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Exploring Melbourne’s laneways

Tracy Pham

Wed Feb 05 2014

bennetts lane

THERE is something about winding your way through back alleys and laneways that can make an adventure out of even the quietest of catch ups. Tracy Pham shares her favourite laneway hideaways. 

Melbourne has more than 180 tiny lanes and streets. Take Meyers Place, the city’s nightlife hub, which has everything from stylish cocktail bars to a 1920s-style speak easy. Or ACDC Lane, where you can soak up local rock ‘n’ roll history.

Then there are Bennetts Lane, Manchester Lane and Goldie Place – all home to intimate live jazz venues that any international student keen on underground music and sweet tunes can’t miss.

At these top three venues, it’s not all about the entertainment. Spend a Friday, Saturday or Sunday night here and you’ll soak up a slice of Melbourne night life, meet some locals and try some amazing cocktails.

1. Bennetts Lane Jazz Club

Rated as one of the best jazz clubs in the world, Bennett’s Lane Jazz Club is hidden away in an alley off La Trobe Street.

Bennetts Lane hosts 450 gigs a year in both the intimate Jazz Club and the larger Jazz Lab. Harry Connick Jr. and Wynton Marsalis have graced the stage and Prince played a secret gig here in 2003 and again in 2012.This place is a hidden gem.

Music is the star at Bennett’s Lane Jazz Club with showcases from established and emerging jazz groups from across Australia. Sip on cocktails to the sweet sound of melodic tunes and who knows? You could be listening to the next Stevie Wonder.

2. Cherry Bar

ACDC Lane is the only lane in Australia dedicated to a rock band. But you don’t have to love ACDC to enjoy Cherry Bar.

Set up in 1999 as one of Melbourne’s first rock bars, it still holds that mantle a full decade later. The attitude’s grungy and loud. The music at Cherry is open to variation, with anything from rock ‘n’ roll to retro and alternative.

The bar offers mostly beers, (both international and local), as well as basic spirits. The dress code is chilled and laid back, jeans and a t-shirt are all you need.

3. Paris Cat Jazz Club

The Paris Cat is Melbourne newest and most exclusive jazz club. The venue is inspired by the 1930s French jazz scene.

When I visited the cosy bar, everyone listened to every note and people seem to be intent on having a jolly good time. I just loved the decor and relaxed informal setup. Getting close and personal with the performers was also a real treat.

My tip is to arrive early to secure a seat, otherwise you’ll have to stand. The same applies to Bennetts Lane Jazz Club, my favorite jazz venue. They have a good range of drinks and the staff are great, but they can get busy.

Jazz is one of those rare mediums that transcends language as the music tells its own story and expresses a gamut of emotions through rhythm and melody.  So make sure you take a laneway journey through this wonderful city and call in for some cool jazz.