The city’s coolest new music venues

The city’s coolest new music venues

The best way to spend a night out this month is at one of Toronto's cozy, versatile indie music halls. Here are our favourites

Fat City Blues (Image: Daniel Neuhaus)
Fat City Blues

890 College St., 647-345-8282

This classy corner spot in Little Italy channels a hot jazz bar in Louisiana. Exposed incandescents give the narrow room a vintage feel, absinthe flows freely at the bar, and regular acts—including the bluesy Velvet Martin and the Full Monty, and the ’50s soul revival band the Mercenaries—squeeze around a floor-level piano in the middle of the room. The tunes are just loud enough to drown out the sound of diners snacking on po’ boys and alligator poppers.

CHECK OUT: Soul jammers Pudding (June 11), and non-stop blues sets during the TD Toronto Jazz Festival (June 24 to July 3).

Junction City Music Hall (Image: Daniel Neuhaus)
Junction City Music Hall

2907 Dundas St. W., 416-662-7072

To reach this clandestine hangout, visitors have to travel through a hidden door, along a narrow hallway and down a set of stairs. At the bottom is a kitschy basement dive done up with retro arcade terminals, reclaimed signage and twinkly lights. The music is as eclectic as the decor: audiences can cozy up in booths at folk shows, dance into sweaty oblivion during DJ sets or belt Taylor Swift at karaoke nights.

CHECK OUT: The twee indie-pop of Olivia and the Creepy Crawlies (May 21), and a horn-filled soul set by Yuka and the Heavyweights Brass Band (June 24).

Burdock (Image: Daniel Neuhaus)

1184 Bloor St. W., 416-546-4033

Just about everyone who works at this place is a musician, and it shows. The wooden hall is a folkie’s dream, equipped with a stellar sound system, soundproofed walls and a bar that serves up beer from the on-site microbrewery. You never know who’ll show up for a cameo: Ron Sexsmith and Chantal Kreviazuk sang tunes during a recent set by the Barenaked Ladies’ Kevin Hearn.

CHECK OUT: The foot-stomping folk of Brooklyn troubadour Christopher Paul Stelling (May 10), and the orchestral soul-pop of Chloe Charles (May 26 and 27).

Geary Lane (Image: Daniel Neuhaus)
Geary Lane

360 Geary Ave., 647-295-0052

A rotating list of nightly tenants transform this stark white space—and former indie movie studio—into a DJ’s dance pit, a theatre rehearsal stage or an ambient-rock concert hall, which makes every show feel spontaneous. It’s secretive, too: the building is tucked away at the end of an industrial road just north of Dupont, where a snug second-floor patio offers a superb panorama of downtown.

CHECK OUT: The otherworldly noises of the Sound Seance Experimental Music Festival (June 2 to 5), and the launch of Geary Lane’s jazz series (from June 12).

The Tennessee (Image: Daniel Neuhaus)
The Tennessee

1554 Queen St. W., 647-352-7668

Parkdale’s new venue is the kind of bar you wish your buddy’s band would play, with regular open mikes, battle-of-the-band nights, and a weekend calendar filled with local rock, folk and blues outfits. The room is neatly divided into a music space with stage lights and a powerful PA system, and a pub with sports on the TVs, a dozen beers on tap and a kitchen that’s always open late.

CHECK OUT: The satirical suit-and-tie indie pop of the Johnson Report (May 14).