Our Favourite Small Sydney Music Venues

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It’s understandably very easy to get caught up in the negativity surrounding Sydney’s lockout laws. Our government have without a doubt made it an unnecessary challenge for venue owners to survive in the current nightlife climate.

During this difficult time, we decided to share the appreciation we have for our favourite small Sydney music venues. Whether they be places punters regularly find themselves at on the weekend, or the city’s hidden gems, these particular venues are constantly massaging our eardrums with wonderful music and continue to provide us with superb memories which we will cherish forever. Take it away team!

BRIGHTON UP BAR

Previous Guests: Allday, Loon Lake, World’s End Press, I’lls, The Babe Rainbow, Hockey Dad, I Know Leopard, Foreign/National, The Gooch Palms, Donny Benet, All The Colours, Eagle & The Worm

Why We Love It: “At first glance, Brighton Up Bar is just another corner pub collecting the stumbling faces of Sydney who are looking to consume that one beer too many. Well, it’s not. Acknowledging the narrow staircase that inclines up the side entrance, journeying up will result in you standing right in the middle of a tucked away band room. Although this feature is completely in the way and actually kind of annoying, something about it adds to the character of this 120 capacity room of noise.

Ticketing shows cheaper than chips, some favourite memories of Brighton Up Bar include the launch night of Purple SneakersDiscovery (headlined by Step-Panther), Dune Rats creating a very sweaty pit, falling instantly in love with Sunbeam Sound Machine and enjoying the army of acts dressing the Volumes stage just the other week.” – Hannah Galvin

GOODGOD SMALL CLUB

Previous Guests: Little Dragon, 2manydjs, Mount Kimbie, Jamie xx, Jagwar Ma (first ever live show!), The Rubens, Major Lazer, Thom Yorke (DJ Set), DZ Deathrays, Mac DeMarco

Why We Love It: “Goodgod Small Club has always been that place for my friends and I. Whether we try a new club and it’s an absolute flop or we just want a great night with some floor shaking music, we always seem to end up at Goodgod. It’s not just the incredible array of music they constantly have pouring out of the venue and cool events that they host, but it’s also the fact that they so obviously and so genuinely give a shit about Sydney’s nightlife.

I could not honestly tell you one place that is even remotely like Goodgod here in Sydney. We’ve seen a huge amount of acts pour through the doors like Spookyland, DMA’s, Conics, we attended FBi Click‘s first birthday party there in June, we even went to an Unknown Mortal Orchestra listening party a little bit before the album came out. It’s a venue of plenty, a venue for the people, but best of all, a venue where artists have the opportunity to play that eclectic set they’ve always wanted to try. Any venue that cares about fostering a growing music scene is definitely an important one.” – Caitlin Medcalf

CIVIC HOTEL/UNDERGROUND

Previous Guests: Porter Robinson, Dixon, Cashmere Cat, Tensnake, Todd Terje, The Gaslamp Killer, Bicep, Wave Racer, Green Buzzard (first ever live show!), Classixx, Genius Of Time, Porsches (first ever live show!)

Why We Love It: “Some of my most memorable clubbing experiences in Sydney have taken place at Civic Underground. There’s just something special about a venue which has a regular pub on the ground level and a dark club in the basement.

To be completely honest, I’ve always had an amazing night there. From seeing Bag Raiders perform their debut album live in full at their “listening party with a twist” during the Modular days, to the famous Future Classic Adult Disco parties, which featured artists such as Holy Ghost!, Classixx, Bicep, and Touch Sensitive, who played his first ever live show there, it’s always a pleasure setting foot in Civic Underground. Oh and that time they had Flight Facilities, The Swiss and Mitzi perform on the pub level, that’s yet another evening I will never forget.” – Tony Kingston

THE RED RATTLER THEATRE

Previous Guests: Chicks On Speed, Rat Vs. Possum, Parades, Belles Will Ring, Cassius Select, Dan White, Gardland, Kanyon, Anomie

Why We Love It: “Tucked in a tiny crevice of Marrickville sits the humble, not-for-profit Red Rattler Theatre. Brightening up its surrounds with a lick of red paint and Broadway-esque signage, the appealing aesthetic survives throughout the entire venue; charming punters with antique furniture, a chequered dance floor, exposed ceiling beams and dim lighting.

