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
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.
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.
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.
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).
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).