Sounds Local: A Guide To Festivals Of Sound and Live Music Of The North

Over the past 25 years, I've performed in several local musical groups, and played on recordings, on radio, and at live events. I've helped organize local music festivals, and I currently operate a recording studio. I've travelled all over Michigan, Ontario, and even as far as London (UK) just to see a concert. So when I tell you that some of the best music you'll find anywhere has come from Sault Ste. Marie, hopefully you'll find reason to trust me and to read on.

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I'm going to assume that you've just arrived in town, perhaps on business or maybe for pleasure and you're sitting in your hotel room, right now, reading this Visitors Guide. Perhaps you're reading this particular article because you're a music fan, and you're looking for where to find music in town. What places should you visit? Is there anything historical about this place that's worth knowing? Do any famous musicians come from Sault Ste. Marie?

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Authentic music community

Like many communities, Sault Ste. Marie has its share of best kept secrets, stories of regional success, and of course, a healthy local music scene.

You can find chain music stores such as HMV in the Station Mall, located downtown. However, if you're looking somewhere that has rarities, such as hard to find vinyl or original music by local artists, you might want to visit The Rad Zone. Located in the Wellington Square Mall, The Rad Zone has an enormous collection of new and used LPs, CDs and other musical curiosities.

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You can also find releases by local artists at Case's Music, which is a music school, musical instrument store and recording studio. Other instrument shops include Thomas Walls School of Music, Northland Music and The Music Depot. They're where you'll want to go if you're interested in a new or used musical instrument.


Sault Ste. Marie has always had a 'do it yourself 'spirit that has led to a unique, and authentic music community. For example, local independent record company Tidal Records is the brainchild of filmmaker Dan Nystedt and working musician Dustin Jones. Tidal Records nurtures artists through the entire process of writing and recording, as well as functioning as a booking agency, helping groups get out on the road. Fans of hard rock and heavy metal can find out what's happening in town on The Sault Metal Scene, a popular website which features reviews, and covers live shows.

The city's remote location has also contributed to a spirit of independence and uniqueness, affecting both our musicians and music fans. Isolation can spark creativity that's not influenced by trends, and affords plenty of time for practice!


Sault Ste. Marie's musicians show off their talent in almost every genre of music. The Pub at Algoma's Water Tower Inn and Suites has a weekly blues night as well as a jazz night. You'll find everything from Chicago-style electric blues to traditional jazz standards, performed by a rotating cast of some of the finest players in the city.

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Cafe Natura, located downtown on Elgin St., has been making a name for itself as a venue where singer-songwriters perform acoustic music in an up close and personal setting. Loplops Lounge on Queen St. mixes out of town talent traveling through the region with some of the best local original acts.

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Coch's Corner, on the corner of Queen St. and East St., has live acoustic music every Thursday night, while the Rockstar Bar, in the Algonquin Hotel is a happening rock and roll joint on the weekends.
There are other venues including the Nicolet Tavern, the New American and Reggie's Place that feature live music. Whether it's during the week or on the weekend, you'll be able to find something that will turn your head and please your ears. Every August, the city's largest community festival, Rotaryfest, features four days of live music in different locations. Clergue Park is where the main stage serves up non-stop entertainment ranging from jazz to rock to disco, while the Second Stage showcases the city's local original music.

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Festivals of sound

The Searchmont Music Festival, also held in August, is a three-day event that happens about an hour north of the city, where the scenic Searchmont Ski Resort becomes repurposed as an outdoor venue featuring multiple stages and styles of music. The Algoma Fall Festival, which provides a full roster of live entertainment throughout the month of October, features a range of artists from different musical genres in addition to theatre, dance, and the visual arts.

There is a healthy country music scene here as well, celebrated by the Northern Ontario Country Music Association, whose Hall of Fame showcases some of the stalwarts of country in our community. And every now and then, someone leaves Sault Ste. Marie and finds success on a larger scale. Take Greig Nori for example, whose band Treble Charger found success at the national level, and who went on to produce other musical groups such as Sum 41, and the popular television show DisBAND on MuchMusic.


The musical culture in Sault Ste. Marie is independent, authentic, and thriving all through the year. Whether you're shopping for a hard to find gift, searching for a rare piece of vinyl for your collection, looking for a new band to fall in love with, or discovering a venue to watch live music, you'll find something new for your ears in Sault Ste. Marie.

About Craig West

Craig West is a musician, occasional writer, and former traveller, who now runs a recording studio. His academic background features a BA in English literature and he worked for many years as the Creative Director of an ad agency, where he also doubled as copywriter. Today he enjoys staying in one place, helping people who need an album recorded or a travel article written, and composing music.

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