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Sounds like the Gold Coast: where to get your live music fix

Samantha Morris

It might surprise new visitors to the Gold Coast that there's a burgeoning music scene here. Tucked away in warehouses, cafes, pubs and clubs are some of the best emerging artists in Australia. Gold Coast punches above its weight when it comes to live music.

The venue scene on the Gold Coast is in flux, like all the great cities in the world, but there are some stalwarts dishing up quality music for serious lovers of the live experience.

Art, retail and community spaces

Often flying under the radar but catering to a large and very diverse group of creatives and music lovers, these spaces are sometimes tucked away in industrial precincts or emerging cultural districts. Dust Temple in Currumbin is undergoing one hell of a transformation right now. Already the darling of Currumbin Creek Road and offering regular exhibitions, life drawing, creative spaces, coffee shop and private events, live music is just one feather in its cap. Expressive ground is an all-ages space in Tallebudgera managed by a team of volunteers keen to see its enormous warehouse and sprawling grounds put to good use. Prose HQ – the newest addition to the City's multi-purpose spaces is brand new but has already hosted art and music events to large groups of people. Its opening event even featured the Hanlon Brothers (as well as a half-pipe) in its Miami base. The Avalon, Miami located right next door to Miami Marketta is a private space made available for music and creative community events. It is also home to the City's newest luthier studio - Fenech Guitars. Bands such as The Delta Riggs, Waxhead, Benny D Williams have already graced its container stage. And then there are retail spaces such as Sunhouse and Boardriders in Coolangatta who open their doors to local, original bands regularly.

Purpose-built music venues

The Soundlounge in Currumbin is one of the longest-running spaces for original music in the City. Last year they won Music Venue of the Year at the inaugural Gold Coast Music Awards. They've hosted the largest number of international acts of all the current music venues in the city. Artists like J Mascis (Dinosaur Jr) and blues legend Eric Bibb have played Soundlounge and punters have enjoyed everything from crammed moshpits for Brisbane darlings Violent Soho through to the laid-back sounds of guitar maestro Jeff Lang with Mamadou Diabate and Bobby Singh. Talk about variety.

Just down the road from Soundlounge is Currumbin Creek Tavern. While on the surface an unlikely location for some of the best emerging talent in the city, the Tavern hosts regular Friday night sessions which feature four or five local acts with a (usually) $10 cover charge. You can see everything from heavy metal, coastal acoustic roots, hip-hop, electronica, solo singer-songwriters and more. Plus there are cheap meals and they have Tooheys Old (OK, maybe I'm the only one excited by that).

At the other end of the Gold Coast, but punching above its weight since 2004, Elsewhere Bar is the live music darling of Surfers Paradise - certainly for emerging indie artists. In its 12-year history the little club upstairs on Cavill Avenue has had live sets from Tame Impala, Children Collide, Violent Soho, British India, The Presets and Holy Holy and has helped local acts such as Von Villains and Yes Sir Noceur find their feet as live bands.

Bars and cafes

Gold Coast is fast becoming known for its cafe culture and hipster bar scene. Cambus Wallace in Nobby Beach, named after a rum-laden wreck hosts regular live and original music as well as DJs to complement their rum cocktails and tapas-style menu. More family-friendly cafes like Mandala Organic Arts (Mermaid Beach), Journal Cafe (Mermaid Waters), Cafe Dbar (Duranbah), Beaches on Kirra, Iron and Resin Garage (Currumbin), Genki Cafe (Palm Beach) regularly have original, local musicians providing tunes as customers sip coffee or order evening fare and the groovy bars attached to Bacchus and House of Brews (Surfers Paradise) as well as the City's favourite brewers, Burleigh Brewing Co. also boast original and live music a few times a week.

Pubs and taverns

The city has a strong pub and tavern culture with locations like Parkwood, Merrimac and Coolangatta having hotels and pubs which cater to local audiences and tourists alike. Miami, Parkwood and Lonestar regularly host national touring bands of the rock and roll and indie variety. Broadbeach Tavern holds a weekly Sunday night affair called Sounds of Sunday which combines the talents of local emerging Gold Coast acts with those emerging on the national scene.

Long-established venues like Hard Rock Cafe and the Beergarden Surfers Paradise put on a mix of covers and original acts and Southport Sharks, as well as hosting tribute and covers shows and a monthly original showcase called Platform.

