Music lovers heading to Melbourne tend to stay in the centre of town, but it’s worth taking a journey out of the city. The area around St Kilda Road has much more than gardens going for it. In fact, there are plenty of musical attractions that make this underappreciated part of Melbourne worth a look.

Sidney Myer Music Bowl

The Sidney Myer Music Bowl is a fabulous shell-shaped outdoor amphitheatre on the lawns of the King’s Domain. Local businessman Sidney Myer was inspired to commission the venue after attending a show at Los Angeles’ Hollywood Bowl. He established free, open air concerts with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in 1929, and these continue to this day.

The Bowl recorded the largest crowd for a free concert on Aussie soil in 1967, when around 200,000 people turned out to see The Seekers play. It’s also hosted the likes of AC/DC, The Beach Boys, Crowded House, R.E.M., Pearl Jam, Bon Jovi, Swedish House Mafia, The Black Keys, and Neil Young. And every Christmas you can catch a who’s who of local stars spreading festive cheer at the annual Carols by Candlelight.

The Magic of Moomba

Every March, St Kilda Road comes alive with the annual Melbourne Moomba Waterfest. This free family event is the largest free community festival in the country and one of Australia’s longest running events. Kids love the birdman rally, water sports, and crowning of Moomba monarchs, but music lovers are much more interested in the top artists that play Moomba every year. And there’s been some serious talent in the past including ABBA and Neil Diamond. AC/DC, Tex Perkins, Daryl Braithwaite, and adopted Aussie Kimbra have also graced the Moomba stage.

Hamer Hall

You’ll also need to get out of the city centre to see a show at Hamer Hall, formerly known as the Melbourne Concert Hall. With 2,661 seats, it’s the largest venue in Southbank’s Arts Centre complex. However, it’s still much more intimate than seeing a show at Rod Laver Arena or the MCG. It’s home to the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and the preferred Melbourne performance venue for the Australian Chamber Orchestra. It’s also a great place to catch performances from contemporary acts like Tripod, The Gloaming, Kate Ceberano, Train, and Ben Folds performing with the MSO in the coming months.

Hamer Hall is currently receiving $128.5 million of upgrades including new and expanded foyer spaces, better disability access, and improved acoustics.

Plenty of Places to Stay

The area around St Kilda Road also has some great hotels which put you an easy walk from these great musical attractions. Bayview on the Park has exceptional views of Albert Park Lake and Golf Course, and its mid-priced rooms won’t put a hole in your pocket. The Hotel Charsfield is a bit ritzier, with a French restaurant on site and cool snooker and reading rooms. Both hotels have tram stations out front to get you into the CDB for those inner-city gigs.

This article is part of the #‎HipmunkCityLove‬ project. Which part of Melbourne do you love?

Image sources: Alan Lam @ Flickr; Rachel Hofton @ Flickr

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It occurs to me that Melbourne tends to get overlooked on my blog. Sure I’ll write about the fabulous bands that hail from the city and mention the ones passing through, but considering its status as one of the country’s music capitals, it gets a pretty raw deal. I’m on the Central Coast of New South Wales, so the shows I review tend to be in my local area or in Sydney or Newcastle. Even Brisbane gets a look in when I’m visiting friends. But I haven’t visited Melbourne in years.

It wasn’t always this way. I have fond memories of making my way to Melbourne to catch Human Nature supporting John Farnham on his “I Can’t Believe He’s 50” tour. I can’t say that I know how old John Farnham is now, but I reckon 50’s a distant memory. I was back again when Invertigo launched their awesome and underrated album Forum. Now all but a select few would ask “Invertiwho?” Melbourne, it’s been far too long.

So in the interest of levelling the ledger, and completing an assignment I have for the #‎HipmunkCityLove‬ project (yes folks, gushing about music isn’t the only writing I do), I think it was time I thrust Melbourne into the spotlight. And so I bring you, a music lover’s guide to Melbourne.

Amazing Music Venues

Scroll through the tours I’ve covered and you’ll see The Corner Hotel in Richmond mentioned time and time again. It simply gets the best bands around. Just make sure you turn up early to see your favourite, because the back of that long main room is a LONG way back.

The Tote’s story is one of survival. It’s been threatened by the establishment, but its passionate supporters ensure that this venue endures. Its sticky carpets and walls strewn with gig guides are iconic. It might be looking a little long in the tooth, but it’s still got plenty of punk attitude.

