There’s no denying that Sydney’s live music seen has taken a massive hit since the abominable lockout laws were introduced back in 2014.
There have been some exceptions with resilient venues like the Brighton Up Bar and Oxford Art Factory bracing the storm and coming out the other side somewhat unscathed, and hats off to them.
However, many punters have been forced to look elsewhere for a new haunt to catch their favourite local bands. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, because outside the standard Sydney stomping grounds of Kings Cross and Oxford Street, there are a bunch of incredible venues, all you need to do is look a little harder.
Actually, now you don’t – cos we’ve done the ground work for you.
Sydney’s cultural side has taken a fair few hits in recent years, but outside the lockout zones, you’ll find these 8 venues keeping live music alive.
The Union Hotel – Newtown
If you’re looking for a classic pub that puts on really good gigs and has a shitload of good beers on tap, then the Union is the place for you. Nestled on a corner on the south end of Newtown’s King Street, the Union has a huge front bar and stage that is intimate, but big enough for things to get pretty wild. It’s where we have hosted our last two Happy Mag launch parties, and both went off.
Black Wire Records – Annandale
There’s something pretty awesome about watching bands play in a record store, and Black Wire Records pull this off very well. Black Wire is an artist and volunteer run, not-for-profit record shop, record label and performance space, with a knack for booking obscure lineups that always fit the space perfectly – mainly punk and garage. The best thing is that it’s all ages too. Annandale has a new live music hero.
The Red Rattler – Marrickville
The Red Rattler is one of Sydney’s most celebrated underground haunts for live performance, theatre and studio creation. The product of passion from 5 local queer artists who wanted to create a legal warehouse space to put on shows of any kind, The Rat is a non-profit effort that is all about providing a space for creativity to thrive. From punk shows to burlesque performances, The Red Rattler is a swirling force of theatrical mayhem. Without it Royal Headache may very well not exist, and that would be devastating for all.
The Chippendale Hotel – Chippendale
The Den at the Chippo Hotel is pretty much the most disappointing place ever – mostly because they put on really, really good shows that pack out instantly. Recently examples include the I Oh You x Red Bull party headlined by Methyl Ethel that had a 200m line out the front; or Shining Bird‘s Helluva Lot single launch which was so cramped that oxygen was in higher demand than beer. If you don’t get in downstairs though, head the the main bar for one of their burgers: juicy madness.
The Lord Gladstone – Chippendale
If the line for the Chippo is more than you can bear, cut your losses and walk up the road to the Lord Gladstone, because there is a pretty solid chance there will be something good going on there too. Don’t let the front bar fool you, this ain’t no TAB. Upstairs is a living room sized venue that we’re pretty sure was actually once a living room. One time Palms almost single-handedly collapsed the entire building. If the possibility of death isn’t too enticing, stick to the beer garden/dance floors downstairs, home to the notorious monthly I Oh You ‘versus’ parties.
The Record Crate – Glebe
The Record Crate is another awesome little record store that doubles as a bar and music venue. It may be small but somehow they manage to cram people in for an array of creative performances, poetry readings, comedy nights and intimate rock ‘n’ roll shows.
Waywards – Newtown
On a Friday night in the middle of summer, Waywards is probably the hottest place in Sydney. Perched above the Bank Hotel, smack-bang in the middle of Newtown, the venue has become one of the most frequented venues for local indie bands in the past few years. It may be small, but it has birthed some of the best nights in recent live music history as home to Visions and with some headline slots by everyone from Peter Bibby to the Preatures.
Vic on The Park – Enmore
The Vic Carpark is the ultimate daytime gig venue on a sunny Saturday. With a carpark that can squeeze in hundreds of people, The Vic has hosted some of the most epic day gigs Sydney has seen in recent years. Highlights include The Vines making a comeback, Bad//Dreems kicking off the Australia Day long weekend, Courtney Barnett headlining the Milk! Records label party and The Laurels playing one of the loudest set of all time.