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
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 The Press Club, with a rotating array of bands on Friday nights and Ric’s, hosting nights dedicated to featuring mostly local and occasionally interstate bands on a regular basis. Sound Garden has a large, two-storey atrium bar and is perfect for a bite or brew with live music seven days a week.
On the other side of the river, The Milk Factory hosts live music upwards of 4 nights a week ranging from jazz to rock ‘n’ roll.
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. If you’re a country lover at heart, Johnny Ringo’s is a unique country music joint that has an ever-changing lineup of acts.
Small and medium-sized venues
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. And also in Fortitude Valley, not far away, The Brightside calls itself a live music venue for the people of Brisbane.
Perhaps catching a good DJ set is more your thing? The Met or Capulet, all 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.
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 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.
The Triffid, meanwhile, 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. For a plush live music experience, the Fortitude Music Hall channels Brisbane’s music scene of yesteryear with an art deco, ballroom-inspired feel.
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 Friday or Saturday night out, then head to the Grand Central Hotel in the CBD. They’ll even let you BYO drinks (with a $5 corkage fee) from the cellar next door making these nights 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 and more. If South Bank is more your jam, Sunday Social on the Green hosts live music at River Quay on Sundays or Green Jam plays the tunes at Melbourne Street Green on Friday nights.
Also worth mentioning is Rocking Horse Records in The City – it occasionally hosts all-ages gigs, while The Queensport Tavern boasts live music by tribute bands every Saturday night. 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.