From underground jazz joints to stadiums hosting tens of thousands of people, Sydney venues are not shy of making some noise when it comes to music. Whatever genre tickles your fancy, and whether you like venues big, iconic or small, the Harbour City has an act to entertain you.
Inspired by Andy Warhol’s 1960s New York nightclub The Factory, Oxford Art Factory is one of Sydney’s top live music venues and has launched the careers of many local artists. You can now see international acts, up-and-comers and local DJs in the dynamic venue’s two performance spaces. The Enmore Theatreis the longest-running live music venue in NSW, drawing crowds for more than 110 years. For more lively options, enter the mosh pit at the Roundhouse or The Metro Theatre for high-energy rock bands or see international acts at The Hordern Pavilion or a diverse range of performers at Liberty Hall, both in Moore Park. In the west, the Sydney Coliseum Theatre brings in Australian stars as well as the occasional big name.
Then there’s the more under-the-radar spots. Local bands tend to make their names at local venues, and you can find performance spaces in the most unlikely spots. The Marrickville Bowling Club is a sunny venue where both lawn bowl pros and social bowlers get together for a game by day, but at night it’s a legendary live music spot with up-and-coming acts, album launch shows and epic parties. Dee Why RSL has reinvented the traditional sport club to become a modern bar and restaurant with a performance space for DJs, live music and dance. In Chippendale, Phoenix Central Park is an intimate inner-city venue hosting everything from solo piano recitals to opera or experimental sounds in its curvy, timber auditorium.
In Marrickville, the cosy Camelot Loungespecialises in jazz and folk music. It’s also one of the few Sydney venues where under 18s are welcome, so long as they’re accompanied by an adult. Just around the corner is Lazybones Lounge, offering live music seven days a week. Golden Age Cinema & Bar (part of the Paramount House complex) has a small, moodily lit space with a buzzing atmosphere and wide range of acts on Fridays to Sundays. While Tiva creates a luxurious atmosphere to watch both Australian and international jazz and indie acts with its menu of cocktails and Champagne.
Home of the Mardi Gras, Sydney has been famous for its drag shows for more than 50 years. Oxford Street is a LGBTQIA+ hub where you’ll find drag shows at Universal and Sydney’s oldest drag stage, Stonewall. Stop by The Imperial Erskineville from Wednesday to Sunday for a Drag ‘n’ Dine show at this legendary LGBTQIA+ spot. At Mary’s Underground just near Circular Quay you’ll find a diverse line-up of performers, from emerging bands to cabaret. At The Vanguard in Newtown you can watch both local musicians and impeccable burlesque acts grace the stage set within a stylish performance space surrounded by luxe velvet curtains.
If you’re in the mood for a late-night party, Sydney has options across the city. The ivy – an inner-city club that has a space for every mood. On Saturdays, LGBTQIA+ night Poof Doof takes over with queer DJs, drag performers and pop stars. For a transformative experience, each Sunday Lost Paradise throws a mini-version of its tropical electronica festival. In Darlinghurst, basement bunker Club 77 offers a heavy-hitting mix of industrial, techno and house. In Western Sydney, El Patron is a high-class party hub with a luxurious menu and top-shelf tequila alongside local R&B and high-energy DJs. The Albion Hotel in Parramatta transforms from a relaxed pub into a raucus nightclub come Friday and Saturday nights.
Sydney loves an outdoor music festival. After the biggest party night of the year, New Year’s Eve, Field Day, offers grassy knolls and a variety of sounds on the first day of the new year at the Domain. At St Jerome’s Laneway Festival, held in late summer, expect big names in the indie, pop and electronic scenes. If reggae is your jam, drop into Jammin, a small summer or early Autumn festival that has attracted Sean Paul, UB40, Shaggy and Sean Kingston. On 26 January every year Koori Radio transforms Victoria Park into Yabun, where you’ll find a bustling marketplace and a mixed-genre lineup of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists.
For hip-hop heavyweights, Light it Up is a one-day festival at Sydney Olympic Parkin spring. Good Things Festival brings some of the world’s biggest punk, metal, emo and rock artists in the world to Centennial Park near the end of the year and Festival X offers a one-day electronic dance music party at Sydney Showground in summer. And don’t miss the music line-up during Vivid Sydney, which lights up the cityscape and stage with a diverse mix of international acts and emerging local artists during late autumn and winter (with plenty of free shows, too).
Destination NSW acknowledges and respects Aboriginal people as the state’s first people and nations and recognises Aboriginal people as the Traditional Owners and occupants of New South Wales land and water.