By Matt Hume
It’s the perfect time to enjoy live music in Calgary — new venues are constantly popping up alongside a wide array of classic spots for every taste. For everything from rock to hip-hop, Broken City on 11 Ave. has your back. The rowdy Ship & Anchor Pub on 17 Ave. scratches that burning punk rock itch, and they’ve got one of downtown’s best patios. For harder rock, metal or a general head-bang, check out Dicken’s Pub on 9 Ave. or The Palomino on 7 Ave. downtown. When you want to groove or hear some big electronic names, head over to 10 Ave. for the HiFi Club or Commonwealth Bar & Stage. If intimate nights of drone and noise are what you need, EMMEDIA Gallery, also on 10 Ave., delivers walls of sound in a smaller performance space. The Blues Can in Inglewood lives up to its name with live music every night. Down the street is Festival Hall, featuring indie, roots and traditional folk performances curated by the Calgary Folk Music Festival.
The best music experiences in Calgary take place during the many summer festivals. Leading the pack every June is Sled Island, a music and arts festival that pulls crowds and talent from around the world for five days of shows at over 20 downtown venues. The Calgary Folk Music Festival is another staple, taking over Prince’s Island Park at the end of July for a laid-back weekend of sun and songs.
August is jam packed with festivals for more specific tastes, such as the Calgary International Blues Festival, One Love, Chasing Summer, and Afrikadey! Be sure to catch at least one of these festivals if you’re spending next summer in town.
Stand-up comedy is in high demand right now, and Calgary is starting to supply it. Keep your eyes peeled for touring comedians at The Laugh Shop, the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium and even on campus at MacHall. This fine city is also home to open-mic nights galore, making it possible to catch jokes from amateurs on a regular basis. Comedy Monday Night at Broken City is the longest-running comedy open mic in Western Canada, showcasing first-timers and regulars alike. Touring comedians are also known to make appearances at Comedy Monday Night when they’re in town, so a professional surprise is always on the table.
Another long-running comedy institution is Jupiter Comedy, hosted at the Oak Tree Tavern on Wednesday nights. This often features touring Canadians alongside local talent. Crash Test Comedy at Vern’s Tavern is another regular show with a few years under its belt, delivering scheduled performers followed by an open mic on Tuesday nights. Comedy has grown in Calgary over the last few years and now provides frequent laughs and the opportunity to hone your own skills.
Live theatre in Calgary has found its groove. The renowned Theatre Calgary brings high-quality productions year-round and hosts the popular Shakespeare by the Bow every summer at Prince’s Island Park. Another big name is Theatre Junction GRAND, Calgary’s home for experimental theatre productions. The Loose Moose Theatre is the city’s spot for improv and Lunchbox Theatre is the place to experience more socially-conscious pieces.
Another staple is One Yellow Rabbit, which curates the popular High Performance Rodeo festival in addition to regular year-round programming. For a week of quality underground weirdness, Calgary Fringe Festival highlights experimental theatre at the beginning of August. And as a student, you have affordable access to productions from the School of Creative and Performing Arts at the University of Calgary. The department is filled with impressive talent, so be sure to take advantage of student pricing and on-campus accessibility.
There are a few places in town where you can experience visual art. EMMEDIA Gallery is a go-to spot for experimental exhibitions. The New Gallery is an excellent stop for modern programming and publications and Alberta Printmakers has cozy galleries and fantastic workshops. The Glenbow Museum features rotating exhibitions from across Canada and the world, and offers free admission on the first Thursday of every month. All of the above are featured on the CJSW Friends Card. Pick one up during Orientation Week and keep it with your student ID — your wallet will thank you. If you want to stay on campus, head to the Nickle Gallery in the TFDL or the Little Gallery on the top floor of the Arts Parkade for curated and student-made exhibitions.
Calgary is also a hot-spot for film festivals. Catch future Oscar-winners before wide-release at the Calgary International Film Festival running in late September or dive into a world of animated talent at the GIRAF Animation Festival in November. The growing Calgary Underground Film Festival is a great way to end the winter semester in April with unique and rare films you’re unlikely to find anywhere else. For almost two decades, Calgary has also been the home of the Fairy Tales Queer Film Festival in late May.
When you need a break from blockbusters during the rest of the year, the Globe Cinema on 8 Ave. and the Plaza Theatre in Kensington are both independent theatres that provide an alternative to the big box office. Both are also home to Fifth Reel events, where you can catch fan-favourites like The Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Room with live bands and wild audience participation. Tickets go fast, so don’t sleep on it when your favourite cult classic is up for the Fifth Reel treatment.