Editor’s note: Georgia Anger, a music writer from Australia, joined the TYF team earlier this year and has contributed writing about her country’s music scene. In this piece, she lists the ten best venues to see live music in Australia’s largest city
Whether you’re a muso from abroad or a local looking for a Friday night music fix, here are the best live music venues you MUST visit in Sydney. No stadiums included.
Hordern Pavilion, Moore Park
1 Driver Ave, Moore Park NSW 2021
Located on the grounds of the old Sydney Showground, The Hordern has been a popular social and architectural hotspot in Sydney since its construction in 1924. Known for holding dance parties (such as Mardi Gras after parties) and rock concerts, the venue was originally built as an exhibition space for the Royal Easter/Agricultural Show. The iconic site, located in Sydney’s Entertainment Quarter, has welcomed many local bands as well as international classic bands such as Manfred Mann’s Earth Band (1972), Fleetwood Mac (1978, 1980), Black Sabbath (1973, 1974 with AC/DC), Queen (1976) even Nirvana as a part of Sydney’s Big Day Out festival in 1992, as well as more contemporary bands such as The 1975, Panic At The Disco, Childish Gambino, 5 Seconds of Summer, and Tame Impala. The hall itself can be suited to general admission pit or assigned seating, depending on the demographic of the audience as well as the genre of music. The Hordern is one of my favourite venues in Sydney, being my most frequently visited venue on my list. I’ve been lucky enough to see The 1975 (mosh), Panic At The Disco (mosh), 5 Seconds of Summer (mosh) and Elton John (seated) at this beautiful venue.
Closest Bus Stop: Centennial Parklands, Lang Rd
Closest Train Station: Any station on the City Circle line.
Enmore Theatre, Newtown
118-132 Enmore Rd, Newtown NSW 2042
Originally built as an open air cinema in 1910, The Enmore is New South Wales’ longest running live music venues still operating. With a capacity of 1600 PAX, the theatre holds architectural and interior brilliance in its delicate and intricate detailing, with the lower level as a general admission pit and a seated dress circle. The Office of Environment and Heritage noted that the venue “illustrates the development of suburban theatres in the late 1930s and early 1940s, and is of social significance for the local community”. As a trendy spot for international acts, The Enmore has hosted acts such as Bob Dylan, Kiss, The Rolling Stones, Oasis, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Greta Van Fleet, and even Australia’s own children’s entertainers, The Wiggles.
Closest Bus Stop: Enmore Rd at Phillip St
Closest Train Station: Newtown Station
The Lansdowne, Chippendale
2 – 6 City Rd, Chippendale NSW 2008
Hosting nights full of comedy and live rock, The Lansdowne is situated between Sydney’s hustle and bustle city centre and Sydney’s trendy suburb of Newtown, and sports a diner style restaurant AND even some pinball machines. As it is a smaller and more niche venue, The Lansdowne hosts more local rock and indie acts, with some even rebirthing the Ska genre, especially on Reggae Mondays. Apart from Reggae Mondays, the Lansdowne holds Big Daddy Trivia every Wednesday, and Graveyard Shift gigs from 10:30pm onwards. The Lansdowne is famously known for its Detroit-style square pizzas and the upstairs unisex bathroom with a detailed collaged ceiling, named accordingly as “The Pisstine Chapel”.
Closest Bus Stop: City Rd at Knox St
Closest Train Station: Redfern Station
Oxford Art Factory, Darlinghurst
38-46 Oxford St, Darlinghurst NSW 2010
Inspired by Andy Warhol’s Studio 54, the cozy art deco theatre features a full bar and presents local and international acts. The OAF also holds a number of themed dance parties such as Queen vs ABBA and other decade rewinds.
Closest Bus Stop: Oxford St opp Brisbane St
Closest Train Station: Museum Station
Metro Theatre, Sydney Central
624 George St, Sydney NSW 2000
Redeveloped by combining two former cinemas, The Metro Theatre, or simply The Metro, is home to heavy metal, indie and alternative rock acts of mostly international status. Some of The Metro’s most notable acts were that of Jeff Buckley in 1995 at the peak of his career and popularity, where he received an overwhelming amount of love and support from his Australian fans, as well as You Am I who had 7 sold out shows for 6 days in a row in that very venue. Some other artists that have blessed the city centre stage are John Mayer, Lorde, Blink-182, Foo Fighters, Coldplay, ZZ Top, and Salt-N-Pepa.
