It’s a big month for live music in Kingston this November, as Arkells, City and Colour, Matt Mays, and Measha Brueggergosman all make their return. But that’s just the tip of what’s in store. Here are 13 shows that should be must-sees.  

Fast Romantics

Fast RomanticsSource: Fast Romantics / Facebook

Friday, November 1, 2019, 10 pm

The Grad Club

This Toronto band has been earning a loyal following and critical acclaim for several years now with their blend of indie rock, classic pop, and rock ‘n’ roll. Think plenty of anthems and pop hooks interspersed with tight guitar licks and driving beats. This summer, their single “Do No Wrong” hit number one on the CBC national chart, and now they’re finishing a record while touring Canada this fall. 

Admission $18

Matt Mays

Matt Mays
Source: Matt Mays / Facebook

Thursday, November 7, 2019, 7:30 pm

The Grand Theatre

For over 20 years, Nova Scotia’s Matt Mays has been playing loud, sweaty rock shows or quieter, semi-acoustic theatre gigs. On this tour, though, called “Howl at the Night”, he’s bringing both together for the first time. As he says, the shows are “a journey through songs, old and new, an evening that will start off woody and mellow and finish electric and stormy.”    

Admission $32.50 – $37.50

Dwayne Gretzky

Dwayne Gretzky
Source: Anthony Tuccitto

Thursday, November 7, 2019, 9 pm

Ale House

Nostalgia junkies, listen up: this Toronto 10-piece is not your typical barroom cover band. Since 2011, their reputation has been built on roof-busting live shows all over Canada and the U.S. that draw from a catalogue of over 600 classic pop and rock tunes. That means you could hear everything from Fleetwood Mac to Lauryn Hill, Whitney Houston to Fatboy Slim, Queen to Arcade Fire. 

Admission $22

Daniel Champagne 

Daniel Champagne

Saturday, November 9, 2019, 8 pm

Musiikki Café

Australia’s Daniel Champagne picked up an acoustic guitar at age five and hasn’t looked back, today selling out shows all over the world. Now based in Nashville, his music is still anchored in blues, folk and other roots traditions. As the Calgary Herald put it recently, “the word prodigy seems to entirely fall short of this soft-spoken young man’s skills, he coaxes sounds and melodies out of his instrument that literally drop jaws.”  

Admission $20

Measha Brueggergosman

Measha Brueggergosman
Source: Canadian Film Centre (Flickr Creative Commons)

Tuesday, November 12, 2019, 7:30 pm

The Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts

One of Canada’s most renowned sopranos, Brueggergosman has been performing as an opera singer and concert artist for over 20 years. Her musical range encompasses everything from gospel hymns and jazz standards to classical music, but at The Isabel expect to hear soulful renditions of songs from the black women who have inspired her as well as spirituals from her recent album “Songs of Freedom”. 

Admission $19 – $59

Lotus Shaker

Lotus Shaker
Source: Lotus Shaker / Facebook

Friday, November 15, 2019, 10 pm

The Merchant 

Though they didn’t expect it, Kingston’s Lotus Shaker has become one of the busiest rock bands in the city. Anchored by powerhouse singer Britttany Blanche, the group was started in 2010 by Blanche and her fiancé, guitarist Dan Chisolm. It now includes bassist Tim Archibald and drummer Jeff Salmon. Expect, as they put it, “a variety of gut wrenching, soul searching, rough-around-the-edges kind of music.”

Free admission


Source: Matt Barnes

Saturday, November 16, 2019, 7:30 pm

Leon’s Centre

Since bursting onto the Canadian rock scene in 2006, Hamilton’s Arkells have gone on to become one of the most in-demand live bands in the country. They’re a radio mainstay too, as evidenced by their 2017 single “Knocking at the Door”, which spent 14 weeks at number one on the Canadian Alternative chart. Arena shows are common for Arkells now, so they’ll definitely manifest a ton of energy and fist pumps in Kingston.

Admission $40.50 – $211.77


Source: danisabella (Flickr Creative Commons)

Thursday, November 21, 2019, 8 pm

Blu Martini

Almost 2,000 shows after launching Hollerado, the Ottawa fourpiece is calling it quits. They’ve taken their fun-loving style of indie pop-rock all over the world for the past 12 years, but this will be the band’s final tour. It’s sad news for fans, but as frontman Menno Versteeg told the Ottawa Citizen recently: “The records are still there, come to these shows and have a good time, and then get on with your life.” 

