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The best places to hear live music in Toronto.

Miriam Porter April 20, 2018
Retro microphone against a blurred restaurant background.

Toronto has a thriving live music and concert scene regardless what your musical preference is. There are multiple options where you can listen to the latest local talent on any given night of the week.

From May 7-13 you can check out Canadian Music Week (CMW) with performances happening at over 40 live music venues in Toronto’s downtown core. This 7-night festival will feature over 800 bands, a radio summit with featured speakers and an international marketplace. Music venues include Phoenix Concert Theatre, Opera House, Mod Club, Drake Underground, Rivoli, Dakota Tavern, Lee’s Palace and Danforth Music Hall.

So pick your favourite and rock the night away – the list of showcased bands is available on their website. This is the 37th year of the popular CMW festival and includes the lively Music Awards, which will be hosted again by Canadian funny man Paul Shaffer. Here are four additional rockin’ venues to hear live music in The Six.

Reservoir Lounge.

Jazz lovers can head over to the always trending Reservoir Lounge on 52 Wellington Street East across from the famous historic Flatiron Building for some seriously funky tunes. Take your pick of lounge bands performing five nights a week, ranging from celebrities to local musicians.  Unknown at the time, A a young, and unknown at the time, talented Michael Bublé has previously graced this lounge to perform. On Wednesday nights, check out one of Toronto’s up and coming new bands, – The Digs – perhaps you have heard them at other festivals or when they worked with Canadian Idol. On Fridays, put on your best rRhythm and blues outfit and head downtown to hear Dee Dee and The Dirty Martinis. This energetic, 7-piece band will bring back memories of the early 1960s with famous Motown greats and R&B classics. A complete schedule of bands playing at this hip spot is available on their website.

Tyler Yarema and His Rhythm singing at the Reservoir Lounge.


Get ready for Salsa Saturday at Lula located at 1585 Dundas Street West a block and a half west of Dufferin. Lula is the place to be for live Latin music whether you are a dancing salsa expert or just beginning. There are dance classes on Friday and Saturday nights at 9:15 p.m. that will lead beginners through basic salsa moves, so by the time the party picks up you are ready to dance to the rhythm. Or try a Saturday afternoon Cuban salsa class at 2:30 p.m. or 3:30 p.m. so you will be all ready for Havana Club Friday, featuring various talented artists. On Friday May 4, check out Grammy nominated and Juno winning Cuban pianist Danae Olano for traditional Cuban tunes mixed with some Jazz – free admission before 8 p.m. For complete listings, refer to the Lula online calendar.

Havana Club Cuba Libre Friday at Lula.

The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern.

Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern is definitely legendary with a history dating back to 1947 when it officially opened as a live music venue and restaurant. (The historical property actually dates back to 1861 when it was a blacksmith shop.) Located at 370 Queen Street West, the Horseshoe Tavern has been the venue for such famous singers as Willie Nelson, Conway Twitty, Waylon Jennings, Bruce Cockburn, and rock groups such aslike The Rolling Stones, The Police, The Ramones and the Talking Heads. To keep this unique venue interesting, the style of music depends on the night you attend and includes indie, country, and rock. Arrive early for a game of pool and beat the crowd for a better seat. There is a long list of upcoming shows on their website where you can purchase tickets.

Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip performing at the Horseshoe Tavern.

The Rex Jazz & Blues Bar.

The Rex Jazz & Blues Bar is a Toronto landmark and a family owned business located at 194 Queen Street West in the groovy Queen Street neighbourhood. It’s grown considerably over the last 40 years and now offers 19 impressive shows a week where you can get your groove on. The retro decor and comfortable atmosphere attracts not only a variety of music lovers wanting to hear jazz and blues, but many musicians themselves that may even get on stage to wow the excited crowd. In fact, that’s exactly what Harry Connick Jr. did one evening. Their website lists their upcoming performances by month with plenty of options.Jazz lovers of all ages are welcome at The Rex.

West Coast Jazz specialists, The Octokats, performing on stage.
These venues represent just a small sample of places where you can hear eclectic music, old and new, here in Toronto. 
Photo credits: Tyler Yarema & His Rhythm image, courtesy of The Reservoir Lounge. Havana Club Cuba Libre Friday at Lula image, courtesy of Lula. Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip image, courtesy of The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern. West Coast Jazz specialists, The Octokats image, courtesy of The Rex Hotel Jazz & Blues Bar.