Story and photos by Johnny Bourke.
From pub floor stages to historic theatres, there’s live music every week in the BoQ calendar.
Signal Brewery is just ten minutes from downtown Belleville in the small, historic community of Corbyville, nestled along a picturesque section of the Moira River. The former site of a gristmill and distillery, it’s quickly gaining locals’ and tourists’ attention alike. The sight of the stage alone impresses. With a backdrop of exposed brick and reclaimed materials, you’re sure to feel its rustic charm while taking in the incredible talent Signal Brewery hosts throughout the week. Come for the gorgeous patio during the day, but stay for live music in the evening.
This 700-seat theatre in the heart of downtown Belleville is steeped in local history; it spent a brief period as a hobby store, then sat dormant for twelve years before a local businessman and proprietor restored it to its intended glory. The Empire is home to many popular domestic and international touring acts and is a niche movie theatre as well. 700 seats may sound like a lot, but you’d better believe there isn’t a bad one in the house.
For something a little off the beaten path (but not far), head to the Red Lion Pub on Coleman Street. Known for its friendly atmosphere and huge selection of beer
on draught, the Red Lion Pub won’t let you go thirsty while you take in the local music scene. Whether it be resident party-rock band The FarSide or country act Kyle Dunn, the night’s live music at the Red Lion delivers.
Find the heart of the acting community of Belleville here at the Pinnacle Playhouse. A former Salvation Army Citadel built in 1969, this community theatre has been putting on plays, musicals and theatre-related workshops for three generations! The venue is primarily run by volunteers, and the proof is definitely in the passion. The theatre is also home to Night Kitchen Too: an innovative musical and poetic showcase where more than a dozen acts perform
one song each.
Find your way down to the Port Bistro Pub located on the beautiful Trent-Severn Waterway in downtown Trenton. This restored historic building offers great ambiance for live performances. Every Saturday night the pub hosts a variety of live local bands, acoustic acts, and duos. Test your very own talents (and nerves!) at their Sunday open-mic night. If you like that front-row feeling the quaint setting of the Port Bistro is the spot for you.
Built in 1876, this former church has been beautifully renovated and boasts
unmatched acoustics for a variety of live entertainment, including musical performances, comedy, alternative theatre, and open-mic nights. Patrons will find it reassuring to know the hard-seated pews are gone and a wide array of Ontario craft beer and local PEC wine is available. The Old Church Theatre is also home to a digital filming and production studio named after Roy Bonisteel—the
host of CBC’s “Man Alive” and a local, well-known Canadian icon.
If you’re drawn to spaces with historic flair, stop by the Belleville Club. Just a block east of Front Street, the Belleville Club rests in a 19th century building near the corner of Bridge Street and Pinnacle. Take the winding staircase to the upper floor and enter the spacious and beautiful main room, where one can find great travelling local talent performing for patrons. The Club also hosts a monthly open-mic night. Before you get seated, check out the great selection of craft beer and scotch at the bar, or simply have an engaging chat with the super friendly staff.
Now, it may seem strange to include a high school on this list, but if you’ve ever had the chance to see a live act in this remarkable auditorium, you’ll know why Centennial Secondary School deserves a nod. This 801-seat auditorium, complete with an orchestra pit, puts on stunning musical theatre performances that are open to the public (and the revenue is used to fund the future development of the program!). Consider it your way of giving back to the arts while helping mould budding local talent. Since 2000, the school’s music program has held annual collaborative showcases with some of Canada’s top performers (Hawksley Workman, Skydiggers and Sarah Harmer, just to name a few).
Just south of the historic East Hill neighbourhood is where you’ll find the traditional British-style pub known as the Beaufort, a local spot featuring Saturday afternoon blues and jazz and Saturday night gigs starting at 9pm. You can often find local legend Andy Forgie playing his unique sets here, as well as Belleville rockers the Chachkies. Pro tip: arrive early if you want an unobstructed view of the band.
Voted “Best Pub” in 2017 by Trenton Reader’s Choice, head over to Cheer’z Pub and Grill to experience first-hand what makes it a winner. Find comedy, karaoke and seemingly non-stop live music in this renovated bar. Come here to check out local rock bands every Saturday night or show off your own mad skills at open mic night on Thursdays.
Located in the heart of historic downtown Belleville, Capers Restaurant hosts live music every Saturday night. Here, in this newly renovated, elegant yet comfortable space, you can catch some of Ontario’s best folk, blues, and acoustic bands (not surprising since the owner and manager is Melanie Hilmi of the “rowdy” Canadian folk band the Belleregards!). Of course, live music is only part of the Capers experience; the restaurant’s lunch and dinner menu is packed with fresh local ingredients, an exceptional wine list (a mix of nearby favourites and international delights), and one the region’s best selection of craft beer on tap.
Song and Dance
Established in 1960, Quinte’s cultural treasure, the Quinte Symphony, presents a four-concert Master Works Series of standard orchestral repertoire with an outstanding soloist and a Pops concert to entertain an entirely new audience each season.
Supporting talented youth to become world-class professional dancers since 1972, the Quinte Ballet School of Canada provides professional, recreational and
summer-intensive programs to both local and international students holding seasonal show-cases throughout the year.
Mark Your Calendar
Every July, some of the finest rock acts in the world play to thousands of fans at Empire Square. Past favourites include Journey, Sam Roberts and Blue Rodeo.