Meet the venues underpinning this year’s Brunswick Music Festival

Meet the venues underpinning this year’s Brunswick Music Festival

Photo by Joshua Braybrook
Words by Arielle Richards

Brunswick Music Festival returns this week for a dazzling celebration of local talent, culture and inner-city hospitality.

Melbourne’s longest-running music festival returns to Brunswick this month, marking its 16th year of operations. With a newly condensed ten-day program, and a focus on accessibility (all venues offer wheelchair access), sustainability (single-use plastic-free!) and affordability (events are mostly free), Brunswick Music Festival 2021 will see iconic locations, streets and venues across the inner-city suburb come together in a showcase of community, culture and, of course, live music. 

Long-defined as one of Melbourne’s most iconic cultural centres, Brunswick’s huge offering of bars, pubs and open spaces have allowed for BMF’s organisers to spread the festival across the entire suburb, with a total of 21 venues in participation.

This year, Gilpin Park will be transformed into an open-air festival hub, offering a larger space for more community participation – an apt decision in a city defined by its bountiful and beautiful green spaces. The park will host the festival’s opening and closing night parties, as well as several free events in between. 

With most events across the festival either free or ticketed at a maximum of $10, reservations are booking out unsurprisingly fast. To make your life a little more leisurely, we’ve pulled together a rundown of the iconic venues participating in the festival and their gigs that are still on offer. See you in the 3056!

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Gilpin Park

This popular dog-walking destination will act as the cultural centre of the festival – offering open-air musical enjoyment amongst the trees. While dancing is sadly disallowed due to COVID restrictions, patrons are encouraged to bring a blanket, snacks and the whole family. In addition to a smoking area, a sensory chill-out area will also be provided for patrons needing some space. While the opening and closing night parties are sadly sold out, Gilpin has a few gigs on offer, so make sure to secure your tickets!

What’s on

Milk! Records Park Hang, Saturday March 6
BMF X Port Fairy Folk Festival, Monday March 8
Mistletone Records, Tuesday March 9

Barkly Square

If Sydney road is the main artery of Brunswick, Barkly Square is the heart. The one-stop shopping destination will become a mini concert hall for BMF, with Zoë Fox and the Rocket Clocks heading a femme-centred lineup for an endorphin-inducing afternoon at the plaza. Retail therapy, fresh produce, a coffee and a boogie? That’s so Brunswick. 

What’s on

Zoë Fox and the Rocket Clocks + Gena Rose Bruce, Friday March 12

Brunswick Ballroom

If you head upstairs at the Old Metropolis House on Sydney Road, you’ll find Melbourne’s newest live music venue: Brunswick Ballroom. Formerly the Spotted Mallard (RIP), the recently reopened space has had a complete refurbishment based on ’90s nostalgia. With a 290-person capacity, the new venue holds promise of many exultant, sweaty evenings to come. The building itself is a significant element of Brunswick’s landscape going back to the 1960s – once upon a memory, a shoe factory, now a dynamic events space. Contemporarily, with the Brunswick Artist’s bar providing another venue space on the ground floor, the location has established itself as a crucial locale for the community’s nightlife.

What’s on

Girlatones Honk If You’re Horny (album launch), Saturday March 6
D’Arcy Spiller, Wednesday March 10
Bitch Diesel, Thursday March 11


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Bar Oussou

Melbourne’s “Music House” and hub for artists, locals and internationals, Bar Oussou is renowned for its passionate contribution to a diverse and vibrant music scene. Offering two free nights for BMF, Bar Oussou’s charming, intimate space will host West African musician and Kora player Jali Buba Kuyateh, as well as a night of reggae-led, soul and jazz from Astro and the Ages.

What’s on

Astro and the Ages, Friday March 5
Jali Buba Kuyateh and Afro Diyaa, Friday March 12

Charles Weston Hotel

This friendly local offers live music in-venue three days a week. For BMF, The Charles Weston will host Alana Wilkinson, whose surreal, sunshiney pop vocals are underpinned by astute social commentary through her whip-smart lyrics.

What’s on

Alana Wilkinson, Saturday March 6

Cross Street Music Hall

Integral to the cultural fabric of Moreland City Council, the Cross Street Music Hall, also known as the Moreland Bandroom, is widely utilized by the suburb’s many musicians and artists. Offering a recording studio, rehearsal space, bandroom and complete musical library for hire and enjoyment, the centre’s unique offering to the community sets it a cut above the rest in terms of facilities to foster cultural excellence. Reflecting this, Cross Street’s offering for BMF showcases innovative artist collaborations, exploring concepts of identity and culture across visual and musical performance.

What’s on

March 7, 3pm

Lebowski’s: An Exposition, Sunday March 7
Play Something We Don’t Know: Dancing With The Ghost of Jim Cuomo, Wednesday March 10

Sparta Place

This cozy, tree-lined strip is best known for its retail, which includes clothing, beauty and wine storefronts. For BMF, the street will host a one time pop-up performance by the nine-piece band Ausecuma Beats.

