Time Out Melbourne

We’ll cop some flack for this, but it’s undeniable that the south plays second fiddle to the north when it comes to sticky carpets

The Tote

This Collingwood venue waged a war against licensing laws and won (the massive community rally on Feb 23, 2010 has now become the annual Save Live Australia’s Music day). Between sets, most people file out to the beer garden, but in the front bar, cult films play on the TV sets and there’s a jukebox and pool table. This joint even has its own pub footy team, the Toters, playing Renegade Pub Football League matches against other music pubs. Collingwood.

The Corner Hotel

With a vast rooftop that looks over the Melbourne skyline and the occasional Richmond-bound train, the Corner is one of those pubs you’ll travel across town to, to pretend it’s your local. The Corner’s a regular pit stop for international touring acts, and hosts many Splendour and Bluesfest sideshows. Richmond.

The Gem

Since 2006 it’s been known as the Gem, but this 1875-built Collingwood honky-tonk was formerly the Curry’s Family Hotel. Spread over two floors, the Gem’s equally famous for food (try the Sunday Texas BBQ) and music. The wood-panelled interior is decorated in a style that might be described as ‘Texas meets Mexico and challenges it to a switchblade fight’. Musically, the Gem caters to rockabilly and roots, with around half the punters dressing up 1950s-style and taking to the cramped dance floor once the live band has piled in. Collingwood.

The Esplanade Hotel

If you emerge from the Espy with all your wits about you and a shirt that isn’t at least half-soaked in Carlton Draught, you’ll need to go back and try again. Everyone from Boom Crash Opera to Johnny Farnham has graced the stage of the ornate Gershwin Room (which is also the set of TV quiz show RocKwiz), while those gunning for their big break play downstairs. A middle room bridges the gap. With trivia, good grub, daily specials and an uninterrupted flow of gigs (many of which are free) there’s not a night of the week when the taps aren’t taking a pounding. St Kilda.

The Spotted Mallard

The Rare and Reclusive Oft Neglected Spotted Mallard has craft beers on tap, modern food on offer and live music on almost any night. Set yourself up in the 300-capacity band room or settle in to the bar and restaurant, decked out in a plush old-pub interior, and enjoy a Sunday roast with jazz or a Saturday night of good food, good music and fun times. Brunswick.

Retreat Hotel

A slice of northside legend that's cherished by all who frequent her faded, crumbling facade. With a cosy front bar and massive beer garden out back, it's the sticky old dance hall-come-band room plonked in the middle that's the real star attraction, with free live music most nights on a rickety low-rise stage complete with musty old red velvet curtain. On Friday there’s new rock night Heavy Judy, and at the weekends things head on into the wee small hours. Brunswick.

The John Curtin Hotel

As of May 2013 they’ve got a new head chef in the form of St Ali South’s old head chef Tim Menger, who’s cooking up classic pub fare at decent prices (we’ve heard good things about the eggplant parma). The Curtin puts on free live music every Tuesday in the front bar downstairs, while the upstairs band room hosts larger gigs for up to 300 punters, with couches dotted around the perimeter. Carlton.

Grace Darling Hotel

This nautical-themed pub in Collingwood is resplendent with a cosy fireplace, custom wallpaper and stained glass windows. Navigate through the sea of hipsters and head upstairs to the Band Room for live gigs every weekend and the occasional weekday or, if you're up for something a little more chill, grab a glass of red and a candle-lit table in the cellar-like dining room and make the most of the friendly table service. Collingwood.

Yarra Hotel

Sometimes all you really want from a pub is a hearty menu, great music and good people – and the reinvograted Yarra Hotel ticks those boxes. Mick Thomas – he of Weddings, Parties, Anything – co-owns with Clanger (former owner of beloved Adelaide pub the Grace Emily), Guy Lawson (of Fitzroy’s Napier) and Glen Perriam (of Fitzroy’s Union Club). They’ve installed a stage with velvet drapes and a decent PA, and stuck an old upright piano in the back bar. Abbotsford.

The Evelyn Hotel

Nothing says cheap drinks and good music like the Evelyn. You'll know it when you see it, with the unmissable crowd of people spilling out into the outdoor beer garden on Brunswick St. Join in the fun and make the most of Thursday night drink specials including $2.50 pots and $5 vodkas as well as $10 jugza beer on Mondays and Tuesdays. With an impressive line-up history including Architecture in Helsinki, British India and Bliss'n'Eso, the Evelyn's cemented it's name as one of Melbourne's best live music venues, with gigs every night of the week. Fitzroy.

First published on . Updated on .

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