you love commercial music, want to meet a whole lot of sexy locals, get a little loose and perhaps even get a pash… then get yourself down to Hugos on Sunday and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Hugos: 33 Bayswater Road, Kings Cross, Sydney





Image. Photo by Hugos.


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