52 Macdonnell St, Guelph, ON
If you find yourself walking down Macdonell Street in downtown Guelph on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, you’ll hear the muted sounds of live music wafting through the walls of the Jimmy Jazz, sounds that occasionally burst into sharp focus as the door opens to let one of the patrons out for a smoke. Maybe, the small excerpt of the song you hear sounds good, so you decide to pop in and see the band’s set. Luckily, it’s always free at the Jazz - no cover, no minimum drink order.
Located just across the street from DSTRCT, the Jimmy Jazz is located in the centre of Guelph’s own “entertainment district.” Established in 1989, the Jazz has staked a place for itself as the low-key, unpretentious venue for fans of rock, punk rock, and garage metal. The Jazz is a haven for residents who want to avoid the crowd of loud, drunken first-year University of Guelph students that clog the city’s more “mainstream” clubs. Inside, you’ll find a dive-bar interior that can be intimidating on your first visit, but the outright decency of the staff and clientele soon become apparent.
A Facebook user by the name of Terry “Whathappened” enthusiastically writes, “Screw TO and come to Guelph! Jimmy Jazz - just a great place for the best music and great sound.” Sue Currie, also writing on Facebook, reports that “[t]he environment was perfect for seeing punk bands. Throwback to the 80s punk scene. Cheap beer ($5) and great bathroom graffiti.”
The fact that the Jimmy Jazz takes its name from a song by The Clash (from 1979’s London Calling) gives you a clue as to why they’ve adopted a sort of neo-punk, garage metal vibe. Like The Clash song of the same name, the Jimmy Jazz doesn’t take itself too seriously - there’s attitude, charisma, and vast amounts of likeability. The bands that play there are often on the heavier side, but the Jazz is by no means an exclusively punk/metal oriented bar - depending on when you go, you might see some rock, funk, singer/songwriter, or experimental music. While the venue is known for showcasing local, garage band-esque ensembles, Canadian acts of substantial renown also make regular appearances at the Jazz: bands such as Run With the Kittens, Dayglo Abortions, Merloaded, and Guelph local boys, The Nasties.
The lesser-known, just-starting-up bands that play at the Jazz can be hit-and-miss: you might catch a bad show from time to time. But fortunately, the drinks are decently priced, so if the band on stage needs some work, you can always grab a beer or a cocktail and get away to the hidden patio in the back - a peacefully secluded space that, on a warm summer’s night, offers the perfect place to enjoy a quiet, niche spot in Guelph’s downtown core.