Admission $25

Johnny Reid

Johnny Reid
Source: Johnny Reid / Facebook

Monday, November 25, 2019, 7 pm

Leon’s Centre

It’s been 20 years since Johnny Reid arrived on the country music scene, and in that time the Scottish-born, Canadian-bred artist has made 10 studio albums and sold over 11 million of them worldwide. Now he has released a new Christmas EP, which this tour is supporting. No doubt his classic rock and blue-collar roots will shine bright at this holiday show in Kingston. 

Admission $39.50 – $89.50

Dan Mangan

Dan Mangan
Source: Creative Mornings Vancouver (Flickr Creative Commons)

Monday, November 25, 2019, 7:30 pm

The Grand Theatre

Dan Mangan released his fifth full-length album last year, “More or Less”, and while it tackles a different subject matter than what’s come before — namely, birth and rebirth — it’s still rooted in the pop-inflected folk-rock that’s led to two Juno wins and two Polaris nominations for the Vancouver-based artist. The Grand’s rich acoustics should provide a good home for Mangan’s warm musicianship.    

Admission $34.50 – $39.50

City and Colour

City and Colour
Source: Thomas Hawk (Flickr Creative Commons)

Tuesday, November 26, 2019, 7 pm

Leon’s Centre

City and Colour, aka Dallas Green, is still going strong and selling out venues seven albums and 14 years after branching out from post-hardcore band Alexisonfire. The sound on every album is different, ranging from driving alt-rock to quiet acoustic folk, but his arresting vocals and honest, heartfelt lyrics remain constant. 

Admission $51 – $81

The Franklin Electric, Tim Baker

Tim Baker
Source: Britney Townsend

Wednesday, November 27, 2019, 7:30 pm

The Spire

This intimate show at Sydenham Street United Church brings two acclaimed Canadian indie folk artists together. The Franklin Electric is a Montreal collective rooted in anthems of personal moments. They were nominated for a 2018 Juno for Breakthrough Group of the Year. Tim Baker (pictured) is the frontman of the much-acclaimed Newfoundland group Hey Rosetta! He released his debut solo album in April, and it was quickly named to the Polaris Prize long list. 

Admission $31


Source: Pamela Ayala

Thursday, November 28, 2019, 7 pm

The Mansion

BANNERS is the indie rock brainchild of Liverpool, England’s Michael Nelson. Since 2015, he, along with his backing band, have been delivering singles noted for soaring vocals, rich piano chords, sweeping beats, and orchestral guitars. BANNERS’ breakout single “Start a Riot” generated over 59 million Spotify streams, while two others have eclipsed 22 million streams. In other words, see this band up close in a small venue like The Mansion while you still can.   

Admission $18



Kingston can’t always decide if it’s a city for beers or bands—truth is, it’s both.

The street signs tick off pubs and bars, crammed with regional beers, and play host to the musical acts rocking the city’s weekends. For beer connoisseurs doubling as music fans, there’s no better town for a pub crawl and a sampling of the city’s music offerings. Here’s a list of signature local drinks to kick off your musical journey and pub crawl in the Limestone City.

Skeleton Park Amber at the Merchant Tap House

By the waterfront, there’s the Merchant Tap House, a classic lamplight pub with dark, lacquered floors. The house stage in the corner was a launching pad for luminaries like The Glorious Sons, who cut their teeth honing their timeless sound in the pub.

It’s best to start the night right with a Skeleton Park Amber. The titular brewing company’s signature beer, a pint of Skeleton Park is hoppy, caramel chaser and a perfect introduction to bar-hopping live stages in the city.

MacKinnon Brothers Crosscut at The Toucan

A weathered staple, The Toucan’s famous for two things: pints of Guinness and the stage near the back. The latter is where student bands aim when they want to reach the city’s long-term residents; the former is what brings the crowd, in addition to seeing fresh musical talent, of course. However, Kingston’s breweries stack-up against any import.

For example, local brewer MacKinnon Brothers Crosscut is darker than most lagers, slipping past dad-beer status to reveal a more refined taste than you initially bargained for. What better way to celebrate a stalwart stage that continues to serve musical surprises while keeping a loyal base of music fans. It’s a community, music, and a brewery’s best all in a single bar.

Waupoos Cider at Musiikki Café

Musiikki Café, meanwhile, is less bar, more experience. There are old books on the shelf, a stage buried in its storefront window, and a face-to-face intimacy that means a change of pace. Its open mic nights are famous and host next to every genre, from folk to jazz. It’s a cultural nerve centre. And, whether it’s a professional or an amateur on stage, it can be a spell-binding experience.

