Ask any Melbourne local of the fury when cult music venue the Tote was temporary closed. One thing Melbourne takes very seriously is its live music scene, as a collective we enjoy cutting up the rug to live tunes on the weekend (or even a school night for that matter). And almost always precariously located, our top live music venues encourage enjoyment of a musical nature, any day of the week.
The Corner Hotel
57 Swan Street, Richmond
On a city-end corner of Swan Street beneath the train line sits a long and celebrated tradition of live music. The Corner Hotel, which is also pleasant for a rooftop drink, has a modest band room (and by modest, we mean it holds around 800 punters) that has housed some of the world’s biggest music names, including Mick Jagger, David Gilmour, The White Stripes, Ben Harper, Crowded House and Queens of the Stone Age.
East Brunswick Club
280 Lygon Street, East Brunswick
A renovation mid-decade transformed this ho-hum inner-suburban pub into one of the newer music venues on the scene, and the addition of a second, more intimate band room in 2009 created even more reason to enjoy the music playing at the East Brunswick Club. Situated on Lygon Street, beyond Carlton and into the guts of Brunswick’s east, it’s a favourite for local acts, who flock to play here nearly every night of the week. With a front bar full of comfortable couches, two music rooms filled daily with a current act, a kitchen firing out honest pub meals and a bottle shop to boot, there’s really not much reason to leave.
Northcote Social Club
301 High Street, Northcote
At one end of Northcote’s popular High Street strip sits the Northcote Social Club, which is part-owned by the folk behind Richmond’s Corner Hotel. The band room here is smaller than The Corner, which means it is perfect for acts with a more modest sensibility. You won’t be bothered by view-wrecking giant pillars or sweaty crowds (as much) here, but you’ll still get to see some great music.
Similar to the East Brunswick Club in both atmosphere and history, the former Commercial Hotel was given new life in 2004 with a makeover, a new focus on live music, and name change. This is where the indie fans and Melbourne music media hang out when they want a no fuss experience.
11 The Esplanade, St Kilda
The Espy is much like a blank canvas to which many different elements have been added, but somehow the end result is a beautiful, chaotic, yet cohesive piece of material that carries with it a timelessness unrivalled by any other venue. The exterior is reminiscent of a haunted house, but there’s a party going on every night.
The front bar can be enjoyed free of charge nightly, with DJs and emerging acts lending their sounds as a backdrop to the view of Port Phillip Bay through the massive windows. Head out the back for some serious snooker or grab a pint and sit yourself down in the beer garden. The famed Gershwin room holds major acts and there’s generally a fee for entry, or pre-booked tickets for larger gigs.
Ding Dong Lounge
18 Market Lane, Melbourne
Tucked away at the top end of Chinatown, Ding Dong Lounge delivers a selection of local and international rock music to the masses. The dimly lit survivor of Melbourne’s dying breed of rock ’n’ roll bars, Ding Dong is synonymous with the alternative and underground live music scenes of our fair city.
The Prince Bandroom
29 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda
The band room in The Prince of Wales Hotel on St Kilda’s Fitzroy Street has become a venue in its own right and is now known simply as the Prince Bandroom. This venue holds about 900 people at capacity, with some bleacher-style seating at the sides. A live music venue for over 60 years, the Prince has been host to a number of local and international acts.
Toff in Town
Level 2, Curtain House, 252 Swanston Street, Melbourne
The Toff in Town is Curtain House’s dark, glamorous second-floor bar, and a CBD mainstay. Opened by Camillo Ippoliti (of Revolver and Cookie fame) the space features a multipurpose band room and dark and inviting main bar, divided by the reception and coat check. The Toff has been integral to the reinvigorated live-music scene in the CBD, hosting local and international acts from the well known to the obscure in a comfortable, stylish and approachable setting.