After traveling to nearly every major city in Canada, I’ve found that St. John’s is one of the most musically vibrant places in the country. Nearly everyone you meet plays at least one instrument, and there are so many shows on the go on any given night that it can be hard to decide which one to check out. Here’s my beginner’s guide to the St. John’s music scene, for anyone who wants to check out the huge amount of local talent this city has to offer.
Keeping it traditional
Looking for a “scoff and a scuff” on a Friday (or Monday, or Tuesday, or Wednesday…) night? Head downtown and follow the fiddle music! George Street is home to plenty of Irish Newfoundland pubs, most of which feature live traditional music every night of the week. You’re sure to find a good time in almost any pub you wander into, but be sure to check out local favourites O’Reilly’s, Bridie Molloy’s, and Shamrock City. Bring your dancing shoes; Newfoundland’s traditional Celtic-inspired tunes will have you on your feet all night long!
Some like it loud
If you’re more into moshing than dancing an Irish jig, head past the fiddle tunes to the south end of George Street, where you’ll find “The Deck,” home to The Levee, Distortion, and CBTG’s. This group of bars, joined together by an outdoor deck space popular with local heavy hitters grabbing a smoke between sets, is the perfect place to check out the thriving rock scene in St. John’s. There’s nothing fancy here, but with reasonably-priced drinks and a huge variety of bands and genres, this is the place to be if you want to hang with the locals and get a taste of St. John’s rock and roll.
A little bit softer now
There’s plenty of places to choose from if you’re in the mood for some indie, acoustic, or soft-rock tunes. Try The Levee on a weeknight, where Friday and Saturday’s rock sets often give way to solo artists strumming melodic tunes. The Rock House and Factory are home to some of St. John’s biggest names in music, as well as host to popular acts on tour from the mainland; keep your eyes open for posters announcing shows at these larger venues. For some gentle melodies from local favourites in a unique setting, check out Afterwords Bookstore’s acoustic series.
Dance the night away
If a sweaty dance party is more your style, check out Factory’s “YUNG DUMB” series. This massive venue was painted top to bottom by local artists, and is home to an epic sound and lighting system, making it the perfect spot for dancing the night away. If you want to check out two dance parties in one night, head just down Water Street to Velvet Nightclub and Lounge where you’ll find dance beats and fun times in St. John’s only LGBTQ bar.
Got the blues?
There’s a new event in town that’s sure to be a favourite for bluegrass and country enthusiasts. High & Lonesome at the Rose and Thistle is a brand new weekly event featuring three sets of country bluegrass followed by an open mic session. Mosey on over to this downtown watering hole every Wednesday night for a healthy dose of heart-wrenching lyrics and upbeat banjo pickin’. Yee haw!
Share your talent
Want to make your own mark on the St. John’s music scene? Check out The Ship Pub on a Monday night for Music NL’s weekly open mic event, or head to The Sprout, a local vegetarian restaurant that transforms into an open mic extravaganza every Thursday. You can also stop by The Levee on Tuesdays for their new open mic event; be sure to spin the “Wheel of Fortune Bay” for a chance at some great prizes!
The bottom line
I’d have to write a novel to give you the full scoop on the huge number of bars and venues that play host to fantastic local artists. This post is only the beginning; no matter where you choose to go in this city, you’re sure to find great music. If you’re not sure where to go or what to see first, just follow your ears. You’ll be snug in a bar with a pint and some great tunes in no time.
What would you add to the list? Who are your favourite local acts? Let us know in the comments below!