A Beginner’s Guide To Concert-Going In Toronto

By Elena Gritzan

Toronto has an amazing music scene. Sure, most big cities tend to have some clusters of talented bands, celebrated venues, and fun festivals, but Toronto manages to go above and beyond. By choosing to go to U of T, you have thrust yourself into the middle of a vibrant, varied, and highly creative environment for a music fan. However, it can be a little overwhelming, especially if you are new to the city. We have compiled an overview of how to find out what shows are happening, what venues near campus you should check out, and a few ideas for the concert-goer on a student budget.

Obviously, we can only scratch the surface (feel free to add any recommendations of your own in the comments!), but hopefully after going to a few shows, you will like what you encounter enough to dive a little deeper into the Toronto music scene.

IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD

First of all, sometimes you do not even have to venture off of your own campus for your musical experiences. Hart House runs a number of free concert series, from Friday night Jazz to Open Mic Nights. Check out the music committee’s website for a list of upcoming events.

What if you want to venture off campus to see some bands? The first step is, of course, finding out what shows are happening and when. Your partners-in-crime for this mission are the publications you can find around the city.

PUBLICATIONS

Toronto has a wealth of free publications that can be great resources for the music fan. Most can be picked up in boxes around the city. Head to the intersection of St. George and Hoskin to raid the newspaper boxes.

Find them online: The Grid / Exclaim / NOW

gopherBonus! Online resource: Show Gopher. This handy site displays daily concert listings, arranged by venue. You can even click to hear previews of each artist so you know what you’re in for.

RECORD STORES

So there are a few shows that have caught your eye. Where can you go to get tickets? Often, this will involve a trip to a record store (Soundscapes and Rotate This stock tickets for many events in the city). While you’re at it, though, check out the assortment of record stores near campus. Each has a distinctive feel and medium of choice, and all of them are full of discoveries to stock up your music collection.

recordstoremap

Find them online: June Records / Soundscapes / Sonic Boom / Rotate This / She Said Boom

VENUES

It is likely impossible for us to list every venue in the city. Instead we present an overview of some of the most popular venues near campus.

silverdollarThe Silver Dollar (486 Spadina Ave.)

This long-staged room is probably one of the closest venues to U of T. For those of you who live on or near campus, you can experience the great bonus of being able to have your head on your pillow about ten minutes after the last note is played. There’s a good variety of Toronto’s best music on showcase here, including rock and electronic.

tranzacThe Tranzac (292 Brunswick Ave.)

Also incredibly close to campus in its Annex location, the Tranzac features three rooms with often simultaneous music. Things here tend to be on the folkier side, and every concert feels warmly intimate. This is probably the smallest venue of the four, which can be a huge bonus for the concert experience.

leesLee’s Palace (529 Bloor St. West)

Marked by its distinctively colourful mural, Lee’s Palace is a place where many mid-scale touring bands end up. The room has three levels, which makes for good sight lines no matter how far back you stand. Also, if you feel like dancing you can head to Dance Cave on the second floor – it’s free to get in with your T Card.

drakeundergroundThe Drake Underground (1150 Queen St. West)

This one will take a TTC trip from campus, but the variety of shows at this location is worth the trek. The venue is located in the basement of the music-friendly hotel (walk past the front desk and go down the stairs on the right). Keep an eye out for Elvis Mondays to see free shows with surprise bands.

These venues are all first-concert friendly, but of course are only a tiny fraction of what’s out there. Get ready to start exploring and finding your favourite new haunt! (Personally, I’m currently obsessed with Handlebar in Kensington Market.)

ADVICE

beirut-Provided you’re safe about how you’re getting home, don’t be afraid to go to concerts alone. Missing a band you really want to see just because none of your friends are available/share your musical proclivities can be a terrible feeling. Maybe you’ll meet people who share your interests (start going to enough shows to become a familiar face and someone will introduce themselves to you eventually, no matter how shy you are!), and at the very least you’ll get to experience some great live music.

-Explore! Last summer I made it my goal to see 100 different bands play here in Toronto, which of course led me to check out a variety of different venues and to consider bands and scenes I wouldn’t have sought out originally. Of course, go see your favourite band when they stop by, but don’t be afraid to pay $5 to see some bands you’ve never heard of before.

fjm-It helps to know which promoters’ tastes align with your own if you want to make more calculated risks on seeing shows with bands you’ve never heard before. I spent my formative year attending Wavelength and Silent Shout shows, but you might also want to check out shows by Burn Down the Capital, Pleasence Records, or Pretty Pretty.

-There’s a lot of great options for students on a budget. Keep an eye out for PWYC (pay-what-you-can shows) and free in-store performances in record stores.

-And, most importantly, have fun! There are so many incredible musical experiences waiting for you out there.

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