Sydney's best music venues

Want to know Sydney's music scene at a glance? Here's where you need to look

505

Surry Hills

There’s a sense of joining a secret society when you enter that nondescript door next to a brothel on Cleveland Street. Welcome to jazz club 505 – one of Sydney’s true hidden gems. In the intimate, mural-walled room decked out with a mishmash of old furniture, local and visiting jazz performers play six nights a week to respectful, largely bearded crowds. Cover charge is usually $15.

The Annandale Hotel

Annandale

HUndisputed home of Sydney rock‘n'roll, the ‘Dale combines the intimacy of a small-scale show with the electricity of the world's best performers. Owners Matt and Dan Rule host all varieties of pop, hip hop and acoustic shows. Some might say the only downfall is the plastic cups, but we know - it's for our safety.

The Basement

Sydney

This one's for all the blues and funk fans out there. The dark but classy Basement hosts a great live performance. No matter where you're standing you can hear the music, see the band and reach the bar. A great musical experience, be it jazz, blues or rock.

The Beach Road Hotel

Bondi

The Beach Road serves all the eastern suburbs' indie needs. It comes to life of a Sunday night with free bands, DJs and hoards of punters who just aren't ready to give up the weekend. Dancing, drinking (and a little chin stroking) lead you back into the working week in style.

Black Wire Records

Annandale

Black Wire Records in Stanmore has such a cryptically small selection of records (mostly local and hardcore picks) that if you weren’t in the know, you may suspect there’s something else that goes on here. Clue: It’s neither speakeasy nor inner-westies’ porn-ring; just Sydney’s least pretentious DIY venue, with gigs several nights a week. The billing tends to have a hardcore skew but the organisers are welcoming to anybody who shares their philosophy. You can just as easily catch a great grassroots garage, indie-pop or math-rock act before they explode onto the scene.

The Enmore Theatre

Newtown

The Enmore has an old-world feel and offers a nice alternative to a trek into the city. There's seating, a mezzanine, parking and it's played host to some killer bands over the years - Modest Mouse to Wilco to Divinyls to Queens of the Stone Age - while providing killer comedy too. And when the show's over, spill onto Enmore Road for dinner and a drink.

The Factory Theatre

Enmore

With its not-so-flash carpets and RSL-like interior, the Factory Theatre is a blank canvas for all kinds of shows, from hot-ticket internationals to fairly big-name local bands. There is serious room to move around with a slightly tiered floor perfect for the vertically challenged. Beer selection is as basic as the décor but if you’re early you can always mix it up at the Vic on the Park around the corner.

FBi Social

Kings Cross

FBi radio’s very own live music venue on the top floor of the Kings Cross Hotel. The venue is the live answer to the station, with gigs most nights a week as well as the new ’Lunch Break’ sets generating fanfare for an endless list of local artists. The $10 cover is pretty damn sweet, warranting multiple visits within a week.

GoodGod Small Club

Sydney

Down the stairwell and past the booth seats of the DJ-dominated Front Bar lies the smoky club with the atmosphere of a barn. Shows here are early, ending usually at eleven when the dance nights start, so you have to arrive at 8pm to catch the first support. With the room fanning out towards the back corners, the mix here is not the best in town, but the bills are top-notch, choc-a-block with mostly local and some international acts. Order a sangria jug in true Spanish-Quarter-style and snag a spot towards the front.

The Hi-Fi

Moore Park

Formerly known as the Forum, this freshly renovated spin-off of the eponymous Melbourne venue opened in 2012. All about the sound and the spectacle, Sydney’s Hi-Fi is right at home among the stadiums and film sets of the EQ. Like a little brother to the Hordern Pavilion – and to its brother venues in Brisbane and Melbourne – it’s been hosting some grand international indie and rock acts, and an elite list of Aussies.

Hordern Pavilion

Moore Park

The Hordern does the job when it comes to bigger audiences. Ample seating wraps around the huge standing area - it's just damn spacious. There are plenty of amenities, the sound suits big gigs and it's easy to get to. Catch a pre-drink at the Fox & Lion and grab a cab home with ease. What more could you ask for?

Manning Bar

Camperdown

For a while there it looked like the Manning was going to lose its status as a live venue in favour of… well, it wasn't really clear what the alternative was. But thankfully cooler heads prevailed and it remains a key location for live music from touring acts and larger locals. Sometimes the PA buckles under the weight of a complicated mix (as Okkervil River and Of Montreal demonstrated) but put a Regurgitator or a Les Savy Fav in there and your night will go off like an off-going thing on the goingest-offest night of its life.

The Metro Theatre

Sydney

This baby's got all bases covered. Good sound? Check. Decent amenities? Check. A bar from which you can see the stage? Check. Another bar? Check. Since the early 90s, The Metro has been showcasing a splashing of all ages gigs while presenting a myriad of musical genres across every night of the week. Bravo!

Notes Live

Newtown

Notes Live is a venue for grown-ups with a sophisticated fitout, great sound facilities and a ridgy-didge dinner menu. It hosts mainly singer-songwriters, including many jazz, funk and world musicians who benefit from the acoustics of the comfortable yet intimate space. On Enmore Road close to the King Street intersection, a wonderland for gastronomes and the thirsty.

Oxford Art Factory

Darlinghurst

OAF bridges the gap between hang out and venue in style. The two rooms host socialites and punters, divided by a drawing room and two bars. It's well decorated and interesting, and the lighting's great. The bill brings in obscure hip hop acts and mainstream pop alike. Additionally, it gives scenesters somewhere to go after they get a new haircut: priceless.

The Red Rattler

Marrickville

With its delicious cabaret curtains and loll-worthy plush armchairs, the Rattler in industrial Marrickville is a wonderful environment for experiencing all manner of artists and performers. Experimental music festivals and queer collective parties appear on the program in between local bands and reputable internationals. The dancefloor can get pretty sweaty but for $4.50 you can sort yourself out with some ‘Rat’s Piss’: a just-palatable blend of the dregs from every keg. Yum!

The Standard

Surry Hills

The Standard is that most wonderful of things: a live music venue. Not a pub with a stage stuck in whichever corner has the most power outlets. Not a club that can be repurposed for bands if needs be. It's been set up as a place to go see live bands: most of it is a large empty space, with the good-sized stage away from the entrance, the toilets and the bar so you're not being jostled when you're watching a group tear it up. The PA is tuned for the room. And they break out the ping-pong tables when the band finishes: now that, friends, is class.

The Beresford Hotel

Darlinghurst

Upstairs Beresford opened its doors to live acts in 2011 with a vision to bring the music back to Bourke Street that we lost when the Hopetoun bit the dust. It hasn’t been able to keep up the weeknight shows, but the vision is holding good on Fridays and Saturdays, when the festival-grade indie acts take to the sizeable stage. And there's some more pop stuff – Guy Sebastian! The opulent décor, inspired by some of New York’s finest live music venues, suits those among the Surry Hills set who’ve outgrown the grimier elements of pub-rock.

The Vanguard

Newtown

The trusty Vanguard is an intimate live music venue and restaurant that has long played host to the greats of Australian and international music. Almost vaudeville décor dresses the New Orleans-styled venue, whose owners were inspired by that beautiful, lived-in district of LA. Known widely as Sydney's house of jazz and blues, its friendly and unpretentious ambience has been on the radar of the Newtown set for a while. With Dinner and Show tickets starting at only $36, it's hard to beat in charm and quality.

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First published on 16 Jul 2008. Updated on 28 Oct 2013.

By Time Out Sydney editors   |  
 

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