– Bryn Lipinksi
There’s a huge amount of live music in Edmonton – a very small portion is performed at Rogers Place and the Jubilee Auditorium. The rest, the vast majority, is performed at local pubs like the Buckingham and The Dirtbag Cafe. The sound design in these bars and cafes isn’t the greatest – some of them don’t even have stages, but they make it work. If you want to listen to local bands live, or even play at an open mic yourself sometime, these are a couple places to check out.
The Dirtbag Cafe
On a regular day, The Dirtbag Cafe is the coffee shop for MacEwan University students. For most of the week there are no live acts; on Wednesday evenings, however, a few tables are pushed back to make room for a bunch of guitars, a four-piece drum set and a piano. The Dirtbag Cafe doesn’t have a stage; still, musicians and a good crowd of people come to take part each time.
Ronen Iosilevich is one of the musicians at the Dirtbag open mic, he plays the piano and sings.
“Personally I find it more appealing, because it’s not [only] like, ‘oh, I have to go on stage because there are a lot of important people here,’ it’s more of like, ‘I want to play music,’ ” said Iosilevich.
It’s unique because anything goes. Really, anything. Hypnotism acts have been done at the Dirtbag open mic. You’ll also hear folk, punk, rock, blues and even stand-up comedy.
Adam Larson is a co-host with Glenn MacDonald at the open mic nights and he says there weren’t many rules when he and MacDonald took it over.
“I think when you give people that kind of trust, … it really allows the night to be versatile and vibrant.”
You can check out their open mic nights, Wednesdays at 8 p.m. at 10505 107 St. Make sure you sign up quick though, because there are lots of musicians who come out each time.
The Buckingham has a very different feel from the Dirtbag: They have a stage, louder speakers and books full bands on three or four nights of the week. They also have an open mic night called Rockin’ 4 Dollars, Mondays at 9 p.m.
The concept is also a little different from the Dirtbag: if you want to go on stage, you’ll have to sign up via email, and do it a few days in advance. It’s more planned out than lots of the others and there’s a possibility of winning a cash prize.
Andi Vissia is a co-host of the open mic night at the Buckingham.
“I think it’s a really cool way to bring a community together around music, but because we have so many different genres that’ll play in a night it kind of forces people – in a really friendly and welcoming way – to experience something new,” said Vissia.
Every set at the open mic nights is performed by a full band, and you’ll hear punk, rock and some metal. The open mic is much more organized, meaning you won’t see the crazy acts you might have at the Dirtbag.
Graham Strach is the frontman for a local band called Re-form who has performed at Rockin’ 4 Dollars, and it’s a special event that he makes an extra effort to attend.
“I live in Leduc, so I make the 30 minute commute, every time, specifically for Rockin’ 4 Dollars,” said Strach.
The Buckingham is a louder venue in general, and definitely a bar setting, whereas the Dirtbag is a cafe, so the vibes in both these venues is completely different.
Those are just two of the countless music venues dotted all over Edmonton in all genres. There’s the Yardbird Suite near Whyte Avenue if you’re into jazz – not so much an open mic place unless you’re a practiced musician. There’s the Naked Cybercafe where you can play mostly anything you want, they’ve got a drum set, a few guitars and a beautiful piano. There’s also the Starlite Room too, with open mic nights on Sundays and featured bands on other nights. If you’re into the blues there’s a place called Blues on Whyte, that hosts different genres of music as well. Their open mic happens Saturday evenings.
Image courtesy of The Dirtbag Cafe