Shawn Conner has been a music journalist for more than 15 years, and set up popular online Vancouver listings magazine The Snipe News in 2008. We asked Shawn to give us the lowdown on seeing live music in his home city:

How would you describe the music scene in Vancouver? It has a great history doesn’t it? Does it still have a pulse?

The music scene is probably better, and certainly more diverse than it’s ever been. It has a strong metal scene, a strong indie-rock scene, still a strong punk scene (White Lung is a band to watch for). And of course, we have given the world Carly Rae Jepsen (we don’t like to mention Nickelback).

Would a visitor to the city find it easy to explore the live music scene? How would they find out who was playing where?

Between the ads and listings, the Georgia Straight (a free weekly) is pretty comprehensive. There are a few sites, like and, that try to do the same thing, in different configurations. One of my favorite ways is still the old-fashioned way—checking out the gig posters in my neighborhood, the Commercial Drive area. If you feel like gambling, usually the Biltmore Cabaret, Electric Owl and the Cobalt (right across from the Electric Owl, on Main Street) will have something that is at least decent. Sometimes I’d rather see a band I hadn’t heard of at one of those clubs than something I know at a downtown venue.

What are some of your favorite music experiences in the city?

This goes back to the previous question, but probably the shows I don’t plan to see and just find myself at—dropping by the Biltmore on a whim, after going out for dinner or to a gallery opening. Deer Lake Park and Malkin Bowl are great outdoor venues. The David Byrne/St. Vincent show at the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts (which, like the Orpheum and the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, are the “classy” joints in which to catch some music) was amazing. A few months back I heard a busker on Granville Island doing a version of Steve Earle’s “Copperhead Road” that stopped me in my tracks. Oh, and Commercial Drive (where I live) has a nice little scene cooking—Falconetti’s can often be counted on for some solid acts on weekends.

What are some of the best venues in Vancouver?

Biltmore, Cobalt (great beer + bourbon selection!) & Electric Owl for club-size shows. Also the Media Club and the Railway Club, which are smaller and more singer/songwriter-oriented (although both can also be rocking places, depending on the act). Centre for Performing Arts, Queen Elizabeth Theatre and Orpheum Theatre for acoustics, bigger names and higher prices. The Vogue Theatre, which is less formal and more diverse. Of course, the Commodore Ballroom is semi-legendary, if not legendary, and people love it. Across the street is Venue, which brings in some pretty cool shows.  

Are there any hidden bars that a visitor might not know of that are a great place to see a band? Do you have a favorite?

Unless you were hanging out on Commercial Drive, you probably wouldn’t know about Falconetti’s, a bar/restaurant connected to a sausage store. Same with Cafe Deux Soleils, also on Commercial. Definitely the Railway Club and Media Club are downtown but cleverly hidden.