Sydney is a cultural mecca, with arts, theatre and music all being major components in the cultural DNA. With a flourishing live music scene, there is no shortage of brilliant venues making up the city’s nightlife landscape.
Whether it be a small local act or major international band, Sydney’s music venues come in all shapes and sizes. That’s why we have put together a guide to the best live music venues in Sydney, so you’ll know where to go when you’re looking for a good time in town.
Located on the shores of Sydney Harbour, the Sydney Opera House is known as one of the world’s most distinctive buildings and twentieth-century’s biggest architectural masterpieces. Being such a cultural icon, many may forget it is also home to a world-class, state of the art multi-venue concert hall which has played host to some of the country’s biggest and world’s best performers.
Pope John Paul II, Nelson Madela, Queen Elizabeth 2nd and even Arnold Schwarzaneggar have all spent time visiting the Opera House, and a visit to this place should be on everyone’s bucket list. The venue is constantly hosting local and international artists with theatre, jazz, opera, ballet and live music having seen the likes of Elvis Costello, Sting, The Cure, Kraftwerk, Björk, Patti Smith, Prince, Bob Dylan and is home to Sydney’s biggest arts and cultural festival Vivid Live.
Whether you are here for live music, or just to take a few tourist snaps, the opera House is a place not to be missed.
Inspired by Andy Warhol’s Factory club in 60’s New York City, the Oxford Art Factory sits nestled right in the heart of Sydney’s Oxford St. The venue can hold a capacity of up to 500 punters, and often sells out with local and international acts gracing the stage all week long.
This thriving Darlinghhurst institution is considered the place to be for bands and artists. If you haven’t played the Oxford Art Factory, you haven’t played Sydney. The list of people who have played here reads as a who’s who of every band making an impact on music over the past 15 years. Tame Impala, Chet Faker, Matt Corby, Gang of Youths, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, and Courtney Barnett have all had breakthrough shows here.
This place attracts international artists also, with Mumford & Sons, Vampire Weekend, Death Cab For Cutie, Dave Grohl and Johnny Marr have played here, also. It is the venue where Lady Gaga played her first ever Australian show and cult novelist Bret Easton Elis launched his novel Imperial Bedrooms on the Oxford’s stage.
Located on level 2 of Manning House at Sydney University is the student union run Manning Bar. The Camperdown venue regularly attracts the best local and international live acts, especially amongst Sydney’s alternative and indie scenes.
With a capacity of around 1,000 people, Manning Bar boasts a roll call of amazing acts to have performed here. With Hoodoo Guru, Radio Birdman, Gotye, Foo Fighters, Billy Bragg and Wolfmother all having graced the stage.
The venue is also home to the famous Sydney University band competition, which has helped launch the careers of some of the country’s most loved bands. It also hosts the Heaps Gay Mardi Gras after party and different festivals throughout the year.
A former 19th century railyard and blacksmiths, Carriageworks is now home to a diverse arts space, Saturday farmer’s market and extravagant live music venue. There’s always something happening down here with large scale exhibitions and artist-led programs keeping locals busy.
With a leaning towards more artistic and experimental forms of music, the venue often hosts acts that defy genre including Björk, St Vincent and FKA Twigs. A day out at Carriageworks makes for a good time. Get here ahead of the show to grab a bite from the food trucks, a drink from the bar and soak up the atmosphere of the place before heading into the hall to dance the night away.
Having only been around for a few years, Crowbar is quickly gaining a reputation for being one of the hardest working venues in Sydney, hosting a whopping 800 shows a year. Crowbar has a grassroots ethos, supporting emerging artists from the ground up and giving them a platform to hone their sets and put their music out into the world. They often host album launches, secret gigs, after parties and much more.
The gig list definitely leans towards metal, with local and international acts testing eardrums and rocking the place hard all year round. Some of the acts you might find thrashing the stage include The Chats, Frenzal Rhomb and Nashville Pussy. They also host plenty of cover shows, with tribute bands playing Green Day, Blink 182, Rammstein, Black Sabbath and plenty more metal mayhem.
Whether you’re here for a gig, or a beer with mates, you can’t go past the food at Crowbar. The Ultimate Pig Kitchen dishes up solid American style burgers, fried chicken and smoked BBQ meats, which you can burn off in the mosh pit after.
