Every night, in friendly little hippy bars and sketchy rock clubs with weird-smelling bathrooms; in coffee shops and on theatre stages, exciting things are happening in downtown Peterborough. Live music is happening.
I’ve been covering the Peterborough music scene for the last couple years as head writer for Electric City Live, an online magazine devoted to live local music in Peterborough (check us out: www.electriccitylive.ca), and what I’ve discovered is a vital, creative, and amazingly diverse scene, full of talented people and endless opportunities to hear great live music
First off, Peterborough is a frequent stop for awesome touring bands (it’s nice being the biggest city between Toronto and Ottawa) who often play in tiny venues with ridiculously low cover.
“$5 or Pay-What-You-Can” is the Peterborough mantra.
But the city’s homegrown talent is just as impressive. In last week’s Issue Zero, Arthur featured three locals bands: indie-rockers The Lonely Parade, electro band Fire Flower Revue, and art-pop band hello babies.
Here’s more: Mokomokai put on a heavy metal show better than anything else this side of 1985.
Melissa Payne is a dynamite on the fiddle with a fantastic country band backing her up.
Roboteyes play dramatic, high-energy synth pop, inspired in equal parts by David Bowie and Katy Perry.
The Silver Hearts have been together since 2000, with a dozen members playing jazz, blues, swing, folk, and soul.
Finally, slam poet Wes Ryan has a sharp political mind and an ear for rhythm.
I could go on…
We also have a ton of venues in this town and almost all of them are downtown inside a three-block radius, mostly along George St. and down Hunter St. The main ones:
Red Dog. The go-to space for touring bands. A little scuzzy and a little run down – as any good rock club should be.
The Spill. This cafe/bar has the most eclectic mix of genres and shows. A great spot for up-and-comers, experimental acts, and awesome touring indie bands playing for six people.
The Garnet. The smallest, friendliest spot in town. Casual and intimate, perfect for solo singer-songwriters and new acts, with the occasional thrashing punk/metal show.
The Venue. Generally a dance club, but with a killer sound system and a massive capacity, it’s perfect for some of the biggest touring acts.
Gordon Best Theatre. Above The Only Cafe, and with the same strange hippy-ish style, the Gordon Best has concerts at least a few times a month.
Pig’s Ear Tavern. Hosts sloppy, fantastic rock and country shows every Saturday night, generally for $3.
Market Hall. Located under the downtown clock tower, this place is mostly for sit-down shows for an older crowd. Still has some good (if pricey) shows. Jazz, blues, folk, and classical, plus dance, theater, comedy, and so on.
Showplace. Similar to Market Hall, only with more red faux-velour seating.
Then there’s the downtown pubs that host live acts (Black Horse Pub, McThirsty’s Pint, Riley’s Pub, etc).
Moreover, shows tend to pop up at a lot of random venues: martini bar The Sapphire Room, art gallery Gallery In The Attic, record store Bluestreak Records, and so on.
So, how do you find out about all these bands and shows?
Well, the mainstream local papers and radio stations aren’t much help. Arthur and Trent Radio do a much better job of covering the local arts scene.
I also recommend following some local bands and venues on Facebook and Twitter to show your support, get the latest updates, and tell them how much you love them.
And then there’s the site I’m involved in, Electric City Live. (Begin shameless plug.) Electric City Live has pretty much complete listings of all live music in town.
Every week we publish “What’s On,” which features our top picks for the best upcoming shows. We also interview local and touring bands, we review shows and local albums, we post news, videos, and basically anything else about what’s going on downtown. So check us out: www.electriccitylive.ca. We’re also on Facebook and Twitter @ElectricCityON.
Browse our listings to find something fun or just come downtown; keep your ears open and wander towards whatever sounds good. You won’t be disappointed.