Live music venues in Brisbane

26 August 2015

Brisbane has a prominent and constantly evolving live music scene and is not only a destination on many touring artists’ schedules, but is also home to a fantastic variety of local bands and musicians that play on a regular basis.  Here’s your guide to venues big and small, sweaty and intimate, DIY and otherwise in Brisbane. 

Live music bars

X & Y Bar
X&Y Bar

Black Bear Lodge, tucked away in the Brunswick St Mall in Fortitude Valley, hosts the larger local bands, interstate artists and sometimes even international acts, generally from Thursday to Sunday nights. Cover charges range from $15 - $40, depending on the act. You’re in for a good night though, with Southern American inspired interiors (that’s right, moose heads) and DJs who will play '60s soul music, house bangers and anything in-between, until the early hours of the morning. 

Other venues close by include X&Y, Alhambra Lounge and Ric’s – all hosting nights dedicated to featuring mostly local and occasionally interstate bands on a regular basis. (FYI, they usually offer unbeatable drink specials and next to nothing cover charges to seal the deal).

Over in Caxton St, grab yourself a whisky and apple juice (the house specialty) and settle into saloon-esque seating under taxidermy bear and deer heads at Lefty's Old Time Music Hall. Lefty's brings a slice of country music and Americana to Brisbane's inner city. 

Over in the city, enjoy a slice of Brooklyn in the heart of Brisbane CBD. Brooklyn Standard hosts live music six nights a week, specialising in jazz, funk and blues. Then there is Sonny’s House of Blues in Rowes Arcade. It's a "dive bar" named after American bluesman Sonny Terry – and guess what style of live music it features most nights? Blues.

Small and medium-sized venues

The Foundry
The Foundry

Built by musicians for the sole purpose of music and art, The Foundry is housed in a two-level complex that is part 300-person live room, part Rock 'n' Roll bar, part arts space and is home to 20 creative studios. Down the road, The New Globe is a multi-arts venue that hosts plenty of original live music. And also in Fortitude Valley, not far away, The Brightside calls itself a live music venue for the people of Brisbane.

DJ sets

Perhaps catching a good DJ set is more your thing? TBC or Oh Hello, both located in the Fortitude Valley, are venues worth visiting for this reason. Regularly hosting acclaimed international and domestic electronic acts, as well as residents, you can expect a big party and a lot of dancing. Oh Hello is usually the venue of choice for festival after-parties too.

Large venues

The Hifi, West End
Max Watt's House of Music

Speaking of festivals and large international acts, you’ll find these happening every now and then at Riverstage. This incredible outdoor entertainment venue is located in the heart of Brisbane in the City Botanic Gardens and features acts all year round. International and larger national acts touring will also often play side shows at The Zoo, Max Watt's and The Tivoli. These are all iconic Brisbane music institutions; particularly The Tivoli, which was was built in 1917 and restored in art deco style. Each venue is medium-sized and features top-of-the-range facilities. 

New to the scene, The Triffid is an old commercial hangar that merges its industrial identity with state-of-the-art sound techniques and aims to bring the best of international, national and local acts to Brisbane’s backyard in Newstead.

Live and local

Cover charges vary from venue to venue, but if you’re looking for something that’s free, local and guaranteed to be a good Saturday night out, then head to Trainspotters at the Grand Central Hotel in the CBD – it’s Brisbane’s only free indie music night. With $5 drinks, sausage rolls aplenty and a line-up of at least three acts, these nights are the best (and cheapest) way to experience the interesting and diverse music that Brisbane offers. 

On weekends the streets of Brisbane City come alive with free live music. City Sounds is Australia's largest and longest running live music program that presents local and touring artists in Queen Street Mall, Post Office Square, South Bank and more.

Something different

Also worth mentioning is Rocking Horse Records in The City – it occasionally hosts all-ages gigs. For a combination of art and music, the Institute of Modern Art in the Valley can feature some of the more unique national and international acts. So too will spaces within the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, also located in the Valley. Last but not least is the Beetle Bar in Milton, just under a backpackers' hostel – this appropriately grungy venue is an established live music haunt and supports the local creative scene.

Keep listening...