A guide to live music in the Village
Live music in the Village does not start and end with the much-lauded drag shows at Crews & Tangos. (Does lip synching even count as live music? I'm not sure...) While there are plenty of DJs spinning Spice/S Club mash-ups, you'll also find a number of live performers who pull off amazing sets on piano, microphone, or guitar. Indeed, It might not seem so on the surface, but Church and Wellesley can be a great place to take in some new, young talent.
I first picked up on the live music scene in the Village a number of years ago when a friend of mine got up a steady performing gig on Church. Since then, the Village has become one of my favourite places in the city for a little late-night jazz and pop a capella (sidewalk singing included). Here are a few spots to take in live music in the Village:
Statler's is my favourite place in the Village to take in some talent. And I'm always amazed at how good that talent is. A piano bar competing with the best of them, Statler's has a really intimate vibe and somewhat nostalgic feel that seems to invite would-be crooners and dynamic duets. Cabaret, too, is always a big hit. Don't expect to come here intent on conversation — the music at Statler's is not meant as background noise.
Slack's offers more of a restaurant vibe (and a dance club on weekends, but nevermind that) with a regular roster of live performers. The best night at Slack's is Thursday, in my humble opinion, when the venue puts on its "Village Stage" concert series. Local singers such as Melissa Bel and Sarah Burton regularly take the stage, along with other bluesy/acoustic/rock performers. To be enjoyed with an organic burger and banana split, of course. And don't worry guys — Slack's is a ladies' hangout on weekends, but everyone tends to stop by for a little weekday live music.
You never quite know what you'll find after hours on Alexander Street, when Buddies in Bad Times Theatre turns into Tallulah Cabaret. Sometimes it's a plain old dance party (okay, often times, and most Fridays and Saturdays), but occasionally you'll find a live band or solo act that has rented out the space during the week. However, unlike the two options above, you'll lively have to pay cover.
So Spirits Bar & Grill might be a little north for some Village devotees, but I think its weekly live music event is worth a saunter up toward Bloor. (That and its nachos.) Sundays starting at 9 p.m., the show kicks off with Kim Jarrett and Mike Costantino, who later introduce a roster of (mostly acoustic) local performers. The concept is "open mic," though may who take the stage have already planned to do so in advance. And typically, the show is pretty good.
O'Grady's hosts a special event twice a week that most people would call.. uh.. "karaoke." Hear me out! While you do get the odd, unfortunate wannabe singer who takes the mic following too much liquid courage, I've found that karaoke Tuesdays and Sundays at O'Grady's actually seem to seduce some great performers. So if you can tolerate a few Whitney ballads (and are keen on the occasional group sing-along), you may be treated to some yet-undiscovered great talents.
Photo of Statlers' by Fifth Business in the blogTO Flickr pool