Sydney is sprinkled with cracking live music venues that have had their roofs blown off by iconic bands over the years. The 5500-seat Hordern Pavilion — the Moore Park venue that’s hosted the likes of Queen, Bob Marley, The Police, Metallica and AC/DC since 1924 — and the bohemian inner-west’s Enmore Theatre — whose 2500-seat theatre has welcomed The Rolling Stones, KISS, Coldplay and Oasis over its century-old history — both cater to bigger acts, while Qudos Bank Arena at Sydney Olympic Park welcomes the world’s biggest pop stars. The Metro Theatre in the heart of the city is a great place to catch up-and-coming performers, the Oxford Art Factory in Darlinghurst turns into a lively nightclub after the curtain falls on the evening’s live music, while Marrickville’s Factory Theatre is home to a dynamic program of music and comedy acts.
New South Wales’ unpopular lock-out laws, the rise of poker machines, and break-neck property development across Sydney have all ravaged the city’s pub music scene, which flourished in the 1970s and ‘80s. Bands like INXS, Cold Chisel, Midnight Oil and Australian Crawl all cut their teeth playing at iconic Sydney venues like Narrabeen’s Royal Antler Hotel (which was turned into upscale accommodation in the 1990s), the Civic Hotel in the city centre (a 1940s art deco pub that now hosts DJs in the old theatre), and Selina’s at the Coogee Bay Hotel, which was resurrected as a live music in September 2016, decades after it hosted the likes of David Bowie, Elton John and Nirvana in its prime. The top pick these days is the Beach Road Hotel in Bondi, with live bands usually playing for free most nights of the week in the large band room upstairs.
Spotify’s great, but it doesn’t give you the same thrill as stepping inside a musty record store brimming with classic and contemporary vinyl. Mojo isn’t just one of the best places to find rock records in Sydney, it’s also one of the city’s best small bars, serving cocktails and craft beer alongside its LPs. The enormous Red Eye Records and jazz favourite Birdland Records are both close by in the CBD. It’s no surprise that Sydney’s hippest neighbourhoods are where you’ll find your fix of quirky, cool and cutting edge music shops, like Egg Records and Repressed Records in Newtown, Radio Free Alice and The Record Store in Darlinghurst, Revolve Records & Relics in Erskineville and TITLE Store in Surry Hills.
Massive national touring festivals are dropping like flies — R.I.P. Big Day Out, Stereosonic and Future — but smaller camping events and boutique festivals are going strong around Sydney. In the city, there’s Harbourlife at Mrs Macquarie’s Point in November, Field Day in the Domain on New Year’s Day, and Days Like This at Royal Randwick in March, while Electric Gardens makes a stop at Centennial Park in January and St Jerome’s Laneway Festival hits Rozelle’s Sydney College of the Arts in February. Just outside Sydney, there’s Yours and Owls over the October long weekend in Wollongong, Subsonic north of Newcastle each December, and Lost Paradise west of Sydney at New Year’s.
Searching for the perfect soundtrack for a road trips? Flick one of these stations on the radio. You’ll find contemporary pop on Nova 96.9, 2Day Hit 104.1 and KIIS 1065, easy listening on Smooth 95.3, golden oldies on WSFM 101.7, rock on Triple M 104.9, emerging indie artists on Triple J 105.7, alternative tunes on FBi Radio 94.5, and classical music on ABC Classic FM 92.9.