If you’re at all familiar with Montreal’s cultural scene, then you’ve at least heard of the city’s Quartier des Spectacles - or in Anglo-speak, its entertainment district. This downtown area, according to quartierdesspectacles.com, is the “cultural heart of the metropolis. It is the place in North America where we find the highest concentration and the greatest diversity of cultural places … [with] its 80 venues, its 8 lively public places and no less than 40 festivals … not a single day goes by without cultural activity.”
In 1982, long before the Quartier des Spectacles even existed, Club Soda was established as a small cabaret theatre. In 1999, Club Soda was shut down by the Parc Institution due to “the cramped scene, the lack of overhead clearance, the tiny boxes, [and] the lack of unloading dock,” which “weigh[ed] heavily on the quality of the programming and attendance” (clubsoda.com). A few months later, in 2000, Club Soda was reopened in a new premises - at 1225 Boul. St-Laurent - that was custom-designed by the renowned Montreal architect Luc Laporte. The new-and-improved Club Soda, with a capacity of 975 standing guests or 530 seated guests, has a long and narrow interior whose aesthetic motif is based around a deep, yet warm, brown and gold colour scheme. Tables line the perimeter of the main floor, and are sort of “sheltered” by the overhanging balcony that wraps around the perimeter of the second floor. To ensure relatively efficient service, there are two bars that sit across from one another on the side of the room closest to the main doors (away from the stage).
In 2003, Club Soda helped to launch, and became part of, the newly revealed Quartier de Spectacle project, which, over the next few years, transformed this district of Montreal into a hub for arts and culture. Because Club Soda is right in the heart of this district, it hosts festivals such as the Montreal International Jazz Festival, Juste pour Rire, and Les Francos de Montréal. But where Club Soda really shines is as a music venue. Quebecois acts such as Lisa Leblanc, Koriass, Klô Pelgag, Kid Koala, Foxtrott, and Socalled frequently gig there; and what’s more, the venue has also hosted the likes of Oasis, Ben Harper, Amy Winehouse, Rufus Wainwright, Counting Crows, Soundgarden, and Barenaked Ladies.
To ensure a respectable sound quality, Club Soda uses four JBL SP-225-6 speakers for highs and mids, and two more of the same for passive front fill; there are two Adamson T-21 subwoofers, and six JBL VRX928-LA speakers that serve as balcony delay. For the visual aspect of performances, Club Soda utilizes a lighting board, complete with 69 conventional lights and 18 automated lights, that is fixed to the balcony (but another can be affixed to the ground floor if a band/performer brings their own). They also offer an in-house hazer, and a projector and screen that can be used for a fee.
Given the day-round and year-round attractions to be found in the Quartier de Spectacles, and considering the often-hectic streets of downtown Montreal, you might expect that getting to and from Club Soda - especially during all the festivals - might be difficult. Foreseeing this, Club Soda’s webpage clearly outlines the “key transport [systems] to get to Club Soda”: they recommend the Metro Green Line (to Station St-Laurent), Societé de Transport de Montréal (STM) buses 55, 129, 150, 410, 430, and the BIXI bike-sharing service (clubsoda.ca).