170 Russell is all about eclecticism. In just the next week it’ll host smooth U.S. soul singer D’Angelo, laid back Aussies The Beautiful Girls, and hard-rocking industry veterans The Mark of Cain. No matter what’s playing the sound is superb, and its innercity location puts rooms at the Crossley Hotel Melbourne within stumbling distance.

And I can’t forget about The Espy, the home of everyone’s favourite music quiz show RocKwiz. It’s another venue that celebrates diversity. You might hear an acoustic singer-songwriter one night and a metal act the next. It’s currently up for sale, so let’s hope the buyer keeps its rich tradition of live music excellence alive.

Fabulous Festivals

Before it took Australia by storm, St Jerome’s Laneway Festival was one of Melbourne’s best kept secrets. It all began in 2004 when just 1,400 folks turned out to see up-and-comers The Presets and Architecture in Helsinki play. The organisers have always had a knack for finding the best new acts before they hit the big time. There are more household names now, but it’s the smaller artists that provide the real surprises.

Melbourne Music Week is another local gem, a 10-day celebration of the city’s eclectic music scene. There are always stacks of free and ticketed events and performances from some of Victoria’s most well-known musicians and the next generation of superstars. The shows are complemented by panel sessions and workshops.

And why should the grownups have all the fun? Playfest is the city’s first one-site music and arts festival designed with kids in mind. Yo Gabba Gabba, Sam Moran, The WooHoo Revue, and Em Rusciano will delight the littlies. And if the sound of hundreds of screaming children starts to grate, mums and dads can visit the garden bar! It hits the Sidney Myer Music Bowl on November 21 and 22.

Awesome Record Stores

As an old school music fan, I love a city that still has proper record stores. You know the places; the ones with guys behind the counter that can turn you onto a band you’ve never heard of and stacks of imports and rarities.

Greville Records opened its doors in the late 70s, and while the musical landscape’s changed a lot since that time but you wouldn’t know it browsing the vinyl here. You can spend hours thumbing through the more than 20,000 LPs and more than 10,000 45s of every genre imaginable of almost every conceivable genre.

From Greville Records, it’s just a short stroll to Obese Records on Izett Street, which is so popular with the hip hop crowd that it spawned its own record label.

Record Paradise is another great option, no matter where your music taste lies. There’s new vinyl on one wall and classic artists on another. The store is closed from Sunday to Tuesday though, which can be a little inconvenient if you’re craving a vinyl fix.

And of course I could go on. I’m 800 words in and I know I’ve just scratched the surface. But it’s beer o’clock on a Friday, so I’m turning it over to you. Dear readers, what are your musical highlights of Melbourne?

Image sources: Remixyourface @ Flickr; Murasaki-Claire @ Flickr

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It was bittersweet driving to Lizotte’s last night. As I sat in my car outside the train station, waiting to collect my husband, I heard the news on the radio that “The Cubbyhouse” would close its doors in April. Long-term readers will know how much I adore this venue. A night out at Lizotte’s always feels like a treat. The food is amazing, the wine is good, the service friendly, and the entertainment top notch. I’ve been lucky enough to see artists like Jimmy Barnes, Amos Lee, Daryl Braithwaite, Richard Clapton, and Darren Percival there, in surroundings that are so beautifully intimate. The Newcastle arm will remain, and I’ll look forward to attending shows there, but I will miss this place terribly. How wonderful it was to have a venue which could attract such stellar talent and bring it to music lovers in such relaxed surrounds just 15 minutes from my home.

All those thoughts of how much I’d miss it ran through my head last night as I did my best to soak it all in. I savoured my wine, the crispy tempura prawn entrée, and the always impressive battered flathead and chunky chips. The combination of seafood and pinot grigio put me in a chilled space for the appearance of support act Simon Meli. I didn’t even mind that I was sitting behind a pole which prevented me taking decent photos. I was just excited to see this Voice alum stripped back with just an acoustic guitar, and performing the originals we didn’t get to experience on the show. I’m not sure if he’s improved since his time on the show or whether the TV didn’t do him justice, but his voice blew me away. There’s such a rich, warm quality to it. On The Voice I was impressed by his showmanship, but I didn’t feel he was one of the program’s strongest vocalists. After seeing what he can do just sitting on a stool, playing a guitar, I think perhaps I underestimated him. I loved his originals, but his closing cover of “Ramble On” was the highlight.

