Pairing Live Music & Food in Parksville Qualicum Beach

Did you know that when you pick a restaurant to eat at, you’re considering more than just their menu?

Performer providing live music at a restaurant in Parksville Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island.

“A dining experience really has four key components to it,” says Eli Brennan of Qualicum Beach Café. “One of them, of course, is the culinary expression. Two is the beverage, then we have third the hospitality. And then fourth is the music and the atmosphere of where we're located in that time and place. And that music tends to bring us to a memory in the past or create that new memory in the moment.”

Qualicum Beach Café began offering music on their patio during COVID, when they legally were unable to have local artists play inside. They played 100 days of patio live music as a safe opportunity for musicians to play and guests to enjoy an experience during the otherwise challenging time. It’s a trend they’ve carried forward past the pandemic, now offering 101 days of patio live music each year. "We take from the talent pool and amazing community around us and offer an outlet for that art to be expressed daily, which is really exciting,” Brennan says. “We get to experience these amazing artists that we might not necessarily see otherwise and give an outlet for those artists to actually be able to perform and share their art with us as the community."

It’s easy to see the abundance of local talent with the number of restaurants offering live music. Without it, 101 days of live music at Qualicum Beach Café wouldn’t be possible. Rebecca Clark, a manager at the eatery, notes, “There’s just so much talent on the island; there is so much of that local connection, whether it's someone that is local or someone who's a tourist and they're visiting from anywhere in the world.”

Clark says it’s a special thing to witness the community coming together each day for the live music experience.

“ You have your families coming down for kids to be able to dance on the patio, and you'll get some of those beautiful couples that are just enjoying their meals and also taking a break to dance as well. ” Rebecca Clark

The live music gives people the opportunity to take a break from their busy life, to linger a little longer than they might normally otherwise.

By offering music alongside their menu, Qualicum Beach Café elevates their dining experience to a new level. “When we add music to another sensory experience, like food, like beverage, it just enhances it and gives an opportunity for us as hospitality professionals to have another little edge of making a special moment in time for our guests,” Brennan explains. “And that’s what it’s all about."

Jodie Gemmell of Rusted Rake agrees. “Eating is not necessarily just about tasting; it’s about seeing, it’s about being present with the people around you, with the music.” The brewery offers live music year-round, offering patrons the opportunity to sit and stay awhile to enjoy the experience, or considering dining out on a night they may not normally consider.

Musician performing live at a restaurant in Parksville Qualicum Beach.

The live music at Rusted Rake contributes to their relaxing vibe, drawing in people from all walks of life. And the smaller venue size of a restaurant also offers a more intimate music experience. “You see the passion that a musician has for music and you’re sharing that experience with them,” Gemmell says. “So not only are you dining, but you’re sharing an experience with somebody else not necessarily at your table.”

Offering live music at Rusted Rake was a natural decision for Gemmell and her husband, who bought Rusted Rake with the intent of creating a gathering place for their community. “My husband was born and raised in the area and my family’s been here for 30 years, and we saw that that was very much a missing asset to the community,” Gemmell explains. They offer a variety of live music that draws more people in and finds friends and families gathering to enjoy the dining experience.

A performer giving live music at an outdoor restaurant in Parksville Qualicum Beach.

This sense of community around live music is also why Fern + Cedar Brewing Co. invites musicians to play at their establishment. “It’s important for us to have live music to bring the community together, to bring music to the community,” says Fern + Cedar’s Kerri Wilson. They’ve had live music evenings since they first opened in December of 2021, the idea a key tenet to their business model. Most of their musicians are from Vancouver Island, with a few coming from further afield in BC. “The abundance that we have on the island of local talent is just absolutely wonderful to have at our fingertips,” Wilson says.

Ultimately, the mingling of music and food is curated at each restaurant to provide guests with a memorable evening that they’re eager to repeat. “They build that memory with that artist and with that venue,” says Brennan. Music is linked so closely to memory, and restaurants in Parksville Qualicum Beach have the perfect opportunity to connect to their guests to a dining experience with measures that go beyond their culinary expertise.

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