The Top 10 Live Music Venues In Hamilton, Ontario

Photo of Ana Leal Cornejo
24 October 2016

The blue-collar port city of Hamilton has been working towards cultivating a thriving arts scene. It has been transforming its reputation from an industrial city known as “The Steel City,” into a hub for creative minds dubbed “The Ambitious City.” From the outside, the city may seem rough around the edges, however, any true Hamiltonian knows the city for its precious hidden jewels. Next time you find yourself in Hamilton, you can impress all the locals with your knowledge of the following 10 hot spots for live music.

Homegrown during the day, Hamilton, Canada | © Roland Tanglao/Flickr

Homegrown Hamilton

Set in the heart of downtown Hamilton, Homegrown could be considered the Clark Kent of live music in the city. Doubling as an organic, free trade coffee shop by day and an intimate live music space with craft beer by night, this cozy venue has become a local favorite. Homegrown prides itself in both offering a local vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free menu as well as showcasing local talent. Placing a high value on community, Homegrown has become essential to the new image of Hamilton and its blooming music scene.

Mid-set at Baltimore House | Courtesy of Grant Whinestock

The Baltimore House

Whether you are in the mood for an open mic night, a night of dancing, or a night of watching your favorite band rock out, The Baltimore House is bound to be your cup of tea – or bottle of organic beer – no matter what night of the week. This bar-lounge became the backdrop of local heroes The Arkells’ music video for their song 11:11, in which dozens of local fans flooded the venue as extras. You are guaranteed to feel instantly drawn in by its vintage gothic themed furniture paired with a stack of board games and trivia nights.

Insider Tip: The Baltimore House posts sample trivia questions on their social media pages so you can brush up before Monday night trivia.

The Baltimore House, 43 King William Street, Hamilton ON, Canada, +1 289 396 4830

Gallagher’s Bar and Lounge

A short walk from the Go Bus Station, Gallagher’s Bar and Lounge’s brick structure will make you feel as though you just arrived on the streets of England. The general rugged atmosphere of the venue mixed with the alternation between live bands and a DJ promise something different every time you walk in. The food and drinks are praised by locals who rave about the infamous ‘Dorachos’: groundbreaking nachos made with – you guessed it – Doritos.

Insider Tip: Be sure to bring your ID along, as Gallagher’s is a 21+ venue.

Gallagher’s Bar and Lounge, 171 James Street South, Hamilton ON, Canada, +1 905 577 6900

FirstOntario Centre

The entertainment arena first opened its doors in 1985, and in 1999 the notorious band KISS shot the concert scene from their movie Detroit City Rocks right inside those very doors. In early 2015, it became the host to the 2015 Juno Awards and the eyes of the country were on the city again. Over the years the FirstOntario Centre stage has welcomed artists such as Shania Twain, Rush and Bruce Springsteen.

Insider Tip: If you really want to impress your Hamiltonian friends and family, refer to it by its original name of Copps Coliseum and avoid digging up any resentment that came with the 2014 name change.

FirstOntario Centre, 101 York Boulevard, Hamilton ON, Canada, +1 905 546 4040

The Casbah Lounge

If you find yourself feeling melancholic about The Clash, you can pay tribute by literally ‘Rock(ing) the Casbah.’ Since its opening in 2001, The Casbah Lounge has become a common stop on Canadian tours and has built up a loyal fan base of both artists and locals. Conveniently located next door to The Strathcona Bar, you can grab a snack and a uniquely named cocktail before enjoying a night of intimate live music. The Casbah has a big 2016 planned, with artists such as Yukon Blonde and The Sadies set to perform.

The Casbah Lounge, 306 King Street W, Hamilton ON, Canada, +1 905 521 4441

Moonshine Café

If you are willing to take on the 25-minute drive from the downtown Hamilton core, you are in for a treat at the Moonshine Café. Located just outside of Hamilton – in Oakville – this cozy venue has a capacity of only 60 people. The owners take pride in maintaining an atmosphere of respect and friendship with customers and artists alike. Live music takes place every night of the week at Moonshine, and the ultimate comfort food of burgers and wings are served. With a full stomach, a room full of new friends, and a long night of music, you are bound to fall in love with the Moonshine Café.

Insider Tip: Tuesdays are ‘Open Stage’ or open mic night, so if you are feeling brave and musical, head down to Moonshine Café for a session.

The Moonshine Café, 137 Kerr Street, Oakville, ON, Canada, +1 905 844 2655

Club Absinthe

This venue is also a shape shifter between a nightclub, live music bar, and special events space. Serving various functions, Club Absinthe divides into two separate atmospheres. The lower level consists of a weekly DJ spinning while the main floor operates as the live music space. Live bands vary from blues to jazz to rock. Occasionally if you happen to be walking by, you can hear covers of your favorite golden age rock and roll song booming down the street.

Insider Tip: Club Absinthe is notorious for having Motown-themed club nights on Wednesdays, so be sure to have your dancing shoes ready!

Club Absinthe, 38 King William Street, Hamilton ON, Canada, +1 905 529 0349

This Ain’t Hollywood

One of the most respected venues in the city, This Ain’t Hollywood built its reputation on keeping a proper rock and roll/punk atmosphere alive. Situated along James Street North, this venue is known for high-quality sound and a friendly hardworking staff. This Ain’t Hollywood is a favorite stop for performers as well, who commend the crowd and owners for always creating a night of unadulterated rock and roll bliss. It is safe to say that one visit to this venue would be enough to keep you coming back.

This Ain’t Hollywood, 345 James Street North, Hamilton ON, Canada, +1 289 396 3911


Shopping Mall
Map View
The biggest music event of the year in Hamilton, Supercrawl is big sister to the monthly concoction of art known as ArtCrawl. On the second Friday of every month, galleries, antique shops, local vendors, and food trucks come together to pay tribute to the art and culture blossoming across James Street North. For the month of September, Artcrawl morphs into Supercrawl, in which James Street closes down and stages are set up for a whole weekend. Perhaps one of the greatest demonstrations of unity through art and music in Hamilton, Supercrawl is an absolute must-see. Insider Tip: Do not show up to the corner of James Street North and King Street mid-January expecting a lively musical experience, you will only encounter Hamiltonians walking briskly into Jackson Square (the downtown shopping mall) to avoid the cold. Remember that Supercrawl is strictly a September event.

Humble Pie

Dessert Shop, Dessert, $$$
Map View
Normally a vintage shop that specializes in post-consumer and locally made products, Humble Pie serves as one of the smallest venues in Hamilton during the monthly ArtCrawl. As other local businesses and galleries open their doors, Humble Pie sets up chairs and a couple of small couches in the back. Upon arrival in the shop, your curiosity will string you along from one vintage treasure to the next, and before you know it you are hypnotized by the warmest, most personal jam session in the city. The intimacy of the music and the shop will make you feel right at home.