The Blacksheep Inn / Auberge Le Mouton Noir
753 Chemin Riverside, Wakefield, QC
Located at 753 Chemin Riverside, this little venue is a bit of a hidden gem. Only 20-ish minutes away from Ottawa, the Blacksheep Inn overlooks the scenic Gatineau Valley (the view from the patio is rather idyllic in the summer). While the Blacksheep was established in 1994, the building was first constructed in 1928 as a tavern/roadhouse. It’s basically a big, square, three story house, and neither the inside or the outside actually looks that much like a music venue. The stage, which runs along the entirety of one of the walls, is long and shallow. The decor consists of a set simple black curtains hung behind the stage, a miniature disco ball here and there, and a smattering of art hung on the walls. The Blacksheep is primarily a seated venue - they book a lot of folk/singer-songwriter acts - but the tables can be rearranged to accomodate an impromptu dance floor for more energetic shows.
With all that said though, don’t let the Blacksheep’s modest appearance and casual setup give you the wrong impression: this venue knows a thing or two about putting on a gig, and as a result has gained an impressive reputation. Local artist Jeremi Pierre Caron - a regular patron and performer at the venue - writes on Facebook that “the quality of the sound in the room is fantastic. The venue often provides an experienced/splendid/easy to work with sound guy …. Cannot ask for a better audience” (2017). The Blacksheep’s “distinct reputation of frequently presenting shows of a higher quality” (to use Caron’s words, from the same 2017 review) comes down to making the best of a relatively humble space. In addition to having a knowledgeable and helpful sound guy, the Blacksheep’s less-is-more approach to lighting perfectly complements the overall intimacy and warmth of the venue. There are only a handful of lights - a few hung above the stage, plus a few more facing the stage from the back of house - but this is just enough to make sure the band is the centre of attention.
Musicians that have played there include Geoff Berner, Hilotrons, Good Lovelies, Royal Wood, Durham County Poets, Neko Case, Mike Plume, BlakDenim, and Ron Sexsmith.
If you’re planning on visiting Wakefield to see the next great act at the Blacksheep, there are a couple things to know. First, the food - which is standard pub fare - comes from the adjacent (yet separate) restaurant, Bistro Rutherford, as the Blacksheep doesn’t have it’s own kitchen. Second, Wakefield is primarily an English-speaking town, so if you’re Anglophone worried about the Quebec language barrier, you’ll be fine. Lastly, plan your visit for a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, after 8:30pm: this is when the live music happens (there are also all-age friendly matinee shows on Sundays, starting at 4:00 pm).