There’s no shortage of cool bars, fun restaurants and other things to do in this downtown...
Toronto’s Thriving Live Music & Concert Scene
No matter what style of music gets you moving, you won’t have trouble finding a crowd of similar devotees.
If live music is your jam, you’ll love the scene in Toronto, rocking out to the hottest local and international acts in Toronto.
A mainstay of the hip Queen West neighbourhood since before it was hip, The Cameron House (408 Queen St. W.) plays host to a variety of local indie acts. Blue Rodeo, Holly Cole, Ron Sexsmith and The Barenaked Ladies have all performed on the Cameron’s stage, in addition to countless smaller bands. Come any night of the week to catch your favourite local band or discover a new one. (Bonus: there’s no cover).
Just down the street, the legendary Horseshoe Tavern (370 Queen St. W.) is one of Toronto’s most celebrated performance venues. More than 65 years of operation have seen a lot of famous faces pass through The Horseshoe, including Willie Nelson, The Rolling Stones, The Police and The Ramones. Depending on the night, you can catch anything from indie to country to alt-rock at The Horseshoe. Keep an eye on any acts you see here because they may just become the next big thing.
With 18,000 sq ft of space spread over two floors, The Phoenix Concert Theatre (410 Sherbourne St.) is one of the city’s largest concert clubs. Death Cab for Cutie, Two Door Cinema Club and Green Day have all entertained enthusiastic crowds here (not to mention legends like Bob Dylan and The Tragically Hip). The Phoenix is one of the key venues during annual music events like Canadian Music Week and NXNE: North By Northeast Festival, which supports independent artists of all stripes.
Located right on the Danforth, The Danforth Music Hall (147 Danforth Ave.) is one of the most popular live music venues in the city. This former movie theatre has an inclined floor allowing for great viewing of your favourite band no matter where you stand. Some renowned artists that have graced the stage at Danforth Music Hall are Rihanna, James Brown, The Clash, Alvvays, Hanson, Joel Plaskett and much more!
Sultry latin músicos
¿Te gusta bailar salsa? If the answer is “sí!”, head to Lula Lounge (1585 Dundas St. W.) where the live salsa bands are muy caliente. Every Friday and Saturday enjoy salsa dancing to live Latin music while munching on savoury Spanish and South American delicacies. Don’t worry if you’re not a seasoned salsa dancing pro; the city’s top instructors offer lessons on Friday and Saturday nights.
For another fun and lively spot in the west end, try Yauca’s Lounge (1474 St. Clair Ave. W.) where authentic Brazilian music is served up in a relaxed atmosphere.
Dinner and dancing are also on the menu at CopcaCabana Brazilian Steakhouse (230 Adelaide St. W.). Here, you can indulge in delectable rodízio-style cuts of meat brought right to your table while taking in the sounds of samba and an aerial performer on Friday and Saturday nights.
Summer may be the high season for jazz in Toronto with the star-studded TD Toronto Jazz Festival, Beaches International Jazz Festival and the newcomer Kensington Market Jazz Festival going on, but you can catch all types of jazz bands at The Rex (194 Queen Street West) every night of the week. Part jazz club, part restaurant and part hotel, The Rex is a must-stop spot for any fan.
A visit to the suave Jazz Bistro with its Instagrammable shiny red Steinway grand piano, should be on any aficionado’s list, too.
Right in the heart of downtown Toronto, the The Reservoir Lounge (52 Wellington Street East), is one of Toronto’s most swinging nightspots. The lounge décor and brick-walled interior complement the jumpin’ rhythms from local jazz, blues and R&B musicians. It was at The Reservoir Lounge that a young unknown named Michael Bublé first made a name for himself.
There’s no Toronto concert venue more legendary than Massey Hall (178 Victoria Street). This acoustically-rich performance arts theatre is a National Historic Site of Canada that still hosts some of the biggest names in music (jazz, rock, contemporary and beyond). This was the site of the famous one-night-only gig in 1953 that brought Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Charles Mingus and Max Roach together on one stage.
Head-bangers, punk rockers and metal-heads can often be found at The Opera House (735 Queen St. E.), depending on the night. This midsize concert hall in Riverside offers a unique experience combining state-of-the-art lighting and sound equipment with the charm of its original 1900s vaudeville theatre architecture.
Lee’s Palace (529 Bloor St. W.) is immediately recognizable from its iconic graffiti mural front. This 100-year-old building is chock-full of gritty charm and hosts live music nearly every night of the week. Canadian rock groups like Moist, Sloan and Our Lady Peace all played Lee’s Palace early in their careers, joining the ranks of international stars like Nirvana, Oasis and Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Authentically Toronto, the Dakota Tavern (249 Ossington Ave.) was nominated for Best Bar and Best Blues Bar by Now Magazine. This saloon-style bar is a throwback to the foot-stomping, whiskey-guzzling days of the Wild West. The music acts vary night by night, but rock, alt-country and bluegrass are its mainstays.
Grab a drink and a glowstick and get lost in the techno beats at CODA (794 Bathurst St.), where EDM lovers assemble for jaw-dropping dance parties featuring DJs from around the globe. This versatile second-story nightclub is renowned for its fun-fueled all-night parties. Shows tend to sell out quickly so it’s always a good idea to buy tickets in advance.
No discussion about Toronto’s electronic music scene would be complete without mentioning The Mod Club (722 College St.). This cozy venue is a tribute to the mod subculture of the 1960s. Touring DJs and electronic artists regularly stop in at The Mod Club, where the stage is outfitted for psychedelic light shows and the dance floor is always happening.
New look, new vibe! With the reopening in 2016, The Velvet Underground (508 Queen St. W.) has branched out from rock and metal and embraced all kinds of music genres, including EDM DJs. The bigger dance floor provides more room for dancing the night away.
Your access to live music and other performances may be impacted in 2022.
Toronto follows public health measures enacted by the Ontario government to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Contact businesses or check their websites for updates before visiting.