What’s on

Music in Exile Presents: Ausecuma Beats, Saturday March 13

Stay Gold

Brunswick’s home of rock, Stay Gold is kind of like Brunswick’s answer to Cherry Bar; with its retro-Americana fit-out, complete with archaic arcade games and cozy leather booths. They’re open late, with events almost every night, especially on weekends.

What’s on

The Pretty Littles, Thursday March 11

Edinburgh Castle

When talking of good local pubs, the Edi Castle will always make an appearance. This friendly local boasts good food, good service and an all-around good vibe. In fact, seeing as it’s Brunswick’s oldest pub, you know they’ve gotta be doing something right! For BMF, the Edi Castle is hosting Romero – tickets are free so make sure you secure your reservation soon!

What’s on

Romero, Saturday March 13


In terms of event spaces, Howler really needs no introduction. Their huge bandroom and indoor-outdoor Brunswick-energy bar area have made them a staple of the suburb’s live music scene since they arrived. Unfortunately, three of Howler’s four stellar BMF evenings have already sold out, so get into the last one. No understatement here, tickets are selling fast.

What’s on

Joelistics Presents Film School (Album Launch), Saturday March 6

The Retreat Hotel

Another Brunswick establishment needing absolutely no introduction, The Retreat has long been a staple for the community, whether they be live music aficionados, musicians, locals or just pub punters. With a sprawling outdoor beer garden, intimate front bandroom, several dining zones, and a distinctly welcoming vibe, The Retreat simply has it all. For BMF, they’ve put together an outstanding showcase of free gigs, including a special International Women’s Day event featuring a lineup made up wholly of womxn and gender nonconforming artists.

What’s on

Sonic Retreat, Saturday March 6
The Beatles Resurrected on Vacation, Sunday March 7
Psychic Hysteria Presents International Women’s Day, Monday March 8
Spoilsport Records, Tiny Town Records + Trouble Juice Present Lucky Dip, Thursday March 11
Trans-Brunswick Express, Friday March 12

Noisy Ritual

On a jaunt down to the food and wine hub of Brunswick East, you’ve surely happened across Noisy Ritual. An event space and inner-city winery, Noisy has all the makings of a nightlife epicentre. It all started in a Thornbury basement, with the discovery of an ancient concrete wine fermenter by two wine-loving foodie pals, who then acquired some grapes, stomped the grapes with some friends and made (surprisingly good) basement wine  – the origin story is so Melbourne it almost hurts. Fast forward to today and Noisy Ritual is Melbourne’s very own urban winery, with a mission of bringing good people together over great wine – and a couple of great free gigs for BMF.

What’s on

Sleeper and Snake, Tuesday March 9
Cong Josie and The Crimes, Thursday March 11

Rubix Warehouse

Heavily influenced by underground rave warehouses across the world, Rubix Warehouse is a dynamic, impressive space in the heart of Brunswick. The cavernous industrial warehouse comes alive with a world-class sound system and intensely powerful lighting rig, ensuring every party is a wild adventure, or an escape to another world. 

What’s on

Opening Night After Party, Friday March 5
Free Dope, Friday March 12

Small Time

This cozy, multi-platform space is the hospitality pillar of the Small Time Group, a collective whose mission is to support early-stage artists and facilitate learning and industry connection. The venue is a cultural hub for creatives, serving NYC pizza and beers whilst offering live music performances, studio spaces and musician development programs. Throughout BMF, Small Time is hosting several free streaming and live events, centered around music and industry education. 

What’s on

Adalita: In Conversation, Wednesday March 10
Al Matcott, Thursday March 11
Gordi: In Conversation, Thursday March 11
Barpirdhila Foundation Presents Yawulyu, Friday March 12
BMF X Milk! Records X Small Time Present The New Normal, Saturday March 13
BMF X Milk! Records X Small Time Present Recording, Saturday March 13

Tempo Rubato

An intimate, beautiful live classical music venue in a restored warehouse in the heart of Brunswick, Tempo Rubato’s entire profits are donated to the Piano Project, a charity which supports projects which facilitate access to musical education.

What’s on

Khyaal Vocal Ensemble + Youkali Trombone Quartet, Tuesday March 9

The Jazzlab

With a key interest in the promotion and development of jazz as an artform, the Jazzlab strives to bring the best jazz musicians and music together in Brunswick. Since 2017, Jazzlab has striven to platform artists at the cutting edge of the genre, and showcase the very best of the best this city – and world – has to offer.

What’s on

Audrey Powne Quartet, Friday March 5
Jake Mason Hammond B3 Trio + Meredith’s Act, Friday March 12

The Moldy Fig

Nestled amongst Lygon Street’s dining sector is the Moldy Fig, a Cajun Creole restaurant run by a mother-daughter team. The authentic soul food-driven cuisine is accompanied by authentic soul-driven music, with a focus on the live jazz and blues which underwrite New Orleans’ cultural heritage. 

What’s on

Singer Songwriter Night, Saturday March 6
Goin’ Down to New Orleans, Sunday March 7
When Did Jazz Die?, Friday March 12
Blues For My Baby, Saturday March 13
Swinging Sunday, Sunday March 14

Brunswick Music Festival is happening from March 5-14. For tickets and the full program, visit the BMF website