A night of live music in Edmonton

by Gene Kosowan

For some reason, outsiders to the Alberta capital always think that Edmontonians have been culturally weaned on little more than country or classic rock. But when it comes to live music in this city, no genre goes untouched. Whether you want to check out the ferocity of some mighty Fender axe-wielding, fancy fiddling, sizzling sax or some serious down-home descants, there’s at least one spot around to suit your tastes. [Image credit: iStock.com/Cloud-Mine-Amsterdam]

A night of live music in Edmonton

The Almanac

This Whyte Avenue gastro pub that puts a French accent on its menu items also likes to ensure its goodies and ales go down nicely with great music. Onstage, the attractions aim for the pop and roots genres, although the odd alternative rocker has been booked there.

Arcadia Bar

One of the smaller clubs in Edmonton, Arcadia hosts music that ranges from folk to electronic acts, although the biggest draws tend to be trivia nights. Bonus for hipsters: It features an all-local beer selection and vegan pub grub.

The Aviary

Emerging from the demise of The Artery, unceremoniously shut down by the city to make room for LRT construction, The Aviary picked up in 2016 where its predecessor left off. It continues to serves its faithful clientele as an all-ages café and live spot for popular locals, as well as arts events from poetry to theatre.

Blues on Whyte

The first and the last name in blues takes centre stage at this club on the main floor of the historic Commercial hotel. Out-of towner blues practitioners find themselves at home in the closest thing you’ll find to a biker bar here, but the main draw is always the Saturday afternoon jam.


One of the artsier hangouts in the city, Bohemia is home to many acts who can’t seem to get gigs anywhere else. Square-peg attractions like electronic performers and avant-gardists tend to get booked earlier in the week with alt-rockers taking over on weekends.

The Buckingham

Often referred to as The Buck On Whyte, the club boasts of being the most eclectic alternative nightspot on the main drag through Old Strathcona. They do make good on their promise with independent acts from locals like The Slates and Altameda, as well as TV trivia nights.

Café Blackbird

Remarkably similar in philosophy to Nashville’s Bluebird Café, this Crestwood-based coffee house is a serious space for fans of singer-songwriter music. With a focus on roots, jazz and blues, it’s great for up-and-comers to get more gigs under their belts or established artists wanting to play more intimate digs.

Cha Island

The wafting smell of waffles and original smoothies hit your nose once you enter this club decked out in Caribbean finery, but don’t expect the live itinerary to be totally reggae. Roots and alternative rockers regularly cram themselves on the tiny stage, although funk acts are what bring in the crowds.

DV8 Tavern

Starting out as a major spot for the punk set in Old Strathcona, DV8 migrated east early in 2016 to share space with Mama’s Pizza. The venue remains defiantly underground although it’s since expanded its genre horizons to include metal and hip-hop, although other types of acts are welcome to play there.

The Mercury Room

Don’t let the black interiors of this venue near Oliver Square fool you. The odd dark act might have played there, but it’s a haven for some of the more uptown acts in town and a prime venue for west coast groups. It also serves a mean vegan brunch on Sundays.

The Needle Vinyl Tavern

An eclectic hub based downtown in the very building that once housed venerable community radio station CKUA, The Needle tends to hold the same rustic vibe. With a policy of booking the most eclectic acts to balance its clientele, the club also has an eclectic restaurant menu of salads, burgers and pizza.


With an interior built so the acoustics don’t bounce off the walls, this 168-person venue has become a popular downtown spot, sharing an address with the well-known restaurant, The Common. Fridays see DJs spinning dance or hip-hop, while local acts or touring bands hit the stage on Saturday. Additional events include comedy and even drag queen bingo.

Rendezvous Pub

Part sports bar and part metal haven, this west-end hangout remains a must-check-out destination for ear-bleeding, leather-clad fans who like their music loud and proud. Metal acts with the most malevolent monikers abound here, but despite the decibels, Rendezvous still has a friendly vibe.

The Sewing Machine Factory

Located on Whyte Avenue on the tip of the Mill Creek Ravine, this club has quickly established itself as a hub for underground acts. It’s a good showcase venue for emerging acts, out-there electronic performers and even the odd throwback punk nostalgia combo.

Starlite Room/Brixx Bar & Grill

Based in an historic building that once housed the Salvation Army, The Starlite is more of a small concert venue and is a prime stop for popular touring acts from Imagine Dragons to Tokyo Police Club. In the basement, emerging performers of all genres perform at the more club-like Brixx.

Yardbird Suite

For decades, this club has remained unchallenged as the ultimate spot for jazz. Located in Old Strathcona, its home since 1984, it’s the cornerstone venue for the perennial Edmonton International Jazz Festival in June. The rest of the year, locals and current national and global legends hit the stage.

If you’re not a regular to the local live scene, here’s a caveat. Edmonton clubs have a tendency to move or shut down with little notice, given an uncertain economy and the city’s fondness for urban renewal. But take heart, the likelihood of another club springing up to replace its predecessor (which also frequently happens) remains high. And there’s no shortage of local talent to fill them nightly.

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