Punters watching a band at The Vic On The Park
Photograph: Supplied/The Vic On The Park

The best bars and pubs in Sydney for live music

Catch live gigs – from blues bands to indie rock, jazz, hip hop and punk – at these Sydney bars and pubs

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Contrary to contemporary yarns, there are still pubs and bars that host live music in Sydney. Many of them have successfully lashed back at the encroaching frontline of pokie machines. 

We're all for it. So Time Out Sydney's writers – including pub-frother and Editor Alice Ellis, and resident booze-lover and Editor Avril Treasure, have rounded up a list of our fave bars and pubs that host live bands.

Hate the ding-ding of pokie machines? Here's a list of Sydney pubs without pokies.

More into dancing to a DJ? Check our guide to the best clubs in Sydney.

Bars and pubs for live music

  • Enmore

Let the good times roll: the teams behind legendary Sydney bars Earl’s Juke Joint, Jacoby’s Tiki Bar and the Cliff Dive have opened a new live music venue in EnmoreCalled The Trocadero Room, the new joint is the place to catch up-and-coming bands, DJs, and comedy shows. Feel like a beer and boogie under disco balls after your shift? You can do that that there, too. As well as late-night balmy action, come for jazzed-up retro cocktails: Frozen Midori Illusions, Frozen Negronis spiked with OJ, and Cosmopolitians.

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Avril Treasure
Food & Drink Editor, Time Out Sydney
  • Enmore
  • price 1 of 4

If you're looking for a good time and killer live music, head to the Duke of Enmore, found on a corner just a short stroll from the Enmore Theatre. Home of the pickleback and hearty pub dishes, The Duke has free live gigs on five nights of the week, and is a big advocate for Sydney's live music scene. Rock on.

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Avril Treasure
Food & Drink Editor, Time Out Sydney
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  • Cocktail bars
  • Sydney

Swillhouse – the (top) guns behind some of Sydney’s coolest and best venues (think Le Foote, Hubert, Alberto’s LoungeShady Pines Saloon and The Baxter Inn) – have opened a late-night live music venue called The Caterpillar Club, and frankly we’re not sure a cuter name has ever wriggled into Sydney. And when we say late-night, we mean it: The Caterpillar Club is open until 4am most nights, and it’s calling your name. From funk to soul, R&B and jazz, every night there will be live entertainment and music at the club, plus DJs spinning banging records. Expect stuff that’s jazzy and groovy and above all, music that encourages good times.

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Avril Treasure
Food & Drink Editor, Time Out Sydney
  • Double Bay
  • price 1 of 4

This is the place to be for your weekend live-music fix. Pop into the beer garden on Saturday for chill live tunes before letting loose for the DJs that play from 5pm til late. If you want to put your feet up, opt for the acoustic tunes on Sunday afternoons.

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  • Marrickville

This Marrickville boozer has a basketball ring, a massive courtyard perfect for sinking beers on a sunny arvo, and a huge stage for live music on Fridays and Saturdays. The bands come from all genres and you’re just as likely to see a chilled acoustic set as you are to witness a punching-the-air rock show. Yes, it gets absolutely packed, but we reckon that's half of the fun when watching top-notch live music. 

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Avril Treasure
Food & Drink Editor, Time Out Sydney
  • Music
  • Music venues
  • Newtown

After three years of ideation, Pleasure Club – Newtown's late-night entertainment venue, cocktail bar and debauchery den – is finally open. And when we say "late night", we mean proper late. It's the first Newtown venue to be granted a 4am licence in more than 100 years. This purple-hued, disco-ball-lit bar located in a grungy basement just off King Street is a place where hedonism in all its forms is encouraged. The mix of entertainment (live music and other types of performers) will ensure a different type of experience every single night. 

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Avril Treasure
Food & Drink Editor, Time Out Sydney
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  • Pubs
  • Chippendale

With a dedicated first floor bandroom you're only a few bucks and a wrist band away from access to the velvet banquette-lined, 250-person venue that manages to feel intimate for a folky show, but gives you room to cut loose when more raucous acts are on the stage. Tap beers and enlightened grub anchor this renewed live music hub in its accessible roots, a pub with gritty guts.

