Every now and then, amongst the doom and gloom around Sydney's live music scene (or lack of it), there's a ray of sunshine. Shortly after the news of yet another Sydney music venue, the Newsagency in Marrickville, closing down, we've had a first-hand look inside the recently revamped Lansdowne, the famed Sydney live venue, siting on the brink of, and thumbing its nose at, the lock-out zone.
During the '90s, the Lansdowne and the Annandale were beacons of alternative rock along Parramatta Road, with bands like You Am I, Magic Dirt, the Hard Ons and even international acts like Shellac, Mudhoney and Dinosaur Jr treading the boards of it's street-level stage.
Centrally located between the city and Newtown, and close to Sydney University, it was the perfect place for the grunge generation to congregate for a beer and some potato wedges and sour cream. Over the years, its fortunes as a music venue ebbed and flowed as it changed bookers and owners, until it finally closed its doors for good in August 2015.
The new Lansdowne is the brainchild of Mary's Burger and Unicorn Hotel head honchos Jake Smyth and Kenny Graham. It will be a multi-level, one-stop-shop for foodies, party-goers and live music fans.
"We want people to be able to hang out here all night" says Smyth. "Have a drink at the bar, eat some good food and then head upstairs and see some good music. We don't necessarily want people to have to plan their night out. We just want to give them somewhere good to go."
Inside, the venue is very much still a work in progress (Smyth and Graham's office will be in the old toilets where the graffitied tiles are still clinging to the walls), but you can see the bones of what it will be like. The band room is well-designed, with access straight out onto a large upstairs balcony and its own bar. Downstairs is a large space for a bar, kitchen and dining, with a large courtyard out the back for hotter weather/smokers.
The bands will be booked by Matt and Dan Rule, previous owners of Sydney's Annandale Hotel. The brothers have been booking entertainment for venues such as Brighton Up Bar, Lord Gladstone Hotel and Botany View Hotel for some time now, and have their fingers firmly on the pulse of Sydney's band scene.
Smyth tells us the Lansdowne will be open by the Queen's birthday long weekend in June, with bands kicking off shortly after in July.
Top photo: Jake Smyth (left) and Kenny Graham. Credit: Matt Coyte.
View some photos from the progress of the pub transformation below, courtesy: