Toronto’s Music Scene

Misha Bower of the Bruce Peninsula

Years ago Thursday nights were for parties, cheap drinks at the Golden Lion and very late nights.  As I count down the last few weeks of my twenties, Thursday nights generally see me in bed at about the same time as every other weeknight.  Last Thursday, however, I found myself on a streetcar at 1:30 in the morning wondering if I’d make the last northbound subway.  The Bruce Peninsula’s tickets said nine o’clock and I naively assumed this meant they’d likely start the show at some point between ten and eleven.  Instead there were two opening acts, pushing the BPs back to midnight.  This put Katie and I in an awkward position, as we’d invited four people to come to the show with us.  Thankfully, after a few hours of waiting, the Bruce Peninsula put on an amazing show and everyone left really happy and only a little tired.  This concert was the last in a string of great concerts we’ve been to in venues around Toronto.

Friends in Bellwoods 2

This started with the Friends in Bellwoods 2 CD launch party, headlined by Ohbijou at Lee’s Palace last August.  This double CD introduced Katie and I to a lot of great local acts and inspired us to start following the concert listings more closely.  These concerts have made me realized just how amazing Toronto’s music scene is at the moment. I already knew Toronto has produced a range of major successes like the many groups that combine to make the Broken Social Scene (including Feist and Metric), Blue Rodeo, and John’s favorite rapper: K’naan.  Sadly, the cost of tickets to see major shows at venues like Massey Hall normally exceeds the limits of my student budget.  Thankfully, there are dozens of great bands on some of the smaller independent labels in Toronto who play cheaper shows at Toronto’s smaller venues – (many of which are featured on the Friends in Bellwoods charity compilation CD).  Not only do these shows cost less money, but you also feel more connected with the local community when you are sitting a few rows back from the band’s parents or friends.

Six Shooter Records

Six Shooter Records has an amazing list of artists including Justin Rutledge, Melissa McClelland and Luke Doucet.  We were lucky enough to see these three perform at one of my favorite Toronto Venues, Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church in the Annex neighbourhood.  In the months that followed we returned to the church twice more to see Basia Bulat and the Great Lake Swimmers.  The acoustics in this nineteenth-century building more than make up for the somewhat subdued atmosphere (not much dancing on the pews).  If you are not familiar with Basia Bulat yet, check out this video from a CBC radio program:

Finally, returning to last week, we discovered a new venue on Dundas West called the Garrison.  It had a small stage in the back of an unfinished bar.  This led to crowding, as the Bruce Peninsula had between 7 and 9 people on stage.  Their high energy gospel-choir-folk-prog rock had me rocking and clapping awkwardly in something resembling dancing as the power and energy of Marsha Bower’s and Neil Haverty’s voices blew us all away.  Have you been to a great local show lately?  Please share suggestions of local bands that might make there way to Toronto in the months ahead.

For more on the Toronto Music scene, watch some of the short films produced by City Sonic, including this one on Justin Rutledge’s start at the Cameron House:

5 thoughts on “Toronto’s Music Scene

  1. I have no ifea who any of these bands are but they look cool. Do you have to be religious to go to the church like is there a ceremony or anything that you sit through? Metric is awesome and Toronto has the best music in the world. Its awesome to get some more leads on good music if the videos are any indication it will be perfect to catch the next show. Thanks!

    - Pete

  2. No, the concerts are not a part of any church service – I’d guess the church makes a decent amount of money to help fund their operation by renting the building out to concert organizers. Katie and I did see Metric at Massey Hall and loved the show. Check out the Friends in Bellwoods CD. Its a fundraiser for the Daily Bread Food Bank and most, but not all, of the songs are really good. Thanks Pete.

  3. Great post Jim! This is a terrific resource for people looking to learn more about the music scene in T-dot.

  4. If you’re interested in going to more inexpensive shows, I do a weekly roundup of shows that are $10 or less. Plus lots of other goodies on my blog, which is focused almost entirely on the Toronto music scene. Cheers!

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