The best live music venues in St Kilda and Balaclava

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The best live music venues in St Kilda and Balaclava

Words by Jacob McCormack

It’s hard to separate yourself from identifying St Kilda with the gaping smile of Luna Park’s famous entrance that straddles the grandeur of the Palais Theatre, but the bayside suburb boasts an allurement as diverse as any.

From pubs, to dedicated music venues, to rooftop bars and party spots, this suburb has it all for performer and punter alike. As a plethora of live music venues remain dispersed around the streets, the bohemian architecture, rugged aesthetic and eclectic demographic fill out the spaces that emerge in between.

St Kilda is a collision of arts and culture imported from varying pockets of the world with the local scene that has formed a unique and authentic addition to Naarm/Melbourne’s vibrancy. After all it was this suburb that homed the likes of Sidney Nolan and Paul Kelly.

So read on and familiarise yourself with the venues scattered around St Kilda.

The best live music venues in Elwood

The best live music venues in St Kilda

The Prince Bandroom

29 Fitzroy St, St Kilda

As iconic as they come, drenched in history. History that spans back as far as being a music venue during WWII, only to close briefly before reopening in the 1950s. Artists and musicians alike flocked to its landmark location on Fitzroy Street that straddles Catani Gardens. Nowadays the bandroom acts as a performance space for the most eclectic of musical talent, from big name international acts to local cover bands. A tantalising array of performance to appeal to any and all.

The Palais

Lower Esplanade, St Kilda

Originally constructed in 1927 as ‘Palais Pictures’ this historic venue underwent a transformative shift during the 1950’s, when it evolved into a live music hub! With history spanning nearly a century, Palais Theatre recently underwent a $26 million refurbishment, reinvigorating its iconic art deco architecture. Over the years, the stage has witnessed legendary live performance by some of the world’s most renowned artists including The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and Kylie Minogue!

The George Lounge

Basement/127 Fitzroy St, St Kilda

Stowed away in the underground recesses of the former George Hotel of St Kilda, sits invitingly the George Lounge. Formerly known as the snakepit, or more colloquially to the locals who would frequent it in its early years, the Flying Jug (interpret it as you will), the George Lounge has once again evolved into what it is today. That is a mellow space to indulge in some of the finest and most unique cocktail creations Melbourne has to offer, all the while complementing that deliciousness with live DJs. Having paired up with Felixs Groove during the warmer months, The George Lounge is a space for indulgence and decadence, oh and you can hire out the venue for functions too.

Hotel Esplanade

11 The Esplanade, St Kilda

Hotel Esplanade, or The Espy as it is affectionately known, sits unmistakably on the bend of the Esplanade as the thoroughfare snakes its way along the bay. For years this establishment has acted as a sweltering hot pot of live music offerings. In a contemporary context, nothing has changed. The venue hosts live music in their basement and in the Gershwin room that was added to the structure in the 1920’s. Brimming with local blues and rock artists, the occasional disco night and an irregular internationally acclaimed electronic duo sensation, there is an option for all at the heralded Espy.

Captain Baxter

10/10-18 Jacka Blvd, St Kilda

Located out the back of the St Kilda Sea Baths complex, adjacent to the notable Republica, Captain Baxter’s premium location is made even more desirable by the rooftop bar it houses that remains open all year round. Serving up delicately mixed cocktails and all the regulars you can find at a rooftop bar, Baxter’s showcases DJs every Saturday night 7-11PM. 

The Dogs Bar

54 Acland St, St Kilda

Live Music Monday-Sunday, no frills, unless they are closed for a week. The Dogs Bar offers a diverse range of musical options for eager attendees. From regular vinyl nights, open mic nights and the carefully and eccentrically curated Alejandro’s Playhouse, The Dogs Bar has everything else that remains resonant in between. They’ll fill up your cup with signature cocktails and bar eats too.

Memo Music Hall

88 Acland St, St Kilda

A hidden gem glistening in the heart of St Kilda, MEMO Music Hall offers an abundance of musical performances across a huge range of musical genres. Leading Australian and international artists perform there, and talented up and coming soul, blues, rock, alt country and contemporary artists also feature in the line-up. The very best tribute bands performing the music of much-loved bands like Queen, INXS and ABBA are scattered throughout the regular live music schedule of original artists.  As one of the oldest operating music venues in the South, and Melbourne for that matter, MEMO Music Hall is the gift that has kept giving since it was founded as a dance hall in the 1920s.


10–18 Jacka Boulevard, St Kilda

Operating out of the renowned St Kilda Sea Baths, brother venue to Captain Baxter, Republica transforms the leisure centre space into a hub of entertainment and food and beverage delights. Featuring an unrivalled beer garden, and a beachfront space just footsteps from the ocean, Republica is a hot spot to start a night, or to finish it. All weekend long the atmosphere of Republica is filled out with live music, with multiple sets taking place every weekend. Nightly drink and food specials all week long, live music and special events, what more could you hope for from a bayside locale.

