Toronto’s up-and-coming music venues are reliable hubs for some of the most exciting concert programming. Favouring emerging acts and indie vets, some of them are brand new while others are legacy ventures entering a new life, but they’re all spaces to keep on your radar for can’t miss gigs.
These are Toronto’s up-and-coming concert venues.
The Baby G
If the Baby G seems familiar, that’s because it is. With the same owners and operators, the same bar in the front, concert venue in the back dynamic, this place is a miniature version of Dundas West concert hall the Garrison – in fact, its analog sound system used to belong to that space.
With a venue cap between 150 and 170 concertgoers, it’s a more intimate alternative to the Garrison’s 300-capacity room, so it makes more sense for smaller local acts and touring bands.
Opened mid-September with owner Shaun Bowring, Smiling Buddha booker Denholm Whale, and Just Shows’s Chris Slorach handling bookings as Transmit Presents, it’s already earning a reputation.
Formerly the Magpie Taproom, this Dundas dive serves special house cocktails and lets you take turns on retro Sega Genesis, N64, SNES consoles between bands. When they’re not highlighting local acts on the stage, they fuel frequent movie nights with a library of VHS tapes.
Monthly event Track Could Bend (first Tuesday of each month) is a particular highlight, using the casual space to collide local indie rockers with seasoned improvisers.
Inspired by Montreal’s Casa del Popolo, Bloor Street’s Burdock is part bar, part music venue, and part microbrewery. Past the restaurant in the main space, there’s an intimate-90 person space that features bands most days of the month. Booked by local musicians Charlotte Cornfield and Adrian Underhill, it’s a reliable spot to catch groundbreaking local and touring acts, often favouring the experimental.
The Great Hall
The Great Hall’s history reaches back to 1890 when it opened as the city’s first West End YMCA. Later it would house the Royal Templars of Temperance, and the Polish National Union and its printing presses before it became a special events venue, and in recent years it’s become a local hub for arts and culture.
The venue entered the next stage of that life this September when it reopened after a major push for renovations and upgrades – an elevator, more washrooms, cosmetic and restorative touches – increasingly hosting bigger festival-scale events that use all of its many rooms, including the Longboat Hall (formerly the BLACK BOX theatre, and the Music Gallery before that) basement space, named after local 1907 Boston Marathon winner Tom Longboat, who trained there. It keeps going, too: a German-style beer hall is in the works for the street level restaurant space.
A cultural institution that launched the careers of the Kids in the Hall and Mike Myers, the Rivoli has been a landmark event space for more than 30 years, though it’s been taken for granted in recent years. But a new relaunch (a “Rivolution,” the branding goes) sees the space under all-female management, and they’ve whipped it back into shape, refurbishing the concert hall, re-felting the pool tables, and taking a more hands-on approach to bookings, actively bringing the space back into public consciousness as a spot to watch for acts like Lisa LeBlanc, Sarah Neufeld, and Weaves.
Shuttered by local nightlife developers Liberty Entertainment Group last September, local goth haunt Velvet Underground was resurrected by Embrace Entertainment this past February. Previously an institution for new wave, metal and industrial gigs and DJ nights, it’s seeing new life as a space with a more open booking philosophy, programming everything from pop and hip hop and to indie rock and punk.
Junction City Music Hall
Locals onstage and on tap – as are the themed cocktails – this well-kept secret in the city’s west end is a cozy, subterranean watering hole where you can take in area indie veterans like By Divine Right in a low-key environment then dig into vintage pinball and arcade games between sets.
On Tuesday nights, bands go home with multi-tracked recordings of their performances as part of the hall’s Tuesdays to Tape series.
This list is the work of an individual author and is not meant to be a definitive list of Toronto’s music venues.