Then it was Thirsty Merc’s turn to take the stage. It’s been such a long time since I saw them play, and they took me on a real trip down memory lane with their set. It was so cool hearing how they breathed new life into their material. So often an acoustic show delivers the same songs with quieter instruments, but Thirsty Merc took the opportunity to play around and make those early songs something new. I won’t lie, it wasn’t always successful. I felt the slowed-down version of “My Completeness” was sleepy, with none of the spark of the original. But with great risk comes great reward. “Katie Q” was a bit of a filler track on the band’s first album, but the jazzier live version had me tapping my feet. “Emancipate Myself,” the song that turned me on to the band all those years ago, and “Build a Bridge” were also real highlights.

This show had me feeling nostalgic, but it was about so much more than rehashing the past. Thirsty Merc might be closing the door to the first ten years of their life, but the inventiveness they showed in this set prove there’s still plenty of life in this Aussie band.

Image source: Thirsty Merc Facebook page

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The Smith Street Band wrote songs for their new album Throw Me in the River in far-flung places including Winnipeg, Salt Lake City, London, New York, Calgary, and North Melbourne. But when it came to putting those tracks down, they looked to the solitude of the small Victorian town of Forrest.

Forrest has just 170 people, and many of them turned out to the local pub The Wonky Donkey to check out a surprise solo set from frontman Wil Wagner. On October 31, we’ll finally get to hear what they heard as Throw Me in the River hits stores. This video gives us a little sneak peek at the recording process.

I love the idea of escaping the hustle and bustle to record an album. They’ll be back in the thick of it in November though when they showcase Throw Me in the River at the following gigs.
19 November 2014 – Brisbane Hotel, Hobart (18+)
20 November 2014 –The Gov, Adelaide (Licensed All Ages)
21 November 2014 –The Hi-Fi, Brisbane (18+)
22 November 2014 –Manning Bar, Sydney (18+)
23 November 2014 – Zierholz @ UC, Canberra (18+)
28 November 2014 –Corner Hotel, Melbourne (18+)
29 November 2014 –Rosemount Hotel, Perth (18+)

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Australian-UK collaboration Slow Chase are showing plenty of swagger with their new single “Exorcism.” It’s a down and dirty slice of blues which marks a return to form for the band which haven’t released anything since their 2012 debut EP.

Slow Chase will celebrate the October 13 single release with a live YouTube show at 9pm AEST before hitting the road for a string of dates.

17 October 2014 – Musicman Megastore, Bendigo
18 October 2014 – The Loft, Warrnambool
25 October 2014 – Crown & Anchor, Adelaide
31 October 2014 – Ding Dong Lounge, Melbourne
14 November 2014 – Barwon Club Hotel, Geelong
20 November 2014 – Frankie’s Pizza, Sydney

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After spending the better part of the year keeping Josh Pyke and Katie Noonan company on the road, Jack Carty is preparing to step into the spotlight for his own headlining tour. He’ll go it alone to promote his third full-length album Esk, which is sitting pretty in all good record stores now. It features the gorgeous single “Be Like the Water,” which you can take a listen to here.

The song’s a bit darker than previous single “The Joneses,” but it really showcases the diversity of this very special singer-songwriter. I just love its driving acoustic guitar and Jack’s husky vocals. If you do too, make sure you grab some tickets for one of these shows.

