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People watching live music in a Sydney bar
Photograph: Jamie Williams/City of Sydney

Where to see live music in Sydney right now

Get toe-tapping to everything from jazz to rock bands at stages and bars around town

By Alannah Maher
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Well, it almost feels like Sydney is ... open again? Public life has been cautiously returning since May, with many of our favourite places slowly but surely opening back up. While big concerts are on hiatus until Delta Goodrem plays a promised arena tour in April 2021, music is still playing in more intimate venues across the city. 

If the surge of livestreamed gigs during lockdown hasn't quite scratched your itch for hearing tunes performed live, you’ll be pleased to know that Sydney now has a crop of nightspots bringing musicians back to the stage for reimagined, physically distanced gigs. Check out our list and get ready have a shimmy (while seated an appropriate 1.5 metres from the other punters, of course).

If you are heading out, make sure you’re doing it safely. Always check ahead, venues have capped numbers and some require bookings while others operate on a first come, first served basis. If you feel at all symptomatic, stay home. 

If you’re catching public transport or a rideshare to your destination, remember to mask up. Here’s where you can buy face masks in Sydney right now

Get to a gig

Band plays at Mary's Underground
Photograph: Tom Wilkinson

Mary's Underground, Circular Quay

Restaurants Australian Circular Quay

Go here for: rock bands playing in an underground jazz bar 

The Mary’s empire made its mark on the Sydney hospo scene serving up trashy-but-good American cheeseburgers in grungy settings scattered with dried roses and graffiti that hark back to the ultra ’80s aesthetic of The Lost Boys – but at Mary’s Underground the vibe is dressed up in a jazz bar style. The venue was kind of primed for post-lockdown outings, with tables luxuriating in their own bubbles of space. Here you can catch intimate performances from the likes of Perth rockers Methyl Ethel, the infectious flow of rapper Genesis Owusu, folk and blues man Kim Churchill, as well as shows like Wanted and Wild, a burlesque and circus revue accompanied by a live rock band. Check out the gig guide here

Live music at Frankie's
Photograph: Anna Kucera

Frankie's Pizza by the Slice, Sydney CBD

Bars Sydney

Go here for: rocking out til late with a slice of 'za

Anyone who has been aching to mosh away a weeknight (albeit seated moshing) until the wee small hours will be stoked to know that Frankie’s is back in action with live music to boot – albeit in a scaled-down version of its pre-lockdown mode of seven nights a week of rock n’ roll until 3am. Frankie’s World Famous House Band is back at it on Monday nights, shredding popular harbingers of hard rock. Then on Thursday nights Frankie’s is taking you to ‘Hard Rock Heaven’ with sets from local bands of the likes of acoustic folk punk players the Bottlers and blues rocker Rose Carleo. Check out the gig guide for these and more miscellaneous Saturday and Sunday night gigs.

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The band stage at Lazybones
Photograph: Supplied

Lazybones Lounge, Marrickville

Music Marrickville

Go here for: an eclectic mix of soulful live music, dinner and drinks in plush surrounds

This jazzy Marrickville venue came back into action fairly early. Lazybones currently dishes out physically distanced gigs across two levels from Tuesday to Sunday every week. From September 21, it'll be back to its former commitment of seven nights a week of live music. Every ticket inlcudes a whole pizza to boot! There’s an eclectic mix of jazz, blues, soul, heavy rock, etcetera. Catch acts here like 4 Kings, who rock out tributes to the forfathers of blues, and Blue Mountains psychedelic and groove outfit Hibiscus BiscuitThe place has a very plush, speakeasy feel; the vibe is welcoming and cosy and there’s a quirky grown-up feel. Check out the gig guide over here.

The facade of the Vanguard music venue
Photograph: Supplied

The Vanguard, Newtown

Music Newtown

Go here for: live bands, vaudevillian vibes, and something completely different for dinner and a show

This trusty Newtown stalwart with vaudevillian décor has long played host to the greats of Australian and international music. Opening the doors back up from June 4, it's back to doing what it does best, offering top-notch live music and a classic dinner and a show experience. On the agenda is Aussie rock royalty and 'Tip of My Tongue' singer Diesel, vintage harmony queens the Roslyns, Geringong alt-rockers Pacific Avenue, and lots more music in addition to variety and burlesque shows like Porcelain Alice's La Femme. Check the gig guide here.

