We’ve compiled a list of some of the best places in the city to eat, drink, and soak up the sound of live music. Whether you’re in the mood for something chill, looking for a date night hot spot, or longing to sweat it out on the dance floor, we promise you’ll find a place on this list that will have you fist-pumping with one hand and holding your half-eaten burrito in the other.
1. National Music Centre
850 4th Street SE
The National Music Centre (NMC) opened its doors on July 1st, 2016. This venue is committed to preserving and celebrating Canada’s music story and inspiring a new generation of music lovers. They’ll be delivering year-round entertainment as well as four streams of programs: education, exhibitions, incubation, and performance to keep you on your toes.
2. Arts Commons
205 8th Avenue SE
Located in the heart of downtown Calgary, Arts Commons is home to five theatres and the world-class Jack Singer Concert Hall. The centre hosts over 1,800 performances yearly which are all open to the public so no matter what your artistic tastes are, Arts Commons will have you covered.
3. Bella Concert Hall
4825 Mount Royal Gate SW
One of the newest music venues in Calgary, The Bella Concert Hall holds 787 seats perfect for intimate performances. Located within the heart of the Mount Royal Conservatory, Bella is the ideal location for acoustics and entertainment.
4. Ironwood Stage and Grill
1229 9th Avenue SE
Located in the heart of Inglewood, Ironwood is legit when it comes to live music. Offering live music every damn night, you have no excuses not to check it out. The vibe here is chill and casual – the perfect go-to spot for a first date since it will calm your nerves and make you feel at home. Ironwood also has some of the best eats, like flatbreads, burgers, and a to-die-for spinach dip. But because Ironwood is a music hot spot in YYC, we recommend you make a reservation well in advance. Don’t panic if you can’t get one though, at Ironwood everyone is friends – chances are you’ll meet your next drinking buddy.
5. The Blues Can
1429 9th Avenue SE
A live Blues bar located in the heart of historic Inglewood, The Blues Can has a full schedule of live performances every day of the week. With southern-themed food and a great line of sight to the stage, you can sit back and enjoy the blues played by both big names and locals. It’s dark and intimate atmosphere collides with its history, giving you a taste of another time and place. Come hungry.
6. Mikey’s Juke Joint
1901 10th Avenue SW
At Mikey’s Juke Joint, you can literally come as you are. We are 100 percent serious. This place has nailed the sweet spot between a music joint that you and your friends would go to, and also a place for your parents to rock out. But you’ll never feel uncomfortable here because everyone is always drunk and dancing. Its space may be small, but don’t be fooled – it packs a powerful music punch of oldies and blues. Mikey’s feels like you’re jamming out at your buddy’s place, but the music obviously sounds much, much better.
7. Broken City
613 11th Avenue SW
Located on the old Electric Avenue (ask your parents), Broken City lets the beat go on. Here, it’s totally appropriate to over-do it with tequila shots and vodka sodas. Not so much for the easy-listening type, Broken City is a great venue for a night of debauchery, dancing, and fun. From rock and roll to hip-hop, you won’t be able to stay off the dance floor.
8. Commonwealth Bar and Stage
731 10th Avenue SW
If Jay-Z lived in YYC, he’d easily coin Commonwealth as “home of the hip-hop”. With its epic 10 at 10 shows, a monthly hip-hop musical showcase where at 10 pm 10 artists perform 10-minute sets, and its hip-hop karaoke, Commonwealth makes it hard to say no to a night out on a weekday. This venue may have common in its name, but the experience you’ll get here is anything but. With a club vibe and a killer dance floor – you’ll be a regular in no time. We will warn you though, after a night out here, you may be calling in “sick” to work. #sorrynotsorry
9. The Gateway
1301 16th Avenue NW
You don’t have to be a student at SAIT to enjoy your time here. Think of The Gateway as your cool, young-at-heart friend that always knows the next big thing in the music scene. Host to some of the best indie acts like Scenic Route to Alaska and Wintersleep, The Gateway will legitimately lead the way for you to meet your next favourite band. With its stage in the middle of the venue, The Gateway makes it really easy to get up close and personal with its musical acts, creating a super chill and intimate experience that any music lover would die for.
10. The Nash Off – Cut Bar
925 11th Street SE
What was once the home to the Inglewood landmark, National Hotel, has transformed into a contemporary cool bar space that will have you yearning for the good ole days when time stood still for a great cocktail. Off Cut Bar creates an atmosphere of sophistication, while remaining approachable for a date night or night out with your mom and pops. At the Off Cut, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy its selection of live music. But be sure to mark your calendars for Thursdays, this venue hosts Live Music Thursdays, a jam you’re not going to want to miss. Shows start at 8 pm and there’s no cover.
11. Nite Owl
213 10th Avenue SW
Big advocates for losing sleep, the Nite Owl is a live music and entertainment venue located on 10th Avenue, the same location of Vinyl from back in your university days. Good news: They got rid of the carpets. This is a great place to stop if you’re club hopping down 10th as it’s got everything you need – great music and a dance floor.
Tip: Hit up Nite Owl on a Wednesday for its Rockin’ 4 Dollars – cheap drinks, open mic and $3 cover.
909 10th Street SE
Gravity is our favourite go-to for midday coffees and snacks, but in case you didn’t know, it’s also the perfect relaxing, ambient spot for live acoustics and local songwriters on Friday and Saturday nights. Bonus: Aside from incredible coffee, they also have a well-selected wine and beer menu. An optional $10 cover charge lets you give back to the music community, with half going to the artist and the other half going to local charities. Tunes start at 8 pm.
13. Ship and Anchor
534 17th Avenue SW
We love the Ship because we can always count on it to open its patio up as soon as it’s questionably warm enough to sit outside, even if scarves and mittens are still necessary. But no matter the time of the year, you can also count on the Ship to give you a good excuse to go hang out there, even if it’s for Punk Rock Bingo on Tuesdays or for some live tunes. Completely unpretentious, you’ll feel like you can be yourself there, whether you fit the hipster profile or not.
14. The Palomino Smokehouse
109 7th Avenue SW
Located in the heart of downtown on 7th Avenue, the Palomino will cure your winter blues with its endless BBQ season. With its droolworthy menu, you are going to want to hit it up for pre-show dinner and drinks with friends. We personally recommend the pulled pork – you’ll thank us later. After some delicious eats, head downstairs for some live music. When it comes to musical variety, at The Palomino you can expect the unexpected. We will say that there’s something about this place that will have you staying for a second round… or fifth. But that’s okay because the C-train is located right out front to haul your drunken ass home.
15. Cafe Koi
100 1011 1st Street SW
Cafe Koi is like your favourite mixed CD from back in the day, meaning it’s got a little bit of everything you love – local art, music and culture. You absolutely can’t miss its infamous monthly Notorious Hip Hop Improv nights – a mixture of freestyle rap and improv comedy that will keep you laughing so hard your abs will be dying the next day. Cafe Koi also gives you the chance to prove you’re the next Kanye, Yonce, or J Biebs with its many open mic nights held throughout the month. We recommend bringing your squad here. After all, every star has an entourage.
811 1st Street SW
Located in Downtown Calgary’s Historic Grain Exchange Building, Wine-oh’s is a casual wine bar and live music venue. Wine-Oh’s loves to support local talent and you’re sure to find live music happening almost every night. The venue gives off a speakeasy vibe reminiscent of clubs in New York City or Chicago and is quickly winning accolades as one of Canada’s best live music rooms. With a name like Wine-Oh’s, their wine list is superb so while you may come for the wine, you’ll definitely stay for the tunes.