Montreal has been a musical mecca since the 1920s, when its famed burlesque and jazz clubs offered audiences something that couldn’t be found anywhere else. Given that this coincided with U.S. prohibition, that “something” may in large part have been “booze”. But the cities’ attachment to live music has never waned and its jazz scene eventually begat the Montreal International Jazz Festival, the largest of its kind in the world.
Fast-forward to the present and, internationally, the city has become known for its electronic music (Mutek is the local fest devoted to the genre) and an indie music scene that has delivered Arcade Fire, Wolf Parade, Malajube and more to the world’s ears. Many of which have played Pop Montreal, the indie fest that has expanded to include a bit of everything. Again the city itself plays some role in this phenomenon: low rent attracts musicians and artists from all over, and the creative bonhomie keeps them here and collaborating. Or maybe it’s just all the attractive women. Montreal is a city that likes to go out, to eat, drink, see and be seen, so you could do worse than wandering around without a plan. But if you’re looking for live music, here are a couple highlights that your ears won’t want to miss…
Sala Rosa (4848 boulevard Saint-Laurent): Started by Montreal musicians, Sala Rossa is one of Montreal’s great live music venues- a comfortable, mid-sized venue that showcases a lot of local bands before and after they get big. Also doesn’t hurt that there’s a great Spanish Tapas restaurant downstairs.
Cabaret La Tulipe (4530 Avenue Papineau): Montreal has several venues that were at one time old theatres (Rialto, Theatre Plaza), but La Tulipe is a personal favorite. Have seen everyone from MIA to Animal Collective in this beautiful space.
Upstairs Jazz Bar & Grill (1254 Rue Mackay): Despite its misleading name, Upstairs is a dark (no longer smoky) basement club that is one of Montreal’s jazz institutions. Cheap cover and a mix of local and international musicians, the spot is jumping 365 days a year.
Le Divan Orange (4234 Boulevard Saint-Laurent): A co-up run, nice and relaxed spot on St-Laurent (known locally as “The Main”) that boasts both bands and an audience that are equal parts French and English.
L’Escogriffe Café Bar (4467 Rue St-Denis): Small, and about as unpretentious as they come, L’Esco was a once a jazz club and now brings in punk and garage bands and a corresponding audience. Don’t order a Cosmo here.
This article was originally published (along with a very cool map) on the great travel site Gridskipper.