It’s repeated so often it’s almost cliché, and yet it’s true: for a city this size, Peterborough has an incredibly active, creative, and diverse music scene. And part of that scene is an abundance of live music venues. Pretty much 365 days of the year (depending if anyone wakes up on Christmas and New Year’s), you can find live music somewhere—and, on Friday and Saturday nights, at five or six somewheres.
This article will present a quick crash course in all the places you can find live music in Peterborough. To find out about specific shows, our What’s On section lists all the music events coming up this month and beyond.
Any discussion of Peterborough venues really has to start with The Spill (414 George Street North). It’s the mecca of the city’s eclectic, inclusive, weird spirit. Owner Dave Tobey will try almost anything once, meaning it’s birthed countless local bands and become a regular stop for many touring bands. Expect punk, folk, electro, spoken word, experimental noise music, and pretty much anything else too.
If someone says ‘rock club,’ the image that comes into your head probably looks a lot like the Red Dog (189 Hunter Street West)—low ceilings, dark lighting, weird smells, and a blaring sound system. This lovably scummy spot is the go-to for rising indie rock and pop acts. And, commendably, the Red Dog also works hard to give local acts a shot on a bigger stage.
Something of a public living room for the local culture crowd, The Garnet (231 Hunter Street West) may be one of Peterborough’s smallest venues, but it’s also one of the most inviting. It’s perfect for pass-the-hat nights with solo singer-songwriters and folk and country bands, but that tight space can also make for a great punk show or dance party too.
Catalina’s (131 Hunter Street West) is a funky salon/vintage shop is emerging as one of the city’s most exciting up-and-coming performance spaces. From flamenco nights to folk singers to experimental film screenings, it has maybe the widest range of events of any local space. The schedule is a bit more sporadic than other venues, but it’s worth seeking out for something unusual, artsy, and often really good.
Peterborough has three sit-down theatres, for more formal (and often more expensive) concerts, as well as plays, dance, and other performances that need a good stage. Few buildings in town have a longer history or a stronger connection to the arts community than Market Hall (140 Charlotte Street), and recent renovations have turned it into one of the city’s more attractive, classier venues.
Showplace (290 George Street North) is larger and ritzier than Market Hall, and hosts a similar range of events. The more intimate Nexicom Studio in the basement is ideal for blues performers and singer-songwriters.
On the other end of the spectrum is the Gordon Best Theatre (216 Hunter Street West), above the Only Cafe and with the same quirky style. It’s a lovely space that sadly sits empty a lot of the time, but the occasional show that comes through is well worth it.
Pubs and Restaurants
For something a bit more laid-back, or if you’re just looking for background accompaniment to your wings and beer, there are a number of pubs around town with small bands and solo acoustic musicians, mostly playing classic covers and sprinkled originals.
The Black Horse Pub (452 George Street North) is the star pupil of the bunch, with a wide variety of musical acts pretty much every night, including the city’s premiere jazz night, weekly on Thursdays. Elsewhere downtown is McThirsty’s Pint (166 Charlotte Street), with live music four nights a week, and Riley’s (251 George Street North), with live music every night. Hot Belly Mama’s (378 George Street North) has a live band every Thursday, Dr J’s BBQ & Brews (282 Aylmer Street North) has music on Saturdays, and Dobro (287 George Street North) has regular live music too.
In the south end, there’s Porch & Pint (72 Lansdowne Street East), Sticks Sports Pub (500 George Street South), and Southside Pizzeria (25 Lansdowne Street West), which hosts regular punk nights as well as other events. North of downtown is Puck N Pint (871 Chemong Road)—each of them offering multiple nights of music every week.
If you want to try your hand at performing, the city has many options. The Red Dog’s Tuesday open mic is developing into a mini scene of its own. The Black Horse hosts a weekly open mic on Tuesdays. Outside of downtown, Southside Pizzeria and Puck N Pint both have weekly open mics on Fridays. For poets, the Peterborough Poetry Slam has an open mic portion of their monthly slam, the fourth Thursday of every month at the Spill.
Even though the city’s got a bunch of dedicated music spots, people are always looking for more places to put on a show. You can find occasional shows at downtown art gallery Artspace (378 Aylmer Street North), at cocktail lounge The Sapphire Room (137 Hunter Street West), in the backyard of Spanky’s (201 Hunter Street West), and many other spots too.
Indeed, we’re seeing more and more concerts in unexpected spots: record stores, theatres, coffee shops, restaurants…. Each space has a different vibe, a different audience, and a different set of possibilities. This is a city with an embarrassment of great venues, and still we’re expanding, experimenting, searching for the next new spot.