11 October 2014 – Royal Oak Hotel, Launceston
12 October 2014 – The Grand Poobah, Hobart
17 October 2014 – New Globe Theatre, Brisbane
18 October 2014 – Majestic Theatre, Pomona
19 October 2014 – Bon Amici Café, Toowoomba
23 October 2014 – Walton St, Te Awamutu
24 October 2014 – The Wine Cellar, Auckland
25 October 2014 – Menagerie @ Fringe, Wellington
26 October 2014 – Fringe Bar, Wellington
30 October 2014 – Babushka Lounge, Ballarat
1 November 2014 – Bridge Hotel, Castlemaine
2 November 2014 – The Loft, Warrnambool
6 November 2014 – Clancy’s Fish Pub, Fremantle
7 November 2014 – Prince of Wales, Bunbury
9 November 2014 – Four 5 Nine, Perth
13 November 2014 – Lizotte’s, Dee Why
14 November 2014 – The Commons, Newcastle
16 November 2014 – Flow Espresso Bar, Old Bar
20 November 2014 – The Pier, Port Macquarie
21 November 2014 – 5 Church Street, Bellingen
27 November 2014 – Brass Monkey, Cronulla
28 November 2014 – Captains @ Mariners, Batemans Bay
29 November 2014 – The Front, Canberra
30 November 2014 – Birdhouse Bar, Wagga Wagga
4 December 2014 – Howler, Melbourne
5 December 2014 – Kay St Saloon Bar, Traralgon
6 December 2014 – Montrose Town Centre, Montrose
7 December 2014 – Bended, Geelong
11 December 2014 –The Grace Emily, Adelaide
12 December 2014 – Mars Hill Café, Parramatta
13 December 2014 – Venue 505, Sydney
14 December 2014 – Heritage Hotel, Wollongong

Image used with permission from Mucho Bravado

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Melbourne band Inventions chose their name because they never want to sit still. It’s the brainchild of frontman Jake Leaney, who spent time auditioning musicians who could help bring his video to life. Together they honed their unique blend of alternative-rock, pop, and punk for 12 months before unleashing their debut EP.

The epic lead single “Shadows” gives you a taste of what this band’s all about. It’s big and gutsy, perhaps even to the point of being melodramatic. But it doesn’t do things by halves, and I like that.

Inventions will celebrate the EP and single releases with a string of shows that kick off tomorrow night in their home town.

2 October 2014 – The Curtin, Melbourne
8 October 2014 – The Rosemount Hotel, Perth
10 October 2014 – Ya-Ya’s, Perth
11 October 2014 – YMCA HQ, Perth
23 October 2014 – The Crown & Anchor, Adelaide
1 November 2014 – The Evelyn Hotel, Melbourne
2 November 2014 – Wrangler Studios, Melbourne (ALL AGES)
6 November 2014 – Rad, Wollongong
8 November 2014 – Valve Bar, Sydney

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It seems like forever since we’ve seen an Aussie acts topping the singles charts, but The Veronicas have done it with their stunning newie “You Ruin Me.” I’ve had fun with songs from their last album, but I missed that strong emotional core that I felt ran through their earlier releases. They’ve rewarded my patience with this song, which I think is their best work. I’m so glad Australia’s embraced it!

After a few lean months in the singles charts, it’s great to see The Veronicas are one of a few local acts making their presence felt. Nathaniel’s super-fun ditty “Live Louder” has climbed one place to sit at number four this week. Timmy Trumpet feat. Savage have slipped a couple of spots to sit at number five with “FREAKS”.

It seems I missed the news that Missy Higgins had a new album coming out, but Australia hasn’t. Oz sits at number three on debut. Rock veteran Jimmy Barnes rounds out the top 10 with 30:30 Hindsight.

Click through to see this week’s top ten albums.
Read the rest of this entry…

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Mondayitis can hit hard, but Ballarat trio Twinsy are here to help you get through it with their single “Tear It Down.” The anthemic single is a real winner, with melodic hooks, driving drumbeats, and a sing-along chorus. It’s our first taste of Twinsy’s new EP Espiritus, which is due out on October 31.

“’Tear It Down’ started coming together while on tour, somewhere between New York and Washington and we ended up finishing it in a tent the day before we played Splendour in the Grass,” explained one third of the group, Guy Chappell.

Has “Tear It Down” impressed you?

Image used with permission from Dew Process

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If you’re looking for the next pop act to brighten up your weekend, then look no further than Perth four-piece Calm Collected. The lads recently released the catchy as hell single “Nothing Like the Movies” ahead of the October 13 launch of their EP Give Me Your Worst.

The quartet might not be breaking new ground here, but it’s an awful lot of fun. I love those big pop hooks, and I was tapping my toe in time before the song’s end. It’s also impressive that frontman Tim Tan writes the band’s songs himself and is a dab hand in the producer’s chair. Add the instrumental skills of all involved and you’ve got an act that’s got the edge over many of the pop artists on the charts.

Catch them at The Nexus Arts Centre in Adelaide on October 3.

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