Discovering Vancouver’s Open Mic Scene

Photo credit: Noel Reinhold

Photo credit: Noel Reinhold

Last week, I wrote a blog post that explored Vancouver’s thriving karaoke scene. In it, I poked fun at the eardrum-rupturing performances karaoke occasionally produces—namely my own. My intention, however, was not to diminish the amazing amateur talent that lives in this city. You’ll see that talent at any karaoke night you go to. You’ll also find it any of the city’s spectacular open mic nights, which exist in an equally impressive number. Yes, open mic nights are massive in Vancouver. They’re everywhere. So, whether you’re a guitarist, a banjoist, an emcee or a flautist, you won’t have to look far for a stage to play on. And if you’re a fan of live music, you won’t have to look far for a seat in front of one.

As a mostly untalented person, it’s possible that I never would have discovered Vancouver’s open mic scene were it not for my musically-inclined friends. Luckily, one Thursday night, when my friend Andréas decided to head down to Cafe Deux Soleil on Commercial Drive, I opted to tag along. As it turns out, this was absolutely the right move.

What I saw—or more importantly, heard— that night was awesome. Alongside the many faces that packed the bar, I watched fiddlers, flamenco finger-pickers and flautists (I wasn’t kidding about that), file onto the stage. There were covers of fan-favourites, there were originals, and I washed it all down with pints of delicious local beer. My thoughts when the evening drew to a close at midnight?

“I wish I didn’t have to wait until next Thursday to do this again.”

Photo Credit: Kris Krüg

Photo Credit: Kris Krüg

But of course, as I would discover, there’s no need to wait. In Vancouver, the day of the week does not affect your ability to catch awesome, amateur music.

So where do you go for music on a Monday? Take your pick! There’s Mr. Brownstone on Main. Grab a seat there for great music and pints of Red Truck for only $5.00. Not your neck of the woods? Try Benny’s Cafe on West Broadway. Just don’t forget to try their bagels.

On Tuesdays, catch some tunes at Corduroy in Kitsilano. Signup starts at 8:00, and performances start half an hour later— don’t be late! There’s also Savoy Pub, on East Hastings, where the show begins at 9:00. Oh, and did I mention pints start as low as $3.25? And of course, if you’re looking for lodging too, there’s the Beaver Lounge at Samesun Hostel on Granville.

When it comes to open mic nights, Wednesdays are wild. You can walk down to Yew Street, to The King’s Head. There, you’ll also find wings for $7.00 a pound. You can also head over to the Princeton Pub on Powell, The Manchester Pub on West Broadway, or try Pub 340 on Cambie— they’ve got pinball!

On Thursdays, your options are no less plentiful. There’s Charqui Grill in Kits (don’t miss their wings and pitcher deal). There’s Displace Hashery on West 4th, where the beach vibes are contagious. There’s ANZA Club on West 8th. There’s Trees Coffee House on Granville. And of course, there’s Cafe Deux Soleil, where you might catch my friends on the mic.

Looking for a way to spend an evening on the weekend? Worry not. On Fridays head over to Joe’s Atlantic Grill for a blues-infused open mic. If it’s the first Friday of the month, you can also try Christianne’s Lyceum. On Saturdays, try the Wired Monk in Kitsilano (just don’t drink too much of their delicious coffee, or you’ll never sleep). On Sundays, try the Ivanhoe Pub on Main, or the Morrissey Pub on Granville and Davie.  At all of the above, you’ll find a great atmosphere with music to boot.

Yes, it goes without saying that, whether you’re a fan, or a performer looking for an audience, Vancouver’s got a venue for you. Just like its karaoke scene, this city’s open mic scene is thriving. Overwhelmed by the choices? Don’t be. Mix it up, and experience all the talent this tremendous town has to offer. You won’t regret it!

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