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Band performs on stage at the Soda Factory
Photograph: Supplied/Soda Factory

Soda Factory, Surry Hills

Bars Surry Hills

Go here for: local bands covering pop bangers in a retro diner

This retro vibed bar hidden behind a vintage Coca-Cola fridge is back in the gig game. While the decor says jukebox vintage Americana, the live music line-up is firmly all about local talent. You can currently catch bands here three nights a week. On Jukebox Thursdays from 7.15pm you can bop along to spirited covers; on Factory Fridays from 8.40pm musos will treat you to the best covers from the '80s, '90s til now; and on Soda Saturdays you can catch more fun local bands from 9pm followed by DJs until the wee hours. Check out the gig guide here and take advantage of specials on diner food like burgers and hotdogs while you're at it. 

Bump City at Camelot Lounge
Photograph: Yaron Hallis

Camelot Lounge, Marrickville

Bars Marrickville

Go here for: live bands, acoustic sets and cosy jazz bar vibes with ample camels 

With its friendly vibe and funky décor featuring literally hundreds of camels, this well-established boutique venue is well regarded in the local music scene. Camelot is welcoming back punters for seated gigs, with an eclectic mix of tribute nights (think Amy Winehouse, the Doors, and Fleetwood Mac covered with passion) as well as nights with artists like Abbie Dobson of platinum-selling Leonardo's Bride fame, ARIA Award-winning jazz and swing masters Monsieur Camembert, and a true Mexican party with Victor Valdes' Mexican Mariachi Band. Check out the gig guide here. Camelot's popular mid-week life drawing night, the Camelart Club, is also back on downstairs.

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Shop window of a live music bar reveal red curtains, drums and a neon 'open' sign.
Photograph: Supplied/Butcher's Brew

Butcher's Brew, Dulwich Hill

Go here for: big variety and energy in a small bar 

After keeping local music ticking along with a livestreamed gig series through lockdown, this tiny bar and live music venue in a former butcher's shop is back to doing what they love best – hosting multiple gigs across multiple genres with live bands and live audiences every week – albeit with a physically distanced spin. Catch sets from heavily seasoned musos like the Dave Tice Trio, roots and country from the Branch Covidians (a name we're regarding with some side-eye), a mixing pot of jazz, latin and R'n'B from Mistura, and more variety over at the gig guide

Couple at Moya Juniper Lounge
Photograph: Anna Kucera

Moya's Juniper Lounge, Redfern

Bars Cocktail bars Redfern

Go here for: jazz and gin and soul and soup

This shabby-chic small bar, holding a special place on the Regent Street strip, boasts all the comforts of home with nicer glassware, better gin, and live jazz and soul to really set the scene. Post-lockdown, Moya's is still serving post-war vibes. On Tuesdays there's soup and soul (or jazz from the likes of feel-good ensemble the Pocket Trio) and on Sundays there's free jazz from 6pm with bebop quartet the Squares, and $10 Negronis to stave off blue Mondays. The bar is operating on limited capacity and a first come, first served basis. Follow the Facebook page for updates.

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Woman singing with band behind her
Photograph: Supplied/Bopp and Tone

Bopp and Tone, Sydney CBD

Restaurants Modern Australian Sydney

Go here for: soul music with brunch

If you simply can't wait to the evening for your live band fix, this mod-Oz brasserie in the CBD will have you bopp-ing along with a crowd-pleasing brunch and soul pairing in its lavish dining room, set to live tunes with the Pusiki Band and a generous side of good vibes. It starts at $88 per person including eight courses and bottomless bevvies, and you can book in here.

Untied cocktail
Photograph: Alana Dimou

Untied, Barangaroo

Bars Pubs Barangaroo

Go here for: yet more brunch and soul 

If soul music and brunch sounds like a tasty combo to you, you're in luck, as there's more of that on the menu in Sydney. This Barangaroo rooftop bar packs beachy Australiana vibes, tropical cocktails, and two bottomless brunch sessions every Saturday with funky covers performed by lively band Sexy Sunday Jam (don't be fooled, it's on Saturday). The whole shebang is $79 per person, book here.

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