In the mood for some tunes? You’re in luck, because Sydney’s live music scene is strong. There are brilliant venues dotted all over the city and surrounds, from huge theatres and pubs to underground bars. Sit back and soak up the atmosphere at these eight live music venues.
Combining old world charm with a city fringe location, Enmore Theatre is Sydney’s oldest running live music venue. It’s sprawling yet cosy at the same time, thanks to chandelier lighting and removable seats. The venue has played host to some of the biggest names in the music scene. And we mean big: think The Rolling Stones, The Pretenders, Modest Mouse, and Sonic Youth, as well as more modern acts like Nick Murphy (aka Chet Faker) and Grimes. It also puts on comedy shows from time to time, and its prime position on Enmore Road means there are plenty of options for pre- and post-show dinner drinks.
118-132 Enmore Road, Newtown
Are you a fan of blues, funk and folk? Head to The Basement in Circular Quay, which has hosted live music six to seven nights a week since the 70s. In recent months, the likes of James Bay, Urthboy and Charles Bradley have graced the stage and wowed crowds at the dark and intimate yet lively venue. Along with tunes, the bar offers killer cocktails and traditional Mexican dishes. It’s legendary for a reason, so pick any night and you’re guaranteed to have a good time.
29 Reiby Place, Sydney
Inspired by Andy Warhol’s famous ‘Factory’ in 1960s New York, the Oxford Art Factory is one of the coolest venues in the city. It’s a haven for music and art lovers, and its impressive line-up attracts thousands of visitors each week. The space has a few rooms: the main room fits up to 500 people, and showcases larger and often international acts, such as Digitalism, Warpaint and RUFUS. The Gallery Bar is a cocktail bar reserved for smaller, up-and-coming acts, and the Glass Cube is an exhibition space with live performance art that changes all the time. If you want to dance under the disco lights, Oxford Art Factory is a great stop.
38-46 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst
Formerly known as The Vanguard, Leadbelly’s stylish reno points to the Prohibition days, when music went underground. There’s a stellar line-up of live music each week, and most acts fall within the jazz, blues, cabaret and burlesque categories. It’s an eclectic mix, but that’s part of Leadbelly’s appeal, and it’s the kind of place where you’re likely to discover a new act or genre. As for the food, the chefs whip up tapas, pizza, modern Australian mains and ‘soul food’ to match the venue’s chilled vibe.
42 King Street, Newtown
For decades now, the Annandale Hotel has been a live music institution – and rock is its main game. It has all the goods for a great gig: a huge stage, lighting and a phenomenal sound system. It’s also known for having its finger on the pulse, and showcasing Aussie bands right before they really explode onto the scene. The hotel has a relaxed ‘Jam & Ale’ event every Thursday night, and amps it up with ‘pub cha’ in the courtyard on weekends. With food, friends and rockin’ music, it doesn’t get better than a Sunday session at the Annandale.
17 Parramatta Road, Annandale
Venue 505 is a hidden gem, literally. Located on Cleveland Street, you could quite easily walk straight past it without realising what lies beyond the (plain) front door. A bonafide jazz club, 505 is a warm, welcoming space that’s made to feel like a lounge room – albeit a lounge room that has hosted some of the most talented musicians from Sydney and across the globe. The artist-run theatre is all about bringing music to the people, so it offers live music six nights a week, with two of those being free entry. The menu features fabulous cocktails as well as tapas-style share plates.
280 Cleveland Street, Surry Hills
An inner-west haunt, Lazybones Lounge features live music every night of the week. The tunes are smooth and mostly jazzy, and the space itself is eclectic and relaxed – imagine leather lounges, gilded armchairs and chandelier lighting. While many of the performances are free, the bar sends around a donation bowl or charges a small fee to support the acts on stage. To get your music fix, show up before 7pm to settle in and order a drink and some snack plates before the tunes begin.
294 Marrickville Road, Marrickville
Smack bang in the middle of Bondi, Beach Road Hotel is a pub, dance floor and live music venue rolled into one. From Wednesday onwards, locals and visitors flock upstairs to soak up live music courtesy or big name and up-and-coming bands, as well as DJs. The shows are always free, and you can expect to hear anything from indie pop and EDM to rock and hip-hop. When the band’s taking a break, make your way to the beer garden for a chat over cider and some quality pub food, or the pool table area for some good old fashioned fun.
71 Beach Road, Bondi Beach