Internationally acclaimed, Montréal indie music artists like Arcade Fire, Grimes, Patrick Watson, The Dears, Wolf Parade, Plants and Animals, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Half Moon Run, for example, all had to start out somewhere. And fortunately for bands and fans alike, Montréal has a veritable treasure of venues catering to the city’s thriving independent music scene. The following are, in no particular order, 10 of the great places to see indie bands in Montréal.
La Sala Rossa (4848 St. Laurent Blvd.) With its Spanish-community-hall-meets-high-school-prom-type vibe, Sala Rossa is without a doubt unique. And also without a doubt one of the best, and most beloved, indie venues in the city. The high stage affords good sightlines, the back bar keeps the focus on the action up front and anyone of note in Montréal’s music scene will have graced its stage at least once.
Casa Del Popolo (4873 St. Laurent Blvd.) Directly across the street from sister venue Sala Rossa, Casa Del Popolo (founded by Godspeed You! Black Emperor bassist Mauro Pezzente and wife Kiva Stimac) was where Arcade Fire first started drafting their army of fans. A cozy café/bar side complements the always-busy showroom, and the leafy rear terrasse is a summer night’s dream.
Bar Le Ritz PDB (179 Jean-Talon W.) Albeit slightly off the beaten path a short bus ride up St. Laurent Blvd., this freshly renovated space (formerly Il Motore) is a favourite with local indie music fans, due in no small part to the fact that the club’s management also happens to be indie music promotion machine Blue Skies Turn Black.
Divan Orange (4234 St. Laurent Blvd.) The cooperative-run Divan Orange is a quintessential indie club pub in the heart of Plateau Mont-Royal. A Pop Montreal pillar, Divan Orange exemplifies the notion that punk is a way of thinking, not dressing. Patrick Watson, Fleet Foxes and Hey Rosetta! are among the many who’ve played here.
Café Campus/Petit Campus (57 Prince-Arthur E.) Also cooperative run, the two-room Café Campus (600 capacity) and Petit Campus (300 capacity) complex is a Montréal live show institution situated on the Prince Arthur pedestrian-only mall of restaurants and outdoor terrasses. The two-tier big room affords concertgoers excellent proximity while the smaller downstairs room can make even less populous gatherings feel like a party.
Fairmount Theatre (5240 Parc Ave.) For many years known as Club Soda, the newly and massively renovated, 450-capacity Fairmount Theatre in Mile End has arguably the best sightlines in the city courtesy of a protruding stage that offers audience access on three sides. It made seeing artists like Oasis, Rufus Wainwright and Fine Young Cannibals there utterly unforgettable.
L’Escogriffe (4467 St. Denis St.) What the brick-walled basement show bar lacks in size it more than makes up in attitude, with a lively list of bands that have laid waste to the place (earplugs are almost always a must here). It takes virtually no effort to fire up a party at L’Esco, and its St. Denis Street terrasse is primo people watching real estate.
O Patro Vys (356 Mont-Royal E.) Situated directly atop the very popular Plateau Mont-Royal bar Bily Kun, and run by the same folks, the multi-purpose O Patro Vys (Czech for “The next level”) space is designed specifically for small-scale indie acts and artists and has thus become a mainstay on the local scene. That it also benefits from Bily Kun’s brilliant beer selection doesn’t hurt either.
Quai des Brumes (4481 St. Denis) This intimate venue boasts shows every night of the week. Though the “storefront” stage is postage-stamp-type small, it’s also high, affording clean views of performers. The room’s the charm though, with its warm wood panelling, molded roof and inviting stained glass lighting.
And last, though by no means least…
Les Foufounes Électriques (87 Ste. Catherine St. E.) Probably Montréal’s most famous and storied live concert venue, Foufounes Électriques (or, roughly translated, “The Electric Buttcheeks”) has played host to everyone from The Damned to Green Day, and from Smashing Pumpkins to Nirvana. Its industrial/punk architecture and décor is unparalleled in Montréal and it’s considered home by all walks and all ages.