Montreal is at the centre of Canada’s thriving music scene, with live performances on almost any given night. Here’s an overview of some of the venues you’re likely to see listed on some of your favourite bands’ tour schedules, or if you’re looking to book one for your own show.
Casa del Popolo (4873 St. Laurent Blvd.) Capacity: 100
In a Jekyll/Hyde transformation, this is fair-trade cafÃ© serves tasty vegetarian dishes by day and live music by night. After acquiring the coveted salle-de-spectacle licence last September, Casa del Popolo has turned its stage into a seating area and opened up another room equal in size for shows, equipped with its own bar. The ceiling, covered in intricate silver tiles, is a particularly striking feature of this new music hall. Entry to the new room is via a secretive door in the back, through which you can expect to see lots of local talent like Jane Vain and the Dark Matter, Final Flash, and the odd out-of-towner.
Le Divan Orange (4234 St. Laurent Blvd.) Capacity: 180
It’s not just a name: the deep orange tone that covers the walls gives the venue a spicy, energized nighttime vibe. Its bottleneck shape, while frustrating at times, keeps the bulk of the crowd near the bar. This means that for those willing to push through, the luxury of some dancing space often awaits near the stage. Come prepared to move, as the types of acts most frequently showcased here are high-energy. Last year the venue hosted acts like Japandroids, Vitaminsforyou, and Hollerado. The menu features a vast array of beverages as well as delicious food, but be careful: the bathrooms have only one stall and the little girls’ room is always a wait.
Il Motore (179 Jean-Talon St. W.) Capacity: 200
The farthest north of the staple indie venues, Il Motore is worth the trek. Its exterior is subtle and the chandelier store across the street is always a good marker. The interior is just as unimposing with ample amounts of space after the door and coat check area. The walls are lined with black velvet curtains and the single step leading up to the bar is edged with track lighting. The bar is one of the most unique parts of the venue, with a coat of blood-red paint accented by black shelves full of alcohol bottles. The stage is low and invites performer-crowd interaction, which is not uncommon for an Il Motore crowd. Expect to see some of Canada’s best up-and-coming bands like Bruce Peninsula, Girls, and Shout Out Out Out Out.
La Sala Rossa (4848 St. Laurent Blvd.) Capacity: 250
With the same owner as Casa del Popolo and Il Motore, La Sala Rossa sets the precedent for their style and decor. Built in 1932, it once hosted Eleanor Roosevelt in its former role as a cultural, recreational and political centre. La Sala still serves as a cultural centre for the Centro Social EspaÃ±ol. At entry level is a restaurant that serves Spanish tapas and menu items like paella. Upstairs, the club portion hosts a solid rotation of rock excellence like the late Jay Reatard and Elliott Brood while also playing host to performances that vary from cabarets to breakdance competitions.
CafÃ© Campus / Le Petit Campus (57 Prince Arthur St. E) Capacity: 600/300
Shows here have a tendency to be raucous and passionate. The low stage and modern, yet intimate setting create the potential for a strong connection between the audience and performers. Last year, the stage played host to acts like The Pack A.D. and The White Rabbits, to name a few.
La Tulipe (4530 Papineau Ave.) Capacity: 760
There is a standard formula for the layout of Montreal venues and La Tulipe is no exception. You enter near the bar, ensuring an opportunity to wet your whistle before descending the tiered levels that are dotted with small tables and stools. Below the sound booth, steps on either side lead to the dance floor which opens up to a vast area in front of the stage. The elevated stage is equipped with black velvet curtains at the sides and can accommodate state-of-the-art lights and visuals. From the stage, the balcony is visible. Carved with ornate reliefs, it’s elegant juxtaposed against the disco ball that hangs above the dance floor. Adding to its unique beauty is the fact that this venue is a heritage building; it was built in 1913 as a movie theatre. Here you can find acts that draw a larger crowd like Caribou, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.
Club Soda (1225 St. Laurent Blvd.) Capacity: 800
Meeting the standard opera house formula, Club Soda adds side rows to its balconies that enable a close-up bird’s eye view of performers such as Yo La Tengo and Public Enemy, as well as the often entertaining faces of the front-row keeners. Sound here is consistently good, and its situation downtown is conducive to aprÃ¨s-show eats and entertainment. This is a classy venue that is more intimate than the vast interior of MÃ©tropolis.
Le National (1220 Ste-Catherine St. E.) Capacity: 760
Located in the Village, an excursion to Le National ensures a fun night. The venue is spacious and industrial, with a vintage balconied layout. Aside from rock/electro/pop/punk concerts like Julian Casablancas, Wolf Parade, and Strung Out, you might want to check the place out for C’est Extra and Pop 80 nights.
MÃ©tropolis (59 Ste-Catherine St. E.) Capacity: 2,300
MÃ©tropolis is a beautiful venue. Like Le National, La Tulipe, and Club Soda, its shape and design are those of a classical theatre. However, it’s size is comparable to all three of the others’ put together. One large balcony winds in a U-shape around the back of the room, while below the bars and merch tables bustle. Sound here is consistently tight with no expense spared, but be prepared to jostle a few elbows. Big shows draw big crowds, which can translate into yuppies who don’t go to shows very often and who don’t seem fond of the fact that other people came too. Expect to go here for any big name, unless they’re playing Bell Centre, which is really much better suited to hockey games than the concert experience. Last year, the likes of the Mars Volta, MGMT, Drake, and Arctic Monkeys graced the stage. If you to happen to get the date wrong for a show, never fear; MÃ©tropolis on non-show nights is a bustling nightclub.