  • Sydney
  • price 2 of 4

The Marble Bar, a speakeasy-style bar underground the Hilton Sydney hotel, turned 130 in 2023. It’s hard to believe Sydney has any bars that are this old, right? The lavish fit-out makes the place feel like a time capsule. But our favourite part of Marble Bar is that it’s long been a champion for live music. They feature live bands on-stage five nights a week (Monday to Friday) and have a DJ on Saturday nights. The bands are often cover bands who bash out R’n’B, soul and funk – the types of tunes that get people dancing. So although the décor is of the Victorian era, the vibe is relaxed and funky.

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Alice Ellis
Sydney Editor
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  • Newtown
  • price 1 of 4

Up on the first floor of the whopper King Street pub you’ll find Waywards, a bar and music venue open Fridays and Saturdays. Under the peachy light of a guitar-shaped neon, you'll find a tiny stage propping up a roster of surf rock jangle bands, solo pop acts and sprawling neo-blues sets. Waywards sure does keep the lighter in the air for all sorts of Newtown indie manifestations. Go for the gig and stay for the nostalgic dance floor after.

  • Cocktail bars
  • Surry Hills

Funky and tropical boozer Tucano’s brings good vibes and even better tunes on Fridays and Saturdays with DJs and singers lighting up the bar from 8.30pm. Our favourite part? The Surry Hills haunt now stays open until 2am on weekends – so gather your fellow night owls and come here.

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Avril Treasure
Food & Drink Editor, Time Out Sydney
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  • Pubs
  • Newtown

An unassuming crumbly-facade pub on South King Street is exactly the place you’d hope to see a band playing live. Right next to the front bar is a smallish corner stage that is relatively unviewable from the street. This is a real gig in a pub affair and if you squint you could pretend it’s the70s. The roster of bands is diverse and sporadic, so keep your ears peeled and a vigilant monitoring eye on Facebook events.

  • Australian
  • Circular Quay
  • price 3 of 4

Mary’s Underground is a restaurant, yes, but it’s also still very much a music venue that pays respects to the site’s former life as the Basement (Sydney’s former home of jazz, soul and world music). When you walk in, the nostalgia is strong, but they’ve moved the stage off to the left-hand side and spread everything out so that every table luxuriates in its own bubble of generous floor space. You can pick from a smorgasboard of music and acts ranging from jazzy adults-only cabaret to grungy rock and indie artists. 

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  • Cocktail bars
  • Barangaroo

Cardea is a speakeasy-style cocktail and live music bar in Barangaroo, named after the ancient Roman goddess Cardea, who protected families from evil spirits passing through doorways. The enchanting space is decked out with plush red velvet booths, glittering chandeliers, and vintage furniture. Live music takes center stage here, with a rotating line-up of local musicians, including burlesque performances and jazz on most nights. If you’re looking for a stylish spot with great music, come on down to Cardea for a vino and a fun time.

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Avril Treasure
Food & Drink Editor, Time Out Sydney
  • Music
  • Marrickville

Featuring live music seven nights a week and across two floors, this Marrickville venue hosts all genres of music. The rooms have a plush, quirky feel to them, the vibe is welcoming and cosy and there’s an eclectic grown-up vibe. Expect to pay a modest cover charge, depending on what's on. They're open late – from 7pm until midnight Monday through Wednesday, and until 3am Thursday through Saturday (they close a bit earlier on Sunday nights, though). 

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  • Pubs
  • Woolloomooloo
  • price 2 of 4

Woolloomooloo’s historic Old Fitzroy Hotel – the charming boozer is more than 150 years old – is the only remaining theatre pub in Australia. And as well as cutting-edge shows, you can swing on down on Sundays from 2pm to catch live jazz music. The line-up changes often, and includes everything from traditional jazz to electronic mix-ups. Add on a cold beer, steak and chips and we reckon you've got yourself a cracking afternoon.

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Avril Treasure
Food & Drink Editor, Time Out Sydney
  • Sport and fitness
  • Petersham
  • price 1 of 4

Local and live, these guys book what sounds good and let you get on with having a good time. Just a small room that affectionately hasn’t had its decor updated for 50 years, yummo bistro eats and lawn bowls. Chilling out and catching some tunes is totally unhard. See a laid back arvo show in the club upstairs or venture in to their basement for an even smaller room with loud bands of many genres.

