Look and Listen

Down a laneway, in a former warehouse, tucked into a basement… Half the fun of some of Melbourne’s best venues is finding them. Carrie Hutchinson discovers five fun spots for music lovers of all descriptions.

Melbourne is undisputedly Australia’s live music capital. We’re talking about a billion-dollar industry, and both audiences and the number of gigs on offer each week continue to grow. It’s not all about huge international acts in arenas, though. Hunt around the city and you’ll discover bars, theatres and even stores hosting far more intimate shows and entertainment. You might be surprised by the upcoming talent – perhaps even your own – you’ll discover.

1 Sing Us a Song

If you’ve had dinner in Chinatown and realise it’s far too early to go home, duck into Warburton Lane for a late-night singalong. Murmur Piano Bar is a one-of-a-kind music venue. Sure, there are cocktails and icy beers, but there’s also a Yamaha baby grand with an accomplished performer on the keys. Request a song – anything goes, from Billy Joel’s ‘Piano Man’ to Daryl Braithwaite’s ‘The Horses’ or even a classic show tune – then belt it out. As the night kicks on, the whole bar joins in.

2 Warehouse Fun

In the industrial back streets of Brunswick, you might be surprised to find there’s a venue lit by neon and covered with murals. Rubix Funhouse doesn’t have a regular schedule of gigs, but instead is taken over by promoters’ big nights and bands launching new albums. Check out the schedule on the website to see what’s coming up. It could be house DJs at a day party or a Jamaican dancehall night.

3 Underground pass

Sure, it’s mainly a record store, but Basement Discs, tucked below Block Place in the city, hosts enviable lunchtime gigs during the week. Usually held on a Thursday or Friday, these intimate gigs could feature local or international artists. Some big names, including Billy Bragg, Michelle Shocked and Stephen Cummings, have all played tiny shows in front of the shelves of vinyl. Check the website for what’s coming up.

4 Rock and Roll All Night

For those about to rock, there’s only one place in the city you need to know about: Cherry Bar. Nearly every night of the week (it’s open Monday, but there’s no live music), you can get your fix of soul, blues and very loud rock and roll. It’s a popular spot for afterparties when some of the world’s biggest bands are in town, and everyone, from Jack Black (he danced on the stage for most of the night) to Axl Rose has been here. Coming up this month (13 October) is Whole Lotta Rosie, playing a tribute to AC/DC with Cheap Trick drummer Daxx Nielsen.

5 Fly Away

If cabaret and comedy are more your scene, The Butterfly Club is an Aladdin’s cave of wonders, from the walls to the stage. The tiny theatre hosts up to 50 shows each week, and was the place where now-famous performers like Tim Minchin and Eddie Perfect started their careers. Find a cosy nook, sit back and enjoy a show from a star of the future.