Sydney is lucky to be spoilt for choice when it comes to concert venues.
No matter which part of Sydney you live in, you’re likely to be close to a place where you can catch some live music. However, not all venues are made equal, and while ANZ Stadium might be great for huge international pop acts, your local pub is probably better for an acoustic singer-songwriter. Here’s some top picks for solid, versatile venues in Sydney.
1. ENMORE THEATRE, NEWTOWN
The Enmore is the perfect mid-sized venue. With capacity for about 2000 people, depending on the seating/dancefloor set up, it’s great for both international and local acts. Its slanted dancefloor is a highlight, because no matter where you’re standing you should still be able to see the stage. The acoustics are also generally good. There’s a reason Gang of Youths played 8 shows at The Enmore instead of upgrading to a bigger venue!
2. OXFORD ART FACTORY, DARLINGHURST
Oxford Art is the best place to see up-and-coming acts. It’s intimate, with no barrier between the crowd and the stage, but is large enough to allow a proper sound and lighting set up. It’s also a venue of choice for big artists wanting to do a small show – for example, Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins of the Foo Fighters put on a $20 show here with their cover band Chevy Metal back in 2017. Basically, Oxford Art offers a pub-style experience with artists without sacrificing quality or sound.
3. SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE, CIRCULAR QUAY
The Opera House is an Australian icon instantly recognisable by its Utzon-designed sails. While its architecture is something to admire, it also has a reputation for putting on some of the most stunning concerts in Sydney. Acts to grace the stage of the Concert Hall this year include Maggie Rogers, The Cure, Death Cab For Cutie and Hozier, amongst many others. It’s a beautiful building with stunning acoustics, as demonstrated by Maggie Rogers when she sang her encore ‘Camp Song’ without a microphone. Forecourt concerts have also become more popular during summer, allowing crowds to enjoy big acts next to two iconic landmarks.
4. RED RATTLER THEATRE, MARRICKVILLE
Red Rattler feels a world away from venues like the Opera House and Enmore Theatre, but holds its own as one of Sydney’s best live music spaces. Run by volunteers, it sits inconspicuously in the backstreets of Marrickville. It’s a cosy space inside a semi-industrial building, with a very DIY feel. It works well for both quiet acoustic gigs and rowdy electronic raves. Remember to bring cash to buy drinks, or you’ll find yourself in the ATM line at the local servo.
5. THE LANSDOWNE, CHIPPENDALE
A staple of the live music scene in Sydney, The Lansdowne had been hosting gigs for nearly 90 years before it was shut down as a venue in mid-2015. Luckily, it was relaunched two years later by new owners and quickly got back on its feet. While bands and DJs play both upstairs and downstairs, it’s the upstairs space that is most impressive. It’s a very intimate room, made more intense by the dark, moody lighting often used by artists who play here. The Lansdowne is great for seeing small acts who have the potential to become quite big – something those who saw Billie Eilish perform here in 2017 would definitely agree with!