Grooviest live music spots in Calgary

“Calgary’s live music scene is thriving,” says jazz singer Deanne Matley, who performs with her band many of the city’s grooviest spots. “There is a lot of opportunity throughout the city for people to see live music of all genres,” says Deanne. She points out that many of these clubs, pubs and restaurants are open to all ages and feature both daytime and evening performances that are often free of charge.

Cafe Koi

100-1011 1 St SW, Calgary, AB T2R 1J2

Cafe Koi has the best, most supportive community of musicians, listeners and artists in town. It’s a hub of coolness every day of the week. The small, downtown restaurant and club presents live jazz, classical, hip-hop and singer-songwriter performances as well as comedy, improv and spoken-word events. Koi is also known for its very good Asian-fusion menu. Cover charges vary at this all-ages venue.

Ironwood Stage & Grill (2006) Ltd

1229 9 Ave SE, Calgary, AB T2G 0S9

Ironwood Stage & Grill in the Garry Theatre building in Inglewood presents all sorts of live roots music including jazz and folk performances. Its patrons are hardcore music fans, and they have a great time. The venue has its own dedicated soundman, making gigs all the more enjoyable. I perform at Ironwood with the 20-piece Prime Time Big Band every second Saturday afternoon. Big Band Brunch is the only event of its kind in Calgary, and one swingin’ good time!

The Nash Restaurant & Off Cut Bar

925 11 St SE, Calgary, AB T2G 0R4

The Nash presents a conversation-friendly, Sunday-afternoon brunch series on its restaurant stage. Pop and jazz acts as well as singer-songwriters perform. And, one Thursday a month, The Nash’s very cool Off Cut Bar hops with the likes of swing-blues acts. Listening to live music in the gorgeously renovated National Hotel building transports patrons to another place. You feel like you’re escaping on a vibe-y vacation for a couple of hours. No cover charge.

Dickens Pub

1000 9 Ave SW, Calgary, AB T2P 2Y6

If I want to go out for a night of fun and tomfoolery, it’s Dickens. The busy, downtown club presents funk, punk, big-band, metal and indie-rock gigs as well as DJ dance nights, including ’80s-themed Hang the DJ. Featuring a stage and dance floor, Dickens patrons can hang out in its cozy lounge area and its library room. Distractions include pool, darts and VLTs. It’s unpretentious, and people are there to do their own thing, whatever that is. I recommend ordering the nachos.

Bears Den

254028 Bearspaw Rd, Calgary, AB T3L 2P7

Just outside Calgary on your way to Cochrane, the upscale Bears Den is like a giant, warm castle. Catch a different band every weekend in the lounge. It’s incredibly beautiful and well decorated, and has great food and a big fireplace. It’s very romantic. Friday and Saturday nights feature live music and dancing. Ask about the date-night, dinner-and-music package. No cover charge.

Lobby Lounge

5490 Blackfoot Trail SE, Calgary, AB T2H 2B5

Hotel Blackfoot Lobby Lounge is a live-music gem located on Blackfoot Trail Southeast. The large-windowed room features a live solo pianist on weeknights with the addition of a vocalist on Thursdays. One Thursday a month, a jazz quartet is featured. You can hang out and have a cocktail and order food, take a deep breath and let go of your day. No cover charge.

Bitter Sisters Brewing

510 Héritage Dr Sw, Calgary, AB T2V 2W2

An East Coast bar and eatery, Atlantic Trap & Gill has a contagious party vibe. The clubby Southeast spot presents an acoustic open-mic evening on Thursdays and live Celtic and East Coast bands on the weekends. The food is good and the service is friendly. You’re going to sing along and tap your toes, dance and party. You’ll end up saying, “I don’t want this night to end!” It features a modest cover charge.

Mikey's Juke Joint & Eatery

1901 10 Ave SW, Calgary, AB T3C 0K3

A homey, live-music spot on the western outskirts of downtown Calgary, Mikey’s Juke Joint is owned and operated by sax player Mike Clarke. It jumps seven nights a week and draws a dedicated crowd of regulars. Mikey’s presents blues, old-school country and folk performers as well as singer-songwriters. Regular MC-performers include Tim Williams, Tom Phillips and Steve Pineo, and the Mike Clark Band hosts the Saturday afternoon jam. You’re going to see world-class musicians on a regular basis at Mikey’s. Cover charges vary.

Bookers BBQ Grill & Crabshack

316 3rd St SE, Calgary, AB T2G 2S4

On the east side of Chinatown, Bookers BBQ & Crab Shack is a cool place to party with classic rock, soul and R&B acts while pigging out on Southern barbecue cuisine. Show up for a meal anytime Friday or Saturday evenings and enjoy the music from 10 pm on. You can also just show up at 10 to dance and get your party on. No cover charge.

Jazz singer Deanne Matley knows a thing or two about dressing up for an evening on the town. Whether it’s cocktails and conversation, dinner and live music or you’re attending a special event, Deanne recommends visiting the following fashion boutiques and clothing consultants when you need just the right outfit for a superbly styled night out.
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