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a city by city guide to the best indie clubs, bars, record shops and local bands

Melbourne, Australia

by Dave Forbes

Although always seen as second best to Sydney, Melbourne truly is a paradise in Australia and a great place to spend some time. It’s a city that’s steeped in culture, has a cosmopolitan, multicultural society and thrives on fine restaurants, world renowned shopping and a relaxed and vibrant café culture. It’s also an ever-developing city with the recent opening of Federation Square and the Docklands developments. Away from the centre there’s the beach haven of St Kilda with Luna Park and the cake shops of Acland Street, the eclectic suburb of Fitzroy and historic old Melbourne in Richmond. As for bands, the city's musical heritage is wide and varied. Melbourne produced classic artists like Kylie Minogue and Nick Cave who have become superstars the world over. Newer bands like Architecture In Helsinki and The Spazzys are currently keeping Melbourne on the map and then there’s local characters like pub rock legend (and artist) Fred Negro – frontman of the wonderfully named Fuck Fucks. It’s definitely a city worth exploring and getting to know on a personal level.



Laundry, 50 Johnston St, Fitzroy/Ding Dong Lounge, 18 Market Lane, Saturdays, 8pm-3am, $10
Melbourne's most established indie club, it alternates between Laundry in Fitzroy and Ding Dong in the city centre. There’s a couple of hit and miss local bands every week, but from 11:30 until 3 it plays the standard mix of indie classics and new bands. Cheap drinks between 9-10pm.

Rochester Castle Hotel, 202 Johnston Street, Fitzroy, Fridays, 10pm-3am, free entry.
Apparently "London’s best indie night comes to Melbourne", Panic is a new club night at the Rochester in Fitzroy. It offers free entry (at the moment) and has a playlist you’d expect with a Smiths oriented name. Update: Panic has closed, to be replaced by the similar Greenwich Mean Club.

Gimme Shelter
Laundry, 50 Johnston St, Fitzroy, Second Saturday, 9pm-3am, $6
Hipswinging sounds and sharp suits at this cool sixties club night. Expect to hear garage, soul, freakbeat and r&b. $1 pots from 9pm-10pm. (IW)

Venues and bars

The Esplanade Hotel
11 Upper Esplanade, Melbourne
A Melbourne institution, you cannot come to Melbourne and not go. On the Esplanade in St Kilda (hence the name!), there’s always bands playing (both local and international), cheap food, cheap drinks and on Mondays go to the Gershwin room to see TV quiz show Rockwiz being filmed (and maybe even get on one of the teams).

Cherry Bar
103 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
It’s down AC/DC lane, it’s dark, there’s Neil Young and Ramones posters on the walls, stacks of vinyl behind the bar, the clientele all look like they’re auditioning for a Jet tribute band, and it’s open until 5am. Cherry Bar is a great place to go for a few beers, hear some good music and catch the occasional show. Go there on a Tuesday night for Trash Trivia. It prides itself on no serious questions so stock up on gossip magazines beforehand.

The Greyhound
1 Brighton Road, St Kilda
Tucked away at the back of St Kilda, The Greyhound is worth a visit for the Saturday night drag show, the ‘R’ rated Sunday karaoke and the jukebox. Considered to be the best bar in Melbourne (by themselves) it's easy to while away an afternoon with a beer, some classic tunes and a few games of pool (or the retro video games).

Northcote Social Club
301 High Street, Northcote
The band room is a little new, clean and boxy to have much atmosphere, but the quality of the bands that play here more than make up for it. If you want to see Australian music, or moderately-well-known international acts in a venue that hasn't embraced the recent trend to hike up ticket prices, this is the place to go. If you just want to have a chat, you're better off sticking to the front bar, or heading across the road to 303, which has a nice bar full of tables at the front, and a smaller live music venue out the back. (N)

The Brunswick Green
313 Sydney Road, Brunswick
More like hanging out at a friend's house than going to a real bar, the Brunswick Green is laid out like a house party - several cozy rooms with pre-loved furniture and diverse groups of people, a shelf full of books and board games, a pool table out the front and a backyard with a pond for summer drinking and fish-gazing. It may be hard to work out who the staff are, as they tend to sit at the bar, reading or chatting with the patrons, but given the relaxed vibe of the place, it seems fitting rather than annoying. (N)

Record Shops

International Trash

65 Swan St, Richmond, 11am-6pm
Catch tram 70 to Swan St, Richmond. International Trash specializes in rock‘n'roll, garage and psychobilly. Definitely worth a journey there if that’s your thing. Play the vintage hockey game, buy some records then head next door to the Corner hotel for a beer.