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  • Cocktail bars
  • Sydney

Jolene's is a Tennessee-inspired basement whiskey bar in the CBD's YCK precinct – obviously named in honour of the pint-sized Queen of Country, Dolly Parton, and her timeless mega-hit song that is the bar's namesake. Each booth is named lovingly after a country musician, and there's a proper stage so you can get down with some of Sydney's best country and western bands every Friday and Saturday night, as well as the first Thursday of every month.

  • Sydney
  • price 2 of 4

The spot that offers Sydney's best views of the Harbour Bridge also hosts live music performances seven days a week. A mix of local artists (as well as DJs) play from noon on weekends and from 5pm on weeknights, and there's no entry fee for the punter. Enjoy with a cocktail and a seafood platter and call it a good time.

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  • Sport and fitness
  • Marrickville
Marrickville Bowling Club
Marrickville Bowling Club

The no fuss vibe here makes the Bowlo a great lowkey music venue for those who chose the atmospheric clouds of hot chippy smell and family-friendly bowling green to massive venues and sticky floors. Gigs are here almost every weekend, ranging from community favourites to huge label showcases and micro-festivals. A band playing in a well equipped sports club with a stage, disco ball and sci-fi reminiscent ceiling tiles is a magical thing.

  • Camperdown
Manning Bar
Manning Bar

There are still loads of tours coming through this tried and tested University music venue, which is a blessed relief since Manning's sightlines are among Sydney's best - and having a balcony where one can enjoy an al fresco drink or a durry while still being able to hear and (kinda) see what's going on is a rare pleasure these days.

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  • Craft beer
  • Newtown

If you want your gig to have easy access to 22 taps playing host to over 300 different brews then this is the pub for you. The Union Hotel is a fairly relaxed beer purveyor with a healthy pool culture and quite regularly they are also a live music venue. With a small stage even! Shows are short and fill the room with punters. Expect lots of local acts intimately launching their EPs or snappy punk sets bursting with energy.

  • Surry Hills
Golden Age Bar
Golden Age Bar

Beyond the bronze velvet curtains at the back of this fab cocktail bar is a tiny mirrored stage. Adjacent to Golden Age's excellent film program is a weekly series of live gigs that span a diverse range of genres. Stumbling in for a frothy Espresso Martini could mean you are just as likely to witness a fragile singer-songwriter set as you are to find yourself in a jubilant sardine can of punters enjoying a loud electronic set. Keep your eyes peeled on that curtain to roll back. Or, just check their Facebook page like an organised person. Up to you.

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  • Clubs
  • Sydney
Civic Underground
Civic Underground

With one of the city’s best sound systems, this small, underground club below the Civic Hotel attracts great international headliners for all night techno, deep house and electro parties. Though the definiton of "live music" could be up for debate with so many DJs, you can see heaps of international and local producers twiddle all their knobs to produce beats and sounds at the Civic in the flesh.

  • Leichhardt

Crowbar has settled in the former Bald Face Stag pub site and painted it both literally and figuratively black. Utilising the huge bar-adjacent band room they're specialising in live punk, hardcore, metal, and the heavier side of rock. It's still a pub at heart though, with tap beers, an in-house plant based bistro called Murdereats and a dog-friendly garden to enjoy a pre-gig schooner in.  

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  • Redfern

Redfern's dedicated hip hop bar is more than just splashes of colourful paint and craft beer tinnies, it's also an intimate live music and jam space. Regular events range from hip hop performers, open mic freestyle comps and big sound funk, RnB, and jazz bands. Squeeze in to the narrow digs and catch some booming bass under the watchful eye of their Biggie mural.

  • Things to do
  • Surry Hills

There's certainly a strong celtic vibe to much of what happens at the Gaelic Club and a distinct proclivity towards the colour green and a pint of Guinness, but there is a lot more to this cultural club which was opened in 1955. Alongside traditional Irish music nights every Friday, there are also cool underground punk, electronic, indie gigs occupying the tiny stage and filling the joint with jubilant moshers. The Gaelic supports these nights with cheap tinnies but the aforementioned Guiness is also cheerily flowing. 

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