Where We Live: The Zoo – Winnipeg, Manitoba

Small town living is not without its benefits, but definitely, one of the cons is an almost nonexistent music scene. My hometown of Dauphin, Manitoba hosts an annual country music festival (Countryfest) and the occasional rock concert, but for the most part, I’ve had to make the four hour trip to Winnipeg to catch a quality live show. It’s worth it, though. Manitoba’s capitol is known for its thriving music scene and is a popular destination for many touring acts. The MTS Centre brings in the big names, but there’s a multitude of quality rock clubs throughout the city which help keep the lesser known acts in the limelight.

Located in trendy Osbourne Village, home to the highest concentration of black lipstick and body piercings in the city, is The Zoo. I was first introduced to the rock club about seven years ago, and if I was to believe everything I heard, I would have expected at least one bar room brawl per evening. Of course, reality rarely matches the hype, and in all the times I’ve been there, I actually found the crowd to have a very laid back vibe. Everyone seemed to be much more interested in drinking and head banging than cracking skulls.

The Zoo, found at 160 Osbourne Street in the Osbourne Village Inn (also home to another popular club, Ozzie’s), is all character and cracked charm – one of those atmospheric vampires that has the ability to capture the energy of every band that’s bounced and pranced across its stage. The ghosts are everywhere: the first thing you notice upon entering the bar is a wall of photos and memorabilia, a homage to the many acts that have performed there over the club’s high voltage history.

When walking through the entrance, if you look to the right, you’ll see a room with pool tables and vending machines, which is the quietest and most brightly lit part of the club. To the left, you’ll find the bar, usually with two or three bartenders serving beer and whiskey to the masses, but the stage, located at the far end of the three hundred seat room, is the obvious focal point. Littered with amps and microphones, it’s a testament to the raw power of heavy metal and punk. The PA is impressive and has about 14,000 watts in the front and 5000 watts onstage. Believe me, they love it loud in Winnipeg.

I’ve been to many rock concerts over the years, but there’s a night I’ll always remember at The Zoo — the first time I saw The Harlots about five years ago. The then young, up and coming local band were a fireball of energy and had the crowd at their mercy for the entire set. That night, I truly realized just how great a live act can be with nothing but a small stage and electricity. It’s still was one of the most memorable shows I’ve ever seen.

So, if you’re in Winnipeg and you’re looking for a slick club with flashing lights and dance music, check out The Tijuana Yacht Club or Mirrors, but if you’re in the mood for a back to basics rock show, pull on your ripped jeans and AC/DC t-shirt and step inside The Zoo.

Just leave the mullet at home.

Chocolate Bunnies From Hell – “Time Warp/Can’t Stand That Fucking Band” (Live @ The Zoo)

The Zoo @ Osborne Village Inn
160 Osborne Street
Winnipeg, Canada R3L 1Y6
Phone: 204.452.9824

Upcoming Events:
05/14 – Dreadnaught, Today I caught the Plague
05/17 – Derelict, Xplicit, and Amid Valhalla
05/22 – Designer Drugs, Dan L and Dial-Up
05/23 – X Engine X, The Ruined
05/27 – Red Riot
05/28 – The Way Outs, Stranger Than Radio, The Entertainment


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