Loud and proud in Merri-bek
Located in the heart of Sydney Road, the Brunswick Ballroom offers an eclectic range of performances, including cabaret, comedy, theatre, and music. Recently refurbished, the Ballroom won ‘Best Small Venue’ at the 2023 Music Victoria Awards, and it’s easy to see why.
The Ballroom brought the space back to life with a bit of love, while leaning into its natural ballroom charm. From the hand-crafted parquetry to the restored stained glass windows, red velvet curtains and fantastic French wallpaper, the Ballroom manages to feel both special and charming. The stage was also reconfigured to run east-west for incredible acoustics. Robin Kay lent her keen eye for design and detail to the refurbishment.
The space itself is all about excellent art and good people, with a focus on programming diverse content. A typical week could include storytelling, old country, rock ‘n’ roll indie, a cult dating show, an Elton John tribute and a Grammy-Award-winning act. Three types of menus are on offer to suit different kinds of performances, from dinner and show experiences to pints and burgers.
The Ballroom now has a capacity of up to 468, which means it can now host renowned international acts. The venue also plays host to weddings and private events, tailoring the grand space to any occasion. No matter your reason to visit, you can expect a sense of warmth and community from the moment you step through the door.
314 Sydney Rd, Brunswick
Musicland is a beloved Fawkner destination, a unique, family-owned live music complex that’s been drawing crowds for more than 15 years. Husband and wife duo, Cathy and Michael Rohotas, son George and daughter Christina each play an integral role in the success of the business.
With two venues, three bars, a beer garden, a food van and more, Musicland has something for everyone. The friendly and safe atmosphere of the venue attracts regulars and newcomers alike. Bebe’s Bar hosts more intimate shows, such as emerging bands and DJ nights, and is a popular birthday party venue. The larger main room holds up to 300 people and has its own bar.
From its early days, Musicland has always been about connecting people, providing a space for musicians and fans to come together and enjoy live music. Open mic sessions on Wednesday and Sunday nights showcase new talent, Fridays are for cover bands, and tribute acts take the stage on Saturday nights. Sunday afternoons feature a free weekly 60s music event, perfect for those who don’t go out at night.
The family-run business takes pride in its ability to adapt to changing times. During COVID, Musicland started offering live streaming of their shows — and it’s something they’ve kept in place. In recent years, a food van has provided snacks for hungry concert-goers. The family also created four seasons of a Channel 31 television program, Band Wars. If energy, passion and dedication are anything to go by, there are another 15 years in this venue yet!
1359 Sydney Rd, Fawkner
Ringo Barr merges two quintessential Melbourne music experiences: live music and record shopping. The brainchild of owner Rob McDowell, Ringo Barr takes inspiration from the Japanese ‘record bar’ experience. The venue offers a unique blend of music, curated drinks list and vinyl records.
Former English teacher Rob McDowell had been brewing the idea for Ringo Barr for quite some time. After teaching online throughout the pandemic lockdowns, it was time to step out of the classroom and bring his dream to life. The venue opened its doors in December 2022, much to the delight of locals. Patrons began to stop by for a cocktail, browse through the shelves, or take in a gig surrounded by fellow music lovers and new friends.
Live music is a staple at Ringo Barr, featuring Melbourne’s best local talent. The venue also stocks a wide selection of records, making it a haven for vinyl enthusiasts. The events calendar features a range of gigs and staples like BYO Vinyl Wednesdays (beginners welcome!) and Thursday Open Mic. The intimate living room vibe suits singer-songwriters, soul, jazz, electronica, and more.
Designed by Chris Tomoya, who takes an architectural approach to furniture, the unique fit-out of the space is a sight to behold. At night, the striking light box out front, heralding ‘Record Bar,’ will guide your way.
Ringo Barr is more than a bar or record store; it’s a community of music lovers who come together to share their passion for music, vinyl and good times. The venue is quickly becoming a favourite haunt for locals – and it’s not hard to see why.
666 Sydney Rd, Brunswick
The Retreat Hotel first opened its doors to the Brunswick community in 1842, making it the oldest pub in the area. For the past 19 years, the pub has thrived under the leadership of current owners, Clint Fisher and Kathleen Clarke. The pair had spent years building up experience and contacts in the industry before taking over the management, continuing to place live music and a sense of community at its heart.
The Retreat Hotel is renowned for hosting eclectic live music events, catering to a wide range of genres, including pop, rock, blues, country, electro-pop and punk. Blak Stage, a First Nations open mic night, has been running each Tuesday evening for three years. It’s clear there are no rules when it comes to music at The Retreat, and all kinds of voices are welcome.
The band room, with its mid-sized capacity of around 200, has become an important space for nurturing emerging bands and solo artists. Many new bands have honed their craft on stage here, alongside a collection of bigger acts that draw a weekend crowd. Across the venue, punters can enjoy live music six nights a week, which equates to around 30 artists each week across the band room, front bar or DJ decks…or an incredible 1500+ a year.
A Brunswick staple, the venue is an inviting space for locals and visitors alike. The band room and beer garden buzz with a warm energy, while the stage – with its distinctive barn-like vibe – adds to the venue’s charm. The pub has become a mainstay of Brunswick over the years and is emblematic of what the area is all about. It’s a space that fosters a sense of community among patrons, welcoming a diverse crowd to while away any given afternoon.
280 Sydney Road, Brunswick
Whole Lotta Love
Whole Lotta Love is a thriving live music venue in East Brunswick that pays tribute to Led Zeppelin. Four musical friends established the bar back in 2011, to create a space that combined their love for music with a great drinking experience.
In 2016, Sasha took over the bar and continued to develop it into a true live music venue. Named for the iconic song, Whole Lotta Love offers a range of live music, from emerging solo artists and singer-songwriters to much larger bands – even hosting mini festivals. The venue is a hub for both up-and-coming and established performers, with gigs held three to six times a week.
The space itself is unique. Led Zeppelin murals cover the walls, and band stickers cover everything else, creating a vibe that’s both edgy and nostalgic. The beer garden, adorned with murals of various other music icons, is the perfect spot to sit back, relax and enjoy some live music.
Whole Lotta Love welcomes a diverse crowd, with patrons ranging from locals and visitors to furry friends. Long-time residents of the East Brunswick area often stop in for a drink and a chat at the beloved bar. Looking to the future, Whole Lotta Love will continue offering a stage and welcoming community for both new and established performers.
524 Lygon St, Brunswick East