experience
Erin Schwartz, September 7 2021

The Best Live Music Spots in Toronto

Toronto’s rich cultural diversity is most apparent through its live music scene; from intimate performances over dinner to multi-day festivals like AFROFEST and North by Northeast, there are options for every musical taste. In addition to permanent venues, many musicians perform live on some of Toronto’s most popular streets and train stations. Here are just a few of the popular venues and events to check out in the city.

*Disclaimer: Please be aware of the safety restrictions in place. Not all venues are currently open, but there are other options like online live-stream performances in the meantime. *  

1. Massey Hall (178 Victoria Street) 

Located in the heart of downtown Toronto, Massey Hall is one of the most prestigious venues in Canada that attracts some of the best artists from around the world. Oscar Peterson, Neil Young, and B.B King are just a few of the many performers who have played at this renowned venue. After 2 years of renovations, Massey Hall is reopening its doors this November and kicking off the celebration with a performance from Gordon Lightfoot. 


2. AFROFEST (Presented by Music Africa - 360A Bloor Street West) 

AFROFEST is a yearly event hosted by the not-for-profit organization Music Africa, which was established in 1990 and incorporates much more than just African music; it’s a chance for others to experience the wide diversity within African cultures through all different kinds of artistic expression. While this is normally a week-long event hosted at Woodbine Park, in 2020 it was re-organized as an online event due to Covid-19 and was hosted through YouTube. Toronto is again scheduling to launch the events online for the summer of 2021, with the main events taking place between July 16-25. 

 

3. Horseshoe Tavern (370 Queen Street West) 

A small but legendary venue that has experienced quite a lot of change over the years; initially a blacksmith shop started in 1861, it was bought by Toronto entrepreneur Jack Starr in 1947 and converted into a tavern to capitalize on the provincial liquor licensing laws before finally incorporating live music performance in the mid 1950s. Over the years, the Horseshoe Tavern transitioned from country and rockabilly acts in the 50s and 60s to a brief punk explosion in the 70s then later to alternative and indie rock performances from artists like The Tragically Hip and The Barenaked Ladies. During the COVID-19 lockdown they’ve transitioned to live-streaming performances, and these tickets can be purchased through their website. 

 

4. The Cameron House (408 Queen Street West) 

Another indie mainstay of the Queen St music strip is the Cameron House. Anne Marie Ferraro and her brother Herb repurposed an old hotel to accommodate local artists in rent-free rooms upstairs, while giving them a platform on the main floor to hone their craft. Artists like Blue Rodeo, Holly Cole, and Ron Sexsmith have all performed at the Cameron House, and it is still a great spot to find up-and-coming Canadian talent. 

 

5. Lula Lounge (1585 Dundas Street West) 

An energetic space where you can enjoy local and international artists performing Latin, Brazilian, jazz, and global roots music. Lulula lounge offers both salsa dance lessons and dining options on the weekends in addition to all performances. With Covid-19 restrictions in place they have refocused on supporting both the artists and audiences with online concerts, virtual dance lessons, and their Lulaworld Records label. 

 

Written by

Erin Schwartz

Previous What to do in Waterloo With No Car