Toronto Concert Venues

Where Are You Going Tonight?

 

Luckily for you, I’ve been personally acquainted with about 90% of Toronto’s venues and want to share my knowledge.

Did I miss one? Have an opinion or experience you want to add? Send it in- hearplugged@gmail.com

 
918    918 Bathurst St. A “Culture, Arts, Media + Education Centre” in the Annex. A converted church with wooden, high peaked ceilings. Feels a little like going to Sunday school, but the sound and views are great.

Adelaide Hall 250 Adelaide St. W One of Toronto’s newest mid-sized venues, with two levels and a balcony overlooking the stage. Even in its infancy, it’s already booking and selling out shows for popular Canadian and international acts. Look for it right next to the fire station, bordering on the club district.

Air Canada Centre 40 Bay St. Toronto’s largest concert venue. Has the sound & lighting capabilities to properly host giant arena tours when the Leafs and Raptors are away.

Annex Wreckroom 794 Bathurst St.  Part nightclub, part billiards lounge, part rock venue.  Hosts local rock bands and some big ticket hardcore acts when it’s not full of drunk twenty-somethings.

Arrow Hall 6900 Airport Road Was used a lot more in years past for shows that are too big for the Kool Haus but too small for the ACC. Likely another victim to the Sound Academy’s popularity, it only seems to host Warped Tour in its parking lot now (for no good reason). Ample parking, washrooms and smoking areas. Too bad you need a car to get there.

The Ballroom 145 John St. Formerly Montana’s, now a two-floor club/glitzy bowling alley. Great location (across from the giant Chapters & Scotiabank Theatre) but rarely used for concert events.

Berkeley Church 315 Queen St. E Seldom used but worthwhile venue in the East end. A converted church (duh) complete with high ceilings, stained glass windows, fireplaces and candles. Creates amazing show ambiance.

The Boat  158 Augusta Ave.  Tiny, ship-themed (surprise!) restaurant bar in Kensington. Best known for oldies dance nights and the occasional indie band. Don’t be surprised to see personalities like Dan Akroyd and Rachel McAdams hanging out. (Seriously, just be cool).

Bovine Sex Club    542 Queen St. W.  That venue on Queen West with the crazy wire & Christmas light sign and the hardcore kids gathered out front (not to be confused with neighbouring Velvet Underground).  Typically hosts bands of the heavier variety. Pretty tiny space, despite recent renovations to make the room more usable (the new Tiki Bar upstairs is a great place to chill, if you don’t want to watch the band). Regularly hits capacity, be prepared to wait in line.

Bread & Circus    299 Augusta Ave. Super cute venue in Kensington Market that is unfortunately no longer in existence.

Cadillac Lounge 1296 Queen St. W. Small but newly expanded country/folk venue in Parkdale. The meals are worthwhile too.

Cameron House    408 Queen St. W.  Tiny dinner theater-type venue on Queen West. You’ve seen it before- the yellow building with the lady mural on the front. Walk awkwardly through the dancing hipsters in the front room to get to the intimate, seated stage area in the back. Popular shows hit capacity quickly, so show up early.

The Central  603 Markham St.      Cozy supper club in the Annex. Typically hosts small local folk, jazz & acoustic acts.

C’est What    67 Front St. E.  One of the few places worth going to on the east side. Set in the basement, it kinda feels like a stonemason’s lair. Well lit, good food, friendly staff, totally inviting.

Cherry Cola’s    200 Bathurst St. A new addition to the Queen & Bathurst area, but you have to be “cool” enough to know where it is (there’s no signage outside). Cover is cheap, patronage is a bit older and the inside is small and well decorated. Advertised as a cabaret rock bar, don’t be surprised to see burlesque dancers and rock bands performing simultaneously.

Clinton’s 693 Bloor St. W. 2nd oldest tavern in the city, renown for it’s Shake A Tail dance parties. Has helped launch the careers of many popular Canadian rock, folk and pop bands.

Comfort Zone    480 Spadina Ave. The crazy younger sibling of the Silver Dollar (located just below it, look for the tiny white sign). Expect DJs, house and dance music with a slightly different approach than the clubs in the Entertainment District.

Crawford    718 College St. Relatively new addition to Little Italy. Boasts nights dedicated to hip hop, funk & soul. Though it has several floors, it still gets crowded.

Czehoski    678 Queen St. W. Yeah I don’t know how to pronounce it either. Very small restaurant bar. The venue part is about the size of your bedroom, but cute and tailored to singer/songwriter/beat poet types.

Dakota Tavern    249 Ossington Ave. The craziness of Ossington. Typically showcasing alt country bands, sometimes more alt than anything. Very popular and sometimes very rowdy.

Danforth Music Hall 147 Danforth Ave. A seated venue, originally built as a movie theatre in 1919. Has been intermittently closed, sold and opened several times since then. Has recently reopened and is enjoying a resurgence in concert and comedy tour bookings.

The Detour    193 1/2 Baldwin St.  Formerly known as Rear View Mirror in Kensington. Darkly decorated, lit by neon lights. You’ll find everything from Hip Hop to Punk here.

