Sep 06, 2012

Go live, go local: Music venues staying strong

Since the SLAM Rally in Melbourne in 2010 highlighted the precarious future of live music in Australia, there are still many factors contributing to the demise of live music hot spots – liquor licensing fees, disputed loans, the GFC, council noise restrictions, the list goes on.

Recently, Sydney’s Sandringham Hotel (or the Sando) went into receivership due to a withdrawn bank loan – the Commonwealth Bank’s stance is that the venue’s loan is “outside of its lending guidelines” – and when administrators were appointed last year, the penalties meant owner Tony Townsend could not meet mortgage repayments, leading to a Save The Sando rally attracting about 3000 fans and industry support from musicians and long-time Sando supporters Tim Freedman and Angry Anderson.

On the flipside, two iconic music venues – Sydney’s Annandale Hotel and St Kilda’s Pure Pop Records – introduced a buy-a-brick campaign to raise funds to ensure the future of live music at their premises.

All this proved too late for Melbourne institutions the East Brunswick Club and Phoenix Public Bar in Brunswick – both shut their doors earlier this year – while the future seems uncertain for Bourke Street’s 2000-capacity Palace Theatre, which is currently on the market.

While lamenting the closures, here at AIR, we’ve been indulging in late-night reveries of the musical variety to come up with a live and local list of venues that are staying strong in these uncertain times with their own little perks and quirks.

We’ve called it a Go Live, Go Local list. The beat goes on. Compiled by Angela Allan.


The Thornbury Theatre
859 High Street, Thornbury, Victoria
It may feel like it’s a set from Boardwalk Empire plonked in one of Melbourne’s inner-suburbs, with its marble staircase leading to the theatre’s main ballroom (pictured)  featuring high ceilings, chandeliers and draped in red velvet, but aside from its grandeur, the Thornbury Theatre is a majestic and intimate live concert venue.
Dress code:
Smoking jackets and Saturday-night feathers and finery.
Punters can reserve a seat for $5, or book in for a dinner and show.


The Workers Club
51 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, Victoria
Far from being a hipster haven and taking cues from a funky industrial style, The Workers Club band room has timber-lined walls and room to squeeze 220 music lovers in for some killer live acts. It’s a favourite haunt for locals and has continued to build its gig guide to include international bands.
Dress code:
Skinny jeans, cool tees, accessories a must.
A comfortable crowd number (220) means scrambling to the front row is a synch.


The Waiting Room
11 Browning Street, West End Brisbane, Queensland
A DIY music and arts space that also hosts free all-ages events (even at night!) and album launches for local bands, The Waiting Room is a community-minded venue that has regular gigs and is also available as a space for hire for art exhibitions, workshops and rehearsals.
Dress code:
Think Andy Warhol meets musicians’ get-ups.
A multifunctional space available for hire.


The SoundLounge
Currumbin Creek Road, Currumbin, Gold Coast
Sarah Blasko, Angus & Julia Stone, Washington and Ash Grunwald have graced the stage on the GC in this 330 cabaret-style seating, 500 standing room pocket.
Dress code:
Surfie casual, dreadlock mania, no thongs, no headwear (i.e. leave your Native American headdress at home).
It’s located inside the Currumbin RSL, which means an awesome bistro meal beforehand could be on the cards.


Happy Yess
12 Smith Street, Darwin, Northern Territory
Founded in 2006 and run by artistic types in a former café (that served falafels no less), this not-for-profit music venue and arts space leans a little to the weird side of things; it’s the top end’s spot for local and original music and arts galore.
Dress code:
Easy does it.
No cover bands.


UniBar at University of Wollongong
Union Building, Northfields Avenue, Gwynneville, New South Wales
Sandwiched between the uni life staples of trivia and games night, UniBar hosts some of the best live independent Aussie music around against the backdrop of an urban campus atmosphere and a host of drink specials.
Dress code:
Student wage.
Daytime gigs, unplugged locals on Fridays and band competitions.


Annandale Hotel
17 Parramatta Road, Annandale
Sydney’s sweaty and seedy pub was saved from annihilation by the owners’ buy-a-brick campaign, allowing eager punters a piece of rock (and rock history) for a price to save the iconic hotel from shutting down.
Dress code:
Anything with grunt.
A small and passionate rock institution.


Republic Bar and Café
299 Elizabeth Street, Hobart, Tasmania
An Art Deco-inspired atmosphere with log fireplaces, this cosy spot is a popular with locals and offers musical variety as diverse as its menu.
Dress code:
Rug up, keep cool.
Seven days of live music.


181 Hindley Street,
A former strip club, Jive may have had a colourful history (it was also a comedy theatre at one point) and a vibrant interior: bold, bright colours, but there’s a great view from the bar and balcony to catch some live acts.
Dress code:
Edgy chic.
Top-notch acoustic performance space.


Norfolk Hotel
47 South Terrace, Fremantle

What: Formerly the Oddfellows Hotel, Norfolk Hotel was remodelled and reopened in preparation for the America’s Cup defence in the late 1980s and today, its Basement Lounge is certainly kept busy with the talent pool in the west.
Dress code:
Keep it fresh.
Live original music on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.


And more live and local to go…
Pure Pop Records
, St Kilda
Caravan Music
, Oakleigh, Victoria
Basement Discs
, Melbourne
The Hideaway
, Fortitude Valley, Queensland
The Tote
, Collingwood, Victoria
Alhambra Lounge
, Queensland
Contortionist Studios
, Queensland
Red Rattler
, Marrickville, New South Wales


Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments below.