The Ten Best Live Music Venues in Sydney

Choose your own adventure from Concrete Playground's list of favourite spots, featuring everything from long-term Sydney stalwarts to DIY new kids on the block.

Trish Roberts
Published on June 27, 2011

Don't believe that boy bemoaning, loudly, the lack of live music venues in Sydney. There's no truth to that rumour. Dig a little deeper, kid, and you'll see there's a whole range of places out there.

Choose your own adventure from Concrete Playground's list of favourite spots, featuring everything from long-term Sydney stalwarts to DIY new kids on the block.

1. The Enmore Theatre

Where: 118-132 Enmore Road, Enmore

Undeniably Sydney's most beautiful theatre, the Enmore maintains an antique, old-world feel inside a contemporary venue. Built in 1908, this art deco theatre has gradually been transformed into the kind of luxury that is pure rock 'n' roll: band posters are plastered beneath luxurious chandeliers, drinks are purchased from a bar in the foyer, and the seats in the stalls are, depending on the occasion, removed to make way for standing room audiences.

If the ambiance alone isn't enough to entice you, never fear: the Enmore plays host to some of the biggest acts to visit our shores. We're talking The Rolling Stones, Sonic Youth, Wu Tang Clan, The Pretenders, Grace Jones... The list goes on. And while the size and prestige of this place is strong enough to attract the big acts, the performance space remains cosy and intimate. The combination of the theatre's traditional acoustics and an immense front of house system also results in exceptional sound, making the Enmore one of Sydney's premier live venues.

Click here for venue review and details.

2. The Red Rattler

Where: 6 Faversham Street, Marrickville

A new arrival on the live music scene, the Red Rattler is a community-based venue and innovative arts space. It's a space determined to make a lot of noise, and is named for the old Red Rattler trains that did the same. Building on the shoulders of Sydney's infamous illegal warehouse scene (which many of these Rats were involved in), this is a completely legal venue that seems far too good to be true.

It's an inspiring space that feels more like a home than a warehouse. Plush red velvet curtains, mismatched second-hand couches and an intimate, friendly atmosphere make a night spent at the Rattler completely unique. The fact that it's run by a collective of artists guarantees an exceptional spectrum of performers, with past highlights including The Church, Naked On The Vague and the High Reflections experimental music nights.

Click here for review and details.

3. The Annandale Hotel

Where: 17 Parramatta Road, Annandale

This pub rock institution is the lifeblood of the Sydney music scene. A '30s Aussie pub, converted in the early '80s into a live music venue, the Annandale has long been the quintessential Australian rock venue. There's the distinct stench of blood, sweat and tears in the air to prove it.

With a substantial stage and lighting rig, and a sound system perfectly worn in to the room, any Australian band worth their salt aspires to play here (or already has). A rite of passage for up and coming bands, a night at the Annandale is memorable for musicians and punters alike. And to help the memory factor, the paved courtyard behind the hotel hosts 'pub cha' every Saturday and Sunday, offering regular favourites as well as weekly specials.

Click here for review and details.

4. GoodGod

Where: 53-55 Liverpool Street, Sydney

This cosy danceteria is bursting at the seams with character: think walls covered with coloured tiles and wooden wagon wheels, mirror balls and bright disco lights, and a crowd that still manages to distract from the interior. The most important feature here is the dance floor, which I guarantee you'll find yourself carving up in no time at all.

The music policy varies each night, so look to the website if it's live music that's your thing. Past favourites include Jack Ladder, La Mancha Negra, The Coolies and live karaoke (meaning you plus live band), run by Siberia Records.

Click here for review and details.

5. 505

Where: 280 Cleveland St, Surry Hills

Spartan would be one word used to describe 505. You'd quite easily walk past its front when strolling down Cleveland Street without even glancing up, or knowing that behind a bland, unobtrusive door lies a music venue showcasing some very groovy up and coming Sydney talent. And not just that - it also hides a great place for a drink.

While it's not somewhere that you'd visit if you were just after a quiet night out, if you like music with your beverage of choice then this is the place, though that does mean there's usually a cover charge in order to get in. Still, with an array of music to suit your appetite and the fact that it's an artist run space that brings local talent to the stage nearly every night of the week, 505 definitely deserves to not escape your notice.

Click here for review and details.

6. The Vanguard

Where: 42 King Street, Newtown

While it might feel as if you've slid back into the '20s, this comfortably luxurious venue was in fact purpose built. Channeling New Orleans in the heart of Sydney, the Vanguard is a bohemian haven and a place to experience something a little bit different.

The restaurant offers a mix of modern Australian and 'soul food', while the stage plays host to an eclectic range of musicians and performers. For those whose tastes lie in jazz and blues, cabaret and burlesque: you've found your man.

Click here for review and details.

7. The Factory Theatre

Where: 105 Victoria Road, Marrickville

The intentions of this venue are clear: a bar, a wide open space (soon to be dance floor) and an empty stage. If you arrive early, it may all feel a little bare, but this only means more room for shenanigans later on.

Live music is the core of the Factory's operation, with acts as diverse as Ratcat, the Herd, Holly Throsby and Jamie Lidell. There's plenty of other good options to look out for as well, as this venue also plays host to unique events like the Sydney Underground Film Festival.

Click here for review and details.

8. The Lansdowne

Where: the corner of City Road and Broadway, Sydney

Previously better known for its $10 meals than its live music policy, the Lansdowne is an old pub that's making way for new music. The recently renovated band room is impressive, and now offers live music six nights in a typical week. What's even better is that all shows are free, with an impressive array of local bands on board.

Recent shows have featured The Laurels, Dark Bells and Domeyko/Gonzalez. Plus, the cheap meals are still on offer in the cosy bistro upstairs. In other words, a win win situation.

Click here for review and details.

9. Black Wire Records

Where: 219 Parramatta Road, Annandale

If it's the underground you're seeking, this is where you'll find it. Technically a record store, Black Wire offers not only an impressive array of music to purchase but also an enviable dedication to showcasing live bands.

Rough and ready is the rule, with bands setting up to play early evenings on the shop floor. All shows are cheap and all ages, providing a vital opportunity for everyone to access cult music. Recent performers have included Alps of New South Wales, Kirin J Callinan and Slug Guts.

10. Oxford Art Factory

Where: 38-46 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst

Perhaps one of the most ambitious venues to open in Sydney in recent years, the Oxford Art Factory is inspired by Andy Warhol's seminal Factory, and intends to operate as a focal point of music and the arts in Sydney.

The main room caters to larger and international acts, such as The Dead Weather, Digitalism and Warpaint. The Gallery Bar showcases local acts, with a feature wall repainted frequently by guest artists. Between the two lies the Glass Cube, an exhibition space that regularly features live performance art.

Click here for review and details.

Published on June 27, 2011 by Trish Roberts
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