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Toronto is a world-class city with plenty to see and do for the veteran and novice alike. Because of its diversity, Toronto caters to global tastes, with a music scene featuring acts from all genres and continents. It’s a Herculean task to narrow down the city’s best live music venues, but here’s a taste of 5 venues to check out whether you’re taking in an indie band or heading down to Funkytown.
A historic musical institution and hallmark of the Toronto music scene, The Horseshoe Tavern has been promoting music from Canada and abroad for the last 68 years. This bar has hosted the likes of Willie Nelson, Stompin’ Tom Connors and The Bare Naked Ladies amongst countless others and was featured in the filming of the infamous short film, The Last Pogo, with punk rock bands like The Teenage Heads and a riot back in 1978. Nowadays, it is an intimate space in which to grab a drink and truly take in a band — local or international — and their vibe whether your poison is blues, rock, rockabilly, indie, punk, funk, or rhythm & blues.
Horseshoe Tavern, 370 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON Canada, +1 416 598 2162
This is the place if you are looking to scratch that jazz itch. Featuring a different band four nights a week plus one on the weekend, the Reservoir Lounge is stocked with bands that bring out the best in jazz à la swing, boogie woogie, blues, r&b and everything in between. The venue, complete with a laid-back vibe, also plays host to the TD Jazz Fest, which brings jazz talent from around the world to Toronto for the latter part of June. The Reservoir Lounge is consistently in the top tier of the Toronto Jazz venue realm.
Massey Hall began its life in 1894 as a gift from the Massey family to the city of Toronto. Its mission, taken directly from their website, is ‘to provide a world-renowned environment to showcase international arts and entertainment, to provide public space for the cultural and corporate communities of the Greater Toronto Area, to support the development of Canadian talent, and to increase and enhance our worldwide profile as a leader in the arts community through our professionalism and programming; and to be operationally self-sufficient’; 121 years later, it continues to be in full effect. Boasting a wide range of musicians from all corners of the globe past and present and catering to musical tastes from classical to cumbia, Massey Hall is a wonderful reflection of the city of Toronto’s multicultural makeup and truly is a place to see the best acts the world over.
Massey Hall, 178 Victoria Street, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 872 4255
The Drake Hotel
The Drake Hotel is a hotel, yes, but within, it is so much more. On the first floor is a lounge replete with fancy dining and an upscale vibe to accompany the musical stylings of a jazz combo or soul act. The underground — known as the basement — is a warm and welcoming place that hosts acts as varied as DJs spinning hip hop, house and other music, pop idols, spoken word, soul and rock as well as singer-songwriters. With so much variety, The Drake is the place to go to listen to what is hot and up-and-coming — even Antony and M.I.A. debuted here.
The Drake Hotel, 1150 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 531 5042
The Lula Lounge is the place to get your Latin, African, Brazilian, or World Music fix. Mandated through their non-profit arm, The Lula Music & Arts Centre, their aim is to ‘support Canadian world music through presentations, festivals, education, artist support and audience development’; the Lula Lounge is dedicated to bringing World Music to the people of Toronto. With performances throughout the week, including a Friday Jazz series, and opportunities to learn how to dance salsa, the Lula Lounge is there to get you moving and improving your knowledge of what the world has to offer musically.
Lula Lounge, 1585 Dundas Street West, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 588 0307
By Bryce Volrath
Bryce is a playwright, rapper, and actor. His music can be found at thebrappack.bandcamp.com