Where to hear live music in Montréal
This article was updated on March 7, 2019.
There's nothing like live music in Montréal, any time of the year, at an outdoor festival or an intimate venue. 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, the city is home to massive summer festivals Osheaga and the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, the electronic eclecticism of MUTEK, the global diversity of Mundial Montreal and Festival International Nuits d'Afrique, and the indie-rock and hip hop of POP Montreal International Music Festival, showcasing not only touring bands but local musical geniuses. And no matter what time of year you can see live music at the following venues dedicated to brilliant music and quality sound.
Corona Theatre, La Tulipe and Le National: 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.
MTELUS and Club Soda: These two big music venues set almost next door to each other in the Quartier des spectacles, near the corner of Saint-Laurent Boulevard and Sainte-Catherine Street, 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 Festival International de Jazz de Montréal and winter all-nighter Nuit blanche à Montréal.
Théâtre Fairmount and Le Ministère: Though Théâtre Fairmount 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. You'll recognize nearby Le Ministère by its imposing concrete columns on Saint-Laurent Boulevard, but indoors it's all up-to-date and ready to indie-rock.
House of Jazz, Upstairs Jazz Bar & Grill and Balcon Cabaret Music-Hall: 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-smoky 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 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: Started by Montréal musicians in the 1990s, the now infamous 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.
Ritz P.D.B. and l'Escogriffe Bar Spectacle: 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 outside – these are your places. Located in the Mile-Ex neighbourhood and the Plateau respectively, these renovated venues are both local watering holes – try the microbrews and cocktail specials – and great show spaces, also hosting dance parties, karaoke nights and film screenings.
Find even more live music in Montréal at these 10 great places to see indie bands, the city's best jazz and blues clubs and in our guide to electronic music in Montréal and guide to Montréal's independent music scene. And if you want to bring the music home with you, go record shopping at Montréal's excellent vinyl stores. It's time to get your nightlife on in Montréal!
Robyn Fadden, blogger
Robyn Fadden is a Montréal-based writer and editor who searches out city secrets, new bands, life-changing art and things to do with her perpetually active kid. Robyn has covered major events for HOUR, MUTEK, ARTINFO, CKUT 90.3FM and more.