The best places to live in Toronto if you love music

Living in Toronto, there is truly something for everyone. Traditionally this is an aphorism that’s thrown around about the diversity of food available — look no further than Keith Lee’s recent expeditions throughout our fair city — but in reality this truth extends to Toronto’s music scene too. Whether you’re looking for live venues hosting Billboard chart-toppers or cool clubs to find your new favourite DJ, we’ve handpicked the neighbourhoods where you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for. Though this list is by no means comprehensive (sorry to the east end!), Toronto’s music scene is vibrant, diverse and will satisfy a true music lover’s palate. 

Ossington

Courtesy Alexa Margorian

Roll your eyes! Do it! I dare you! No area in Toronto has rapidly grown in popularity like Ossington. There are so many spots within a couple blocks that it felt not only natural but correct to have Ossington listed as a standalone. Chug martinis at Bowie while catching a stylish DJ set (where you will surely recognize someone from Toronto micro-influencer fame). Can/should Juice even be gatekept anymore? Reposado and The Painted Lady have live music and performances on weeknights for something a little more low-key. With close proximity to so many other bars, restaurants and venues, this was a no-brainer.

Little Italy-Harbord Village Corridor

Courtesy Alexa Margorian

The venues here are not only good but also hold sentimental value. Before the Mod Club became the Axis Club, I saw the Vaccines here at 16 and it was life-changing! In its newest iteration as the Axis Club, the bookers are attuned to up-and-coming talent, hosting the likes of French electronic music duo Jersey a couple of months ago for a truly raucous set. 

“Funnily enough, I hate seeing live music shows but I love DJ sets, does that count?” writer Rhea Singh and Toronto’s preeminent party girl replied to a request for recommendations. Singh names Venus in Foil at Paradise Grapevine as a standout set from last year. On the weekends, Supermarket is the leading new grad bar, but if you want to head over on a weeknight or before the sun sets on Fridays and Saturdays, you can catch local bands tearing up the stage otherwise reserved for the drunkest Laurier and Queen’s alum. 

Geary Avenue/Junction

Geary Avenue can be intimidating, but take it from someone who is definitely not cool enough to fit in here, you don’t need to dress like an OCAD student to have fun on Geary Avenue. Buy a ticket from Resident Advisor and be merry! This street has the highest concentration of capital G good music in the city.

“I think for a more diverse array of sounds it’s honestly Geary Avenue,” Singh notes. “I’ve seen a lot of sets there ranging from reggaeton, nightcore club, socca etc., more so because there are a lot of venues for big crowds of people.”

One of my most fun nights from last fall was when I introduced myself to Tony Price at Standard Time.

“There was this set I stumbled into at three in the morning at Goat Gallery with HiTech from Detroit playing for Living Room,” Singh recalls.

Go, go, go to Geary! Nearby, Cafeteria is another Singh favourite, and if you venture a little further east (but not too far east) you’ll find 915 Dupont; both are must-try cool multi-hyphenate listening bars.

West Dundas West

Courtesy thedrake.ca

“I personally spend a lot of time on Dundas West and the venues there, like Bambi’s,” Singh says.

Situated in a basement at Dundas and Dovercourt, Bambi’s hosts back-to-backs and parties alike. Further south you can find smaller artists playing Drake Underground for dirt cheap in a way most concerts no longer are. With the recent addition of Sounds Good on the westest part of West Dundas West (it’s more like Brockton Village, but West Dundas West sounds less sleepy), we should be so lucky to have as many great venues as we do! 

Fashion District

Perhaps the least stylish area of those listed, the Fashion District more than makes up for it by having the most variety of the five. Classic venues like the Velvet Underground and Rivoli line Queen Street West hosting local bands and bigger acts alike, meanwhile the Ace Hotel throws insider-y events on its rooftop for those looking to feel a little more glamorous. And if you’re lucky to get in, you may catch a surprise Anderson .Paak set at Drom Taberna.

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO