Australia's Best Live Music Venues Of The 90s

Australia's Best Live Music Venues Of The 90s

the corner hotel melbourne
Joel O'Keefe of Airbourne at the Corner Hotel, Melbourne (Photo by Martin Philbey/Redferns/Getty Images)

Live music is, and always will be King. For many of us, seeing our favourite bands is where we met our tribe. There was a time where live music venues thrived on being packed seven nights a week. Some still are, thank goodness for that!

We take a look back at some the best venues this country had to offer in the 90s, and the bands that drew us there.


As the rock n roll capital of Australia, nailing this down to just one venue is almost impossible, and regardless of which is named, it’ll be open for discussion, and possibly argument. For dirty rough edges, it was had to go past The Arthouse in the 90s. But then the Sarah Sands Hotel was good as well. What about The Central Club, The Prince Bandroom, The Gershwin, The Tote? Even Wall Street (now Max Watts) went off on a Friday. So how do you decide?

As far as enduring iconic venues go, ones that are aspirational for bands, it’s gotta be The Corner Hotel. Host to just about every band you can think of at some stage, festivals have been held there, meetups, decent grub, and just excellent times all around. Plus, with close proximity to trains, and trams, it’s easy to get to.


Before the curse of the lockout laws, Sydney’s nightlife was legendary. Insane to an extent, and it didn’t leave live music lovers begging either. Like Melbourne, the list was long and illustrious, and spread out! Lansdowne Hotel, Fisho’s in Manly, Collector Tavern, The Gaelic Club, Bar Broadway all producing top quality gigs. These days, we still have The Oxford Art Factory, Frankies, The Metro, and more, but if we’re getting nostalgic, there was one place that was rocking in the 90s that was both iconic and aspirational. The Annandale Hotel. It was a mecca for just about every great Aussie band you can think of, and whilst the venue is now up and running again after renovations, sadly, it’s lost the pub rock vibe it once had. 


Calling in on the experience of a mate of mine and Adelaide local, Jason North, just as I was talking about The Gov as a great live music venue, which it is. In the 90s, he said it was all about one place - The Venue on Hindley Street. Numerous internationals graced the stage at The Venue right in the heart of the entertainment district in the city of churches. Great gigs could be seen at Jive, and heavier tunes at The Century Hotel (now Rosemont), but it was The Venue, which later became Cartoons (and now the new HQ) that was in Jason’s valued opinion, (he’s been the lead singer of Truth Corroded since the mid 90s), the best. 


Like the majority of Australian cities, Perth has given birth to some brilliant bands over the years, and as such, great music venues were needed. Sadly, like most cities, some of the best live music venues have since closed to live music and been re-opened as pokies venues, or even demolished to be rebuilt as apartment buildings. The horrifying trend that continues to plague our culture. 

The Raffles Hotel was always a melting pot of brilliant bands, As was the Hyde Park (Hydey) hotel. I spoke to Simone Dow, guitarist for rad Perth band Voyager, and she’s got great things to say about Badlands and The Sewing Room as venues that are promoting great bands.  But after living just south Perth for a stint, there was always one place that constantly churned out he bands I wanted to see. Small in stature but always brimming with the best vibes and a great view of the bands. Amplifier/Capitol - intimate, sweaty, raw, awesome. 


Like Sydney, Brisbane’s thriving nightlife hood, Fortitude Valley was under threat due to proposed lock out laws, but luckily, Brisvegas is forging forward as a really great live music city. You just have to visit during the annual BIGSOUND Festival to see that. Bands are crammed in every orifice and it’s great. My favourite Brisbane venue is The Triffid. But that wasn’t around in the 90s, so I asked legendary Brisbane Booker, Andrea Smith her thoughts about the best live music venues from back in the day. “There were a few. The Roxy in the Valley had a great vibe, Metropolis in the City (under the Myer Centre) was also great. I ran The Orient Hotel amongst others - the birthplace of Powderfinger, Custard and the starting of Regurgitator. It had a fantastic vibe and many of the well-known people in the industry started in The Orient.
It's still a tight-knit group of punters, staff and bands - we even have our own Facebook group!” 

As always we love hearing from you, so tell us about your favourite live venue in the 90s, maybe it’s still operating, maybe it’s gone by the wayside, either way, live music brings back the best memories, so we’d love to hear yours. 

If Aussie pub rock is your thing, you can pick up The Glory Days Of Aussie Pub Rock album here.


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