Missing Link
405 Bourke Street, Melbourne
For all your indie and alt rock needs, conveniently located in the city centre, this basement shop has it all. CDs, vinyl, DVD’s, t-shirts, magazines/fanzines, tickets, even the occasional instore from touring bands. Just overlook the obvious punk and emo overtones and lurking beneath is a well stocked and well priced record shop.

Greville Records
152 Greville Street, Prahran
If you find yourself shopping in Chapel Street (and you should) then take a detour up Greville Street to Greville records. Stockists of indie, rock, blues, arthouse, film noir, CDs and vinyl, cheap t-shirts, memorabilia and artwork. Make sure you have a pocketful of cash as they have to charge the credit card fees back to the buyer.

Rare Records
1st Floor, 82 Acland St, St Kilda
The name says it all. An upstairs store just at the top of Acland Street in St Kilda specializing in alternative, rock and "weird stuff". It’s definitely worth a browse for any elusive records or CDs, old tour shirts, posters and memorabilia. As most of the stock lives up to its "rare" name it does tend to get reflected in the prices.

Polyester Records
387 Brunswick st, Fitzroy
Closely tied to the now-disbanded Candle Records, Polyester is a small but extremely well-stocked store for fans of anything even remotely indie. If you're looking for a self-released EP by a little local band this is the place to find it. You'll also find a decent selection of vinyl, and can buy gig tickets. Check out the "staff picks" noticeboard for quality recommendations. (N)

361 Nicholson street, Carlton North
Goldmine is the perfect place to pick up second-hand copies of albums by everyone but the most obscure indie artists. If you don't have a problem with the ethics of it, you can usually pick up review copies of new albums here for half the price of a new copy. Also check out the music DVDs, vinyl selection and the bargain bin. (N)

Local Bands

Architecture In Helsinki
Formed in Melbourne in 2000 after “meeting at a Tupperware party", Architecture In Helsinki are an eight piece retro pop band complete with handclaps, whistles, bongos and Casio keyboards.

The Spazzys
Fun, with a capital F. Alice, Lucy and Kat play loud, fast bubblegum pop-punk. Three minute songs in the style of the Ramones; and a live show that proves impossible not to dance to.

Four girls with miniskirts and beehives, Dollsquad are leading the way in putting the glamour back into the Melbourne music scene. A Sixties girl group lost and found again in CBGBs circa 1977.

Love of Diagrams
An angular two girl, one boy Melbourne three piece. Love Of Diagrams state their music "recalls the naivete and experimentation of New York no-wave and the energy and tunefulness of English Post-punk."

Fresh from touring America with Le Tigre, Electrelane and Bratmobile, Origami are a post riot grrrl four piece. They’ve played shows in Australia with Sleater Kinney and The Breeders and also at Australia’s Ladyfest


No trip to Melbourne is complete without stopping for coffee and cake in Acland Street in St Kilda. For shopping head to Chapel Street and the myriad of contemporary and vintage clothes shops. Brunswick Street in Fitzroy has a laid back vibe and is home to both Polyester books and the Revival/Dangerfield outlet store (avoid the city centre branches and head here instead). If the weather's on your side, then there’s nothing better than a picnic in the botanical gardens. Grab some food and a bottle of wine and go pass the time amongst the peace and tranquility of the gardens.

Pick up a copy of either of Melbourne’s free music papers (Beat or Inpress) every Wednesday to see what’s happening when and where in Melbourne.

Finally, if you happen to be in Melbourne late March/early April, then there’s plenty of fun to be had during the comedy festival with both international and local acts doing seasons at many of Melbourne’s theatres and pubs.

Additional reviews by Noosh

If you'd like to recommend a club, bar, record shop, band or any indie delight for inclusion in the Indie Travel Guide, please email us. If we've included a link to your band/shop etc, it would be lovely if you could link back to us. Thank you!

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