LOCAL MUSIC ARTISTS trying to get their start have few options when it comes to venues in Ottawa. Many require bands to pay rental fees, and if they don’t draw a crowd, the already struggling band is out a hefty sum. Despite this, there are a few great spots for performers looking to play their first show in Ottawa that are easy on newbies.

Avant Garde Bar
This small downtown bar—like its name—is unconventional, with politically charged art gracing its every wall, and a sizable drink menu. The bar is open to all genres and types of events. There is no in-house public address (PA) sound system or sound technician, so acts will have to bring their own equipment and know how to use it. The stage is small and low to the ground, but the price is right—bands can charge any reasonable sum they like for door cover and keep all profits.
Email info@avantgardebar.com for more information.

Brass Monkey Billiards
This bar is a large billiard hall that doubles as a music venue. The stage is large with versatile lighting, and their in-house sound technician is helpful and knowledgeable. The bar is open to all genres and, similar to Avant Garde, bands choose the cover charge and keep the revenues. The only downside to this bar is it’s a little out of the way, located at Greenbank Road and Hunt Club Road.
Email info@brassmonkeybilliards.com for more information.

Elmdale Tavern
This sizable bar boasts a unique old-school tavern feel. It is centrally located and features a pool table and original art on its walls. The stage is large and high up, and there is an in-house PA, but the bar requires bands to pay an $80 fee for the sound technician. Bands must provide posters for their show and hard rock is discouraged.
Email elmdaletavern@me.com for more information.

Rainbow Bistro
This downtown bar has a very large, high stage, and a unique layout. Spectators can look up at the stage from the first floor, or down at it from the secondfloor balcony. There is an in-house PA and a sound technician. Bands can charge any reasonable sum for door cover, but be warned: The bar will take 20 per cent of door sales if the band can draw a crowd, otherwise the bar will take 100 per cent. The bar generally plays bluesy music but it is open to all genres.
Email inquiries@therainbow.ca for more information.

Bars generally require bands to play the whole night—usually 8 p.m. to close—so bands should either prepare a long set, or bring along other performers to share the night. New performers will benefit from making connections with already established bands. The bar will also be more likely to let the band play again if they can fill the bar. More fans also means more money, though new performers shouldn’t expect to earn a lot at first. Only after playing shows for a while will musicians be able to draw larger crowds and charge a pricier door cover.

Sam Cowan