ARTS AND CULTURE
Five Montreal Spots for the Live Music Lover
Jazz or punk? Bluegrass or Indie? Montreal has live music bars for all tastes.
With festivals showcasing indie-rock, reggae, heavy metal, electronic music, chamber music, folk guitar, and of course, jazz, odds of hitting some kind of a world-class music festival are pretty good, regardless of when you land in Montréal. Even in January, musicians brave the cold for Igloofest, probably the world’s coldest outdoor music festival. Should your visit fall through the cracks, however, here are some bars at which to catch the bands when they’re not on the festival stage.
Montréal’s quintessential elegant jazz club, Upstairs Jazz has played host to local greats and visiting headliners and during the festival becomes the de facto clubhouse for the world jazz scene. It’s become the gold standard of the city because of its stellar acoustics, fanatically devoted management and bookers, and its classic, intimate setting. It also offers a more-than-decent selection of cocktails, wine, and beer to accompany an excellent tapas menu or, if you wish, you can opt for the full dinner and a show.
1254 Rue MacKay, 514-931-6808
Casa del Popolo/La Sala Rossa
Occasionally compared to New York’s CBGB’s, Casa del Popolo (The House of the People) and its slightly larger, sister venue, La Sala Rossa across the street, are the stuff of which indie rock fans dreams are made. The Casa offers a small café menu of eclectic vegetarian snacks while La Sala houses a full-on restaurant with an excellent selection of Spanish-inspired meat, fish entrees, a range of paellas, and its perennially popular pitchers of sangria. On Thursdays, dine and drink to the sounds of live flamenco music.
4873 Boul St-Laurent/4848 Boul St-Laurent, 514-284-3804
The mood at Grumpy’s is actually anything but, given the convivial atmosphere and jovial staff at this cavernous yet cozy spot located in the lower level of a heritage building in Ville Marie. Even when the seemingly endless jam sessions and open mic events aren’t underway, the super-friendly regulars and staff keep the party going, making it the perfect place for a solo traveler to stop by and meet a whole new group of friends. Thursday night’s Moonshine Bluegrass jam is probably the highlight of the week, but with jazz night, trivia night, and 80s retro events, the party pretty well never stops at this downtown bar with the real neighbourhood feel.
1242 Rue Bishop, 514-866-9010
If you want to know what the kids are going to be listening to in a few years, check out tonight’s act at Divan Orange, a music venue in the Plateau that ventures into music lab territory. The scene is avant-garde and experimental, so it’s more suitable for those with adventurous tastes than to those who just want to catch a blues jam. First-rate snacks and local beers are available for those who want to hang out at the rustic bar but most people will find themselves gravitating to the dance floor pretty quickly and forgetting all about the comfy orange couches that got them in the door in the first place.
4234 Boulevard St-Laurent, 514-840-9090
Les Deux Pierrots
The crowd can get downright raucous singing along to old favourites at Les Deux Pierrots, a large cabaret right in Old Montréal. With its emphasis on Francophone bands, this institution offers a wonderful introduction to the lively Quebecois music culture, which really gets cranked up late at night. Solid pub food, including pizza, wraps, and a decadent poutine is available for those wanting something to soak up all the attractively-priced beer (when on special), all of which can be enjoyed in the cozy bar or, in summer months, on the pretty little terrace.
104 Rue Saint Paul E, 514-861-1270
This article was originally published on July 20, 2015