The round-up: rock out at Brisbane’s best live-music venues
Brisbane’s always had a strong musical heritage, dating back to the days of The Saints and The Go-Betweens, through to the heyday of Powderfinger, Savage Garden, George, The Grates and the current crop of stars such as Violent Soho, The Jungle Giants, Mallrat and Cub Sport Brisbane’s live music scene is a melting pot of styles, with numerous venues dotted around the city hosting gigs on just about any given night. Our music scene is as healthy as ever, and if you’re keen to step out for a bit of rock‘n’roll, punk, jazz, blues or whatever catches your ear, have a look over this handy list of Brisbane’s best live-music venues and get amongst it.
The Triffid, Newstead: Since opening to the public in 2014, The Triffid has been one of Brisbane’s best spots to catch local and international musicians performing live. Former Powderfinger bassist John Collins has joined forces with the luminaries behind Splendour In The Grass, Falls Festival and Secret Sounds Touring, Paul Piticco and Jessica Ducrou, and Brisbane hospitality identity Brett McCall to bring The Triffid to fruition. The 800-capacity venue (built in a WWII hangar) boasts a world-class sound system and 490-square-metre beer garden, keeping both punters and players happy.
The Tivoli, Fortitude Valley: A long-standing icon in the live music scene, The Tivoli has been welcoming in punters through its doors since the late 80s. Initially built as Adams Bakery in 1917, it was formerly used by the State Library to store rare books. The Tivoli is now under the ownership of brothers Steve and Dave Slewswick, who saved the venue from being redeveloped. A good thing too – we couldn’t fathom losing The Tivoli’s Art Deco aesthetic and old-world feel, not to mention the great acts it brings to town.
Lefty’s Old Time Music Hall, Petrie Terrace: This lively Caxton Street haunt has been kicking out the jams since 2013. The venue’s centre stage is often used to host gigs from a plethora of acts, from blues to rockabilly and beyond. Put on your dancing shoes – this heritage-listed saloon is a great spot to boogie the night away to some rollicking tunes.
The Zoo, Fortitude Valley: Since 1992, The Zoo has been the beating heart of Fortitude Valley’s live-music scene. The venue’s original owners Joc Curran and C. Smith opened the venue with a built-in love of music and the arts, and new owner Pixie Weyand is continuing the legacy. The Zoo has hosted shows from musical luminaries including The Pixies, The Black Keys, Gomez, Tortoise, Mogwai, Nick Cave and the Dirty Three, Ben Harper, Emilaini Torrini, Lorde and many, many more.
Brooklyn Standard, Brisbane City: You’re likely to catch some scintillating live music rocking the stage of Brooklyn Standard on just about any night of the week. The venue is regarded as one of the best live-music venues in Australia – and it’s easy to see why. Brooklyn Standard often hosts bands performing the likes of funk, soul, rockabilly and monthly jam nights. Local talent is constantly on show –so pencil a visit in next time you want to hear some incredible tunes.
Woolly Mammoth, Fortitude Valley: This two-level Ann Street haunt is part craft-beer alehouse and part live-music mecca. The Mane Stage is situated upstairs and boasts a top-of-the-line PA and in-house production equipment, with regular gigs ranging from local, interstate and international acts. The likes of Cypress Hill, Lil B, Little Dragon, Violent Soho, Badbadnotgood, RL Grime, and more have graced woolly Mammoth’s stage.
The Milk Factory, South Brisbane: Just a hop, skip and a jump from GOMA sits The Milk Factory, the latest iteration of the heritage-listed Montague Hotel, which was built in 1891. The venue’s band room regularly hosts live music up to four nights a week, with the likes of rock, punk, roots and alternative genres taking centre stage.
Black Bear Lodge, Fortitude Valley: One can find Black Bear Lodge above Lucky Egg and Blute’s Bar on Brunswick Street Mall. Frequented by many for its stellar cocktails and disco dance nights, Black Bear Lodge is also a great venue when you’re in the mood to catch some intimate live music. Often bringing in touring artists from across Australia, Black Bear Lodge is a cosy mid-sized venue that prides itself on great sound, good vibes and a great selection of acts to see every week.
The Skukum Lounge at Junk Bar, Ashgrove: Speaking of intimate venues, it doesn’t get much more cosy that Junk Bar’s Skukum Lounge. With a 50-patron capacity, the Skukum Lounge is a great hideaway to catch small-scale curated live-music performances from all manner of musicians, from mainstream to experimental. As a bonus, Junk Bar’s cocktails are top notch – what more could you need?
The Foundry, Fortitude Valley: Every week, The Foundry is typically the venue to try if you’re looking for the most current touring artists on the live-music circuit. The 350-capacity band room also boasts multiple outdoor spaces, pool tables and an amply stocked bar, and the venue also looks out for artists by offering on-site accommodation.
Doo-Bop Jazz Bar, Brisbane City: If jazz, funk, blues and soul is your bag, then you’ll want to hotfoot it to Doo-Bop Jazz Bar, where you can catch live music every Tuesday to Saturday night. You’ll be spoiled for choice across the venue’s basement stage, piano bar, Gatsby Room and late-night jam events.
Crowbar, Fortitude Valley: Aptly named the home of the heavy, Crowbar is the place to be if you’re into the finest live punk, hardcore and metal music. The list of international, national and local acts that have performed at Crowbar is a who’s who of heavy music makers, so if you like your music loud, this is the venue for you.
The Bearded Lady, West End: Tucked away in the heart of West End’s Boundary Street strip, The Bearded Lady (or The Beardo, as its fans affectionately refer to it as), is a small live music bar where you can catch all sorts of tunes. The front bar hosts soloists, jazz and alt-country bands, while the back room is the spot to see local, interstate and international groups working across all genres.
The Brightside, Fortitude Valley: Cruise through the open-air beer garden and into The Brightside’s interior and you’ll be greeted by one of the most electric live-music atmospheres around. Leaning towards heavy, indie and hip-hop crowds, The Brightside’s gig list often boasts some of the most cutting-edge acts passing through town.
Honourable mentions: If you’re looking for a live-music spectacle, Brisbane’s biggest venues often host gigs for some of the world’s biggest acts. The Brisbane Entertainment Centre in Boondall, Brisbane Riverstage in The City and Suncorp Stadium often pack out for these world-class events, and are well worth the price of admission if you can score a ticket. Also, come July the Brunswick Street Mall will welcome new theatre-styled venue The Fortitude Music Hall, which will undoubtedly be a huge boon to the local scene, followed by the forthcoming Brisbane Live development, which is slated for Roma Street.
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