making the scene

the 5 busiest venues in kelowna this year

Who Were The Busiest Venues in Kelowna in 2021?

there were an astonishing 81 venues that hosted live music this year, and we made our way out to more than 30 of them. here is our list of the 5 busiest

by Miles Overn

Sally Wallick | Photo copyright (c) 2021 Miles Overn Photography

just the facts

strictly based on the numbers

At publication time, and barring any further cancellations or additions, we had listed well over 1,000 live music events at over 80 different venues this year. That's a lot of gigs, and a lot of places for local music fans to feed their musical hunger.

the arena and the theatres did not make the list

While many people immediately think about Prospera Place, Kelowna Community Theatre, Mary Irwin Theatre and other purpose-built facilities as the only places to catch concerts or shows, none of them made the list, and they usually don't.

The vast majority of live music, in Kelowna and virtually every other city in North America, happens in smaller venues. Whether they be pubs or clubs or bars, or wineries or craft breweries, or even restaurants and parks, these non-purpose-built venues consistenly account for well over 85% of the live music events in and around Kelowna.

did we get all the events?

Probably not, but we sure tried. We were in contact with as many venues as we could be from the very start of the year. We are pretty sure we missed a few shows here and there, and maybe even some cancellations, but we know that we came as close as humanly possible to get the numbers at least close....

any venues just miss out?

There were a couple that came oh so close to getting into the top 5. Have to mention both Copper Brewing and O'Flannigan's for flirting with the top finishers. As far as purpose-built venues, Mary Irwin Theatre topped that list.

what the fans told us

We have listened to what local music fans like, and to what drives them crazy, and in response to that we built out our This Weekend In Kelowna page which lists all the bands playing in all the venues in and around Kelowna. All on one page. One page that looks great on your phone, your tablet, your laptop or your desktop. Whatever device you use and wherever you use it. Thank you to all the fans who found their way over to that page on a regular basis. Especially to those who approached us at events all summer long and told us they were only there because they read about it on our site. We thank you, the musicians and bands thank you, and the venues thank you as well. In our humble opinion, you are the real heros; the warriors who determined to get out and support local musicians and businesses.

Other Articles in this Series

Top 5 Busiest Genres
Which styles of music got booked the most in 2021

Top 5 Busiest Artists
Who were the musicians and bands that had the most gigs this year.

Sell My Clothes, I'm Going to Heaven
4 magical moments of musicianship and musicality

Music By The Hour
More opportunities to catch live music early than you could shake a stick at.

the vibrant vine

#1 with 123 live music events

The Vibrant Vine has been hosting live music for several years now, and this past summer regularly held shows on Friday nights, Saturday afternoons and nights, and Sunday afternoons. On top of that, they held the occasional Thursday night performance as well.

They welcomed a much wider selection of styles than we thought could actually work, but even the more obscure and very niche bands that had us wondering how they were going to do seemed to bring their own crowds. This year they booked primarily singer/songwriters, but pop and jazz artists also featured well.

See The Vibrant Vine's Page

Two of the three sell my clothes, I'm going to heaven moments we mentioned this year happened at shows at The Vibrant Vine. Something we thought those of you who prefer your live music outdoors in an uber-casual setting might want to know.

barn owl brewing

#2 with 79 shows

This 2 year old craft brewery started the year on nobody's list of music venues, but through a commitment to regular Wednesday everning and Sunday afternoon performers, along with an uncanny ability to select artists that fit their vibe and their culture, shot all the way up to become the 2nd busiest live music venue and a key player in the Kelowna music scene.

During the warmer late spring, summer, and early fall months, the musicians and bands played outside, across the parking lot under the portico of the mini strip mall that sits across from The Barn. As the weather changed, the acts moved indoors and up into the loft. Barn Owl Brewing has crafted a very welcoming environment for not just craft beer aficianados and music lovers, but also for families of all sizes and configurations. Blues artists, singer/songwriters, and jazz artists were the most booked styles and artists at The Barn in 2021.

See Barn Owl's Page

the curious cafe

#3 with 75 performances

The Curious Artistry & Alchemy Cafe was the only restaurant to make the list. At times this year they were providing live music on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Many of those performances took place in the patio out back of the restaurant, and they featured some of Kelowna's very best singer/songwriters.

Earlier in the year, the live music took place inside the restaurant, and later in the year moved into Bar Norcino, which is a room inside the restaurant where the original interntion was to turn that space into a listening room. Singer/songwriters and folk singers took the vast majority of the gigs at The Curious this year, with some gypsy jazz thrown in as well.

See The Curious Cafe's Page

red bird brewing

#4 with 70 events

Red Bird Brewing came out of the gate firing on all cylinders in the spring, hosting 2 or 3 artists every Saturday afternoon in their huge parking lot. Part way through the year they introduced their new "Tiny Nest Concert" series as they trailed only The Vibrant Vine in number of live events held.

As fall rolled around, though, they took it upon themselves to start on a major renovation that will see them back next year with not just one, but two stages; one indoors and one outdoors. As if that isn't enough, they will be eligible for permitting for 1080 guests for special events. It could be a very interesting year for The Bird in 2022. This year, Red Bird brought in a lot of singer/songwriters, but also featured a ton of folk artists, and indie folk artists, and indie pop artists.... the "indie" thing seems to be Red Bird's thing.

Red Bird Brewing's Page

Red Bird Brewing played host to a series of artists that we were not even aware of at the start of the year who simply blew us away with the nature of their artistry along with their level of muscianship and musicality. Watch for an article about those special "discoveries" in the days ahead.

forbidden spirits

#5 with 48 shows

While it is a little off the beaten track, Forbidden proved to be worth the drive for more than a few music lovers as the venue built up to a rhythm of 3 consecutive days of live music on weekends. Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays all became established as late afternoons or evenings where patrons and guests could either gather on the patio or out in the picnic area and take in some local musicians while imbibing various concoctions centered around their locally produced vodka.

The year was successful enough for them that they are planning to continue to build on their live music game in 2022, and we will have some exciting things to share with you about that as the calendar flips over. As far as 2021 goes, Forbidden featured a lot of live jazz and soft rock, but broadened it out by having singer/songwriters and dance bands and even some rock n roll in to entertain.

See Forbidden Spirits' Page

Also, a shout-out to Forbidden Spirits for having provided one of those sell my clothers, I'm going to heaven moments we mentioned earlier.

Venues we shot at in 2021

400 Block Bernard | Barn Owl Brewing | Black Box Theatre | Blind Tiger Vineyards | Chances Casiono | Copper Brewing | Creekside Theatre | Crown & Thieves Winery | DunnEnzies | Forbidden Spirits | Frind Estate Winery | Grizzli Winery | House Of Rose Winery | Kelowna Community Theatre | Kelowna Curling Club | Kinsmen Athletic Park | Kings Stadium | Lookout Restaurant | Mary Irwin Theatre | MTL | O'Rourke's Peak Cellars | Priest Creek Family Estate Winery | Red Bird Brewing | Rotary Centre for the Arts | Rustic Reel | Shore Line Brewing | Sperling Vineyards | Swalwell Park | The Curious Cafe | The Blue Gator | The Vibrant Vine | Trainstation Pub | Truck '59

- and countless others -