The Fifth Province

3/60 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda

The quintessential Irish pub gleaming through a shopfront property on the famed Fitzroy Street, The Fifth Province indeed offers Kilkenny and Guiness from the tap, but they don’t limit themselves to the recognised Irish pub staples. The menu remains jam-packed with pub food, Irish or otherwise, yet the main attraction reverberates within the walls of the venue. Their online gig guide sports a photo of a fiddle player accompanied by a guitarist in authentic Irish folk music fashion. Wednesday through to Sunday sees music soundtracking the experience of sitting at the hardwood furniture. It’d be hard to turn away from the Fifth Province and its Irish charm.

Freddie Wimpole’s

125 Fitzroy St, St Kilda

Pool table, craft beer, cocktails and American bar inspired décor, Freddie Wimpole’s is an integral watering hole to the eclectic bohemia that is St Kilda. With live music Thursday until Sunday, this pub has all the makings of a favourite, frequented haunt.

George Lane

1 George Lane, St Kilda

Situated on the ground floor of the heritage-listed George Hotel, George Lane has confirmed its place in the musical history of St Kilda. The venue now acts as a stage for musicians of all shapes, sizes and sounds from Thursday through to Sunday. Supplemented by their ‘music food’ menu, the establishment also has you covered for drinks.

Palace Foreshore

Lower Esplanade, St Kilda VIC 3182

A summer, outdoor music venue unrivalled by any bayside equivalents, Palace Foreshore is only operational during the warmer months. But the wait is well worth it as the impending season of music will see huge International acts play alongside local fan favourites. Prepare yourself for stacked one day festival lineups and sweaty euphoria at the Palace Foreshore.

The best live music and comedy venues in Balaclava

Adjacent to St Kilda, Balaclava sits slightly inland from the bohemian suburb that straddles the bay. However, it doesn’t lack its own artistic flair and art deco architecture – Balaclava literally rubs shoulders with St Kilda and as a result the culture bleeds from one suburb to another.

Cosmopolitan to its very core, Balaclava is a thriving home for many in Melbourne’s Jewish community. Modernity collides head on with history in a suburb that recognises the Crimean War in both its name and the name of its major streets (a colonial-era tribute to British soldiers who fought in the Battle of Balaclava in 1854).

The plethora of trendy cafes, restaurants and pubs scattered around the streets illuminate Balaclava’s thriving offerings for all walks of life.

Balaclava doesn’t house anywhere near the same amount of live music venues as St Kilda, nor does it boast the history and calibre that its sister suburb has become renowned for. Still, Balaclava has established its own idiosyncratic charm out of the haunts that locals and ramblers have acquainted with throughout the years.

Pause Bar

268 Carlisle St, Balaclava

Glistening in the openness of Balaclava’s main entertainment strip, Pause Bar spills out onto the street with roadside seating. Outdoor dining and wining draw the music out onto sidewalk, pouring onto Carlisle Street the sounds of classic rock ‘n’ roll, blues, ‘60s and ‘70s tunes, jazz and countless more genres. This is the place to be in Balaclava for live music and its broad range of cocktails, local and imported beers, and wines and bar snacks ensure they have you covered for all that one could wish for from an evening in town. Pull up your socks and wander down to Pause Bar, but keep your eyes peeled for their weekly happy hour offerings, running until 8pm Monday through Friday.

Inkerman Hotel

375 Inkerman St, Balaclava

The Inkerman has a special on every night. Whether it’s a cheap pub feed, a trivia night or discounted drinks, the Balaclava-based hotel has you covered, especially if you’re chasing a cheap drink. They have happy hour seven days a week. What’s more is amidst their expansive offerings, and the vast amount of sport they show on their TVs, they showcase live music at least every Friday and Saturday evenings. In support of local bands and singer/songwriters the Inkerman has everything under the sun when it comes to entertainment. It’s also a stone’s throw from the rest of the action of Balaclava and St Kilda.

The Local Taphouse

184 Carlisle St, Balaclava

The Local Taphouse boasts a salivating food menu and a beer list that will have the connoisseurs rushing through the front doors, but they also offer weekly live comedy and trivia too. In a departure from the live music that can be found elsewhere, this watering hole has dedicated their Monday nights to supporting comics from all corners of life. If a room full of laughs and delicious ferments is how you like to ring in the week, this venue is a must-visit.

For more information on what’s happening in this wonderful southside suburb, head to the What’s On St Kilda website here.

This article was made in partnership with City of Port Phillip.