Music where you least expect it
We’ve all heard the murmurs – live music in Sydney is apparently dying. Maybe, but scratch below the surface of some of the pokier parts of our fair city and you might unexpectedly encounter some people that present a compelling counterargument. Here are five venues keeping live alive in unusual places.
As names go, this one’s very literal. It used to be a newsagency, it needed a name – ergo, The Newsagency. At first glance it’s not the most glamorous of venues. Tucked away at the tail end of Enmore Road, by the pizza place, this is a resolutely DIY affair – cheerfully low-key and absolutely tiny. The acts vary, but be sure to catch some stripped down acoustic singer-songwriter stuff – in a place like this, the only option is to be close enough to risk a touch of sing-spittle. If you’re trolling for gigs and the Newsagency comes up, be sure to head on down.
True, jazz isn’t exactly the pop-culture colossus it once was, but there are a whole lot of fine gigs to be seen if you let a little in to your weekly routine. If 505 feels like a thousand miles away, set your sights for Marrickville Road. Here, in the middle of a usually weirdly quiet area of Sydney nightlife, the LazyBones Lounge serves up many hours of live jazz in an exceedingly relaxed setting. It’s up the stairs and a little out of the way, so as you march yourself up the Marrickville drag, keep an ear out for the sounds of jazz wafting over from an open window.
The Red Rattler
Wedged between a bowling club, a park, and many, many factories, the Rattler is not exactly easy to stumble upon. Though you’ll likely hear its name on FBI more than a few times, it’s still one of those marginal ‘save the [insert venue name]’ cases that doesn’t seem to get the custom it deserves. It might not seem much from the street, but once you’re inside it’s hard not to admire the handsome stage and retro interior. Maybe my timing’s off, but I haven’t yet seen it truly bursting at the seams, which is a crying shame. Keep FBI on the dial and listen for the name; this venue shouldn’t need saving.
The Town Hall Hotel
This may seem an unusual pick – how can you hide in the middle of King St? Well after a long decline, Sydney pubs are no longer the live mainstay of yesteryear, indeed sometimes it’s just quicker to assume that the good ol’ local won’t offer much. But in a scene of middling acts and lazy mixes, the Town Hall Hotel seems to have started sneaking in a few trend-buckers, from rockabilly to electronica, that are somewhat at odds with the venue’s ‘unvarnished’ décor. So next time you do the King St crawl, give the Townie a look-see; it may look like a typical Sydney pub, but it doesn’t always sound like one.
It wouldn’t be a list of Sydney venues without a quirky Newtown small-bar, and Blacksheep fits the bill. What makes it stand out as list-worthy however is the quality and proximity of its live music. From acoustic strummers to jazz-funk combos, the Blacksheep somehow manages to defy its dimensions and cram talented musicians in between the drinkers and diners. However unlike the similarly-small Newsagency, Blacksheep caters for a wetting of the whistle, and when you’re trying to figure out the Escher-esque contortions of playing music in between the punters, sometimes a stiff drink is necessary. Ultimately though things might be spilling out into the streets, the sounds are more than tight enough to compensate.
By Adam Disney