Dominion on Queen 500 Queen St. E. A chill supper club/patio bar featuring jazz & blues acts.

Downsview Park 35 Carl Hall Rd. Has taken over from Molson Park  as the host of any Toronto-bound field festival shows, thankfully saving us from the northbound 400.

The Drake Hotel    1150 Queen St. W. Sometimes a little confusing, with it’s multiple rooms. Great place to check out rock, pop, hip hop and local DJs.

Echo Beach A mini-amp recently opened next to Molson Amphitheatre. Relaxed atmosphere with a pretty rad view of the city. Kind of like watching a show on a beach volleyball court (though standing on sand is not as comfortable as you’d like to think).

El Mocambo    464 Spadina Ave. One of Toronto’s legendary rock and pop venues and host to many a big name act. Two levels guarantee that something great is always in store. Though, the main floor sound system can be surprisingly bad for such a popular venue.

Free Times Cafe    320 College St.  Cozy folk and acoustic restaurant venue perched at the top of Kensington Market.

The Garrison    1197 Dundas St. W. Once a barely noticeable blank storefront, this venue has been gradually building itself up to be one of the best in the city. Cute bar and restaurant in the front, surprisingly large venue space in the back. Right in the centre of the Dundas & Ossington neighbourhood, it’s becoming increasingly popular for indie bands of all kinds.

Gladstone Hotel    1214 Queen St. W. Totally cool venue, or rather, venues. Several rooms, each with their own personality. Great location for venue hopping (near Drake, Social and Great Hall).

The Great Hall    1087 Queen St. W. The epic staircase you have to climb is part of what makes this venue “great”, I suppose.  Decent stage and giant room capacity, complete with balcony. Like a larger version of the Berkeley. Becoming more popular for local and big name acts.

Hard Luck Bar    812 Dundas St. W.  Very tiny rock and metal bar that fits right into its somewhat sketchy location.

Hard Rock Cafe    279 Yonge St. Seemingly only used for small shows during Toronto festival weeks since the demise of “Club 279”. Actually a pretty nice venue, overlooking Dundas Square. The stage is small and the room is awkwardly L-shaped, but the sound is great.

Hideout    484 Queen St. W. Appropriately named, you wouldn’t know how great this venue is until you actually go inside. Though the stage area is small and normally packed, there is room upon room if you explore a little. Saturday nights usually boasts fun cover bands and dancing. Friendly staff and chill crowd.

Horseshoe Tavern    370 Queen St. W. It’s not called “Legendary” for nothing. Some major names have come through in the last 64 years, just check out the pictures on the wall.  Still a premiere venue for everything rock. Check it out any day of the week for a show or a drink.

The Hoxton  69 Bathurst St. Formerly (and cleverly) known as Sixty-9 Bathurst, this club typically employs DJs for electronic and hip hop nights. Has become as loathesome as the Sound Academy for actual concerts with its sub-par sound, narrow standing area, $4 coat check, and over-priced beverages that somehow get more expensive as the night wears on. $8 for a weak mixed drink? Don’t even bother.

The Kool Haus 132 Queens Quay E. Great location (though parking is becoming increasingly scarce), great sound system. The wide setup lets you see sold-out shows without being 3 miles away from the stage. Should be used more often than it currently is.

Lee’s Palace    529 Bloor St. W. Everyone needs to visit this graffiti-covered venue at least once in their life. A landmark in the Annex, expect anything from DJs to popular rock bands.

Massey Hall 178 Victoria St. Many reasons why this is one of the premiere venues in the city. Great sound and not a bad seat in the house. Its fancy-theatre ambiance makes any show feel like a special event.

Measure 296 Brunswick Ave. Formerly Annex Live, this new space still caters to the younger crowd. Expect to see anything from hip hop, to hard rock, and indie on their wall-to-wall stage.

The Sisters    1554 Queen St. W.  Not to be confused with the original Mitzi’s, or it’s former name “Mitzi’s Siter” (now you’re confused). This place is more of a patio pub than a venue. Occasionally has live roots, pop, rock & alt-country music on a very small stage.

MOD Club    722 College St. Big enough to host popular shows, but small enough to remain comfortable and intimate. Raised seating area and balcony ensure lots of good sight-lines. Club nights keep an early curfew on weekend shows.

Molson Canadian Amphitheatre 955 Lakeshore Blvd W. Currently Toronto’s only outdoor venue. Utilized by most big summer tours and old rock band reunions.

Music Gallery    197 John St. Technically located inside St. George the Martyr Church.  Not a typical venue; hosts shows of the experimental classical, jazz & electronic variety.

NOW Lounge    189 Church St.  Rarely used outside of North by Northeast Festival (affiliate of NOW). Tiny space, tiny stage, cozy and contemporary atmosphere.

Opera House    735 Queen St. E. Currently home to most of the hardcore and metal shows coming through Toronto. Very pretty inside and tiered for optimal viewing, though having half the crowd on the stairs seems a little dangerous. Leave your jacket in the car unless you plan on waiting in the coat check line for hours afterward. Plenty of street parking around (just watch for the one-ways).

