A Brief Introduction To Toronto’s Open Mic Nights

By Erik Masson

The open mic night scene in Toronto is a tad overwhelming – there is just so many of them! I will be planning to head to one and my friends will say, “No, you should go to the Supermarket, you’ll totally get in, I hear it’s pretty small!” (Turns out this is not exactly true). I have noticed that sometimes it is nice to have a guide for these things, so here is a sampling of three downtown open mic nights.

aspetta

Aspetta

Located at 207 Augusta Avenue, this charming little café has reasonably priced drinks and a great group of talented artists. The sign-up is basically on a walk-in basis; just show up, and you will probably be taking the stage pretty soon. The piano is out of tune, but don’t let that dissuade you – you can bring a keyboard and plug it into their PA system, or hope that someone else does so. I would highly recommend this place for everyone, especially those who are new to the process and might be a wee bit shy. It is a very relaxed, warm place that is not too stressful. The night starts at 8:00 PM on Thursdays, and don’t feel the need to show up early. And, as it is a café, it is all ages!

thepaintedlady

The Painted Lady

The Painted Lady has a fantastic open mic night, featuring a hilarious host and a great atmosphere. It is a bar, so it is not all-ages friendly, but it is one of the coolest bars in Toronto, so for those of you deemed old enough to consume poison, definitely check it out! This one is pretty popular and so it tends to attract a wide variety of awesome talent (one of the regulars is a stand-up comedian – go see him, he is hilarious). They have a sign-up sheet that you have to go and sign before the night begins or as you show up, so if you want to get an earlier spot, going about 15 minutes early is probably a good idea. In terms of equipment, they have a house acoustic guitar, electric guitar and amp, drum kit, and bass, but no piano or keyboard (it is a hard-knock life for the pianists). Still, for one of the best open mic nights in the city, venture to 218 Ossington Avenue at 9:00 PM on Mondays!

supermarket

The Supermarket

You may already know about this popular open mic night. They have a pretty intense sign-up process: on Facebook, search for “Freefall Sundays’ Pre-list” and you will find all the instructions there. If you manage to emerge from the labyrinth of pre-lists unscathed, you will be part of an amazing group of individuals who earned the Supermarket its reputation as the king of open mic nights. Voice looping, beautiful songwriting, comedy, and crazy rap in languages I am not familiar with only scratch the surface of the interesting things I have seen here. It is primarily a restaurant, so it is all-ages friendly, but the bar is also awesome, and if you participate then you get a free beer (provided you are legal)!  However, if you plan to just walk in, do not expect to get an early time slot – you may have to stick around for a while.

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