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The Best Venues to See Live Music in Toronto

the Silver Dollar

When you live in a city like Toronto and you enjoy live music, you are blessed with some of the best bands and venues, in the world. I have been to countless bars and seen hundreds of bands over the years and I am never amazed at what this city has to offer.

Depending on your genre of music, there really is a multitude of venues. The following is a list of my top 5 in Toronto:

The Horseshoe: I’ve probably seen more shows here than any other place. It probably isn’t the best laid out with the low ceilings and long narrow shape, but the soundsystem sounds pretty good. The stage isn’t too high off the dance floor which promotes musicians to jump down into the crowd, or zealots a perfect launch pad for ‘crowd surfing’.

One of the dislikes for me is that they have started the shows later. Main acts going on at 12:30 a.m. is pretty late especially for those who need to catch the TTC.

Lee’s Palace: Another excellent venue. Lee’s is a real club for bands. The dance area sits down deep in front of the stage and is surrounded by a narrow strip of a table top, each with it’s own bar stool. I think the sound in there is fantatsic. Many a great band has graced the stage and the acoustics really resonant from the stage.

The back row behind the mixer, sports another table row with stools and plenyy of standing room. The bar is at the very back. Depending how busy it is, it can be difficult to get a drink.

Mod Club: This bar is really a quaint rock n’ roll shop. Its basically an open area with the bar down the left side and some seating on the right. You probably want to be on the floor as the seating to the right makes it difficult to see anything. But who wants to be sitting down when a band like ‘Sloan’ start cranking ‘Money City Maniacs’.

There are two big stacks of speakers so be weary of as it can get deafening, if you’re directlly in front of them. I’m not sure about the upstairs, as I haven’t been. Again, a cool place to see that upcoming Indie band.

The Opera House: This old venue dates back to 1909 and was once a live theatre venue. Today, it is mainly used for live music and has hosted a wide variety of acts world wide. The inside architecture is truly beautiful. It was built for projecting sound when P.A. systems didn’t exist and the acoustics are fantastic.

The best part is the balconey. You can see everything and it gives a great vantage point with the acts on stage. You’d better have a good zoom camera if you want to take video/photos. It really makes you fall back in time sittting in the wooden benches, almost like royalty.

Danforth Music Hall: This is a newish venue for me having only been there twice. The echo in the hall is fantasic. Depending on the type of music it really adds it’s own natural reverb to the mix and who doesn’t love reverb! Now that the seats are gone there’s plenty of standing room and there are bars on both sides as well as the main one in the front entrance.

The fact that it is sloping downward toward the stage, is the deal sealer. If you’re not terribly tall, which I am not, it makes it much easier to see the stage when the guy with the ‘fro’ decides to stand in front of you.

Honourable mention, but in no particular order:

Silver Dollar: not a great arrangement for the stage with the audience but it has character and I’ve seen some cool bands. Not to mention some ‘Blues’ greats as well.

Sneaky Dees: Divey and trashy. Many a punk act has screamed out 3 chord melodies there. It has it’s own charm.

El Mocambo: The Rolling Stones recorded part of their live album “Love You Live” there. Need I say more?

Echo Beach: Nothing better than drinking a ‘king can’ with your sandals on, down by Lake Ontario, in the biggest sand box in Toronto. They even have volley ball nets setup. Oh ya, and stage is pretty cool too.

So there you have it. I know I’ve missed a few more venues, actually a lot more, as there are so many in Toronto. But again these are just a few of my personal favs.

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