Choose Your Groove

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Every live-music lover has a favourite venue. Sure, you probably catch shows at all kinds of places, but there’s one sweet spot--whether a tiny neighbourhood bar or a gargantuan stadium--that delivers your ideal concert experience. Listen up: here’s where you’ll find it in Toronto. By Ernie Ourique.

Janelle Monae sings on stage.

Big Bang Seeker

Everyone knows it: stadium shows rock. The crowds, the energy, the booming sound. Catch the arena rock fever (don’t worry, there’s plenty of R&B, hip hop and country, too) at Toronto’s largest concert venues.

Get Your Groove On At:

  • Budweiser Stage–the outdoor venue is a breezy waterfront location that draws top acts like Drake, Green Day and Megadeth.
  • The Entertainment District’s Air Canada Centre (to be renamed Scotiabank Arena in July 2018), where you can scream your love to A-listers like Ariana Grande, Red Hot Chili Peppers or The Weeknd, with 20,000 fellow fans.
  • Toronto’s biggest mega-stadium, Rogers Centre, for today’s biggest arena rock acts. U2. Coldplay. Bruce Springsteen. Metallica. Madonna. ‘Nuff said.

Indie Aficionado

For you, smaller is better. You’re happiest catching talented performers before their breakthrough success, up close and personal, in an intimate club setting. The interaction, the low-key vibe, the company of a small group of cognoscenti–that’s what makes you hum.

Get Your Groove On At:

  • Ossington Village’s Dakota Tavern, where you’ll find bluegrass, country and folk most nights, as well as a local fave: Saturday and Sunday Bluegrass Brunch.
  • Parkdale’s two indie hotels/cultural hubs, Drake Hotel, for rock and DJ beats, and the Gladstone Hotel, for an eclectic mix of rock, pop, world beat, jazz and folk.
  • Queen Street West’s Horseshoe Tavern–holy ground to roots, rockabilly and alt-country fans. Past performers include iconic Canadian bands Tragically Hip, Sheepdogs and Blue Rodeo.

Auditorium Audiophile

Superior acoustics, excellent sightlines, comfortable seats, inspiring architecture and design–all the hallmarks of a fine concert hall. If you’re looking for a night out that feels like a special event, here are venues worth dressing up for.

Get Your Groove On At:

  • The Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, home of the Canadian Opera Company, located in the Entertainment District.
  • The Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, located in historic Old Town, and host to a variety of musical performances, ranging from rock and classical to children’s programming.
  • Massey Hall, a venerable downtown institution known for hosting music’s greatest acts from all genres, including the legendary 1953 ensemble jazz performance of Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Charles Mingus, Bud Powell and Max Roach.
  • The Royal Conservatory’s Koerner Hall, known for its incomparable acoustics and eclectic programming, ranging from classical and opera to jazz and pop.

Lounge Lizard

There’s a reason why old-timey lounges have never gone out of style: hardcore music fans know sometimes the best way to soak up your fave sounds is to relax, sip a cocktail then get up and dance the night away.

Get Your Groove On At:

  • Queen Street West’s legendary Rex Jazz & Blues Bar, for the heppest cool cats performing live every night of the week.
  • Lula Lounge, in up-and-coming Little Portugal. Enjoy dinner and show–usually salsa, Latin jazz, African, and World Beat–or make a beeline to Sunday brunch, which features Cuban bands and free salsa lessons.
  • Uniun, an Entertainment District mainstay for its celeb DJs spinning EDM, hip hop and house; state-of-the-art sound system; and LED visuals.