Closest Bus Stop: Castlereagh St near Liverpool St
Closest Train Station: Town Hall Station
The Camelot Lounge, Marrickville
Marrickville Rd & Railway Parade, Marrickville NSW 2204
A cozy and sultry music hub in Marrickville, The Camelot Lounge is appropriately home to acts of world music, jazz, and cabaret shows in its low-lit retro bar. The Camelot focuses a lot on tribute and cover bands, with such including tracks by Nancy Sinatra, Cream & Hendrix, Billie Holliday, Stevie Nicks & Tom Petty, and a royal tribute to the queen of soul herself, the Aretha Franklin Songbook. If this time-transcending bar hasn’t caught your attention already, a big red door within takes you to an underground bar called Django @ Camelot, where a lot of the tribute shows take place; just to intrigue you some more.
Closest Bus Stop: Sydenham Station, Burrows Ave, Stand A
Closest Train Station: Sydenham Station
Frankie’s Pizza, Sydney Central
50 Hunter St, Sydney NSW 2000
A step back in time to the prime of 80s metal, Frankie’s Pizza By The Slice is Sydney’s Rock N Roll hotspot clad with classic pinball for all the wizards, pizza to boot, and heart racing live music. With a weekly schedule of the Frankie’s World Famous House Band on Mondays, Rock N Roll Karaoke on Tuesdays, and a mixture of Bands and DJs from Wednesday to Sunday, and of course a chosen Beer of the Week- Frankie’s is always hopping. As once described to me as the “last real rock venue in Sydney”, Frankie’s has welcomed big time acts such as home grown The Superjesus and Jack White’s The Raconteurs to Sydney’s humble abode of true rock. With old school graphic psychedelic posters to promote bands and vintage playboy covering the walls, Frankie’s is a home for everybody.
Closest Bus Stop: Spring St before Pitt St
Closest Train Station: Wynyard Station
Rad Bar, Wollongong
95a Crown St, Wollongong NSW 2500
Known to locals as South Coast music’s “first base”, Rad Bar’s stage has served as many local artists’ big break, filling the tiny venue with all of their family and friends. Owned by music event management Yours & Owls, Rad originally started as a cafe that featured live music but eventually evolved into one of Wollongong’s most recognised live music venues (and one of the smallest!). Sadly, Rad Bar has announced its closing- for now- due to high rise construction in its place, but it was necessary to add this iconic venue because it will be back in the near future!
Closest Bus Stop: Illawarra Performing Arts Centre, Burelli St
Closest Train Station: Wollongong Station
Brass Monkey, Cronulla
115A Cronulla St, Cronulla NSW 2230
“Live jazz and rock, hearty Middle Eastern platters and pizza in a convivial, low-lit basement joint.” Brass Monkey’s top Google search definitely sums up perfectly! Featuring mainly Aussie acts, the cozy and personal bar suits jazz heads and rockers, and has staged Felicity Urquhart, Mi Sex, Tex Perkins, Diesel, Ian Moss, Matt Corby and even the UK’s Kiki Dee.
Closest Bus Stop: Cronulla St opp Cronulla Station
Closest Train Station: Cronulla Station
North Gong Hotel, North Wollongong
3 Flinders St, North Wollongong NSW 2500
Also owned by Yours & Owls, North Gong Hotel is home to the indie-est of the indie. Their famous Sunday Sessions showcase some of the South Coast’s up and coming alternative acts, all with a ‘pub grub’ meal in tow. North Gong’s open courtyard and beer garden produces a chilled and airy atmosphere, providing seated and standing areas and three bars to access. Only 10 mins from the beach, the local university, and Wollongong City centre, North Gong Hotel is known to be populated by local uni students before commencing the work/study week ahead.
Closest Bus Stop: Princes Hwy opp Achilles Ave
Closest Train Station: North Wollongong Station