Offering beers by the bottle and super cheap entry, this artist run initiative transmits its soul onto its attendees with each and every little detail. My personal favourite highlight of “The Rat” was seeing Richard Cuthbert (of Cuthbert and the Nightwalkers) perform his debut solo record ‘Adventure Bay Rock’ back in 2012, to a very mixed crowd and an enthusiastic pup circling around the stage. How many venues do you see allow dogs on its premises?” – Hannah Galvin

CHING-A-LINGS

Previous Guests: Canyons, Set Mo, Black Vanilla (DJ Set), Klue, Ben Fester, Softwar, Kato, Frames

Why We Love It: “To me the most unique aspect of Ching-a-Lings is that it has a Boiler Room like feel to it. The DJ booth is situated literally inside the bar, which allows punters to sit on a stool looking over the shoulder of the artist playing, while sipping on a very reasonably priced beer or a delicious Pimm’s. The venue’s laid back atmosphere is also responsible for creating that rare conversation between the punter and the DJ, usually about the stellar records they’re playing.

While there’s this chilled scenario often going on, I’ve also seen it at the opposite end of the spectrum, when the dance floor is at capacity and in full force. The night’s vibe is always unpredictable but either way, there are certainly good times to be had, especially when there’s also a permanent Street Fighter 2 arcade console around for cheap use!” – Tony Kingston

BLACK WIRE RECORDS

Previous Guests: Orion, Las Tetas, Hannahband, Wives, Mere Women

Why We Love It: “As the Annandale Hotel goes family friendly and The Lansdowne sets to shut its doors for good, it can often appear like grimey rock n roll venues are a thing of the past, but a little record shop in Annandale is keeping the punk dream alive. Black Wire Records is a record shop, label and venue all in one.

With a dimly lit, enclosed space for only a few, Black Wire has garnered a reputation for crazy, sweaty gigs. It’s one of the few places left harbouring a scene of D.I.Y and experimental acts.

With gigs often only costing around five dollars and with most of the money going straight into the band’s pockets (the owners only take 100 dollars off the door), Black Wire Records is a rarity in the Sydney music scene – a venue that is actually willing to support and care for its bands.” – Isabella Trimboli 

FREDA’S

Previous Guests: GL, Alba, A.R.T. Wilson (Andras Fox), Retiree (DJ Set), Mezko, Huon Kind, Spirals, Douglas Fir, Anatole, Sui Et Sui (Sui Zhen Live Band)

Why We Love It: “Across the road from a dodgy Chinese restaurant attached to a service station lies the little pocket of disco called Freda’s. It’s warming in Winter and has a giant industrial fan to cool you off in Summer but no matter the season, Freda’s own brand of laid back cool and spicy tunes will keep you temperate. The venue oozes a modern yet dark London aesthetic while showcasing some of the best local talent.

Disco lord Andy Webb has been known to throw down a few tracks there which brings back memories of one particularly sweaty Friday night in Summer, when only his smooth brand of atmospheric house was the desired refreshment on offer. Not only do punters shriek each Friday, “Thank God It’s Freda’s!”, but they have played host to many talented producers and bands. From Rainbow Chan for Vivid Festival to Mezko and Winterplan. Psych band The Grease Arrestor took over the venue, while Simon Caldwell eased lovers into Valentine’s Day.

Ask for their spicy bloody mary, it’s a keeper.” – Jess Holton

TOKYO SING SONG

Previous Guests: Bad//Dreems, The Black Madonna, JD Samson, stereogamous, TEES, Alex Cameron, SPOD

Why We Love It: “Tokyo Sing Song is hands down my favourite bar in my home town of Newtown. You can find me either playing leftfield party tracks, or just propping up the bar very late most Friday and Saturday nights. Since the refurbishment (ie: gentrification) of the Newtown Hotel occurred a few years ago, this not so well known basement under Marly Bar known as Tokyo Sing Song has taken over the mantle as home to Newtown’s queer / alternative / leftfield party scene.

Here you can enjoy karaoke with scene queen Aaron Manhattan and lose yourself to underground house music (literally and figuratively) with Godfathers of the Sydney scene Paul Mac & Seymour Butz aka stereogamous. Or just party with legends Matt Format, Jack Shit, Betty Grumble, Nothing’s Shocking and a plethora of other notable locals.

To say that the attitude of this venue is accepting toward differences would be an understatement. It’s a place where egos are left at the door and punters are encouraged to be the most real version of themselves. Everyone’s modus operandi (starting with Jodie and Menzies behind the bar) is not only one of acceptance and equality amongst all, but very much one of love in the most genuine and respectful way possible.

At Tokyo Sing Song I feel at home.” – Martin Novosel

Compiled by Tony Kingston
Top photo by Voena

SEE ALSO:

TOP FIVES: LIVE MUSIC VENUES IN SYDNEY
TOP FIVES: LIVE MUSIC VENUES IN BRISBANE
TOP FIVES: LIVE MUSIC VENUES IN ADELAIDE

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The Purple Sneakers Admin robot that lives under our stairs.