Over the past decade, Vancouverites have moaned about the demise of the live music venues and those who try to open new venues find blockades starting from city licensing to landlords. Venues that have survived made our list and are well worth the visit. You haven’t seen a mind-blowing show until you see Marilyn Manson at the historic Orpheum, seriously sometimes space is that tight! So whether you like your live music played in an intimate setting, somewhere downright dirty or upscale and comfortable, you will find it on this list.
This National Heritage Site was built in 1927 and is still going strong. Operated by the City of Vancouver and booking everything from the overwhelming VSO to the darkest touring death metal. The band busses line-up on Seymour and if you hang around, you may just get a peek of your favourites.
Image via City of Vancouver
For over 80 years, the Commodore Ballroom has been serving up drinks, food, and entertainment. The space is available for private events and operated by LiveNation. On most nights, the Commodore’s line-up is often wrapped around the block and the people-watching is as entertaining as the show inside.
Image via @commodoreballroom
Just down the street from the Orpheum and Commodore, the Vogue is more than 70 years old, cozy and comforting to watch music in. Besides live music, the Vogue also books comedy, burlesque, and just past June, hosted RuPaul’s Drag Race: Battle of the Seasons. How apropos!
Image via @voguetheatre
The arena is within walking distance of the notorious Granville party strip and on big show nights, posses of partiers can be seen meandering around looking for cold beer and wine stores to obtain liquor to smuggle in, and poutine. Neither are allowed and the biggest shows have a security wanding service that rivals the airport. Go for the music, big washrooms and don’t forget your ID or you will be having a dry night.
Image via @rogersarena
Built in 1971 and originally a movie theatre, the Rickshaw is located near the most notorious corner in the city – Main & Hastings – which in itself makes coming for a show even more exciting. Everyone from Kurt Vile to Andrew W.K. has played here, with hundreds thrown in between that you have never heard of but should.
Image via @rickshawtheatre
The Wise hall began in 1957 and was originally known as a hang-out for the Welsh, Irish, Scottish, and English. Situated in the middle of the Commercial Drive residential area, the Wise has an old-timey look and feel with the ability to attract some of the best rockabilly, alt.country, and punk bands to play across Canada. The Odds, SNFU, Neko Case, Art Bergman, and Gordie Johnson to name but a few.
Image via WiseHall
Opened in 1911 in who knows what capacity, the Cobalt has been in survival mode for a decade now. 25 years ago it was a great stripper bar, then one of the best skid row bars and now it hosts karaoke, musicals, DJs, local bands and live art raffles. You never know what you are going to find after you step off the Skytrain.
Image via The Cobalt
A hop, skip and a jump from Main & Hastings, the Imperial is another revitalized theatre that has gone more Asian in theme but diverse in offerings. The Imperial welcomes corporate and private events, under-the-radar bands and those so cool they don’t even need it. Recently Snoop Dogg brought his tour through Vancouver and The Imperial is where he shagged it at, enjoying himself immensely.
Image via @ImperialVancouver
Refurbished in 2009, this theatre hosts opera, Broadway musicals, and performers ranging from Tom Jones to Lamb of God. The interior is a bit sterile when at a metal concert with its bright corporate lighting but the sightlines are good and who can resist shenanigans in a proper balcony!
Image via Queen E Theatre
Arguably Vancouver needs more live music venues but in the meantime, don’t let some of the locations of the revitalized venues scare you away. Take a bloody taxi or transit, just remember to leave your car at home.