I’ve been in Melbourne for the last six and a half years checking out the nightlife down south after well and truly getting over Sydney after the Olympics. I was amazed to learn that liquor licences in the Melbourne CBD alone number in the thousands -“ and the sheer majority are very tasteful. A new licence is issued in the inner city almost every day.

An institution for Fitzroyalty, the trendy kids who live and shop around Fitzroy, is Bimbo Deluxe in Brunswick St. Replacing former rock venue the Punters Club, which closed in the early noughties, Bimbo’s draws in the discerning student market with its $4 pizzas, orange lamps, retro furniture, eclectic paraphernalia and cool music.

Out with a Melburnian friend last weekend, I realised that we have somewhere just like Bimbo’s right here in Sydney -“ and maybe it’s even better. The Cricketer’s Arms in Surry Hills is a great place, where the music can go from heavy metal one minute to hip hop the next, and the crowd will just groove along. A TV and bogan-free zone (and mind you, this was the night that the soccer was on just up the road), there’s heaps to enjoy about the Cricketer’s, from the cute six-beers boys to the amazingly over-graffitied toilet walls and the beer garden.

In a city of plasma screens and tacky silver chairs, venues like the Cricketer’s Arms and the Hollywood Hotel, where we ended up later, should be worshipped. In Melbourne in 2004, thousands of St Kilda residents got together to fight a developer’s plans to homogenise the Esplanade Hotel out of existence to satisfy their chic new apartment plans for next door. Well, the apartment went up and the new residents moved in, but they had to live with a real live rock venue next door because the Espy, as it’s known, was granted official protection. In Sydney, where the shutdown of the Albury came with the dangling-carrot promise of a replacement bar upstairs, which never eventuated, we need to be more active in patronising and protecting what music history we have left.

The Oxford Art Factory has done a marvellous job of recreating the space that used to be the Central Station record store on Oxford St. Scissor Sisters’ tour DJ Sammy Jo played there last Saturday night after playing at the opening night of Brisbane’s Gay and Lesbian Film Festival the night before. Still jetlagged from the flight in from NYC, Sammy Jo played a multi-style set with a serious disco bent. The crowd was blown away by the polished performance of Melbourne’s Blow Waves and our own Dallas Dellaforce, and the partygoers didn’t mind missing the Eurovision semis at all. Sammy Jo stays on in Sydney till the end of the week, so watch out for him on the town test-driving the local beers.

This weekend Manacle opens at the Clarence Hotel in Petersham on Friday, while on Saturday Ooh La La shimmies into Gilligans; Feisty’s new venture Go Underground is at the Phoenix; and new monthly party Back 2 Basics at the Flinders will ensure all of us with a bit of taste for old school house/rave get our fix. Dorothy’s Dance Camp featuring a special guest from NYC (gee, wonder who that could be!) will be at the Oxford Arse Factory on Saturday night and is free, free as a bird.

The Queen’s Birthday long weekend is just a week away, so get your party favours sorted and watch out for a full line-up of events right here next week.

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