Jill Barber

Strut Entertainment

CBC Radio 3 is getting ready to proclaim the greatest live music venue in Canada, as chosen by the people.

The Searchlight series “shines a light on the best that Canada has to offer musically,” explains CBC Radio 3 host Grant Lawrence. “This year, we decided to do the best live music venue in Canada, the criteria being 1000 capacity or under, indoors and primarily catering to live music.”

“Live music venues that are of that size are usually run by true music lovers,” he offers. “It can be a really thankless task, because anything of that size means that they aren't big stars coming to pay your venues. This isn't where Bruce Springsteen and Neil Diamond are coming to play…at times, it can be financially really trying.”

Virginia Clark is the general manager and promoter at The Grad Club in Kingston, Ontario. The Grad Club has housed shows featuring the likes of The Rheostatics, The Acorn, Plants & Animals, Holy F*ck, Joel Plaskett and many more.

“It's a big Victorian house and we get Canada’s best artists,” says Clark. “They perform in a living room, so it's really really intimate and I think a lot of the musicians like that. So does the audience.”

Juno-nominated singer-songwriter Jill Barber holds a special place in her heart for the Grad Club:

“I have literally grown up as a performer on that stage,” Barber says. “Their open-mic night was the scene of my first-ever public performance in 1996 and it remained the place where I would develop my musical chops and build an audience in subsequent years. I spent four years living in Kingston as a student at Queen's University but looking back, it was the Grad Club that was the institution that truly provided me with my education...” 

Clark isn’t really expecting her tiny Grad Club to win the national competition. “We’re just so happy right now that we're in the top ten,” she says. “We're really honoured. Just honoured. And thankful that our community appreciates us--that's past and present community. I've gotten emails from (former patrons in) New Zealand...they cherish it still, and that's really cool. It means a lot, actually. It really does.”
Your Top Ten:

  • Aeolian Hall, London, ON
  •  Amigo's Cantina, Saskatoon, SK
  •  Baba's Lounge, Charlottetown, PE
  •  Call The Office, London, ON
  •  The Capital Bar, Fredericton, NB
  •  George's Fabulous Roadhouse, Sackville, NB
  •  The Grad Club, Kingston, ON
  •  The Phog Lounge, Windsor, ON
  •  The Starlight Social Club, Waterloo, ON
  •  Zaphod Beeblebrox, Ottawa, ON

Vote for your favourite venue; voting closes on Tuesday afternoon and the winner will be announced on February 25th.

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