If you ask a stranger, it’s a jazz bar. But ask even a semi-regular, and they’ll tell you Venue 505 is so much more than that. The much-loved establishment began its life in 2004 as a quasi-legal performance space nestled in the upper floors of Sydney’s infamous Hibernian House, established by Kerri Glasscock and Cameron Undy. You had to traipse across some questionable scaffolding to get in there, the gigs were almost always free and the only seats were on the floor. Even then, 505 was carving out its reputation as a refuge for independent music of the highest quality.
It’s a mantra that stuck when the venue upgraded to its current digs in Cleveland Street around 2010. With live shows six nights a week, Venue 505 has become a stalwart in a city whose avenues for experimentation and fringe culture are vanishing by the day. At least half the nights at Venue 505 are free entry, so you can spend that money on cocktails and chow down on their carb-heavy Italian menu to keep up your energy for the third set of the evening. The place has had its fair share of big names, both in the pop and jazz scenes, but mostly, it’s a room to go to and have your mind blown by some quartet you never even knew existed.
Top-notch players often gravitate towards the space but the best thing about Venue 505 is its vibe. The venue is deliberately designed to feel like a lounge room. The best way to experience it is by relaxing into one of their many comfy couches with a glass of wine, ready to see something spectacular. A dedicated local community guarantees this harmonious attitude, making it feel more like a great café than a stuffy club. They might operate on a first-come, first-serve basis, but even if you’re standing in the wings, you’ll be able to hear and see everything. If you ask a stranger, it’s a jazz bar. If you ask us, it’s the stuff Sydney legends are made of.