This isn’t an easy list to narrow down. When we’re talking about tunes to set the tone for an afternoon, evening or late-night party, location really does matter. It’s about the atmosphere around you, the musical genre you’re feeling most and the energy inside the venue’s walls. Music can turn a night around and bring the party to life or it can be the ultimate buzzkill. Choose wisely.
If you’re looking to branch out:
There are many who know of Benji. From hosting trivia nights to booking local musical talents and themed nights at his restaurant, he has a solid reputation on the island. He owns the Northern Quarter restaurant. The open concept of the dining area allows for perfect viewing and ideal acoustics from any location, but we would suggest using the tables by the stage if your group is really there for the music. From local acts like The Patsy Cline Tribute Band and Dirty Mountain to songwriter groups with artists from around the world, this spot gives you a taste of local and a hint of the more exotic, both in music and food.
Don’t let the nightclub title fool you. Walking up the big, dark staircase can feel a lot like walking into a great unknown, but this venue can be whatever you want it to be. Find some twang or edgy rock, dance or grab a table with some friends, and if you so please, lean against that bar and take in the show. It’s a big space but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Artist Sam Weber is a great example of a more mellow tone for an evening at Sugar.
This is one of those places that gets the “I can’t believe this exists in Victoria” response. It has the story: Three friends came together, each with a professional specialization. There was the motorcycle mechanic, the chef and the owner of a nightclub. Together they opened Wheelies, a “fine vintage custom motorcycle shop with gourmet sandwiches and ice cold beer”. Simple concept. Brilliant concept. Bonus: Saturday nights can bring twangy, bluegrass, foot-stompin’ live music to this motorcycle shop/cafe. Due to the smaller space, there is a capacity limit here so show schedules are not advertised. You better be there early or you can enjoy the music from the parking lot without a beer.
The Fernwood borough of Victoria may appear like a residential, tranquil community but there is a hidden gem to be found and it can get louder on the weekends. There is a home owned by Andy that books live acts for living room musical performances. This is truly where music lovers gather with art, albums and tiny lights lining every wall in the room. You hear people talk about the beauty of intimate venues, but this is bringing that idea to another level. We promise the hardest part is walking into a stranger’s home, and after that, well, the rest is simply fulfilling.
If you’re sticking around downtown:
It’s a good thing we didn’t label this article “The best live music venues in Victoria” because BBJ’s wouldn’t make the cut and that would be unacceptable. You won’t find a band here, but you will find charm — dirty, graffitied charm — and a solid playlist. Grab a bucket of peanuts, order a strong drink and request classic or current country music at any hour. Sing to Johnny and June or dance to the Dixie Chicks – there’s always someone willing to be your partner in crime for a vocal duet or dance off. It will be tight once the crowd starts to gather, but for some strange reason it seems you can always find a seat. Just be patient and talk to a stranger because there’s always a good story at BBJ’s.
Here’s where to go for the pop country hits mixed with some local bands that have twang and guitar-pickin’ talent. It’s a party and things are bound to get rowdy, but you’ll hear loud music, get to sing along and heal-toe/do-si-do a step or two. When it comes down to it, isn’t that more than enough? Girls, go ahead and wear the denim, cutoff shorts if you so please and boys, pull out those plaid shirts because it’s called the Duke Saloon for a reason. Ain’t nothing wrong with looking the part.
Looking for a more low key evening? Want to look out at the water while sipping a drink and taking in some good tunes, Swan’s is your place. Get the beauty of heritage and architecture with the lineup of jazz, rock, folk blues and more – you just have to pick an evening, or a couple evenings, and hear it for yourself. There’s also an on-site brewery so, go ahead and keep ordering those award winning beers.
DJ based club nights, variety shows, film screenings and live theatre happen within the lucky walls. Music from every genre also happens: pop, rock, house/electro/techno, punk, metal, hip-hop, folk & jazz – it’s all there. The tribute nights are well-known in the city’s core, like the evening dedicated to Pop and Soul, past and present featuring The New Souls and Destiny’s Wild.
So that’s it. For now. This really is the kind of list that requires updates. Venues change or new ones open and every weekend holds the potential for a discovery. Just promise us you’ll never settle for a venue with bad music. Life’s too short.
Have a favourite spot that didn’t make the cut? Share your venue knowledge and let us know!