The Beat of Toronto – Music and Nightlife
Toronto has one of the best nightlife and music scenes in the country. The mainstream music scene is found at major venues in central downtown. But it’s those little hole-in-the-wall bars with those independent musicians that make for the most memorable experiences.
Major Concert Venues
Concert venues in the city have evolved over the years. The Rogers Centre
(formerly known as The Skydome) used to be the only main stage for some of the most famous musical acts in the world.
The Rogers Centre still attracts the likes of U2 and Bon Jovi for their massive stages and crowds but now the Air Canada Centre
(ACC) is another popular alternative for those wanting to see a popular concert or performance. The best part about the ACC is that you can get a great seat anywhere in the house to musical acts like Coldplay, Mariah Carey and Maroon 5, who have graced their stages.
The Molson Amphitheatre offers a great outdoor concert experience in the summer with its excellent sound system giving fans the chance to enjoy their favourite bands with both chairs and lawn seating.
Historic Concert Venues
Toronto is home to a number of buildings that are as famous as the acts who have performed there. Massey Hall
, the “grande dame” of local music halls has been part of Toronto’s music history since 1894. It has hosted some of the greatest musical legends and in fact, Gordon Lightfoot is the most frequently returning artist in the building’s history!
, located on the edge of downtown, is one of Toronto’s most infamous entertainment spaces. Over the past 20 years, it has played host to legendary artists including The Rolling Stones, The Tragically Hip and Bob Dylan and contemporary artists like Death Cab for Cutie and Two Door Cinema Club. This 18,000 square foot entertainment complex is host to one of the city’s largest dance floors.
In Leslieville, The Opera House is one of the more intimate concert venues in the city. Its balcony offers a spectacular overview over the space which retains its original 1900s vaudeville theatre architecture.
Smaller Concert Venues
Near the Harbourfront and Sugar Beach is the smaller, grittier venue The Warehouse, which is known to host famous DJs and indie bands. Sound Academy
is a concert venue similar to The Warehouse, as part of the complex indoor/outdoor entertainment venue, Polson Pier. Popular indie acts like Vampire Weekend and Lights have performed here. This venue also offers a scenic view of the Toronto skyline.
Located in the heart of The Annex, Lee’s Palace hosts upcoming musical and indie artists.
Queen Street West
Some of the best bars to discover new music are on Queen Street West
. The 65 year old Horseshoe Tavern is one of the most historic bars and music venues in Toronto. It has been host to legends like the Police, The Ramones and The Rolling Stones.
The Cameron House down the street from The Horseshoe is a more intimate venue with a main room and a back room. Canadian acts from Blue Rodeo to the Barenaked Ladies have performed here.
There is a proliferation of classic rock n’ roll bars in Parkdale like Stones Place (a shrine to the Rolling Stones) and the sprawling Cadillac Lounge.
On Ossington, The Dakota has become an institution to folk and rock bands. It is famous for its bluegrass brunch on Sundays and during the winter months, is known to have famous Canadian musicians pop like Sam Roberts and members of Broken Social Scene.
If you prefer jazz to rock, The Reservoir Lounge’s subterranean space is a classy place to grab a cocktail, listen to live jazz and swing music and even swing dance most nights.
Toronto’s Entertainment District used to be known as a club district, where partiers would prowl at night. Though the weekend party scene has moved over to West Queen West, there are still great venues to catch a live act including the cozy, woodsy interiors of Cabin Five.
If you are looking to dance in the area, next-door neighbour The Fifth Social Club is a consistent choice in the ever-changing landscape of this area.
Nightclubs and Dance Venues
West Queen West, Parkdale and Ossington are the areas that people now flock to for nightlife. The Drake Hotel
plays host to a number of creative events and has a concert space in the basement. Down the street, The Gladstone
is another alternative spot for niche parties and is known for its Karaoke nights at the Melody Bar.
On Ossington, revelers flock to hipster spots The Ossington and Levack Block; both venues are a split between lounge and dance party.
Parkdale has become a nightlife destination in recent years, thanks to underground dance parties (i.e. Milk) and destination clubs like Wrongbar, where you can dance to electronic music until the wee hours.
For multicultural flair, Lula Lounge is host to Latin dance parties with Toronto’s best live Salsa bands.
Canadian Music Week (CMW)
Canadian Music Week
(CMW) is held every spring and is recognized as one of the premier entertainment events in North America focusing on the business of music. Canadian Music Fest spans 5 nights of performances, with 1,000 showcasing bands at more than 60 live music venues in downtown Toronto.
North by NorthEast (NXNE)
Every June, the North by Northeast Festivals and Conference
(NXNE) is the Canadian festival destination for emerging artists and major-label headliners, for music filmmakers, and for digital interactive innovators bridging the gap between technology and the arts. With over 800 bands performing at venues across the city in addition to 40 films being featured over 7 days, the city buzzes with excitement.
TD Toronto Jazz Festival
Toronto Jazz Festival
The TD Toronto Jazz Festival
has become known as one of North America’s premier jazz festivals produced annually by Toronto Downtown Jazz. What began in 1987 as an eight day showcase of jazz now attracts in excess of 500,000 loyal patrons annually over 10 days. Attractions include more than 350 performances with over 1,500 musicians performing at approximately 40 locations around Toronto.