At the bar, it’s a chance to sample Waupoos Cider from the County Cider Company, which is a short drive south of the city in Prince Edward County. It’s crisp, light, refreshing and matches the energy on stage.

Sam Roberts Band Ale at The Mansion

The Mansion is a crossroads for a city that blends together styles and genres to create something unique to itself.

Students mill around with long-term residents; emerging artists open for touring acts on their from Montreal to Toronto and multiple rooms cater to a town that fell in love with its bands. Close-off your night catching a headliner at this landmark establishment, and then grab a Kingstonian tribute to a Canadian musical icon.

Celebrate future Juno winners taking the stage with a collaboration between Sam Roberts Band and Kingston’s Spearhead Breweries. The Sam Roberts Band Ale is a combination of American and British ales and a much-needed, hop-filled conclusion to any musical tour of the city.

There’s nothing more complementary to watching a local band on stage than a pint from a local brewery.

Get the inside scoop on Kingston’s live music scene and check out the latest music festivals and events on our music site.



30 years ago, the Tragically Hip released their first full studio album, making Kingston the foundation of Canadian music.

With 13 full albums released over the course of over two decades, The Tragically Hip became more than Kingston’s hometown heroes. Their records formed the bedrock of a new national musical identity, belonging to campfires and hockey arenas, emerging cities and quiet small towns.

For Kingstonians, each record has its own personal connection, reaching some more than others. There’s no definitive list, just as there’s no singular Hip fan. That’s because their music an irrevocable part of our culture—and it started in Kingston.

13. Now for Plan A (2012)

Music fans never forgot the Hip mattered. But this record came with slightly less notice than deserved.

It’s almost a live album in all but name, with a significant portion of the record pulled from live performances on the studio floor in a two-week session. As a result, it’s a far more urgent album than critics realized.

This is the Hip at their most vulnerable but still delivers memorable moments aplenty. Fellow Kingstonian Sarah Harmer lends her haunting vocals to the standout track “The Lookahead.” Downie’s lyrics are damaged and resilient, inspired by his wife’s diagnosis with lung cancer. Listening to Downie’s plaintive howl on “Man Machine Poem,” the record’s heart more than addresses its quieter impact.

It wasn’t a cultural touchstone. It was a reminder of why the Hip mattered.

12. Music @ Work (2000)

Coming off the decade where The Hip solidified themselves as Canadian rock mainstays, the album has the casual confidence of a band that’s inarguably made it.

The title track “My Music At Work,” opens the album with the quintessential Hip song: so abstract it’s universal, and undeniably catchy but still hard-rocking. Despite the Black Sabbath-inflected metal on the following, “Tiger the Lion,” the album never feels weighed down. Even if it experiments, it’s easy-going and self-assured. The trade-off may be less grabbing emotional moments and excess songs, but it never completely diminishes the album.

11. World Container (2006)

For an arena-sized album of U2 proportions, its angst and experimentation can come as a surprise. One listen to World Container’s “In View” is proof.

Trading in the hard-rocking guitar-oriented tracks of their previous albums, for a pop hook, the song is a declaration disguised as an earworm jingle: The Hip could change without losing their identity. Meanwhile, experiments like Spanish guitar inflections on the “Lonely End of the Rink” shouldn’t work. Somehow, they do.

10. We are the Same (2008)

Capitalizing on the experimentation of World Container, the Hip upped the ante. Where the previous album pushed for stadium-filling sounds, We are the Same is more conversational, more aimed at relaxing and revelling in a band refusing the status quo.

The laidback country influences on “Morning Moon” and the downbeat “Coffee Girl” are great tracks, but they should be listened to alone. That may be why this record is lighter on the live staples; it’s heavier on arrangements and strings than towering rock songs.

9. In Violet Light (2002)

Fittingly named, In Violet Light is the Hip at their most dream-like. Outgoing rock songs still make an appearance with “Are You Ready” and “All Tore Up,” but they’re the exceptions.

The album’s heart is in the weary, thoughtful mood on “It’s A Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken.” A patient, slow-to-unfold track, it’s a cathartic lesson in recovery and redemption after losses. It also represents a darker sound than typically appears as a greatest hit.

Not all of the songs might be huge crowd-pleasers, but the Hip were reaching for something deeper.  “Let’s get friendship right / Get life day-to-day / In the forget-yer-skates dream / Full of countervailing woes,” Downie signs on “It’s A Good Life”.

8. Phantom Power (1998)

This record could top this list with “Bobcaygeon” alone. The anthem will likely go down as The Hip’s definitive piece, a moving narrative about a cop falling in love in a small town. However, that would leave out some of the strongest singles the band ever released.

