Photo credit: Clayton Perry
Live Music in Vancouver
With dozens of venues across the city, visitors and locals alike can find a live music performance that will strike a chord any day of the week. Whether you prefer a big night out at a large concert or just want to play it by ear in a small space, there are good vibes to be found throughout the city.
You’ll find big name acts like Coldplay, Miranda Lambert, Kings of Leon, and Jimmy Buffett (to name a few) at some of Vancouver’s largest venues. Located in the heart of the city, BC Place and Rogers Arena aren’t only home to the BC Lions (CFL), Vancouver Whitecaps (MLS), or Vancouver Canucks (NHL), respectively, they also welcome thousands of spectators to the city’s largest concerts.
For those looking to hit a high note amongst some of Vancouver’s most historic live music locales look no further than the Commodore Ballroom, Orpheum Theatre, and the Vogue Theatre – all of which are located along the Granville Street entertainment district. The Commodore opened its doors in 1929 and hosts almost 150 public events each year, spanning almost every music genre, with acts as diverse as Talking Heads, Paul Oakenfold, Tina Turner, The Police, and Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre having taken the stage. Famously, The Commodore is known for having a sprung dance floor which absorbs the impact – meaning that concert goers can keep their dancing shoes on until the early morning hours without feeling it the next day. Not to be outdone, the Orpheum Theatre is a designated National Heritage Site and features beautifully ornate chandeliers, gold and red seating, and decorative archways. In contrast to the Commodore, the Orpheum Theatre is home to the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and the Vancouver Chamber Choir. Here you can listen to some of the best live classical and contemporary music in the city.
Just outside of downtown, the Biltmore Cabaret is considered an incubator for cutting-edge acts. Featuring performances from across all genres, this community-focused facility showcases emerging local talent as well as up-and-coming touring acts from further afield. A five-minute walk from the Biltmore, also located in the Mount Pleasant area, is the Fox Cabaret. Edgy, fierce, and fun this adults-only venue features indie pop performances, rock, house music, and everything in between.
Al fresco aficionados would enjoy taking in a show at Stanley Park’s Malkin Bowl. Former Vancouver Mayor W.H Malkin had the bowl built in 1934 to commemorate his late wife. Here guests can enjoy musical theatre as well as international touring acts. . Although it’s mostly known as a summertime venue, the Malkin Bowl is open year-round.
Once well known amongst punk and metal fans, The Cobalt continues to be a lively locale with music nights that can range from rock and roll from the 50s and 60s to today’s top hits but what really sets the Cobalt apart from the others is its monthly multi-gender drag night held on the last Friday of every month.
For a truly unique experience, a visit to the Rickshaw Theatre is a must for indie music lovers. The former kung-fu movie theatre reopened its doors in 2009 as an intimate live music venue in Vancouver’s Chinatown/Downtown Eastside neighbourhood. Many local Vancouver artists have played at The Rickshaw as well as touring indie bands.
For a distinctly West Coast venue, visit the Backstage Lounge located on Granville Island. With its unbeatable views of False Creek, the lounge also boasts one of the best patios in the city. The real magic, however, happens inside. Although it welcomes touring acts, the Backstage Lounge focuses mainly on providing a platform for local talent from blues to hip-hop and roots to rock.