12 unique places to catch live music in Vancouver

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      Sure, stadium shows and dedicated music bars have a special place in our hearts, but there are hidden gems that also highlight Vancouver’s thriving music scene. For the musically adventurous, there are concert series in which you won’t be given directions to the venue until just a day before the show starts—and for those who want to bask in the glory of the city’s musical eras past, you can find a little-known but historic bar and take a seat in a booth where Sammy Davis Jr. once parked his behind. 

      From intimate bars to historic churches and theatres, here are 12 unique Vancouver options for live music any day of the week.

      Red Gate

      The Red Gate Arts Society hosts shows at two different venues: at The Red Gate, their haunt in Mount Pleasant, and also Granville Island’s Revue Stage Theatre, which they’ve managed since 2017 (located across the lane from the Arts Club Theatre and the Backstage Lounge). Find truly independent and underground acts and all-ages shows here. Upcoming bills include Cheap Flavor with Wack and The Hausplants, and Scarlet Fever with Muppet Boys, Blind Spot, and Princess Avenue.

      1965 Main Street (The Red Gate)
      1601 Johnston Street (Revue Stage Theatre)

      Guilt & Co.

      This intimate underground venue beneath the Local in Gastown is a dark and cozy space that serves up cocktails, small plates, and live music. The cellar-style haunt gives the ambiance that you’re in a rogue, Indiana Jones-esque cantina with access to the most exclusive—if not nefarious—culture in town. For a taste of what you might find here, consider acoustic string ensemble Van Django, who took the stage with its brand of “1930s gypsy jazz.”

      1 Alexander Street, underground

      2nd Floor Gastown

      The 2nd Floor Gastown, situated above the Water Street Cafe, is a seven-days-a-week live music venue. Established by Water Street Cafe’s owners in 2019, the tucked-away venue has quickly become a staple in the city’s music scene—especially for jazz and blues lovers. The spot serves up drinks and brunch, giving music lovers lots to enjoy as they feast on the musical prowess of local acts daily. The 2nd Floor Gastown is especially buzzy during the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, as it’s a go-to venue for the annual event. 

      300 Water Street

      Tyrant Studios 

      This off-the-beaten track venue is intimate, cozy, and steeped in history—but perhaps it’s more notorious than famous. Currently operated by the Seven Tyrants Theatre Society, the venue offers theatre, standup comedy, and live music on a stage once visited by Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Duke Ellington, and Billie Holiday—to name a few. One might get hung up at the Penthouse Nightclub on your way up to the venue, as it sits above the legendary downtown strip joint.

      1019 Seymour Street

      The Heatley

      Burgers, wings, and a side of live music? We’re in! The Heatley is an authentic East Hastings hub for grub, drinks, and live performances. From bluegrass brunches to indie-Americana evenings, The Heatley offers up a cozy space to listen to local bands while sipping on a classic cocktail or craft beer. 

      696 East Hastings Street

      Rogue Folk Club

      Talk about a legacy promoter! The Rogue Folk Club has been putting on Celtic, folk, and roots shows since 1987, inviting local and global musical outfits to play intimate shows, many of them at the Mel Lehan Hall at St James Community Square. Here you’ll find enduring folk acts from all over the world in a cozy setting that invites a sense of community. With nearly four decades in the game, you could certainly say the Rogue Folk Club has put its roots down.

      3214 West 10th Avenue

      Frankie’s Jazz Club

      Located downtown, Frankie’s fills the void left by the now-closed Jazz Cellar, emerging as Vancouver’s main hub for live jazz and blues. As it partners with the Coastal Jazz and Blues Society, Frankie’s is often a showcase of local talent and international jazz outfits. It’s located across the street from BC Place, providing a stark contrast to the sports clientele—but they don’t discriminate. You could definitely wind down from a frenzied sporting event—face-paint, foam fingers, et al—for a drink and a show (as long as it takes place Thursday through Sunday).

      755 Beatty Street

      The Ironworks Performance Room

      A cavernous interior characterized by fir beams, wood-plank floors, and 16-foot ceilings creates a unique vibe for The Ironworks Performance Room (and that’s also why it’s the backdrop for many film and TV productions). Jazz, blues, and experimental shows can be caught here when the time is right—but you’ll have to keep an eye on listings, as the space doesn’t host shows on a regular basis.

      235 Alexander Street

      SOFAR Sounds

      The SOFAR Sounds experience is one for the musical adventurers. An abbreviation for “songs from a room,” this concert series brings together new live acts in specific themes—Black History Month, or country night, for example—at undisclosed spaces. Both the acts and the venues are revealed just 36 hours in advance, lending to the exploration of our local music scene in an intimate, one-of-a-kind concert experience.

      Various venues

      Candlelight Concerts

      This is an experience like no other: live musical performances take place in the flickering glow of thousands of candles in multiple cities across the country. In Vancouver, that venue most often happens to be the Kerrisdale Presbyterian Church, where upcoming tribute shows include the Beatles, Taylor Swift, and Queen, played by classical string quartets.

      2733 West 41st Avenue

      The Painted Ship

      A fresh addition to Kitsilano is this forward-thinking restaurant and live music bar that pays homage to the neighbourhood’s rich cultural history—specifically the ‘60s and ‘70s musical heydays, when bands like the Painted Ship ruled. The restaurant kicks up the nostalgia with psychedelic paint patterns, providing a backdrop in which you can take in live music while enjoying killer cocktails and authentic Mexican eats.

      2884 West Broadway

      The MOTN

      Part comedy club, part tattoo studio, part live music venue, this adventurous space in Railtown is operated by a crew of enterprising twenty-somethings—so you know they’re on the pulse of all that’s fresh in the city. You wouldn’t think to look for live music here—as you’d really have to know what’s behind a rather nondescript black door and opaque window coverings—but once you do, you’re opened to a world of exclusive live music with major cultural cache. 

      1826 Triumph Street