Yee-haw: country culture in Montréal
by Alexandra Gauthier
While perhaps it isn’t the first thing you would associate with this city, country music has its place in many Montréal hearts… and a few of its establishments, if you know where to find them. Montréal’s love of country runs deep, with its many stages hosting acts that range from open-mic-local to superstar-international. From honky-tonk to bluegrass, we’ve got you covered. So go ahead and get yourself in the spirit for some homegrown tunes about blue jeans, dirt roads, and an enduring love for that sweetheart who got away.
Montréal Folk Festival on the Canal
When the Montreal Folk Festival on the Canal was born in 2008, it was a one-day event that drew approximately 500 folk faithful. The event was such a hit, with its picturesque park placement alongside Montréal’s historic Lachine Canal, that it now draws close to 10,000 for five days of folk, roots and bluegrass featuring both emerging artists and folk royalty. This year’s fest takes place annually in June.
Bluegrass & Country Night at Barfly
Running since 1997, Bluegrass & Country Sunday nights at Saint-Laurent watering hole Barfly is a longstanding favourite to all who discover it. Live bands take the stage at this staple on the Main and offer up a few hours of Appalachian realness amid a bar covered in Montréal Canadiens memorabilia. Expect banjos, acoustic guitars, fiddles, Dobros, standing bass (and maybe a harmonica or two) at this thumpin’, jumpin’, bumpin’ hootenanny that’s sure to please. – 4062 Saint-Laurent Boulevard
Montréal Country Music Festival
Annually in August, Place Émilie-Gamelin, outside of Berri-UQAM Métro, plays host to a three-day music festival dedicated to Québécois-brand country. The festival boasts performances on one main stage with three additional marquees. In addition to the music, craftspeople and exhibitors showcase their wares alongside designated spaces for country and folk-style dancing. Entrance is free, so mosey on down, and join the jamboree! For this year's line up, click here.
The Wheel Club
We’d recommend busting out the tooled and pointed boots for this one. Every Monday night the typically members-only Wheel Club opens its doors to the public, free of charge, for the open-mic Hillbilly Jam. Dedicated to serving up old-timey country and bluegrass by local musicians, the Hillbilly Jam has been ongoing for more than 50 years. Think more Hank Williams Senior than Junior on this stage—although Your Cheatin’ Heart could make it through on a technicality—all songs performed at the Wheel must have been originally recorded before 1965. A well-known Montréal institution, the Wheel is a real treat of a venue for drinks, some snacks, and truly amazing music straight out of another time. – 3373 Cavendish Boulevard
Club Bolo is country and western club with a focus on dancing. Located in the heart of Montréal’s Gay Village, Bolo is open to both members and the public on Friday nights. The evening kicks off at 7:30 p.m. with an hour and a half long lesson on some steps, followed by an open dance floor starting at 9 p.m. A full night including the lesson costs $10 for non-members, and $7 if you arrive after the course. Running since 1994, Bolo has built a warm community of barn dance enthusiasts from all walks of life, and is a proud member of The International Association of Gay/Lesbian Country Western Dance Clubs. – 2093 De la Visitation Street
If country music isn’t really your thing but you’re still interested in a shindig, consider checking out the Mile End neighbourhood for Chez Serge—a sports bar styled like a Hollywood saloon-meets-bordello, complete with a mechanical bull. Gather some courage (maybe with one of their $20 cocktails sold in a beach bucket) and ride ’em, cowboy! You can always develop a taste for the style on your own time by tuning in to Montréal’s new country music station KIC 89.9 FM. – 5301 Saint-Laurent Boulevard
Venturing a little further west is Macallan Pub in Dorval, which hosts a monthly Country Night. Macallan’s delivers more contemporary country, with live bands and DJs offering up a modern hillbilly hoedown. Although a costume isn’t mandatory, prizes are offered for best cowboy attire. Learn some simple line dance steps before you go to really get the party started. – 212 Dorval Avenue (Dorval)
Get a Little Country at NomadFest
NomadFest brings all things country to the heart of Montréal. From August 24 to 27, join hundreds of cowgirls and cowboys in a 500-seat arena on Quai Jacques-Cartier in the Old Port, the central gathering space for this celebration of country traditions. You’ll find it all here, from four rodeos organized by the experts behind the Festival Western de Saint-Tite (please note there’s also a bull-riding event) to line dancing demos and more.
Alexandra Gauthier is a young Montrealer who loves to eat, drink and be merry with friends in neighbourhoods all over the city.
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