The atmospheric world of Canada’s live music scene
A surefire way to connect with a city is by immersing yourself in its arts scene and visiting the venues and hotspots where locals flock. According to Booking.com, the global leader in connecting travellers with the widest choices of incredible places to stay, when it comes to a stylish stay, 27% of Canadian travellers want to be near entertainment. If this percentage includes you, we have a list of some of the country’s most historic show venues along with nearby recommendations for places to stay.
Canada has produced numerous world famous musical artists, including Arcade Fire, Joni Mitchell, Celine Dion and of course, hip hop and pop culture juggernaut, Drake. If you’ll be in Toronto, Montreal, or Vancouver this spring, check out some of these iconic spots where countless artists have cut their teeth in performing before they hit the global stage.
Foufounes Éléctriques, Montréal
In Montréal, it seems that no institution helps define the city’s live music fabric more than the playfully named Foufounes Éléctriques. It has long been repurposed into different artistic functions. Having opened as an art gallery, it evolved into a hybrid space where artists came to perform in its grungy, art-covered chambers. Nirvana and Green Day were just a few of the names that helped carve out its reputation for punk and new wave music. Nowadays, it plays host to a roster of weekly music nights showcasing a range of genres, so it’s as much a place to head to on a night out as it is to catch a gig.
Admire its brash, tiki-inspired exterior before you venture inside. And when you finally resurface, wander back to this airy apartment, perfect for the 22% of Canadian travellers planning to stay in an apartment in 2019, and set within Montreal UQAM and near the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver
Stately ballrooms have long littered the pages of musical history and the Commodore Ballroom is no exception. Built in 1929 by George Conrad Reifel at the behest of his wife, the then Commodore Cafe opened on Granville Street. Enduring multiple closures, $1 dollar-ticketing schemes (to keep people coming) and a string of owners, the Commodore Ballroom is still going strong one hundred years later. Stars like Tina Turner and David Bowie have all graced its stage, an intimate space of teak flooring, ornate columns and art deco detail, and it even served as the venue for The Clash’s North American debut. These days, it’s an award-winning, historic venue that plays host to a variety of musical genres. Stop by on a visit to the city and revel in its sublime acoustics. The opulent Wedgewood Hotel & Spa is right next door.
Danforth Music Hall, Toronto
Originally a movie theatre dubbed ‘Allen’s Danforth’, Danforth Music Hall is now an essential stop on the Toronto gig circuit. Located on Bloor Street East, it began featuring live acts in the 1970s and has since garnered a reputation as the place to catch any touring artists and bands. With its 1,500 capacity, flocks of avid fans cram themselves into the hall to see artists spanning from Lorde to St. Vincent. The space caters to those in search of space and comfort, rather than bombastic decor – which leaves all the more room to really appreciate the music on offer. Call it a night at this quiet, downtown luxury Victorian retreat near Ryerson University.
Formerly known as La Métropolis, MTELUS has seen its fair share of change over the years. Opened in 1884, it has dabbled in being a movie theatre, a skating rink, a playhouse, a disco and an adult theatre, until it finally settled on its most successful venture yet – a live music venue with a 2,000-capacity, that regularly features on global best venue lists. The likes of Beck, Coldplay and Québécois singer-songwriter, Jean Leloup (who incidentally has played more concerts here than any other artist), have all graced its stage – expect a good mix of local and international musicians making an appearance here. It’s also a great place to catch the renowned Montréal International Jazz Festival, which uses this as one of the many venues to showcase its selection of artists. Later on, admire the skyline views from the Boxotel, an the eco-friendly boutique hotel in the heart of Montreal’s Quartier des Spectacles.
Massey Hall, Toronto
Arguably the quintessential Toronto music venue, Massey Hall is a grand, cavernous space. Originating from one man’s desire to create a venue where Canadians of all backgrounds could meet to enjoy non-religious, choral music, Massey Hall has transformed into a venue that has now earned the status of a National Historic Site of Canada. On the outside, the building features neoclassical design with industrial features, while the interior’s swooping Moorish arches curl around the auditorium, inspired by the infamous Alhambra palace in Spain. It’s a spectacular setting with equally impressive acoustics, and many artists have used the venue as a recording studio for live albums. The hall has often been the site of seminal concerts for a variety of artists, from Bob Dylan to Neil Young who – when performing here – said ‘don’t let them change this place’. Currently undergoing an extensive renovation, it’s reopening its doors in 2020. When you do pay a visit, head home to The Drake Hotel afterwards and its achingly modish, on-site bar, Drake Underground.