Montreal Music Venues: The Hottest in the City Broken Down by Scene
It's no secret Montreal has a prominent music scene. The city ostensibly attracts its fair share of musicians and creative types due to a high student population open to risk and experimentation and courtesy of the city's affordable housing and studio rental space relative to other major Canadian metropolitan areas like Toronto and Vancouver.
Montreal's extensive public transit system also keeps cost of living in check since owning a car, much like in New York City, isn't so much a necessity as it is an option.
Factor in Montreal's myriad festivals, music-themed or otherwise, and you're got yourself a hotbed of live music, concerts, and underground scenes.
Keep reading to find out where to go to catch concerts in Montreal by scene, genre and venue size, from jazz, rock and classical to indie, electronic, hip hop and more.
Montreal Music Venues: Large Concert Halls & Mainstream
The Montreal Bell Centre hosts most of the city's mainstream, big ticket gigs with concert configurations allowing for up to 15,000 seats at one time. Hip hop, pop, rock, EDM and any other act that's made it to the top of the charts plays here.
The Metropolis is significantly smaller but a nonetheless major venue for successful mainstream acts covering the gamut of musical genres, fitting up to 2,350 people in one go.
It's supposed to change names some time in 2017 to M Telus.
In the heart of entertainment district Quartier des Spectacles is Place des Arts, Montreal's largest performance arts complex with four major performance halls hosting everything from Broadway plays to the the city's top orchestras to dance ensembles including international ballet companies and contemporary dance troupes.
Contemporary musicians -rock, easy listening, etc.- are often booked as well.
Also in located in the entertainment district is Théâtre St. Denis, a two-hall venue totaling over 3,000 seats which typically hosts French variety shows, local comedians, theatrical performances, and mainstream musicians.
Just two blocks south of Théâtre St. Denis is Théâtre Berri and its close to 2,000 capacity where underground hip hop and EDM nights featuring multiple headliners are generally booked.
Another large concert venue on the edge of Quarter des Spectacles is L'Olympia, a multipurpose venue with a capacity over 2,400 booking everything from hip hop acts to circus cabaret to standup comedy.
Fitting nearly 1,200 spectators at one time is the gorgeous Rialto Theatre on du Parc in the Mile End. Popular indie acts as well as bands representing every genre imaginable play here.
Medium to large music Montreal venues with seating in 500 to 1,000 range -give or take- whose concert listings are also worth checking out on top of the aforementioned include Le National in the Gay Village fitting up to 750 in a standing room, and sister venue La Tulipe in the eastern end of the Plateau features a 500 capacity.
Both tend to feature local French musicians as well as international acts.
And one of Montreal's most beautiful interiors belongs to Corona Theatre, a 600 capacity concert venue heavy on rock acts in the hot and happening sector of Little Burgundy on Notre-Dame street where Joe Beef, Vin Papillon, and other leading restaurants reside.
Montreal Music Venues: Indie Music
Indie music is alive and well in Montreal. The first choice venue to take it in is Bar le Ritz PDB, an indie music mecca with major cred on the north side of Little Italy. A venue and bar, dozens of shows are booked every month, in due part over management being linked to the city's top indie music promoter, Blue Skies Turn Black.
Arcade Fire was one of them before they hit it big. Casa is a 55-seat vegetarian soup and sandwich café and live music bar wrapped into one while La Sala Rossa is a straightforward 2nd floor show bar with a separate Spanish restaurant below.
In the same neighborhood but further west is Fairmount Theatre, a larger venue a couple of blocks north of Mount-Royal Park with a 500 standing capacity, one of the only sound systems of its kind in North America, and superb sight lines. Known for lining up an eclectic mix of hot-right-now indie and on-the-edge-of-mainstream acts, whomever is behind the venue's booking really has a pulse on the best in the industry.
And also on St. Laurent and footsteps from one of Montreal's best poutine joints, Divan Orange is a bar that doubles as music venue, hosting mostly indie bands, album launches, underground acts, local bands, and first-timers to the stage. Admission is often in the $10 range.
