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Stimulate your passion for live music at the best venues Vancouver and Vancouver Island have to offer
Great live music can provide a transcendent experience for music lovers and, luckily for us, some of the greatest venues can be found right here in British Columbia.
Here are eight BC venues that showcase a combination of the aforementioned qualities.
Not many venues in North America carry the prestige of The Commodore Ballroom.
With a capacity of 990, The Commodore is large enough to attract world class acts, but it also supports local and developing artists. The sound is always crisp and clean, due in part to a monitor booth that has one audio tech in charge of mixing while another monitors the sound coming through the speakers.
Live Nation is hard at work bringing talent from around the globe to the Commodore stage. Located on the Granville strip, patrons are within walking distance to numerous bars and clubs when their show ends.
David Hawkes is the mastermind behind this fantastic venue, which attracts a wide array of entertainment. Whether you’re looking for DJs, hip-hop, indie bands or rock, Venue’s got you covered. They are also keen to support local talent from across the province.
A recent renovation opened up the club, providing plenty of sight lines for standing and seated areas. In addition, the stage is elevated about 4 feet off the dance floor, making it easy to see no matter where you stand. The PA is top notch, so the music is crisp and clear. A unique feature is the LED lighting that can display custom text on the backdrop.
Situated across from the Commodore, Venue is a landmark in the heart of Granville street.
A night at the Biltmore can quickly become a weekly routine, due to the number of great shows that are consistently featured.
Far removed from the downtown core, the Biltmore attracts a community of like-minded individuals. Cheap drinks, reasonable admission and amazing music draw Biltmorians like moths to the flame. As a result, artists who play the Biltmore are often delighted by the turnout unseen at many other venues throughout the city. Attracting the most established promoters (including Live Nation, Sealed With a Kiss, and Timbre) the Biltmore features a wide array of talent, from local to international touring bands.
The entire staff is top shelf, including the security. The bartenders are friendly and when not slammed, open to conversation. Even the audio techs are engaging.
The old cabaret décor, with vibrant red couches and animal head trophies on the walls, is just icing on the cake.
There are a number of theatre-style venues throughout Canada, but none compare to the gritty elegance of the Orpheum Playhouse. Vancouver’s vaudeville house has become a staple of the city.
Many people cringe at the thought of watching a concert in a seated venue: there’s always the chance that energy will drain away as people submit to the comfort of their seats. This is not the case at the Orpheum. With bands like The Black Keys, The Pixies and The White Stripes having performed here, this is a rock band’s venue.
This is due in part to the sheer size of the Orpheum stage, giving promoters and touring bands the faculty to equip the venue with additions to the lighting and PA, which elevates the production value.
With a capacity of 2,672, the Orpheum attracts some of the biggest names in the music industry at mid-range prices.
This small 250 capacity venue is an ideal destination for local and up-and-coming talent. For many Vancouver Island musicians, the Media Club is a great launching pad into the Vancouver music scene.
The atmosphere at The Media Club is akin to being at a house party with close friends. By the end of the night you know almost everyone on a first name basis. The stage is surprisingly large and the sound is fantastic. The rectangular layout and elevated stage creates perfect sightlines no matter where you are in the venue.
Cheap drinks, great staff, and the opportunity to discover new talent with good friends are all great reasons to visit The Media Club.
This very well might have been the best new venue of 2011.
The Electric Owl features a wonderful mix of DJs and live music seven days a week and with a 350ish capacity, it is quite spacious. The layout offers sightlines to the stage no matter where you are standing or sitting. The dance floor is a great size, but there is plenty of seating when you need to catch your breath.
From an artist’s perspective, the sound on stage is fantastic and there is plenty of space. If you’re feeling peckish, the kitchen is open late with tasty Asian-fusion cuisine, perfect for sharing.
If you are in the Main Street/Science World area, there is no better nightclub.
Those who have been to this outdoor amphitheater in Stanley Park can count themselves among the lucky. Smack-dab in the middle of a majestic forest with a sod floor to stand or sit, Malkin Bowl offers an experience you won’t find anywhere else.
Live Nation promotes the Malkin Bowl concert series, so you are guaranteed to see the greatest acts in the music industry – including Canadian classic rock veterans Blue Rodeo, who take the stage every year and always put on a solid show.
The only downside to Malkin Bowl is the strict no alcohol policy as it is an all-ages venue.
The natural bowl allows attendees to see the stage from anywhere in the grounds. This makes Malkin accessible for families who would prefer to experience the show away from the congested crowd.
Hopping across the pond to Vancouver Island for a night in Victoria will be epic if there is a show at Sugar Nightclub.
The layout of Sugar is fantastic. The bar is at the back to prevent congestion around the stage. Some may say it’s time for a renovation, but the permanent smell of stale beer from years of spills on the floor and furniture adds character.
Despite this, Sugar is the best live music venue on Vancouver Island. Atomique and Timbre Productions are regular bookers of the room and bring some of the biggest acts to Victoria. The PA is constantly upgraded or modified and the house audio tech, Mike Hall, is the best in the city.
If you are ever in Victoria on Boxing Day, be sure to check out Boxing Day at Sugar.