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Melbourne - Nightlife And Entertainment

 
 
Melbourne prides itself on being a cultural city with intellectual leanings, so there's a rich arts and music scene and always plenty to do in the evening. To find out what's on , check out The Age on Friday, when the newspaper publishes a comprehensive entertainment guide, "EG" - much better than the Sun-Herald 's Thursday supplement. Melbourne Events is a handy, and surprisingly hip, free monthly guide to all sorts of happenings, published by Melbourne Council and available at tourist information outlets. Also check out the free street-press magazines Beat and Inpress , which you can pick up at most record shops, cinemas and cafés.

 

Annual festivals further enliven the scene: the Melbourne International Festival ( www.melbournefestival.com.au ) in October concentrates on mainstream visual and performing arts, with a sprinkling of good concerts and opera. The much more experimental and innovative Melbourne Fringe Festival ( www.melbournefringe.org.au ) happens more or less at the same time, as does the Melbourne Writers' Festival ( www.mwf.com.au ). The heavily promoted Moomba Festival , held during the first half of March, has events including firework displays and dragon boat races on the banks of the Yarra River in Alexandra Gardens, but is actually rather drab and commercial. Three music festivals take place in the first half of the year: the Melbourne Jazz Festival in the last week of January, at venues in the city centre; the Melbourne Music Festival in February, one of the largest Australian festivals of contemporary music; and the Brunswick Music Festival in the third week of March, concentrating on folk and world music. The Next Wave Festival , held over two weeks in the second half of May, celebrates Victoria's young artists, writers and musicians.

Tickets for most venues can be booked through Ticketmaster (tel 13 6166, www.ticketmaster.com.au ) or Ticketek (tel 13 2849, www.ticketek.com.au ); both take credit-card bookings only. You can buy tickets half-price on the day of performance from the Half Tix booth, on the Bourke Street Mall (Mon & Sat 10am-2pm, Tues-Thurs 11am-6pm, Fri 11am-6.30pm; cash only; tel 03/9654 9420).

Bars and pubs
Melbourne's love affair with drinking is reflected in its plethora of excellent bars and pubs - from places so obscure and cutting-edge you'll only know they exist by word of mouth to large establishments catering to broader and louder tastes. The push to revive Melbourne's once staid CBD has seen many older watering holes transformed into lively, youth-oriented venues, while cheap bar licences have meant that new spots are popping up each week. In addition, the relaxing of Melbourne's once draconian licensing laws has produced enlightened opening hours, meaning that it's now possible to drink from noon until dawn. The distinction between restaurant, bar, café and nightclub is often blurred, but not at the handful of pub breweries, where a range of beers are made on the premises.

Live music
Melbourne has a thriving band scene, in which just about every pub puts on some sort of music - often free - at some time during the week. The pubs listed here are also good places for a drink, and always have at least two bars so you can escape the din if you want to. Grungy Richmond has a big concentration of music pubs , with several putting on African and reggae music; Fitzroy and St Kilda are the other areas to head to for a range of live music. Free listings magazines such as Beat , Inpress or Zebra are good sources of information about the local music scene, while local FM stations Triple R (102.7) and PBS (106.7) air alternative music and tell you what's on and where.
Clubs
Promoters hand out flyers for reduced or free admission to a rapidly changing array of clubs on the corner of Bourke and Russell streets, or you can pick up the passes in record shops such as Gaslight, further up Bourke Street. King Street, in the CBD between Collins Street and Flinders Lane, has a handy concentration of clubs. Most clubs have a cover charge of between $5 and $10.

The Bull Ring , 95 Johnston St, Fitzroy. The best place to dance to Latin rhythms. The band starts at 10.30pm, the dance-floor show at 11pm.

Carousel , Aughtie Drive, Albert Park. Dance venue playing good acid jazz and funk.

Chasers , 386 Chapel St, South Yarra. Veteran of the Melbourne club scene, with regular focus on accessible house, retro and electronic beats, presented in the spacious main room and two snug lounges.

Club UK , 169 Exhibition St, city centre. Retro and mainstream pop and rock, with an emphasis on the UK scene.

Heat , Mercury Lounge and Odeon , Crown Casino Entertainment Complex, south of the Yarra. Clubs on level 3 of the complex, playing mainstream pop from the 1980s onwards; occasional live bands.

Ibiza , 116 Chapel St, Windsor. Dance club popular with the gay/lesbian scene. DJs play house and techno.

