Toronto Clubs

There’s been talk recently about the amount of music venues  closing down in the GTA. I say there’s still more than enough to keep any music lover occupied. So what are you waiting for? Get on out there!

Here are some of the places I like to see live music in Toronto. Make sure to check the website link for up to date listings – and in this age of clubs closing – to see if they are still open.

See it Live!

The Black Swan

Close to Broadview, the bar features two stages. One in the noisy downstairs and one upstairs (comfortable, good sound, good sitelines)  that is unfortunately a go to venue for improv and comedy in the east end.

The Burdock

New brew pub/tavern/ is  a space devoted to beer and music. Wasn’t overly impressed by the menu but the music space more than made up for it. I’ve seen a couple of acts in there and have been absolutely impressed by the sound quality and sitelines. Easy to reach, just west of the Dufferin subway.

The Cadillac

Down at the far end of Queen West.  Great stage. Some country, some indie bands.

The Cameron

With a focus on alt country and folk this is the front room is one of my favourite places to see live music in Toronto.  Can’t stay up late? The early shows (6-8pm) will introduce you to a host of up and coming talent in the GTA

C’est What

One of the few places to hear music in the downtown core (i.e. in the shadows of the bank towers. Features a wide range of music.

The Communist’s Daughter

Walking down Dundas with nothing to do on a Saturday afternoon. Sneak in to see the cabaret style performance by the bartender. It’s a small venue with a lot of charm.

The Dakota Tavern

Bluegrass, country, alt country. A mecca for the plaid set. Great sound. Good sitelines. Great beer choice. Some early shows but mainly devoted to

Dave’s on St. Clair.

I’ve only been there a couple of times, but it’s got a lot of charm. Go on a Thursday for Uncle Herb’s open mic. You might even see Gordon Lightfoot in the crowd.

Dora Keogh’s

Irish pub with a strong commitment to music, located at Broadview and Danforth. Make sure to check out Julian Taylor’s open stage on Monday night’s.

Free Times Cafe

Still surviving on College despite all the changes. If you like folk in a small room it’s  a perfect place for an evening of music.

Gate 403

Need a jazz fix in the west end? You’ll find it at Roncesvalles and Howard Park, easily accessible by TTC (the street car stops at the door) Gate 403, one of the few clubs in Toronto that specializes in the genre. It succeeds despite its limitations (long, narrow. The stage on the south wall seems an afterthought.) But the place is always packed, whether its for the latest sax sensation or for Saturday afternoon jam session. Ideally located directly across from the Local, perfect for the devoted bar hopper.

The Gladstone

Despite the renovation the Gladstone still retains a lot of its funky charm from the old days. Two great spaces to hear live music – the Melody Room and the back room for larger functions.

The Linsmore

Near Greenwood on the Danforth. This hooker of a bar has turned into a lady in the past few years. New sound system, lighting, and a commitment to indie music make it a perfect spot to see music live.

The Local

Owned and operated by an Irish brother and sister Rue and Melissa Sexton. “Originally from Ireland, the Sextons knew they could transport the friendly atmosphere of the Irish pubs so deeply ingrained in their culture, add some delicious, eclectic food to traditional fare, and spin in fantastic, intimate live music to create a unique space in the heart of Roncesvalles Village.”

Don’t eat there a lot but I do go for the music. Small, intimate, and always an eclectic music source.

The Lula Lounge

World and salsa. A variety of Latin and world groups have passed through here. Go early on a Saturday night for the salsa lessons.

Painted Lady

Just around the corner from the Communists daughter and down the street from the Dakota. Another great room with a long bar, fantastic sound system and a well placed stage.

The Rex

Granddaddy of jazz in the big smoke. Three shows daily, jazz mainly but with a sprinkle of blues, country, and rock to keep things interesting.  Good beer. Good sitelines.

The Tennessee Tavern

Located near the end of Queen west, don’t let the proximity to Parkdale scare you.  It’s a good small room that has lots of charm.


Good venue. Has a well attended Open Stage on Sunday night. If you want to play, get there early.

The 3030

Has established a firm foothold on Dundas West at High Park. Owner has a commitment to live music and live theatre. Diverse booking, great space.

The Yellow Griffin.

Located just east of the Runnymede subway, it’s one of the few places still interesteGreat burgers. Johnny Devil and The Screamin’ Demons entertain the crowd every Tuesday night.