Alberta has always been home to a number of great music venues — ranging from the rock and jazz clubs and elegant soft-seat concert halls of the bigger cities to small town gems in the form of dive bars and quaint theatres, you don’t have to dig too deep to find a place to hear live music in the province.
Calgary has even declared 2016 “The Year of Music” in honour of the National Music Centre, scheduled to open in Studio Bell this March, the 60th anniversary of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, the 50th anniversary of the Alberta ballet, and the 10th anniversary of beloved indie rock festival Sled Island. Oh, and the 45th Juno Awards are also coming to Cow Town.
Needless to say, there are too many great venues across the province to list in a single article, but here are five to get you started if you’re looking for a night of music while roaming around Alberta.
Jubilee Auditoriums North and South (Edmonton and Calgary)
Built in the 1950s to celebrate Alberta’s Jubilee (i.e. 50th) anniversary, these twin concert halls in Edmonton and Calgary offer superior acoustics, comfortable seating, and remarkably diverse programming to suit music fans of all stripes. Both venues host performances by the Alberta Ballet and various symphony orchestras, but also hold concerts by popular artists ranging from Blue Rodeo to Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, depending on what acts happen to be touring through the province.
Banff Centre (Banff)
In addition to being an educational institution that offers musicians bucket list-worthy artists residencies, the Banff Centre is a magical place to catch some live music. The campus is located just outside of the town of Banff, giving it a cozy mountain retreat feel. The Banff Centre hosts the annual Banff International String Quartet Competition, as well as performances throughout the year from musicians in ever genre imaginable, with the likes of alt-country hero Corb Lund, powerhouse blues singer Matt Anderson, and jazz-pop crooner Jill Barber showing up on the concert calendar.
Blues on Whyte (Edmonton)
Located on the ground floor of the historic Commercial Hotel in Edmonton’s vibrant Old Strathcona neighbourhood, with 50 years under its belt, Blues on Whyte is an Alberta institution. This place is as authentic as it gets, with heartfelt lives blues pouring off the stage seven nights a week. For a sure-fire winner, drop in on Saturday afternoon for the club’s famed Blues Jams, which promise to bring the house down week after week.
With a chic Bistro upstairs and a stylish speakeasy-style music club in the basement (or as they like to call it, The Cellar), Wine-Ohs offers a complete package for a night out on the town. While the Wine-Ohs Cellar is best known as a jazz venue, the live programming is actually quite eclectic, with live music being offered nearly every night, ranging from country and roots regulars T. Buckley and Tom Phillips to an array of local singer-songwriters and jazz combos.
Palomino Smokehouse (Calgary)
Known to locals as “The Pal,” The Palomino brings together authentic Southern-style barbeque (the official food of rock ‘n’ roll) and a well-curated slate of local and touring indie rock bands. Over the years everyone from Garth Brooks (who used the venue for a private show) to local luminaries like Samantha Savage Smith have hit the stage in the downstairs Showroom. With shows taking place at least once a week it’s worth checking out even if you don’t recognize the names of the bands playing: you may discover a new favourite, or at the very least you’ll end up with a great plate of brisket and a bird’s eye view on Calgary’s local music scene.