I’m glad my decision for best live music venue in Saskatoon took some careful consideration. I feel extremely lucky to live in a city with such an eclectic, celebrated and flourishing music community. The residents who fill the vast number of venues night after night are exceptional. Countless talented artists and bands make sure they pass through the bridge city during their tour of Western Canada. The venues ready to manufacture sweat for these touring bands include, but are not limited too: Louis’ Pub, The Odeon, Lydia’s, TCU Place, Prairieland Park, Walker’s Nightclub, The Fez, The Bassment, The Broadway Theatre and The Roxy. I’ve left out a venue from this list; a venue that encompasses the very soul of rock and roll, a venue that has proven itself as Saskatoon’s leading local music supporter, a venue I hold dear to my heart, the only venue that could undoubtedly be hailed as “Saskatoon’s Best Live Music Venue”, the one, the only AMIGOS CANTINA.
Located one block east of Broadway Avenue on the corner of 10th Street and Dufferin Avenue, Amigos Cantina may seem to be nothing more than a cozy restaurant offering delicious Mexican cuisine that happens to have a small stage for performing. However, on any given night, at around 10:45 P.M., with the lights now turned down low, a buzz that has been filling the air is gathering energy, just waiting for the first strum of a guitar to be heard when it will erupt and transform Amigos into a full on den of rock and roll.
The Besnard Lakes turning the epic knob to 11 on April 30th, 2010
When Clarke and Steve Benesh opened Amigos over 23 years ago it established a reputation for being ahead of its time when it came to booking bands. They were supporting original live acts before alternative music became popular and acceptable. Amigos has managed to maintain this reputation through its 23 years of glory. It’s crazy how many times I’ve heard bands, playing at other venues, stop during their set and reminisce on the first time they played in Saskatoon. It usually goes something like this, “We were at this Mexican Restaurant...Amigos right? They were really nice, we ate complimentary burritos before playing a show to like 20 people, it was great.” Actually, Arkells said just that during their show last November. What they didn’t say was the next time they came around to Amigos the place was packed to ceiling. That’s exactly why Amigos is so great, they know what bands deserve the opportunity to play before anyone else in the city does.
Library Voices are my favourite band to see live. They are a frequent guest of Amigos and continually demonstrate how to harness every ounce of energy Amigos has to offer. Here’s lead singer Carl Johnson pouring out his soul all over some friends of mine during their show last September.
A large contributing factor to Amigos title as Saskatoon’s best live music venue is the unbelievably generous admission prices for the quality of shows brought in. The classic CFCR advertisement says it best, “…more bands for your buck…” This statement couldn’t be more true. Last November featured one of the best lineups in recent memory with Tasseomancy, Young Galaxy and Austra playing together for a mere 10 dollars. Or what about when The Great Bloomers, The Wooden Sky and The Rural Alberta Advantage played an incredible triple bill in February 2010. A lot of the time it’s hard to determine which band will play last, like when Hollerado played with Yukon Blonde last October. Or when you look back and can’t believe you saw those two bands play the same night, like When Dan Mangan opened for Hey Rosetta! In April 2009 or when Born Ruffians opened for Plants and Animals in October 2008. Amigos always books amazing acts at a price that rarely ventures over 15 dollars.
Caribou and Toro Y Moi proving electronic music can be as organic as any other type in June 2010.
Not only does Amigos get the best national and international live acts, they are a second home to many local musicians as well. Amigos is the go to venue for countless local album release parties and local organization fundraisers. Whether it’s Hip-Hop, Country, Psychedelic, Rock, Folk or Electronic music, Amigos will be there in full support.
Local band Young Benjamins during their EP release show in December 2011.
Amigo's may not be Saskatoon’s best sounding venue nor does it hold the most amount of people. What Amigos does provide is an overwhelming amount of character and personality. The employee’s are recognized for the respect and hospitality they continually show towards bands and guests of the establishment. There’s a reason why Amigos is voted year after year as Saskatoon’s “Best Live Music Venue” through Planet S Magazine. Not to mention being declared one of the ten finalists during CBC Radio 3’s Searchlight competition looking for Canada’s best live music club in 2009. So for all the reasons I’ve explained above and more personally for loosing hearing in my left ear after Caribou’s wall trembling show, for my friend fainting during Plants and Animals “Bye, Bye, Bye”, for BA Johnston playing his encore in the men’s washroom, for Hannah Georgas playing “All I Need” with a full band and for Born Ruffians playing the perfect show, Amigos Cantina is the Best Live Music Venue Saskatoon has to offer.
Born Ruffians manufacturing some serious sweat in March 2011.
Visit Amigos Cantina.ca for all upcoming showtimes.