SXSW Guide: Where to Go for Live Tunes and Late-Night Grooves Around the Festival Precinct

Limber up for electrifying nights of genre-crossing tunes from homegrown stars and international acts.
Marley Ng
Published on October 05, 2023
Updated on October 10, 2023

SXSW Guide: Where to Go for Live Tunes and Late-Night Grooves Around the Festival Precinct

Limber up for electrifying nights of genre-crossing tunes from homegrown stars and international acts.

From WorldPride to the Women's World Cup this year, Sydney has proven to the world that it knows how to throw an epic party. It's no wonder then that the harbourside city has been chosen for SXSW's first iteration outside the US.

SXSW Sydney will take over numerous venues across the CBD, Darling Harbour, Haymarket, Surry Hills, Ultimo and Chippendale for a week from Sunday, October 15 to Sunday, October 22. 

Music has always been an integral part of SXSW — the inaugural event in 1987 started as a music festival with only 177 artists and 15 panels. Now, the music portion of SXSW Sydney includes 300-plus live music performances in 25 venues from Wednesday, October 18 to Saturday, October 21, showcasing homegrown musos and global emerging artists alike. There will also be various brand activations, including Tkay Maidza performing at the Defender House pop-up in the CBD and Spotify House taking over The Lansdowne Hotel.

In partnership with Jack Daniel's, we've compiled a guide on the top spots for live music and a late-night boogie around the SXSW precinct. For those without a wristband or badge, we've even included a few spots that aren't part of the festival, so you can still feel like you're in on the action.

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    The art-deco pub is a longstanding and beloved local among the Surry Hills community. The no-frills Hollywood Quarter venue was opened by Aussie actor and cabaret singer Doris Goddard in the 70s and still retains its old-school charm. 

    Keeping with its easygoing vibe, you won’t find any heavy EDM gigs here — the acts range from Velvet Trip‘s psychedelic blues on Wednesday, October 18, to Paige‘s emotional pop on Saturday, October 21. Stop by for indie rock by Mim Jensen, psychedelic folk by Baby Cool and genre-bending tunes from FRIDAY* on Thursday, October 19. Come Friday, October 20, there’s neo-soul, R&B and alternative hip-hop from Ashli and Zion Garcia, as well as dancehall and Afrobeats by Big Skeez — come ready to groove.

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  • 7
    Photo of a crowd in front of a live music gig at The Soda Factory.

    Just around the corner from the Hollywood Hotel, the Soda Factory has become a quirky mainstay of Sydney’s nightlife. The American diner-inspired cocktail bar has hosted live music since it opened, so it’s no surprise that it was chosen to be a part of the SXSW Sydney Musical Festival.

    The Soda Factory’s lineup includes some standout international artists. Otoboke Beaver, a punk-rock quartet from Kyoto, will light up the stage on Thursday, October 19, alongside London-based Los Bitchos and Gen-Z UK rapper Songer. Kuala Lumpur’s rising indie pop starlet Lunadira will also be gracing us with her soulful vocals on Friday, October 20.

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  • 6

    This underrated subterranean nightclub is bringing sexy back with its neon-lit dance floor, disco balls and plush booths. Located beneath the Civic Hotel, the Civic Underground is well primed to host an eclectic mix of artists, with a state-of-the-art sound system, sunken dance floor and moveable DJ booth with plasma installations. 

    Angsty punk-poppers Teenage Joans will be rocking on Wednesday, October 18, before making way for surf rock group The Terrys. There’s a shift to jazz beats on Thursday, October 19, with gigs by Jakarta-based synth-jazz trio Batavia Collective and multi-instrumentalist and DJ Elle Shimada. Grammy Award nominee Maxwell Byrne (also behind Golden Vessel) will be spinning decks as 1tbsp on Friday, October 20, so stick around for what’s sure to be a late night of painting the town red.

    Image: Kitti Gould

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  • 5

    The Gladdy is an ideal spot for a courtyard sesh or an intimate set from an emerging artist. The Chippendale watering hole ramped up its live gigs and parties after it changed hands in 2019 but still kept its unruffled, inner-west vibe.

    Artists will take over both levels of the venue, with Tik Tok-famous pop princess Ūla kicking things off upstairs on Wednesday, October 19, joined later in the night by Rum Jungle‘s beachy alt-pop tracks performed downstairs. The chill vibes continue on the remaining days with a variety of genres, including Phoebe Go‘s heartfelt melodies, Cody Jon‘s catchy bedroom pop and Dulcie‘s indie-pop bangers on Thursday, October 20, as well as Jacqui‘s Korean neo-soul and Squid The Kid‘s funky R&B on Saturday, October 21.

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  • 4
    Photo of people in the courtyard at the UTS Underground.

    Boasting an expansive skylight and outdoor courtyard, the lively venue is a popular spot for bands, DJs, large-scale parties and themed events. With space for 600 people, the University of Technology’s campus bar will welcome some of the more well-known international artists of SXSW Sydney.

    Catch sets from hugely popular American duo Flyana Boss and New Zealand songstress Fazerdaze on Wednesday, October 18. Thursday, October 19 sees Californian indie rockers Almost Monday and flourishing vocalist Wallice take the stage, followed by New York band Fcukers. Steering back to the southern hemisphere, multi-instrumentalist Gabba will represent Manila on Friday, October 20.

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  • 3
    Photo of the open-air rooftop bar at The Chippo Hotel.

    The inner-city hotspot has long supported up-and-coming artists with a dedicated underground stage for live music and comedy. The SXSW gigs at The Chippo will take you across the globe. 

    Kick off on Wednesday night with North London group Sorry on October 18. On Thursday, October 19, sibling rap duo Lil Cherry and GOLDBUUDA showcase their diverse musical stylings inspired by their upbringing in Miami, New York and Seoul, before Sydney-based Gold Fang‘s genre-crossing beats take the spotlight. Then, start your Saturday in Tokyo with CHAMELEON LIME WHOOPIEPIE‘s zany hip hop before moving down to Yogyakarta with Grrl Gang‘s infectious indie anthems on Saturday, October 21.

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  • 2
    A photo of a band performing at Jolene's Sydney.

    Swinging country tunes and one of Sydney’s biggest whisky selections come together at Jolene’s. Though not a part of the official SXSW Sydney lineup, this Nashville-inspired underground bar keeps the Western vibes pumping with live music every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 8–11pm. 

    Stop by for back-to-back sets from artists such as Steve Edmonds Band, Lozz Benson, Blake Dantier and Duncan Toombs. Between performances, sip on cocktails like Country as Fuck (with bourbon, blackberry, lemon and sweet tea), Redneck Sangria (with vermouth and prosecco) or Tennessee Truck Stop (with Jack Daniel’s, vanilla, pancake syrup and banana). If you’re feeling peckish, there are cheesy or pulled pork tots, popcorn chicken, hot dogs and chicken tender sandwiches on the menu.

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  • 1
    People dancing to Electric Field's show at Oxford Art Factory for Great Southern Nights

    The notorious Darlo establishment has hosted many late-night parties and famous acts throughout the years, from Lady Gaga to Tame Impala and Matt Corby. While it won’t host any SXSW Sydney events, it will be throwing its usual range of themed parties and live music gigs. 

    For those who don’t have a badge or wristband, you can still see SXSW performers Sorry at OAF on Tuesday, October 17. During the week of the festival, catch local artist Chloe Dadd‘s national tour on Thursday, October 19, as well as Los Angeles-based pop group CANNONS on the same night. For the 90s kids, there’s also a Blur vs. Oasis party on Friday, October 20.

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Find out more and purchase a badge or wristband at the SXSW Sydney website.

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