The Edmonton Music Scene

The Edmonton Music Scene

Popular music venues and festivals in Edmonton reflect the city’s creative culture By: Debbie Olsen
Bill Eddins, music director of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra // © 2014 Edmonton Economic Development Corporation
Bill Eddins, music director of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra // © 2014 Edmonton Economic Development Corporation

Canada’s increasing prominence in the international music industry is due in part to the fact that major cities across the country are working to foster creativity and showcase local talent. Nowhere is this more true than in Edmonton, where summer music festivals, international artists and local performers contribute to an eclectic live music scene that makes the city one of Canada’s most dynamic provincial capitals.

“Edmonton has a vibrant and exciting music scene, and Edmontonians are very supportive of it,” said Shauna de Cartier, founder of Edmonton’s Interstellar Rodeo music festival and president of Toronto-based Six Shooter Records. “Interstellar Rodeo was founded in 2012, and its success is a reflection of the city’s appetite for quality live music and festivals and its willingness to embrace newcomers.”

On any given night, visitors can enjoy live performances at a variety of Edmonton venues, and throughout the summer months there is an assortment of music festivals that cater to almost every genre.

“The number of great-sounding rock bands in our city is definitely increasing,” said Dave Sawchuk, music director of Sonic 102.9, an Edmonton-based alternative rock station that offers a month of heavy play to local artists featured as their Band of the Month. “We’re breaking attendance records at our annual Sonic Boom alternative music festival as people both inside and outside the city are discovering it.”

Edmontonians dig the beat of their city, and travelers can tune into the city’s unique vibe as well. Here are some of the top places to recommend to clients who want to experience Edmonton’s blossoming music scene.

Night on the Town
Edmonton’s nightlife is exciting and ever-evolving with a variety of pubs, dive bars, restaurants and performance venues that pull in all kinds of artists, from jazz and indie to blues and rock. Some of the best sites have been around for decades and draw in veteran performers from around the globe, but up-and-coming clubs featuring edgy new names keep the music scene fresh. The downtown entertainment district along Jasper Avenue and the clubs along Whyte Avenue are great places to begin exploring the scene.

There are a lot of Blues fans in Edmonton and several great venues where visitors can enjoy live Blues music. Blues on Whyte at the Commercial Hotel has been a mainstay for more than four decades and has hosted some of the planet’s top Blues performers — guests can catch a live blues show every night of the week there. Tuesday through Saturday, Big Al’s House of Blues features live music. The Edmonton Blues Society also hosts regular concerts and events.

The Yardbird Suite has been one of the city’s prime jazz venues since opening in 1957. It is the performance venue of the Edmonton Jazz Society and features the best in local, national and international jazz. For something unique, visit The Red Piano, a bistro and duelling piano bar in West Edmonton Mall that offers fine wine and food while performers battle it out on cherry-red pianos.

There is a wide variety of classical music to enjoy in town, from the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra to the Edmonton Opera. The Edmonton Chamber Music Society also hosts internationally acclaimed chamber musicians throughout the year.

Several country music bars in Edmonton host live performances, but the biggest country music event in the city is the annual Canadian Country Music Awards. The awards are held every fall in Edmonton and honor Canada’s top Country artists during Country Music Week in September.

The Festival Circuit

Canada’s Festival City has some of the best summer music festivals on the planet. Some have been around for decades and have received international acclaim, including the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, which was once dubbed “the hippest music festival on the continent” by Rolling Stone. Here are a few other festivals to recommend to clients who are traveling to Alberta’s capital region — be sure to advise them to purchase tickets in advance. 

Edmonton Blues Festival
Every August, award-winning blues musicians from around the world come together at Western Canada’s premiere Blues festival.

Edmonton International Jazz Festival
Top international and local jazz artists flock to the city every June for this event. Bobby McFerrin will perform this year.

Interstellar Rodeo
Artistic outlaws and musical mavericks wow crowds at this July festival. Andrew Bird and Gord Downie and The Sadies are among headliners scheduled for this year’s event.

Edmonton Rock Music Festival
This two-day festival takes place at Hawrelak Park Amphitheatre and is a celebration of classic rock.

This brand-new festival will debut in October, celebrating indie music and art at 10 different downtown venues.

Sonic Boom
Now in its sixth year, Edmonton’s alternative music festival will host such names as Jack White and Foster the People this August.

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