Both Southport and Currumbin RSL has regular live music - a combination of family-friendly cover bands and original music. Currumbin RSL has a weekly acoustic session on its Deck, which must have one of the most beautiful outlooks in the City. Currumbin RSL is also home to the Soundlounge.

Markets - both day and night

Night Markets are absolutely a 'thing' on the Gold Coast and two of the best night markets in Australia call this city home. Miami Marketta has honed its concept of offering a food and drink experience with quality live, original music. Every Friday and Saturday night, thousands of people descend on the creative space just one block from the Gold Coast Highway to eat, drink and listen to music.

NightQuarter has taken that concept to a whole new level, building a massive festival-sized stage, street food, large bars and a space for 2,000 people in its Paddock and a mezzanine event space that caters for up to 150 people overlooking the Paddock. And that's just the music venue. The dining and shopping experience outside is also large. On most Friday and Saturday evenings, visitors can see some of the best musical talent the Gold Coast has to offer for just a $3 entry fee to the markets. Hussy Hicks, Felicity Lawless, Katie Who, Crown The Humble, Lincoln Hillard, Josh Lovegrove, the hardest working musicians on the Gold Coast play there regularly. Hanlon Brothers also do a seasonal ticketed event with the first one focused on Motown and selling more than 700 tickets.

Daytime markets often have local original and cover artists on board for the morning shopping experience - a mix of fashion and food markets like the Arts Centre Farmer's Markets, Helensvale Farmers' Markets and The Village Markets at both Burleigh and Paradise Point are a good start for morning music.

Major touring acts

If you're after a major international (or national) touring act, there are a handful of venues on the Gold Coast with capacity. NightQuarter at Helensvale can host music events for up to 2000 people in its purpose-built Paddock with a massive festival-sized stage. NightQuarter hosts acts such as The Cat Empire and Melbourne Ska Orchestra. Miami Marketta has played host to artists such as The Waifs, Xavier Rudd and the city's own rising star, Karl S Williams.

Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre has hosted Nick Cave and Jupiters Hotel and Casino's theatre has hosted all manner of international and Australian stars including Shirley Bassey, Diesel, Jimmy Barnes, Diana Ross, Tom Jones, Celine Dion and the Beach Boys.

Bond University's Live at Bond series sees national touring artists such as Christine Anu and Tijuana Cartel as well as Gold Coast's emerging artists play afternoon sets in the University's amphitheatre.

Open mic and jam nights

Open mic and jam nights are vital to a vibrant local music scene. Emerging artists often make their first public appearance at open mic nights and learn the ropes when it comes to stage presence, managing lighting and sound and even how to handle their instruments standing up. If you want to try your hand at an open mic night, Lonestar Tavern (Mermaid Waters), Nerang All Sports Club, The Loft (Chevron Island), Beaches on Kirra, North Kirra Surf Life Saving Club, the Wallaby Hotel, Kirra Sports Club and Zullaz Bar and Eating Place (Burleigh) host regular gatherings.

Cover bands

If covers bands are more your thing you'll love the Gold Coast. With such a long history in entertainment we have some of the best cover artists in the world and some of them have found a balance between serves of hearty songs you'll be familiar with alongside originals that will soon become your new favourite song.

If you're after a cover band, your best bet is to visit The Avenue (Surfers Paradise), Envy Hotel (Broadbeach), Surf Life Saving Clubs up and down the coast on weekends, Southport Sharks and the other pubs and taverns also host regular cover bands.

So, never let it be said that there's no music scene on the Gold Coast. You just have to know where to look. And now there are no excuses.

For a full gig guide for the Gold Coast, we recommend you visit blankgc.com.au/goldcoastgigguide

Samantha Morris

Blank GC

Samantha Morris has lived on the Gold Coast nearly all her life and has been going to gigs here since before she was legally allowed to. Most of her career has been spent working with conservation and land management groups on communication, fundraising and engagement strategies and she's won several awards recognizing her work in that space. In 2013 she decided to focus closer to home and launched an old-school printed monthly newspaper focused on the local music and cultural scene. Blank GC has become the City's cultural voice. In 2015 she also launched the Gold Coast Music Awards. She is a freelance writer and a culture vulture.

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