From Cactus Room to Nighthawks, these are Melbourne’s unsung live music venues
02.06.2021

From Cactus Room to Nighthawks, these are Melbourne’s unsung live music venues

Cactus Room
Words by By Riley Barber and Kate Streader

Expand your horizons with these venues you may not be familiar with.

A lot of small businesses and live music venues have been hit hard by the pandemic and are struggling to get back on their feet, so when lockdown lifts, a good way to show your support to the scene is by visiting Melbourne’s countless beloved venues.

To help you on your merry way, we’ve put together a list of some of the unsung live music venues around Melbourne that you should check out.

Keep up to date with all the latest music interviews, news and reviews here.

Nighthawks

Situated on Johnston Street in Collingwood, this eclectic bar promises good times and friendly staff. Inspired by the old dive bars of Brooklyn, Chicago and San Francisco, Nighthawks gives you the option of enjoying a quiet drink on your own or partying upstairs with the local talent.

Find Nighthawks at 136 Johnston St, Collingwood. 

 

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Eddie’s Bandroom

This Moorabbin bar (FKA Fast Eddie’s) has been on the live music scene for 24 years and remains one of Bayside’s most iconic locales. It includes a fully licensed pool and snooker bar and a dedicated bandroom which hosts live performances from Thursday to Sunday every week.

Find Eddie’s Bandroom at 168 Chesterville Rd, Cheltenham.

Ragtime Tavern

Ragtime Tavern is sure to make you feel as though you’ve stepped into an old Western. With a bar literally built around a baby grand piano, Ragtime Tavern champions pianists and acoustic acts, with live piano performances from Wednesday to Saturday each week.

Find Ragtime Tavern at 206 Tyler St, Preston.

 

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Open Studio

Located in Northcote, the bohemian Open Studio promises an array of live music from all over the world, a selection of savoury and sweet crepes, and a dog-friendly courtyard. Be sure to check out their extensive menu of 40+ cocktails while you’re there.

Find Open Studio at 204 High St, Northcote.

The Last Chance Rock and Roll Bar

Located on Victoria Street in Melbourne’s CBD, The Last Chance Rock and Roll Bar hosts up to eight live shows a week in its 100-person capacity bandroom, as well as front bar matinee shows. The bar also offers a wide range of pub fare for both meat eaters and vegans to enjoy.

Find The Last Chance Rock and Roll Bar at 238 Victoria St, CBD. 

Labour in Vain

Located in a building over 150 years old, this Brunswick Street pub is a remnant of old Fitzroy. Its laidback and simple atmosphere allows punters to just kick back and relax while the rest of the world rushes by. The venue features regular live music, mostly bluesy rock and Americana, and also has a rooftop deck.

Find Labour in Vain at 197a Brunswick Street, Fitzroy.

Café Gummo

Declaring itself “Thornbury’s filthy princess”, this dive bar has it all – including a free market/clothes swap every Sunday. The venue promises a safe space where all are welcome, and hosts regular karaoke nights as well as live music.

Find Café Gummo at 711 High St, Thornbury. 

 

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Arcobar

If you’re looking for somewhere with stellar outdoor seating, Arcobar’s got you covered. The Heatherton watering hole is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, seven days a week, and hosts live music performances every weekend, including free live music every Saturday and Sunday afternoon.

Find Arcobar at 8 Arco Ln, Heatherton.

 

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Longplay

With its classic, minimalist mid-century style, this North Fitzroy bar is all class. It offers a dinner menu of Mediterranean inspired share plates, a range of classic and contemporary cocktails and plenty of good wine. There are many reasons to check this place out – including the full screen cinema available for hire. 

Find Longplay at 318 St Georges Rd, Fitzroy North.

 

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Rubix Warehouse

Situated in Brunswick, this 500sqm warehouse hosts a whole range of events, from international touring acts to club nights and all-ages gigs. Rubix promises the best of warehouse acoustics, with an industry-leading VOID sound system that is perfect for enjoying live music at full volume.

Find Rubix Warehouse at 36 Phoenix St, Brunswick.

 

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The Gem

With its classic Americana aesthetic, this honky-tonk Collingwood bar offers a menu of Texas-style BBQ and Southern American pub food for you to eat your heart out. You can catch a live band or DJ playing every Friday, Saturday and Sunday in The Gem’s front bar.

Find The Gem at 289 Wellington St, Collingwood. 

 

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Bar Oussou

Open Thursday to Sunday, this Brunswick venue boasts a different kind of dining experience. The bar offers a set menu of delicious French Senengalese cuisine, with plenty of vegan and vegetarian options. At Bar Oussou you can enjoy a wide variety of diverse musical performances from their front bar or courtyard tables.

Find Bar Oussou at 653 Sydney Rd, Brunswick. 

Bar 303

Situated on High St in Northcote, Bar 303 (that’s three-oh-three, not three hundred and three) has supported the live music scene for as long as it’s been around – which is over 20 years. The bar promises “a quality, no frills venue, that gives musicians and artists a place to be seen, heard and talked over the top of.” In addition to live music performances, the venue also hosts film and comedy nights. 

Find Bar 303 at 303 High St, Northcote. 

Mr Boogie Man Bar

Mr Boogie Man Bar is an intimate, low-key venue with live music running through its veins. The drinks are cheap, the food is good and you can almost always catch a gig at this Hoddle St haunt. It’s the best kind of gritty, dive bar; humble, welcoming and unpretentious.

Find Mr Boogie Man Bar at 160 Hoddle St, Abbotsford. 

 

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The Fitzroy Pinnacle

A contender for Melbourne’s narrowest pub, The Fitzroy Pinnacle’s slender, gothic interior is enough to arouse intrigue. Inside, it’s surprisingly colourful and spacious, and while its well-worn it’s a nice enough spot to take your parents for dinner. Plus there’s live music, trivia and a very well-stocked bar.

Find The Fitzroy Pinnacle at 251 St Georges Road, Fitzroy North. 

Cactus Room

Part bar, part live music venue, part rehearsal space, Cactus Room has it all. Cosy and casual, nights spent here feel like a big house party, only the ‘house’ in question is infinitely cooler than your mates share houses. The owners originally envisioned the venue as a DIY garage punk spot, but the music offering has since diversified to offer an eclectic spread of performances.

Find Cactus Room at 614 High St, Thornbury. 

 

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Edinburgh Castle

Brunswick’s longest-standing pub, Edi Castle boasts a mammoth beer garden, an expansive craft beer offering, a mouthwatering menu, and a never-ending supply of local live music. It’s a bloody big venue with a huge heart to match. You’ll always feel right at home here.

Find Edinburgh Castle at 681 Sydney Rd, Brunswick.

Post Office Hotel

Renovated back in 2010, Coburg’s Post Office Hotel balances old-school charm and modern comfort beautifully. It’s intimate but not crowded and you can often catch a free gig. With a weekly rotation of Sunday roasts and a cosy fireplace, it’s the kind of wholesome hangout spot that you’ll find yourself drawn to whenever you’re feeling thirsty.

Find Post Office Hotel at 229-231 Sydney Rd, Coburg.

 

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Tramway Hotel

As homey and welcoming as they come, Tramway Hotel is a sweet little gig spot that will make you feel like you’re at your own private concert. With a crowd-pleasing burger menu, a choice selection of craft brews and an aesthetic that’s vaguely reminiscent of rustic country shack (and we mean that as a compliment), this Fitzroy North haunt is a bloody beauty.

Find Tramway Hotel at 165 Rae St, Fitzroy North. 

 

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Whole Lotta Love

Led Zeppelin murals? Check. An eclectic live music offering? Check. Friendly staff, cheap prices and a sunny little beer garden? Yeah, they’ve got that too. Whole Lotta Love will evoke just that.

Find Whole Lotta Love at 524 Lygon St, East Brunswick.

Some Velvet Morning 

Cafe by day, bar and live music venue by night, Some Velvet Morning has you covered no matter what time it is. Quaint and comfortable, this Clifton Hill hideaway feels as inviting and familiar as a friends’ living room. With a tasty Greek menu, loads of craft beer options and a predominantly free offering of live music, you really can’t go wrong.

Find Some Velvet Morning at 123 Queens Pde, Clifton Hill.

Leadbeater Hotel

Leadbeater – or The Leady, as it’s affectionately known – opened its doors in late 2019 and quickly began turning heads in the live music scene. Situated in the heart of Richmond, it regularly welcomes big names to its stage as well as hosting a spread of local, emerging acts.

Find Leadbeater Hotel at 1 Church St, Richmond. 

The Bergy Seltzer

Co-owned by the former manager of the dearly-missed Brunswick Hotel, David ‘Frankie’ Cudmore, The Bergy Seltzer was originally slated as a side-project before the Brunny went under. Maintaining the gritty charm of its fallen predecessor while bringing its own flare to the mix, The Bergy boasts a big beer garden, a primo performance space and a pie menu that’ll knock your socks off.

Find The Bergy Seltzer at 68 Sydney Rd, Brunswick. 

 

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Temperance Hotel

While it may be swankier than most of the venues on this list, Temperance Hotel isn’t uppity or without heart. Whether you’re chasing an intimate gig from local musicians or you want to dance the night away to something with a fast tempo, this is the spot for you. Plus they’ve got an extensive dining menu stacked with weekly specials.

Find Temperance Hotel at 426 Chapel St, South Yarra.

 

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Swamplands

No matter what kind of music you’re into, you can hear it at Swamplands. The beloved Thornbury dive has hosted a huge list of iconic acts across its 11 years. Formerly the site of Tago Mago before becoming the rock’n’roll hotspot it is today, Swamplands is a laidback gig spot with cheap beers and a drool-worthy burger menu to boot.

Find Swamplands at 744 High St, Thornbury. 

Still thirsty? Check out our list of Preston’s best bars