“Poets” and “Fireworks” are irreverent, literate rock songs that easily separate the Hip from the many dour releases of contemporaries. Meanwhile, “Escape is at Hand for the Travelling Man” is unusually restrained and quiet, acting as a tribute to a late friend of the band.

While coming at the end of some of the band’s most classic period, Phantom Power proved the band had the depth to be a lifelong presence.

7. Trouble at the Henhouse (1996)

By the time Trouble at the Henhouse released, fans knew what to expect from a Hip record. And the new release largely delivered. It’s quality rock and roll, from a reliably great band.

In terms of contribution, the real uncontested fan favourite is “Ahead by a Century.” Acoustic, and softer than the majority of the album, the song is already an old friend at first listen. Fans might point to down-tempo offerings like “Apartment Song” and “Flamenco” but, realistically, it’s all wrapping for the lead single.

6. Day for Night (1994)

“Nautical Disaster” is the signpost for what the Hip had become by this record’s release. A retelling of Canada’s ill-fated raid on Dieppe in World War II, it marks the Hip’s complete transition into being a truly national band. For all the critiques of the album’s darker turns, the band strikes a powerful balance between the expansive and the intimate.

“Grace, Too” and “So Hard Done By” are top-tier rockers, and “Scared” is heart-rending and self-conscious, seeing Downie at his most raw and fragile. These mainstays are a strong outline of how the Hip developed after the whirlwind recording schedule of their first albums. Blues rock alone was out, The Hip had their own sound.

5. In Between Evolution (2004)

If there was ever an album that was criminally overlooked, it’s In Between Evolution. While it sold well and features some classic Hip tunes, it’s always shy of critics’ top honours.

Maybe that’s because the album was well-trod territory for the Hip, or potentially the more accessible production. Regardless, it’s the band at top-form, doing what it does best. With huge fist-pumping tunes like “It Can’t Be Nashville Every Night” and “Vaccination Scar,” and the powerhouse storytelling on “Gus: The Polar Bear From Central Park,” it should have been more of a landmark.

If it was only released earlier in the Hip’s career, it might have been.

4. Road Apples (1991)

The sophomore slump is hard to shake. Plenty of second albums suffer from rushed schedules and half-completed songs thrown together before release. For the Hip, the first notes on “Little Bones” dispelled any such notion.

It’s undeniable: it’s a Canadian classic and the greatest gift cover bands could ever ask for. It’s packed with tunes guaranteed to carry a party (“Three Pistols” and “Twist My Arm” particularly) but also introduced the mature introspection that would sometimes carry the band.

Meanwhile. “Fiddlers Green” and “Long Time Running” are quiet, eye-watering numbers. For a record known to please pub crowds, Road Apples gave the Hip the depth needed to become icons.

3. Man Machine Poem (2016)

Man Machine Poem’s release was inseparable from Downie’s diagnosis with brain cancer. Whether intentional or not, the album is a late-career elegy, filled with left turns and musical gambles that fit neatly onto a goodbye record.

The album’s centrepiece, “In a World Possessed By The Human Mind,” belongs on the list of Hip’s greatest songs. It has all the makings of the band at their prime: power-chord choruses and pensive lyrics, the song is about the calm of making peace.

Downie was often a cipher with his lyrics, but the melancholy on the album is always filtered through understanding. It’s a goodbye, but on its own terms.

2. Fully Completely (1992)

Fully Completely is the first sight of the band’s complete package. Canadian iconography and history permeate the record, taking centre-stage for the first time. This was when the band truly grew out of being solely a Kingston fixture.

There’s no definitive best song for a record chock-full of them. The heart-breaking prairie scene of “Wheat Kings” can’t be fully compared to the gritty twin guitars on “At the Hundredth Meridian.” There can’t be a best tribute to a national hero when the two competitors are “Courage (for Hugh MacLennan)” and “Fifty Mission Cap.” It’s simply the Hip at their best.

1. Up to Here (1989)

By all rights, no band has any right to release Up to Here as their first fully-fledged record. It’s too confident. The songwriting is too tight. The tracklisting verges on being more of a greatest hits compilation than a first stab at production.

There’s no need to relitigate why “38 years old,” “New Orleans Is Sinking” and “Blow at High Dough” are great. The proof is they dominate national radio 30 years after their release. More, however, could be said for the swaggering country of “Boots or Hearts” and the rebellious storytelling in “I’ll Believe in You (Or I’ll be Leaving You).”

This is the record that launched a generation of musicians, and its roots are in Kingston.