From the crew that dishes up Sydney’s best burgers, Mary’s Underground is housed underneath one of Mary’s infamous burger locations just around the corner from Circular Quay. Formerly home to Sydney’s Basement, a long running music club, the Mary’s team took over. Revamping the bar and live music venue with their signature aesthetic was always going to equate to some good sticky carpet action, and the place doesn’t disappoint.
The venue gets some of the country’s hottest emerging acts onto its stage. It’s a great place to catch your new favourite band, or get your boogie on with one of their themed music nights including drill, afro beat, rock and plenty of jazz making for a fine night out. Mary’s Underground in-house jazz band might even be playing, if you catch the right night.
The bar itself is headed by Caitlin Rees, former sommelier of Fred’s in Paddington, who brings her impeccable wine taste to a wine list including minimal-intervention natural wine. The Mary’s team have also recently opened new music spot Liberty Hall, taking over the Moore Park 1200-person multi-level space that was formerly The HiFi and Max Watts.
Sydney’s oldest running theatre, The Enmore has been around for over a hundred years, and has hosted local and international acts for nearly as long. With its art deco design and retro interior, this institution is also registered by the national trust.
The longest running music venue in the state, the venue can host a crowd of up to 1,200 people and the list of artists and bands that have been on the Enmore stage is incredible. With the likes of Bob Dylan, KISS, The Ramones, Sonic Youth and The Rolling Stones all having played shows here, this pace has deep roots in Sydney’s live music history.
Originally opened as a photo-play theatre, the Enmore has recently been refurbished with its floors upgraded, ready for the next century of memorable moments.
The Lansdowne Hotel has been a stalwart since 1925, playing a significant role for the Chippendale community. Be it a quick drink at the end of the working day, a heated political discussion, or its live music, this venue is part of Sydney’s beating cultural heart.
Revived for a new era by the team that own and run The Oxford Arts Factory, the venue champions local, established and emerging artists, and has seen many of the country’s best acts cut their teeth before going on to conquer the world. Legendary Aussie acts like Powderfinger, You Am I, The Go-Betweens, The Living End and Died Pretty all played early Sydney shows here. In more recent years newer acts like Courtney Barnett, Amyl and the Sniffers, DZ Deathrays and internationals Idles and even Billie Eilish have graced the stage.
Be sure to grab a feed before the gig from the kitchen with Rockabilly pizza’s, milk bun burgers and gyros pita wraps all hitting the spot. For a midnight snack, the kitchen offers “wrappy hour” after midnight, where you can soak up the booze with a wrap for seven bucks.
Just a ten minute walk from Newtown station, The Vanguard offers the Sydney boho crowd live music and burlesque shows in a hip and intimate setting. With it’s moody interior, you could be mistaken for thinking you were in the heady yesteryear bars of Paris’ Montmartre or New York’s Lower East Side.
With a stage framed by velvet curtains, no evening is the same at The Vanguard. One night you could be watching the next buzz-worthy Sydney band, and the next a high energy drag show. No matter what’s on, one thing’s for sure, you’re in for a good time!
The place has a real local community feel and encourages artistic expression from every spectrum. With comfortable seating, quality bar food and eclectic cocktails, The Vanguard is definitely worth the trip to Newtown for a memorable night out.
Located in Moore Park on the grounds of the old Sydney Showground. The Hordern Pavilion is the place where big international acts turn to put on some of the best rock shows and dance parties from around the globe.
If you live in Sydney and haven’t been to the Hordern at least once before, then you haven’t really experienced live music in this city. This place has seen the best of the best, Frank Sinatra, BB King, David Bowie, Coldplay, Justin Timberlake, Nirvana, Queen, AC/DC and even the likes of The Jackson Five have graced the stage of the Hordern. Large enough to host up to 5,500 people, this Sydney institution was also the birthplace of the country’s rave movement in the 80’s and the home of the Big Day Out music festival.
The multi-purpose space also presents film premieres, gala dinners, product launches, awards nights and exhibitions.
With such an eclectic variety of venues throughout Sydney, you can’t go wrong checking out some live music. This guide offers the best of what the city has to offer, whether it be a local or international act, we hope you have fun seeing something great. If you are looking for a place to stay near these venues, be sure to check out Veriu Central or Veriu Broadway for a quality spot to get some rest after a big night out.