Every band might say it in every city, but in Montréal it’s true: we’ve got the best audiences, not just on Friday and Saturday nights but every night of the week. Going to a live music show here is a glimpse at life as a Montrealer: enthusiastic applause, appreciative hooting and plenty of dancing are pretty much the norm, whether at a small venue or the Bell Centre.
Since the 1920s, Montréal has been a musical mecca and nightlife destination, welcoming prohibition-era Americans to burlesque and jazz clubs that evolved into rock venues and dance clubs as the century wore on. Today, massive outdoor summer festival Osheaga, the electronic eclecticism of MUTEK and the indie-rock and hip hop of POP Montreal showcase not only touring bands but local musical geniuses, while throughout the year you can see live music at the following venues dedicated to brilliant music and quality sound.
Théâtre Corona, Cabaret La Tulipe (4530 Papineau) and Le National (1220 Ste-Catherine E.): Among several venues that were at one time glitzy theatres, these three stand out for maintaining their theatrical charm – you can even go relax up in the balcony – while welcoming some of the latest and greatest indie-rock bands to their large stages.
Metropolis (59 Ste-Catherine E.) and Club Soda (1225 St-Laurent): These two big music venues set almost next door to each other in the Quartier des Spectacles, near the corner of St-Laurent and Ste-Catherine, regularly sell out concerts by the hottest acts in pop, rock, metal and hip hop, yet they’ll also open their doors to local acts of all stripes, especially during the Montréal International Jazz Festival and winter all-nighter Nuit Blanche.
Théâtre Fairmount (5240 du Parc): Though this venue is far from small, its wide layout and open stage let audiences get close to the band, providing an intimate concert-going experience even when surrounded by a few hundred people. Located in the heart of the Mile End neighbourhood (and above one of the area’s best grocery stores), Théâtre Fairmount regularly hosts well-known rock bands, world music, hip hop, electronic and more.
House of Jazz (2060 Aylmer), Upstairs Jazz Bar & Grill (1254 Mackay) and Le Balcon (463 Ste-Catherine W.): These downtown jazz, blues and soul institutions host live music almost every night and serve up a mean meal too. Chandeliers, a softly lit lamp on every table and photos of jazz legends on the walls give House of Jazz a ‘20s Parisian atmosphere, while Upstairs recalls once-smokey dark basement clubs where the greats play – depending on the night and the show, both venues can range from casual to glam. In a historic location, decked out in red curtains and with a menu inspired by Mediterranean, Spanish and Portuguese cuisine, cabaret music hall Le Balcon adds steamy flamenco and hot classic rock nights to its Thursday to Saturday show calendar.
La Sala Rossa, Casa del Popolo and La Vitrola (4848, 4873 and 4602 St-Laurent): Started by Montréal musicians in the 1990s, the now famous Casa del Popolo grew to include La Sala Rossa across the street and most recently La Vitrola – together, this trio is responsible for showcasing internationally touring bands as well as local artists before and after they get big. It also doesn’t hurt that Casa serves great vegetarian bar grub and Sala boasts an affordable Spanish tapas restaurant downstairs.
Bar Le Ritz P.D.B. (179 Jean-Talon W.): If you’re looking for known entities in heavy psych-rock, alt-folk-country innovation or dark-wave electro – and a few sounds in between and outsider – this is your place. Located in the Mile Ex neighbourhood, this recently renovated venue (once known as Il Motore) is both a local watering hole – try the microbrews and cocktail specials – and a great show space, also hosting weekly dance parties, karaoke nights and film screenings.