Every city has that one music venue that everybody loves to go watch a show at, but I'm here to tell you that Ottawa has 10 of the best venues in all of Canada! While Ottawa may not have as many venues as Montreal (over 100) or Toronto (the biggest city by population), the National Capital Region does have its gems. I will only be including venues that are still open so Zaphod's and Ritual will not be included.
1. The Brass Monkey
The Brass Monkey is a venue in the Nepean area of Ottawa. There have been some major bands that played there, such as Every Time I Die. I personally have played a set there and the in-house sound guy is pretty good. The BM is a bar so they do have alcohol and some food there. The stage is a decent size and there is room inside for just over 100 people.
2. Avant Garde
Avant Garde is one of the smallest venues in Ottawa. There isn't much room on the actual stage and there is nowhere to store your gear, but due to the size of the venue, the shows feel more intimate. The bar is decently priced and they don't just have your typical beers. The best beer for the size and price is the imported Russian beer Baltika. If you are looking at playing a show at Avant Garde, I suggest you have your drummer stay alone on the stage and the rest of the band stand on the ground. On the stage, there is almost no room to move, especially if there are a drum kit, amps, and all the members of your band. This venue is located downtown on the edge of the Byward Market.
3. Greenfield Gastropub
I played a show here recently and the stage there is absolutely massive for the size of the venue. When I played there, we had more than enough room to move around, dance and jump. When we were preparing for the show I was told that the sound guy could be really mean, but he was the exact opposite when I was actually dealing with him. If you are planning on playing there, my main tip would be to have all your stage planning and equipment lists handy a few weeks in advance. It will make your experience with the sound guy run smoother, and you'll gain a good reputation with him. The venue is located in Barrhaven.
4. Live! On Elgin
This venue is one of my personal favourites to watch a show at. It's located directly above the Dunn's Famous on Elgin street. Live! is different than the other venues on this list because it doesn't just focus on being a bar, club or music venue, it also puts on weekly plays and has a decently sized stage. The staff is very friendly and the overall atmosphere is great. There are plenty of seats for those who want to eat or don't want to stand while watching the show, and enough standing room for a lot of people.
The #askapunk house is one of the best venues in Ottawa. It's a small house venue that is primarily used by the Punk, Metal, and Indie scenes. The venue gives off a very, well, punk feel. It is located in a basement but that is all the detail I can really give since Bylaw is constantly trying to shut it down. The shows there give off more of a house party vibe and are extremely fun to be at. The best shows I personally have attended there were Nighttime In Kansas' shows, as the bands they play with generally draw a large crowd. If you do go for a metal show be prepared for the mosh pits. I wasn't one time and ended up with a concussion, which was 75% my fault, 20% my friend Curtis', and 5% the rest of the crowd's fault. All shows are BYOB and NO UNDERAGE DRINKING. Booking a show there is cheap and the sound guy is included in the price of $50.
6. Chateau Lafayette
This is the oldest venue in all of Ottawa. It was founded in the mid 19th century and has an open mic night every week. The general genre that plays there is Folk. They usually play Irish, Scottish, and English folk songs. I went there for my friend's birthday and we had a blast. They have board games available to play while you drink, eat, and make merry. The drinks and food are decently priced. This is located in the heart of the Byward Market.
7. Cafe Dekuf/Maverick's
This venue is a 2 for 1 deal. Upstairs is Cafe Dekuf. It is a smaller venue with a decently sized stage. Downstairs is Maverick's bar. These venues are normally used for metal shows. Drinks are priced at the average for a bar in Ottawa. Maverick's has a decently sized stage, but when in the crowd, watch out for the giant pole in the middle of the floor; it's a support beam and they can't move it. This is located just down the road from the Byward Market.
Babylon is a club that primarily puts on Electronic and Rap shows. I don't personally attend these shows, but I do have friends that put on or attend shows here and always have a good time. If you're looking to dance and have a fun time, I recommend Babylon. It is located on Bank Street.
9. Black Squirrel Books
Another small and cozy venue which is also located on Bank Street, this venue is right beside the next venue on the list, House of Targ. Black Squirrel is actually a book store when it's not putting on shows. There are a few seats in the venue and it also has a small in house cafe where you can buy baked goods, coffee, tea, espresso and other drinks. It doesn't have its LLBO certification so no alcohol.
10. House of Targ
My absolute favourite venue in all of Ottawa. It is located on Bank Street, right beside Black Squirrel Books. This venue is very fun to watch shows at as it is also an arcade and bar. The only food they serve is perogies. Some of the most intense and fun shows I've attended were at this venue. Just remember to tip your bartender and you'll have a great time at your show. they put on a variety of shows but I primarily attend the Indie, Punk and Emo shows. House of Targ now puts on shows that allow underage people to attend. During underage shows there are a few ground rules you need to be aware of:
- Don't leave drinks unattended, they will be immediately bussed.
- Once you exit you can't get back in.
- Anyone underage caught with alcohol will be immediately ejected and banned.
- Anyone caught bringing alcohol in will be stopped and ejected.
There are many music venues in the city but these are the ones that I consider to be the best for small local bands to play at. Thanks for reading!