This little neighbourhood bar in a corner terrace hosts live music on every night of the week. Inside it's a little battered and hard loved, but it’s also comfy, familiar and takes you back to the days when jaffles and Cheezels were the dinner of kings. They have a nice collection of craft beers in bottles so if you don’t feel like an Orion or a Singha on tap you can furnish your drinking hand with a Lord Nelson, Temple Brewing Co, 4 Pines, White Rabbit, a Savanna Dry or a can of Rio Brava.
The heart of the business district is not where you’d expect to find an underground heavy metal pizza party, but Frankie’s Pizza by the Slice doesn’t much go in for the expected. They’re open until 3am, seven nights a week, which means Mondays can redeem themselves with a set from the famous house band, a frozen Margarita and a tin of Pistonhead lager. Tuesdays is for karaoke, which is followed by two nights of live gigs at the heart of the working week. Fridays and Saturdays hit peak party, but there’s no rest for the wicked on Sundays – just more live bands.
There’s a sense of joining a secret society when you enter that nondescript door next to a brothel on Cleveland Street. Welcome to jazz club 505 – one of Sydney’s true hidden gems. The intimate room is a mishmash of old couches, coffee tables and stools that look like upturned bins, while the walls feature colourful murals – cheap, but that’s its charm. Every Tuesday there's an old school funk and groove night, which has been going strong for three years. Other evenings there are ticketed events from local and touring jazz musos.
The Captain Cook Hotel is more than just a footy pub they’ve put the finishing touches on recent renovations and suddenly there’s craft beer on tap, gigs in the band room and an outdoor courtyard under the shade of two fig trees – complete with white picket fence. They host live gigs from Tuesday through to Saturday.
The beautiful towering art deco façade of the Sheaf gives way to an entranceway lined in signed music memorabilia and a framed copy of the Liverpool Echo from the day John Lennon was shot. On the live music front, the Sheaf hosts a jazz night on Tuesday evenings and cover bands on the weekend.
It's very easy to stay put at Corridor and lose an evening here, with a beer in hand and live music from local legends on most week nights. Find a spot on one of the Chesterfield sofas and soak up the local sounds and gentle lighting.
As far as impressive venues for a cocktail in this town go, Marble Bar is the one to beat. Add to it free live music from Wednesday through to Saturday (ranging from soul to acoustic sets) and you've got a damn good evening on your hands.
The Bald Face Stag is a big, old pub in Leichhardt that has regular live gigs from local indie, rock, metal and punk outfits. There's gigs in both the front bar and in the dedicated band room on most nights of the week.
Head here on Wednesdays for Sosueme – an indie and EDM hump-day celebration that’ll make you conveniently forget it’s a schoolnight. Thursdays and Fridays often host live local sets too.
The Different Drummer has many fine qualities: it’s snug, it has friendly and knowledgable staff but best of all you'll find live jazz and funk in the tiny front bar a couple of nights a week. On Wednesdays you find blues and burgers and Sundays they do $10 cocktails with live acoustic music.
Rather than shaking its fist at the youth and going the way of the dinosaur, famous old Marrickville boozer Vic on the Park has reinvented itself as a new community hub. These days it embraces music, art and weird sports with the same ferocity that it once gave to Tooheys and the ’Tahs. Thursdays through to Saturday do free live gigs in the front room and on any given weekend you'll find a mini festival of bands in the back courtyard.
This artist-curated space houses a main music stage marked by a '30s German grand piano that hosts big band, gypsy jazz, funk, gospel, reggae and world music. There's also a 'sideshow' stage for smaller acts and performance.
Every suburb needs a little guy – a tiny bar wodged in on the main street between a Student Flights and a pasta joint, one that serves the drinks you wish you could have at home, in surrounds just as comfortable. They host regular lives sets from local bands like the Sweet Jelly Rolls and its small size makes it an intimate and fun setting in which to hear live music.
Enjoy seltzer cocktails, floats and hot dogs with a side of live music at the Soda Factory. While DJs spin late into the morning, if you get down a little earlier you'll find local music – ranging from swing bands to acoustic sets – on Fridays and Sundays.
The Crowie is an infamous late night haunt on the Lower North Shore. Fridays and Saturday nights live cover bands keep the crowd dancing.
This multi-level music and club venue brings some life to the middle of Oxford Street. Once the former digs of Ruby Rabbit and Gay Bar, the Oxford Circus now hosts regular live gigs, vinyl nights and burlesque performances.
Up above the Bank Hotel is a cocktail den and live music venue which is perfect for late night shenanigans outside the lockout zone. Live music is usually free on both Friday and Saturday nights.
This Oxford Street staple has been a firm favourite for touring artists and locals alike for almost a decade. While the main room has ticketed events, the gallery bar has indie bands nights and DJs on Saturdays.
The Hero was built in a no-frills era, and they haven’t added any in the intervening 170 years. On Saturday afternoons you'll find old time jazz standards, followed by folk jams. On Sundays you can cap off the weekend with an Irish jam session from 7pm.
Over the years the comforting spectre of the giant cauliflower crossed with rake and hoe on its roof has been a sure sign you're nearly home for many Sydneysiders. The old boozer has had a full refurb – they've jazzed up the interiors and transformed the back room into a timber lined fun barn that is just crying out for a little boot scooting. Most Sundays you'll find rockin' blues bands from 2pm.
Opera Bar has to be one of the enviably located bars in the city. Against a backdrop of the Harbour Bridge and the stunning quay, you'll find local cover bands playing hits most nights of the week. On Sunday afternoons wind down from the weekend with jazzy tunes in the sunshine.
This Manly pan-Asian bar hosts hand-picked local live music on Sunday arvos. There's $10 cocktails from 6pm to help you finish the weekend on a sweet note.
Want more live music?
From major concerts to tiny basement gigs, here's our pick of Sydney's best live music venues.