Kingstonist poll: Kingston’s best live music venue

As we discussed in our 2018 Year in Review, Kingston’s music scene has come a long way since the 90s, and the number of live music venues has increased greatly in recent years. Just last year, three new venues opened (all breweries!), and the number of live music options in the west end has nearly doubled in the past 18 months. Can we expect any new venues in 2019? So far, the new Irish pub PJ Murphy’s (corner of Johnson and Ontario) is hosting live Irish music on Fridays and Saturdays, and with Daft Brewing opening at Princess and MacDonnell in the spring, Williamsville may have itself a venue, if they keep in practice with most other breweries in town.

By our count, there are 29 live music venues in Kingston right now (see our criteria below). Some venues, like The Mansion and Musiikki, offer live music nearly every night of the week. Others, like The Ale House or The Brooklyn, are a little more infrequent (old-school townies will remember The Ale House was AJ’s Hangar, and they had music most nights of the week). The Embassy Live Music Cafe is unique in that it’s only open once a week, just for a show, and it’s also the only dry room on our list. The west end has nine venues, though one (Rose & Crown) doesn’t do much outside a weekly open mic and Red House West rarely has more than a show a month. And it’s high time for the east end to have some live music options! The recently-opened Duchess Pub offered a show or two on their patio last summer, but that seems to be it, apart from the odd show at the ANAF Club on Gore Road. Venues such as SanTur and PJ Murphy’s are still brand new, while The Toucan and The Grad Club are venerated Kingston institutions.

Kingstonist has previously done a poll on the best performance venue, but that was more about soft-seat theatres. We’ve excluded those from this poll, and have looked at venues that are open to the public (sorry Clark Hall Pub!), and generally have live music at least once a month year-round.

Now, it’s over to you, Kingston. What is your favourite place to watch a band? Have you been to all 29 venues? Is there somewhere you love to go, regardless of who is playing?

You can vote for up to three venues, because not all venues are created equal. Let us know in the comments why you love the ones that you love!


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28 thoughts on “Kingstonist poll: Kingston’s best live music venue

  • OVERTIME for the win! Merchant may have good artists but their stage is miniscule and their dance floor is literally non existent ( it is a walk way And clogs trafficflow) sorry Merch but overtime beats in every category! Better sound, dance floor, lights, security. ( i can leave my purse out and not have to worry about it being stolen) oh And awesome regulars/ owners ;-)

  • I want to vote for Overtime and Raxx but I can’t seem to do it on my phone. Can anyone help me? Thanks.

  • Overtime for the Win as well. Great place and great owners…Rob and Tina Rock! They bring in great music for Kingston to enjoy!!

  • We at The Toucan would like to thank everyone that has voted. The Toucan has been a main stay in the live music scene in Kingston since the early nineties. Today, we have live music every Monday from 10:30pm to 2am, featuring Alternative Folk Rock band, “Goldwing.” We also offer live music every Friday and Saturday featuring local, up & coming, independent bands. With the exception of local charity events such as Joe’s MILL and Homegrown Live, you will never be asked to pay a cover charge at our venue.

  • Overtime for the win. Best owners Rob and Tina in town. Huge stage with best sound system and lighting. Big dance floor with many regulars. Lots of seating and good security as well. Also the drinks are pretty reasonably priced. Great ambiance altogether make Overtime the best for an evening out with friends or solo.

  • OVERTIME is an awesome venue and a great place to socialize. The owners are hands on and treat their regulars like family. They bring in a wide variety of LIVE music and have a large dance floor. They also host karaoke and Salsa nights and have billard tables, darts and a HUGE t.v. to watch sports. PLUS you can even rent their venue to host a Wedding reception or private party! They do it all and are worth checking out. If you do…I’m positive you go back again and again.

  • Overtime!!! Definitely the best venue in town. Great varietie of musicians and events, and great welcoming place for all multicultural events.

  • Our visit to Overtime was fantastic, so many friendly people, very concern whether you are enjoying yourselves, very good service, entertainment fantastic, only thing I missed was a little food, especially when you are having a drink, even sandwiches, you can bring in. Dips, chips popcorn appetizers, But all n all I vote # 1

  • the owners rob and tina; the atmosphere and the entertainment ; always the best; always greated with warmth and a huge smile: OVERTIME is the best , all around: vern and karen rombough!!!!!

  • Overtime is an awesome place to enjoy yourself and have fun, love going there. Great Hospitality, always a warm welcome.

    • This program says I can vote for 3 venues, I was only allowed to vote once. I voted for OVERTIME, and I noticed almost all the reviews are for Overtime as well. I’m familiar with many of these places but not sure of the one that is in the lead. I decided to look up this venue and it’s described as a café, without a liquor licence and closed at 11:00pm. I’m not sure how it even fits with the competition it is up against but something feels a little bit shady.

      • We outlined the criteria in the article. A live music venue doesn’t need a liquor license. The Embassy actually puts on more shows than several other venues on the list. It’s also noteworthy that they are entirely non-profit and volunteer-run.

  • I knew about overtime sportscar when they had the teen dances that my son went too, when I was in my own I never would go to a bar or pub or any place alone. Now it’s the first place I will go, I have met great people their, the owners are warm, compassionate and amazing and I have never done karoke, mind I’m not the greatest but I love to have fun,relax with friends and enjoy me time. You don’t have to drink to have fun, u can play pool,play darts and just be yourself. I have now become captain to one of Overtimes dart league teams and loving it.

    So come on people putting Overtime where they should be on top because they deserve it and wouldnt choose any other. Fingers crossed all…..cheers!!!! Rea

  • Overtime hands down!!! ..Love the space, and the staff, just an amazing atmosphere.. It is by far superior then all the other venues.

  • Overtime is by far is the best venue. Not only is it an amazing place to catch a band playing or sing karaoke, but the owners are great! They always make you feel at home no matter who you are, whether it’s your first visit there or you’re a regular. I would highly recommend anyone on giving this place a visit and check it out!

  • Overtime for the win !! The owner Rob and Tina are the best. When I come down from ottawa I would go there every day. Met so many great people there. From Karaoke to dancing not to mention playing pool. By far the best bar I ever been too. ?????

  • 453 votes for embassy. I agree it’s one of the best and for a great cause, BUT , have any of these voters actually been there?
    I’ve gone to shows there at minimum 5 times. Never have I ever seen more than 20 people in the room.
    Sure it’s great to support by voting , but get off your computer and actually ATTEND a show. That is real support.
    Thank You.

    • If you haven’t seen more than 20 people on approximately 5 occasions I would wonder how they are in the lead for votes. Hmmm. I’m positive that the people who voted did get off their computer and attend a show, and that is why people have voted for Overtime. Just sayin!!

      • I have played several times at the Embassy and those nights have been a full house. Its not a huge venue but to the person who said 5 nights with 20 people or less, that hasn’t been my experience at all. We musicians like it because we get the attention of the audience, it feels like the performer is the focus of the show, which is definitely not always the case at some other venues. Not to mention the amazing cause.

  • As the owner of Overtime sports bar I would like to thank everyone that voted not just for Overtime but for this survey . Tina & I are overwhelmed at the kind words you have all said about us and our venue. Number one in the west end makes very proud Thank you .
    We shall continue to bring you new and exciting shows as we work hard to keep the live music scene alive. Cheers to you all we love our customers. Tina & Rob.

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