Toronto is a major stopping point for artists from around the world, who play concerts in one of the city’s numerous venues. However, music-lovers will be pleased to find that the charm is not just from big concerts. Toronto loves entertainment in the way of live music. This is an extensive live music guide, showcasing some of the city’s best live music bars, pubs and clubs.
Great live music venues in the Downtown Toronto regions are;
- Circa: Originally founded by legendary club king Peter Gatien, this massive nightclub attracts big name international DJs and artists.
- This is London: Another popular nightclub featuring local and international DJs, as well as fashion shows and special events.
- Reservoir Lounge: Popular downtown-east swing-jazz and blues bar, decorated in 1930s style.
- Bier Market: Downtown pick-up bar with two locations and wide selection of beer. It features regular live music during the week.
Queen Street West
Live music venues that are popular in Queen West are;
- Horseshoe Tavern: A Toronto musical institution that has seen many huge bands pass through on their way to stardom. A wide variety of music can be heard here from country, to punk, to hip hop, but indie-rock is their staple.
- The Rivoli: Another classic Toronto venue, although perhaps more famous as a comedy bar, having hosted such legends as Kids in the Hall. Eclectic music shows from cabaret to punk.
- The Rex: One of the city’s foremost jazz and blues bars, with 19 shows a week.
- Cameron House: Artsy Queen West bar/music club with bands playing front and back stages on a daily basis.
- The Drake Hotel / Drake Underground: Multi-floor bar lounge with famous rooftop patio and live music venue in basement. It is known in particular for local and Canadian indie band shows.
- Bovine Sex Club: Gritty bar that is home to edgy rock, punk, metal, retro 70’s 80’s, and Brit pop seven days a week.
- Wrongbar: Lively bar/club that regularly features trendy indie-rock, dance music and DJs. Known for attracting up-and-coming artists.
- Cadillac Lounge: Retro-themed design complete with old Cadillac car. This music club features rockabilly, alt-country and blues.
Queen Street East
Look for these live music destinations in the Queen Street East area;
- The Opera House: This larger venue is a staple of the Toronto music scene, and has a balcony with a great view of the stage. It features popular Canadian and international bands and artists.
- Dominion on Queen: Historic bar/music club with selection of microbrewery beers and regular live jazz, blues, and Irish music.
- The Duke Live: Traditional rock-and-roll bar with live bands, including cover and rock tribute bands.
- The Avro: Hip bar with local folk and indie-rock bands and DJ nights.
Bloor Street West / The Annex
The Annex has some of the best live music venues;
- Lee’s Palace: Another renowned Toronto music club that regularly hosts popular and up-and-coming bands from around the world, particularly alternative rock.
- XO Karaoke: While not featuring live music per se, this is one of the top spots to see your friends try their best imitation.
- Clinton’s: Small bar/tavern firmly embedded in the Toronto indie music scene.
- James Joyce Pub: Irish pub with regular live Maritime/Celtic style music and cover bands.
- Tranzac Club: Smaller non-profit local concert spot and arts space.
- The Piston: Popular bar in up-and-coming neighbourhood of Bloorcourt. Live music and DJs throughout the week.
Danforth Avenue / East End
When out in the East End, make sure to catch the live music at;
- Phoenix Concert Theatre: Fashionable larger music venue and club that attracts bigger name hip artists. Featuring rock, hip-hop, electronic artists and DJ nights.
- Black Swan Tavern: English-style pub with live music all week. Good spot for local blues artists.
- Allen’s: Restaurant/pub inspired by Irish-American saloons. Regular traditional Irish music.
Ossington Avenue / West End
Ossington Avenue also has some great live music spots to check out;
- Dakota Tavern: Country-fried hipster bar decked out in saloon-themed decor. Famous for their Sunday “Bluesgrass Brunch.”
- The Painted Lady: Intimate Ossington music spot featuring jazz, folk, rock, and open-mic Mondays.
- The Garrison: Up-and-coming local music hotspot with a fairly large capacity. Hipster approved.
- Hugh’s Room: This Roncesvalles establishment is one of the city’s best spots for live folk and roots music.
- Parts and Labour: Trendy Parkdale bar located in an old hardware store. Features hip music ranging from punk to dance to hip hop.
- Lula Lounge: Dundas West centre of Latin food and live music that also offers dinner and dance lesson packages.
Kensington and College Street are well known for its local and indie live music bars and lounges;
- The Mod Club: One of the most popular live music venues in the city. They feature a wide range of genres including rock, hip-hop and electronic, and also feature regular DJ nights
- Silver Dollar Room: Popular grungy rock club with 50’s décor. Music here usually ranges from blues to rock.
- El Mocambo: Famous Toronto landmark said to have hosted music since 1850. Has experienced a resurgence in the past decade, and has two stages playing rock, heavy metal, reggae and hip hop.
- Rancho Relaxo: Small local music venue with cheesy VCR movies playing behind the bar at all times.
- The Boat: Former Portuguese seafood restaurant turned hipster music location.
- Supermarket: Tasty Kensington restaurant-bar with stage in the back. DJ nights on the weekend and live music during the week, including a “new talent” spotlight series on Wednesdays.
- Revival: Little Italy lounge is the most recent host of the locally-famous monthly “Hip Hop Karaoke” series.
- Sneaky Dee’s: Staple of the Toronto indie-rock scene. Upstairs is the music venue, while downstairs serves famous nachos deep into the night.
Yonge Street / Midtown
Midtown has some fantastic live music bars;
- Alleycatz: Live jazz bar in the Yonge and Eglinton neighbourhood.
- The Unicorn Pub: Irish pub with live music Thursday-through-Saturday and open-mic night on Wednesdays.
Live music is a popular industry in Toronto, you can find new, old, and local bands throughout the city almost every week. Browse around Totally Toronto and find more great Toronto information!