Lizard Lounge , The Union Hotel , 90 Chapel St, Windsor. Alternative indie club.

The Lounge , 243 Swanston St, city centre. Upstairs club with bands, films, pool, dance floor and a cool-off balcony.

The Metro , 20 Bourke St, city centre. Huge old theatre on three floors with eight bars and three dance floors, all very lavish. Enormous queue of spivved-up kids on Friday night.

Monsoon , Russell St. Upmarket club at the Grand Hyatt: daFunk Club for R&B, funk and soul.

Viper Room , 373 Chapel St, Prahran. Popular spot with Melbourne's dancing crowd.

Comedy
Melbourne is the comedy capital of Australia, home of the madcap Doug Anthony All Stars, Wogs Out of Work and comedians from TV shows such as The Big Gig and The Comedy Company . The highlight of the comedy year is the Melbourne International Comedy Festival (tel 03/9417 7711, www.comedyfestival.com.au ) in April, based at the Town Hall in Swanston Street, with performances at several other venues around town. As well as local and interstate acts, you're likely to see some of the best stand-up comedians from overseas. For irregular performances and other venues, refer to the "EG" (supplement to The Age on Fridays).

Armadale Hotel , 1068 High St, Armadale. Monday night comedy from 8.30pm.

Comedy Club , 380 Lygon St, Carlton. Slick, cabaret-style space, which features largely mainstream comedians.

The Esplanade Hotel , 11 Upper Esplanade, St Kilda. Stand-up shows each Tuesday and Sunday from 8pm.

Star & Garter Hotel , 70 Nelson Rd, South Melbourne. Comedy nights each Thursday.

Theatre
Melbourne offers a rich array of dramatic productions , from fringe to mainstream, with venues everywhere. Watch out for outdoor performances in summer, including alfresco Shakespeare and shows for children in the Royal Botanic Gardens from December until the end of February (tel 03/9650 1500 for details; credit-card bookings with Ticketmaster tel 13 6166).

Athenaeum Theatre , 188 Collins St (tel 03/9650 1500). One of numerous small Victorian theatre buildings in the city. The venue for guest performances; mainly plays and concerts.

Comedy Theatre , 240 Exhibition St (tel 03/9209 9000). Like the Athenaeum - not a comedy venue, as its name might suggest.

CUB Malthouse , 113 Sturt St, South Melbourne (tel 03/9685 5111). A renovated malthouse containing two venues: the Beckett Theatre and the larger Merlyn Theatre. The resident company is Playbox, which produces contemporary Australian plays. Guest performances include opera, dance, concerts and readings.

Her Majesty's Theatre , 219 Exhibition St, city centre (tel 03/9663 3211). Lavish musicals in a fabulously ornate old theatre.

La Mama , 205 Faraday St, Carlton (tel 03/9347 6948). Plays by new writers, as well as poetry and play readings.

Playhouse Theatre , Victorian Arts Centre, 100 St Kilda Rd (tel 03/9281 8000). Mainstream productions, mainly from the Melbourne Theatre Company.

Princess Theatre , 163 Spring St, city centre (tel 03/9299 9500). Musicals and mainstream plays make up the programme at this small but lavish old-fashioned theatre.

Regent Theatre , 191 Collins St, near City Square (tel 03/9299 9500). This lovingly restored old theatre puts on productions of big-name musicals.

Theatreworks , 14 Acland St, St Kilda (tel 03/9534 4879). Puts on ground-breaking new Australian plays.

Universal Theatre , 19 Victoria St, off Brunswick St, Fitzroy (tel 03/9419 3777). Venue for productions by smaller local theatre companies and alternative/fringe plays by overseas guests.

Classical music, opera and dance
The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra has a season from February to December based at the Melbourne Concert Hall and at the Melbourne Town Hall on Collins Street, while the State Orchestra of Victoria performs less regularly at the Concert Hall, often playing works by Australian composers. If you can't afford the ticket prices - expect to pay $40-80 for classical music performances, $60-130 for opera - listen to the Symphony Orchestra concerts broadcast on Tuesday at 7pm on Radio 3MBS (103.5FM).

George Fairfax Studio , Victorian Arts Centre, 100 St Kilda Rd (tel 03/9281 8000). Modern dance and plays.

Her Majesty's Theatre , 219 Exhibition St, city centre (tel 03/9663 3211). Occasionally hosts some of the great foreign ballet companies.