The Painted Lady    218 Ossington Ave. Small neighbourhood bar. Covered in painted (nude) ladies by local artists, hosts pop, jazz and roots bands.

Parts & Labour 1566 Queen St. W.  A current favourite for local DJs, also hosts punk, rock and rap shows. Look for the hardware store sign, it’s in there.

The Phoenix    410 Sherbourne St. It might take the staff forever to let you in (standing in line for hours after the doors open isn’t uncommon) but they sure know how to move people out once the show ends. Irritating, but the price you pay for venues that turn into nightclubs on weekends. Great venue, lots of room and great sound. Worth the trouble.

The Piston 937 Bloor St. W   Nicer looking than the name suggests. A restaurant/bar/venue with live music acts all through the week and DJs and dance parties on the weekends.

Queen Elizabeth Theatre 190 Prince’s Blvd. Located in the middle of Exhibition grounds, you it’s a little like being in a zombie movie if you go there during off-season.  The stage area itself is a bit bland and boxy, but it lends itself well to intimate performances.  And where else can you get free appetizers in the lobby before a show?

Rancho Relaxo   300 College St. Not to be confused with El Rancho a few doors down. On the 2nd floor, off College st at the top of Augusta. Home to indie, rock and alt-country bands (don’t be surprised if you see a few cowboy hats). Add it to your Kensington bar hopping route.

Revival783 College St. Giant 3 floor venue near College & Ossington.  Great place for parties, burlesque shows and DJ showcases.

Ricoh Coliseum 100 Princes’ Blvd. Typically the home of Toronto Rock Lacross or Marlies Hockey, but gets the occasional mini-arena show. (Probably when everything else in the city is occupied). Easily accessed from the Exhibition streetcar stop.

Rivoli    332 Queen St. W. Doesn’t look like much from the outside, but a maze on the inside. Stay in the front for drinking and dining, go upstairs for billiards, drinks and dancing or hit the back for bands of all kinds.

The Rockpile 5555 Dundas St. W.  The Big Bop’s management thought it would replace the iconic venue upon it’s closure. Except it’s located in no man’s land, somewhere off of Kipling Subway Station. Even the website admits that no one goes to the Rockpile unless brought by a specific band. Typically showcases heavier Toronto bands.

The Rockpile East 2787A Eglinton Ave E. Clearly catering to the neglected ‘not-downtown’ audience, the owners of Etobicoke’s Rockpile has opened a new venue for rock fans in Scarborough. Typically has the same lineup as it’s sister venue (mostly hard rock, metal, and some psychobilly). So if you miss a band at one, you’ll likely be able to see them at the other in the same week.

Rogers Centre (Skydome) 1 Blue Jays Way Toronto’s other stadium venue, seldom used for concerts since ACC’s creation. In an equally convenient area but the dome is less conducive to good sound.

Roy Thomson Hall 60 Simcoe St. Home to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and usually hosts shows of that type. Sound and view is awesome, but a bit stuffy for conventional concerts.

The Shop 1566 Queen St. W. In the basement of Parts & Labour. Not much of a venue, it’s literally an unfinished basement.

Silver Dollar    486 Spadina Ave. Unfortunately located on the sketchy NW corner of College & Spadina (the infamous Hotel Waverly sits next door). Maybe not somewhere you want to traverse alone, but worth it if you want to check out rock, pop or psych bands that typically play there.

Sneaky Dee’s    431 College St. Hipster central most nights. Restaurant on the main floor and stage/bar/dance floor upstairs. Mostly home to local bands but hosts random big ticket shows every once a while.

Sony Centre 1 Front St. E. Mostly used for classical events; ballets and whatnot, but sometimes gets weird ones like Marilyn Manson. Formerly known as the Hummingbird Centre and the O’Keefe Centre.

Sound Academy 11 Polson St. Largely voted the city’s worst venue. Its difficult location, sub-par sound system and narrow hallway of a stage area is to blame. Good luck if you want to get a drink or use the washroom during a show, you’ll never get back to your spot. Unfortunately, this place is unavoidable as most acts that would normally hit the Kool Haus now go here.

Supermarket    268 Augusta Ave. One of Kensington’s many gems, well known for it’s open mic nights. Not the largest of venues, but it’s comfy and apparently the Pad Thai is reason alone to visit.

Tattoo Rock Parlour 567 Queen St. W. Though entirely too crowded during regular bar nights, Tattoo is actually a pretty good rock venue. With a wide open stage area and raised lounge area, there is no bad “seat” in the house.

Velvet Underground    510 Queen St. W. Well known for it’s long-running rock nights, Velvet Underground now hosts the occasional band night. Most popular during CMW and NXNE, you likely wont find big name acts here on a regular basis.

Wrongbar    1279 Queen St. W. The craziness of west Queen West. Another venue with a huge line out front and no signage. Get there early and party all night to dubstep, electro, pop or whatever is on the menu.

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