Your guide to local venues
The music scene in Calgary is worth checking out. Here’s how.
By Amber McLinden, Staff Writer
Calgary’s local music scene is thriving. If you’re looking to cure some winter blues, you might want to check out some of the bands and musicians that make this city a place with music worth seeking out. But if you’re not sure where to start, here’s a (semi-comprehensive) list of some of the venues that host excellent local shows.
Tubby Dog – 1022 17th Ave SW
Leave it to Calgary to bring you the weirdest music venue you could possibly imagine. Yeah, I can deal with gourmet hot dogs. But putting on a show in a gourmet hot dog store? The wiener shop was featured on the Food Network’s “You Gotta Eat Here!” for a good reason — the dogs are delicious. It’s definitely one of the city’s more unconventional venues, and its shows match. It’s also well known for being an all-ages venue, so if you’re not 18 but still looking to attend shows, check out Tubby Dog.
Broken City – 613 11th Ave SW
This venue is pretty well known in the music community here in Calgary. Situated on 11th Avenue and Sixth Street SW, the bar has been supporting the local music community for about a decade now. It might look a little intimidating from the outside, but trust that once you’re inside you’ll start to feel right at home. The bar has not one, but two locations for shows – their main stage inside and the patio upstairs in the summer or during the winter for Big Winter Classic. They host not only bands and musicians but have events weekly, including drag, trivia, karaoke and much more.
The Legion – 116 7th Ave SE
You might not be able to see shows regularly at this venue but it’s worth a mention. Likely one of the oldest stages on this list, the Royal Canadian Legion #1 opened its doors to the city in 1922. Even if you aren’t a veteran, you can still experience this historic community space with festivals like Femme Wave and Sled Island. Both use the space for their festivals in November and June, respectively. The Legion and Calgary’s local music are two things that definitely go together.
Festival Hall – 1215 10th Ave SE
Calgary Folk Music Festival is a well known and respected showcase of folk music here in Calgary. It only makes sense, then, that its headquarters have amazing shows year-round that give you a little taste of the festival that comes around every July. Located in the heart of Inglewood, the venue is available to rent for shows and community events. The hall is built for excellent acoustics, making the main hall a perfect space to host shows. The venue has been used for events like Calgary Pride and Block Heater; Folk Fest’s winter counterpart.
Local 510 – 510 17th Ave SW
As a photographer, it’s my worst nightmare, but as a show attendee, I adore the vibe that Local 510 gives off with its low lighting and cozy space. This pub has amazing beer on tap and even better food. It’s another venue that has multiple stages, including one outdoor when the weather is right. This bar is also a featured venue for festivals like Sled Island. You can always count on Local 510 to have something going on, whether it’s having a few local bands play, a Beatroute Magazine issue release party (with more local music) or even karaoke.
The Palomino – 109 7th Ave SW
Located on what some know as Calgary’s ugliest block, The Palomino might not look like a place that hosts excellent local music from the outside. Once you get in the door, you’ll find another pub with two stages — one upstairs and one downstairs. The upstairs is a restaurant setting, with tables crowded in a decently big room with a large bar in the middle. Downstairs is much more show focused, with an empty space in front of the bar to stand or mosh to your heart’s content.
Venues that deserve an honourable mention: Good Life Community Bikes, Commonwealth Bar and Stage, Dicken’s Pub, Vern’s, Nite Owl, The Hifi Club, Wine-Oh’s, Ironwood Stage and Grill.