Melbourne Concert Hall , Victorian Arts Centre, 100 St Kilda Rd (tel 03/9281 8000). Big-name concerts.

State Theatre , Victorian Arts Centre, 100 St Kilda Rd (tel 03/9281 8000). Venue for the Victoria State Opera and the Australian Ballet Company.

Film
The Melbourne International Film Festival in July (tel 03/9417 2011, www.melbournefilmfestival.com.au ) has been going for over forty years and is the centrepiece of Melbourne movie life, based at a number of cinemas around Melbourne. Everyday mainstream cinemas are concentrated on Bourke Street, where discount day is usually Tuesday. The casino has a number of cinemas showing blockbuster movies; at the Gold Class Cinema you can eat a three-course dinner while you watch. In summer, watching a film under the stars at the Moonlight Cinema in the Botanic Gardens or at the Cinema at the Bowl (Sidney Myer Music Bowl) nearby can be a real treat (details from local press; bookings through Ticketmaster tel 13 6166). And there are always the independent cinemas, listed below, which tend to discount on Monday - we've indicated below where this is the case.

Astor Theatre , cnr of Chapel St and Dandenong Rd, St Kilda (tel 03/9510 1414). Classic double bills and prestige new releases in a beautiful Art Deco cinema. On Saturday night there's a pianist and singer between films.

Brighton Bay Twin Cinemas , 294 Bay St, Brighton (tel 03/9596 3590). Very comfortable setting for European and art-house films. Cheap day Monday.

Chinatown Cinema , 200 Bourke St, city centre (tel 03/9662 3465). Screens a variety of Chinese films with English subtitles.

Cinema Europa , Jam Factory, 500 Chapel St, South Yarra (tel 03/9827 2440). Opulent movie house with three small arthouse cinemas in which Australian short films precede the main event.

Cinema Nova , Lygon Court Plaza, 380 Lygon St, Carlton (tel 03/9347 5331). Art-house and European films. Come just before the show starts to avoid prolonged exposure to the awful crimson and purple bordello decor. Cheap day Monday.

Cinemedia at Treasury Theatre , 1 Macarthur Place, city centre (tel 03/9651 1515). Film-buffs cinema. Often shows Australian movies.

Classic , 9 Gordon St, off Glenhuntly Rd, Elsternwick (tel 03/9523 9739). Art-house and European films; near Elsternwick station.

Como , Gaslight Gardens, cnr of Toorak Rd and Chapel St, South Yarra (tel 03/9827 7533). Belongs to the same Palace Cinema chain as the George Cinema in St Kilda and the Brighton Bay Twin Cinemas - and shows similar films.

George Cinema , 133-137 Fitzroy St, St Kilda (tel 03/9534 6922). Has the latest releases, bordering between art-house and mainstream. Lip restaurant in the same complex is ideal for supper or an after-movie coffee.

IMAX Theatre , Melbourne Museum complex, Rathdowne St, Carlton (tel 03/9663 5454). Part of the new Melbourne Museum complex, IMAX has kitsch interiors and awesome technology, including a gigantic screen and film reels so big they require a fork-lift to move them. Shows both 2D and 3D films, usually lasting from 45min to 1hr, mostly documentaries on inaccessible places or anything involving a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Kino , 45 Collins St, city centre (tel 03/9650 2100). In the opulent Collins Place atrium, with several cafés and bars in the complex. Stylish, arty new-release films. Cheap tickets on Monday.

Longford Cinema , 59 Toorak Rd, South Yarra (tel 03/9867 2700). Exclusive release for quality films, somewhere between art-house and mainstream. Late films on Friday and Saturday. Cheap day Monday.

Lumiere , 108 Lonsdale St, city centre (tel 03/9639 1055). Art-house movies. Cheap day Monday.

Rivoli , Camberwell Rd, Camberwell Junction (tel 03/9882 1221). Shows first releases of quality films. Two theatres in an Art Deco building.

Trak Cinema , 445 Toorak Rd, Toorak (tel 03/9827 9333). Art-house and quality mainstream films, often with a focus on European work.

Westgarth Theatre , 89 High St, Northcote (tel 03/9482 2001). Art Deco period piece, decorated by the planner of Canberra, Walter Burley Griffin. Presents quality mainstream and art-house films, cult classics and late shows. Cheap day Monday.

 
 
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