Get out there! A Kingston venue guide

The Artel is home to an eclectic mix of visual art and concerts.
The Artel is home to an eclectic mix of visual art and concerts.
Newly renovated, the Grand Theatre is a pretty classy venue.
Newly renovated, the Grand Theatre is a pretty classy venue.
The Grad Club is your best bet to catch popular indie acts in a cosy and unique space.
The Grad Club is your best bet to catch popular indie acts in a cosy and unique space.
Journal File Photo

Whether you’re new to Kingston or have been here for years, finding the concerts isn’t always easy. Decent venues devoted to shows do feel like a rare thing in the Limestone City. But there are enough local musicians, artists dropping by en route to Montreal or Toronto and people making it happen, that if you do a bit of digging and exploring you should find a handful of shows to noisily pass the time.

393 Princess Street

Alehouse has a strange sports bar-meets-club environment most nights of the week, but every once in a while usually on a Wednesday, it turns into a concert venue. Surprisingly, it’s a great place to host a show. Its two floors accommodate crowds as well as ensure there are lots of seats with a good view of the medium-sized stage. The front pit is wide and deep enough to provide audience members with breathing and dancing room if need be. The Trews seem to play there once a year.

Upcoming: Matt Mays and El Torpedo, The Trews

The Artel
205 Sydenham Street

The local artist residence collective has turned their living room into a gallery and concert venue hopping with film, fine art and music events. The Artel Concert Series lovingly pairs local bands with touring acts in what are comfortable and awfully intimate shows. Often lesser-known gems make their way to the Artel living room, so it’s a breath of fresh artistic air. Due to noise regulations, shows tend to be a little earlier in the evening.

Upcoming: The Weather Station, One Hundred Dollars

364 Princess Street

New to the game is BarNone, a venue that has nestled into what used to be the infamous Smijies—affectionately called “The Smij,” apparently. Appropriated by Kingston Punk Productions, the bar boasts a decent and varied roster of rockers who are set to drop by the hole-in-the-wall where Princess Street meets Division. Hopefully this venue will “file its taxes” better than the previous one and keep Kingston entertained in wholesome, musical ways. Upcoming: Spiral Beach, The Real McKenzies

178 Ontario Street

Thursday night at Brandees is all about the blues. The crowd is a little mature and interestingly varied but if dancing to soulful blues is your thing then it’s worth braving for the stellar band. Local jazz queen Georgette Fry can be seen there every night even when she isn’t performing—she and her beautiful curly hair are emblazoned on the wall.

14 Garrett Street

This club may not be deeply devoted to concerts but once in a while they snag artists and throw some good shows. A little sleeker than most Kingston bars, Elixir has also invested in its sound system so when the likes of the Weakerthans, Tegan and Sara and Kid Koala do show up, they’re treated well.

The Grad Club
162 Barrie Street

With its steady flow of staple and up-and-coming indie acts gracing its teeny stage, the Grad Club’s Flying V Productions constantly delivers quality concerts right to the steps of campus. The good beer, local art décor and shabby, homey wood tables and floors make up a cosy atmosphere. It can get a little too cosy (i.e. squishy and sweaty) when filled to the brim with concertgoers, but you might run into the main act on the way to the washroom. It’s also wise to get tickets early for bigger acts because the space fills up.

Upcoming: Land of Talk, D’Urbervilles, Apostle of Hustle, Holy Fuck, Jason Collett

The Grand Theatre
218 Princess Street

Finally the Kingston Symphony has a home! This grand old theatre has been under construction for the last few years and has now opened its shiny renovated doors to theatre, opera, dance, classical music and Stuart McClean. It’s kind of comforting to know there’s a venue with plush seats in town. Upcoming: Natalie MacMaster, Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal, 2008 Jazz festival, Stuart McClean

K-Rock Centre
1 Barrack Street

Since opening this year, the new arena has begun to attract the mega-acts you wouldn’t normally expect to see come to town. The Tragically Hip, of course, christened it last spring and this fall sees even bigger names drop by.

Upcoming: The Blue Man Group, Sheryl Crow, Great Big Sea

The Merchant
6a Princess Street

This Tap House at the bottom of Princess Street is worth the walk not necessarily for its beer selection but rather for folkster Emily Fennel’s weekly gig and bluesy voice. Acts that play there do tend to vary in quality, but they’re all free.

Upcoming: Emily Fennel every Friday

Queen Street United Church
221 Queen Street

Home of the Apple Crisp Music Concert Series, this downtown church lends itself to becoming a little indie enclave with cheap cover, sweet bands and seasonal homemade desserts. An effort to ensure artists have a venue to play when they pass through town, Apple Crisp was created to fill the Tuesday night concert void in Kingston life. Not quite a weekly thing, the series puts on a show almost on a monthly basis and has expanded its local brand by becoming a record label, home to The Gertrudes, PS I Love You and Magic Jordan.

Sydenham United Church
82 Sydenham Street

Sydenham United Church has a reputation among musicians as being an excellent venue with exceptionally beautiful acoustics.

This is part of what enticed Canadian folk stars the McGarrigle Sisters to perform at the church last year. For larger acts, Flying V Productions will move from its home base of the Grad Club down the street to Sydenham United Church to make use of its open space, high ceilings and dainty pews. The acoustics, calm atmosphere and quality performers have the potential to create a sort of spiritual musical experience. Upcoming: Maria Muldar

Time to Laugh Comedy Club
394 Princess Street

Tucked away on Princess Street and perhaps overpowered by neighbouring bar Stages’ ominous presence, you’ll find a comedy club that also acts as a primary venue for Kingston Punk Productions. Local and national punk, rock, emo, screamo, metal, hardcore and many other kinds of ’core bands find their way to Time to Laugh Comedy Club. I hear comedians perform there too sometimes. Spacious and equipped with a decent sound system, Time To Laugh will fix any punkish cravings you’ve been having.

Upcoming: Attack in Block, The Steve Howe Trio

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.