5 of the Best Venues for Live Music in Kitchener-Waterloo
107.5 Dave Rocks mentioned this list on their Morning Buzz show! Give it a listen ⬆️
There isn’t anything quite like live music.
If done right, it can be one of the best reasons to go out. There’s such a unique energy to it that is almost impossible to do on an album.
But who wants to drive or take the train to Toronto on a Friday night? Not us, that’s for sure. But don’t worry, if you live in Kitchener-Waterloo, you don’t have to. There are lots of top-notch venues in both cities, no matter what you listen to.
So with that in mind, we thought we’d put together five of our favourites (you’re welcome). Let’s get right into it, shall we?
1. Maxwell’s Concerts and Events – Waterloo
Location: 35 University Avenue East in Waterloo, just a short walk from Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo.
Size: Big. It fits up to 700 people, but with the way their space is set up, they can adapt it for almost any crowd size depending on what’s happening that night. Sometimes they are able to sell out the entire facility.
Food and Drink: There are two large bars, and many of their events are also catered, many nights from Morty’s Pub.
Atmosphere: Loud and electrifying. With a large student crowd and easy access to alcohol, that’s probably not too surprising. But this ain’t Phil’s. For the most part, the venue is clean, safe and just looks really good.
What they’re known for: Just about everything. They’ve brought in some of the very best Canadian artists, like Matthew Good, Monster Truck and The Trews. But they also do a lot more, like host local artists, tribute bands, and comedy nights, just to name a few. Every week there is something going on here, no matter what it is.
Long story short: Maxwell’s is at its best when it’s loud and the music is rockin’. And it’s probably the best on this list for having the most well-known bands. But even if you’re going to see a local artist or are trying out one of their other events, it’s always a party at Maxwell’s. If you live near either of the Universities and haven’t been here yet, you really are missing out.
Bonus: Check out their Year 1 compilation video below if you really want to get a good look at the place before you try it!
2. Starlight Social Club – Uptown Waterloo
Location: 47 King Street North in Uptown Waterloo. It’s a nice halfway point between the Universities and the rest of Uptown.
Size: Around 200 people (Starlight didn’t get back to us with this information by the time we published this article, so that is a very loose guess. We’ll update this if we hear back from them).
Food and Drink: No food – just drinks (but they’re priced fairly reasonably).
Atmosphere: Very comfortable. It feels like a party in a giant living room.
What they’re known for: Being a hybrid between a live music venue and a dance club. And most of the time, it works really well.
Long story short: If you want to dance, Starlight’s got you. If you want to discover and enjoy great live music instead, Starlight’s got you covered there too. It’s a great venue that has been in Uptown Waterloo for over a decade now, and for good reason.
3. The Jazz Room – Uptown Waterloo
Location: 59 King St. North in Uptown Waterloo. It’s actually hidden inside the Heuther Hotel.
Size: Relatively small. The space can technically hold up to 160 people, but most nights the venue draws in around 80 people.
Food and Drink: Full service from the Heuther Hotel’s own restaurant. You can see the full list of menu options here.
Atmosphere: Sizzling and very cool. It’s a seated venue with low lighting for people who just want to enjoy the (often mind-blowing) music.
What they’re known for: Jazz, jazz and jazz. It says it right there in their name. And yet somehow, every evening and every artist has a completely different feel, so the performances often still have a newness about them.
Long story short: The Jazz Room is probably the most niche venue on this list, but it’s on here because it’s one of the most unique experiences in the city. It’s not going to be for everyone, but if you want to relax and watch some talented musicians show off, this is the place for you.
4. The Boathouse – Victoria Park in Downtown Kitchener
Location: 57 Jubilee Drive in downtown Kitchener, right in the heart of Victoria Park.
Size: 90 people inside, and another 90 on the patio, which understandably gets most of the attention in the summer.
Food and Drink: Full in-house restaurant (which pairs very well with the music and location). Check out their full menu on their website here. Their House-Baked Pretzel is out-of-this-world.
Atmosphere: Charming and bright. Being right beside the Lake in Victoria Park doesn’t hurt either.
What they’re known for: Good music, good food and an even better view. The Boathouse does everything from classic rock to folk and just about everything in between, but the music, no matter what it is, always seems to fit the cozy venue.
Long story short: The Boathouse is undoubtedly at the top of this list when it comes to the view. Because of that and the food, it would be a stellar restaurant if that was all there was to it, but thankfully there’s tons of quality artists and music too. Unlike the Jazz Room, The Boathouse does a bit of everything and has something for just about every music lover. It’s all good stuff, no matter what it sounds like.
5. Rhapsody Barrel Bar – Downtown Kitchener
Location: 179 King Street West in downtown Kitchener, just a short walk from City Hall and the Charles Street bus terminal.
Size: It holds just over 200 people.
Food and Drink: Full-service restaurant with a big drink list. See what they have to offer here.
Atmosphere: Upbeat and fun. The restaurant itself has a great vibe, but the music and performances often ratchet that up to a whole other level. Once the performance starts, that’s all you’ll want to focus on.
What they’re known for: A unique experience. With extensive drink options, unique menu choices and quality musical performances almost every day of the week, Rhapsody often steals the spotlight in downtown Kitchener.
Long story short: Rhapsody is the newest venue on this list, but with the awesome atmosphere and events almost every day, we just couldn’t leave it out. This one is worth a few return trips.