Sydney’s lockout laws are a thing of the past; however, that doesn’t mean live music venues are safe. On December 11, late-night institution Frankie’s Pizza closed its doors, which is not the first time an iconic Sydney bar, club or theatres has had to make way for new infrastructure and swanky new developments.
All good though because Sydney’s live music scene is kicking on and there are more than a handful of bars, pubs, concert halls and more venues putting on shows week-in, week-out. They’re supporting local bands and giving punters the chance to catch international acts as well.
1. Liberty Hall, Moore Park
An old space, a new name: Liberty Hall. Sydney’s newest live music venues is a 1,200-capacity behemoth that’s throwing its doors open for local, national and international acts. From its sold-out Moodymann and Omar S doubleheader opener at the end of October to the special second show from international heavyweights The Killers, expect big things from Liberty Hall.
Entertainment Quarter, Building 220, The, Lang Road
2. Oxford Art Factory, Darlinghurst
Sydney’s iconic warehouse-styled venue has been one of the driving forces in keeping the city’s live music scene alive and kicking, continuously attracting international acts and parties to its stage and dancefloor.
However, its efforts supporting the local live music community are second to none, knowing full well that lesser-known bands will never catch a break if they have nowhere to perform. Consequently, the Oxford Art Factory’s Gallery Bar (the smaller, narrower space within the venue) has seen the rise of numerous great artists and bands, such as Jezebels, Chet Faker, the Rubens, and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, and even Tame Impala who once performed in front of only 25 people.
38-46 Oxford Street
3. The Landsdowne Hotel, Chippendale
We almost lost The Landsdowne Hotel, a longstanding pulse of live music in Sydney. However, thanks to the team at the Oxford Arts Factory, The Landsdowne Hotel not only still stands, but recent renovations have seen it giving a new lease on life.
There’s more to come for the iconic and culturally important Sydney venue, which has hosted now-legendary bands like Powderfinger, You Am I and The Living End; more recent live acts like Amyl & The Sniffers, Courtney Barnett, Violent Soho, DZ Deathrays; as well as put on some notorious parties including A Club Called Rhonda.
2-6 City Road
4. Zenith Theatre, Chatswood
Featuring world-class musicians, the Zenith Theatre continues its live music offering in 2023 with Zenith Sunday Sessions with a special focus on classical, jazz and world music.
Corner Mcintosh Street & Railway Street
5. The Alley, Ultimo
Upstairs in the Agincourt Hotel, you’ll find a public bar, with all the drink, food and sport you can ask for. But downstairs, it’s The Alley serving up local live music every Friday and Saturday night. Expect any and all variations of rock to be performed on stage.
871 George Street
6. Lazybones Lounge, Marrickville
How many days a week do you need live music? Well, if you’re Lazybones Lounge, the answer to that question is seven. And since they opened doors, they have been helping local acts to gain experience and a following, which is why you’ll most likely be paying a modest cover charge to get in. But hey, it goes towards the music so that’s fine by us. Although there is a jazz focus to the music playing over the speakers, expect to hear anything from folk to reggae on stage.
Level 2, 294 Marrickville Road
7. Camelot Lounge, Marrickville
For over ten years, the Camelot Lounge has been providing Sydney with a boutique music venue, which has seen a range of local and international soul, funk, jazz, blues, folk and cabaret acts perform on either of its two stages. The best part about this space is that it is artist-curated. And we also like their friendly nature that helps bring music and people together.
Marrickville Road & Railway Parade
8. The Chippo Hotel, Chippendale
Get down to the basement and enjoy live music every weekend, with a mix of local Sydney bands and bands from around the country on their national tour. Don’t expect any one genre to dominate the soundwaves, as you’re just as likely to hear house and techno as you are thrash metal on the same stage.
87-91 Abercrombie Street
9. The Vanguard, Newtown
To find out how seriously The Vanguard takes live music, just check out the specs page on their website, listing the all essential information that bands and artists need to know. That’s saying something. The stage plays host to jazz, blues, rock, and country, as well as seeing some plenty of other genres come through. But our favourite part of The Vanguard is the aesthetic — a grungy elegance, or so they call it. And, if you’re in the mood for burlesque, The Vanguard’s got you covered.
42 King Street
10. The MoshPit, Erskineville
A local bar run by locals showcasing local talent with no cover charge. This is what dreams are made of if you’re a rock’n’roll fan. And to prove it as well, just look to the walls and explore the history of who has passed through MoshPit Bar.
642A King Street
11. Butcher’s Brew, Dulwich Hill
Established by live-music junkie Caroline Buckingham, this small 50-seat bar in Dulwich Hill has been putting on live music most nights of the week since it opened. It’s become a firm favourite with musicians, not only because the old butchers saw a $30,000 soundproofing, but all of the cover charge goes to the performers. Music tends to be on the jazz tip, with blues, funk and world music also being played. However, the venue does open itself up to other genres quite often.
499 Marrickville Road
12. Golden Age Cinema & Bar, Surry Hills
From an uber-cool underground movie theatre to a live music venue on Friday and Saturday nights, the Golden Age Cinema & Bar is a fabulous space. The original home of Paramount Pictures in Sydney, this art-deco venue recalls vintage Hollywood glam but welcomes everyone onto the stage, from singer-songwriters to DJs to rock bands and more.
80 Commonwealth Street
13. Mary’s Underground, Sydney
Formerly The Basement but now Mary’s Underground (part of the Mary’s Group famed for their burgers), this live music joint is pretty much smack-bang in the middle of Sydney, just a couple minutes from Circular Quay. There’s good grub to eat, plenty of drinks behind the bar and the stage is host to a heap of local and national acts every week, plus some pretty great international guests every so often. It’s a splattering of club culture, hip hop, funk, jazz and everything in between.
29 Reiby Place
14. Enmore Theatre, Newtown
The Enmore Theatre is a Sydney live music institution—it’s the oldest and the longest-running live theatre in the city—and it is home to some of the biggest acts and best nights of live music anywhere in the country. We could go on about the Enmore, but we’re sure you already know everything there is to know about the theatre and what international acts are coming up.
118-132 Enmore Rd
15. Pheonix Central Park, Chippendale
To enter the Nest at Pheonix you’re going to need to enter the ballot and receive a ticket because there’s no other way to get in. There’s no buying tickets, no sneaking in, and no dickhead policy that ensures the intimate venue continues to put on some of the most astounding live performances Sydney has seen in recent years.
37-49 O’Connor Street
16. The Duke of Enmore, Enmore
Things we love about the new look Duke of Enmore include its awesome new kitchen and subsequent food menu, its no pokie policy, its a dog-friendly bar, and it has live music every day of the week. Good times are always alive and kicking at the Duke.
148 Enmore Road
17. Club 77, Darlinghurst
There are not that many places in Sydney open till the early morning, but Club 77 puts on a party till 4am every night it’s open and we’re extremely thankful. Home to some of Sydney’s best dance nights including Tempo Comodo—beats under 120bpm—Club 77 is a haven for everyone who wants to get down and boogie to all things electronic music.
77 William Street