A quick mention of PHI Centre is due, though calling the Old Montreal multidisciplinary venue an indie concert hall is pushing it. Indie is booked here. So is hip hop. And electronic. Or anything else that's considered ''in',' whether up-and-coming or certifiably hot. Think of it this way. When the Red Bull Music Academy passed through Montreal, PHI Centre was their temporary hub.
Montreal Music Venues: EDM/Electronic
Fairmount Theatre has been stepping up to the plate since its 2015 opening with some of the city's best electronic music bookings, which probably has something to do with management also managing I Love Neon, Montreal's top electronic music concert promoter.
On topic, I Love Neon is also linked to Newspeak, a fantastic purveyor of underground electronic music on Ste. Catherine East in the entertainment district featuring sets spun by international producers. Not a month goes by without the nightclub's bookings making Montreal's concerts hit list.
For EDM that's more on the commercial side, try New City Gas in Griffintown. The space has that industrial, warehouse feel.
The Société des Arts Technologiques on St. Laurent in the entertainment district is Montreal's most important digital space, one combining a multidisciplinary research centre, and an immersive modular theatre topped with an 18-metre-wide dome equipped with a 360-degree projection screen. That modular theatre is called the Satosphère and shows, usually electronic, are epic when they're hosted in there.
And in terms of afterhours clubs, Stereo is where it's at in Montreal, featuring one of the most impressive sound systems in North America and an enviable roster of Top 100 international DJs and producers. Located on the edge of the Montreal Gay Village, Stereo also features a nightclub with regular club hours.
Montreal Music Venues: Hip Hop / House
It's not hard to find a club in Montreal that plays hip hop, given how mainstream and popular the genre is. Most nightlife club destinations play just that: hip hop and Top 40.
If looking for something a little more underground, try Bleury Bar à Vinyle, barely five minutes away from Place des Arts. Hip hop and soul nights, house sets and solid underground electronic take the lead at this unassuming, laidback destination.
Over in Old Montreal, Club Peopl spins all sorts of house, especially deep. Nights usually start off laidback and loungey, transitioning to full-on club by midnight.
And Salon Daomé is the doyenne of deep, Montreal's heartbeat of house on Mont-Royal in the Plateau, going strong for over decade and counting. Laidback, relaxed, and free of pretension, the soul is strong with Daomé's sets.
Montreal Music Venues: Rock, Punk, Guitar
East of boulevard St. Laurent on Prince Arthur in the lower Plateau, Café Campus and Petit Campus tend to be rock-heavy, with country, folk, and assorted indie acts in there too. Acts are more mainstream in sound than quirky, though not necessarily household names. Café Campus fits up to 600 and Petit Campus is more intimate with 300.
Among Montreal's larger venues, both Club Soda on boulevard St. Laurent and Metropolis on Ste. Catherine East in the entertainment district both book their fair share of rock acts as does Corona Theatre in Little Burgundy.
As for smaller, more intimate bars with live music, try O Patro Vys, L'Escogriffe, and Quai des Brumes. All three are within five minutes of each other on the Plateau, at the confluence of Mont-Royal and St. Denis streets. Rock, folk, acoustic, there's either no cover charge or a modest one and between the three of them, a gig is on nearly any night of the week.
There's also Turbo Haüs, a hotbed of hardcore and punk on Notre-Dame Street in St. Henri.
And of course, the scuzz bar that keeps on ticking, Foufounes Électriques has been around since 1983 and continues to host live punk, metal, thrash, and assorted grime at its Quartier des Spectacles location on Ste. Catherine East.
Finally, for an extra dose of metal in the area, check out Katacombes on St. Laurent.
As for live blues, there's one place in the city that specializes, Bistro à Jojo, located in the Latin Quarter.
Montreal Music Venues: All That Jazz
Montreal Music Venues: Classical
With two large orchestras, an official opera company, and a renowned ivy league music school, Montreal is not left wanting for classics. For a breakdown, consult this guide to the classical music scene in Montreal.
Montreal Music Venues: Irish Pub Scene