10 ways to find all ages shows in Toronto
All ages shows in Toronto may seem hard to come by at first, but while some smaller Ontario communities may still have stronger networks of teen music communities (do they? RIP Brampton's indie scene), Toronto actually has a wealth of resources available to music lovers who've not yet reached their transformative 19th year.
Of course there are basic options for underage fans: mostly stadium concerts and large venues that regularly host all ages shows: Massey Hall, The Phoenix, The Danforth Music Hall, Opera House, Kool Haus, Mod Club, and the dreaded Sound Academy (even the most green concert-goer tends to know this is a horrible place to see and hear a favourite band). Scouring concert event listing site Just Shows' all ages section, there's a concert that fits the bill nearly every night of the week, though often these are pricier hot ticket touring acts. In the words of Peggy Lee, is that all there is?
No way — there are actually tons of resources available. It just takes some internet savvy, and possibly a little risk taking. Promoters such as Mark Pesci, Wavelength, and Burn Down the Capital try to put all ages bills together whenever they can, while the arty, punky, weirdo, noisy, and/or experimental shows at galleries or small non-venues like Double Double Land, 918 Bathurst, or Gerrard Art Space are often all ages even if no one lists them as such. Yet what artist doesn't want young fans, with their after-school cash to spend on band merch and wide eyes to the world of art?
With that in mind, Toronto has a long way to go, especially in terms of venues opening their doors to younger patrons. For now, though, here are 10 resources for tracking down all ages shows in Toronto.
Co-run by Chris Slorach of Metz and local promoter Mark Pesci, Just Shows is an online listings database which aims to fill the hole in Toronto's music scene left by (message board) Stillepost's demise. About their very user-friendly all ages section on Just Shows, Pesci explained to me last year: "our goal is to get high school kids to take chances. The band links are all there on each show, they can check it out — like "Hey, this random band from Missouri, I'll go see that." There are always lots of great all ages shows in the city. You just have to look for them."
While Wavelength just celebrated the end of their long running all ages ALL CAPS! festival on Toronto Island this summer, the promotion company is a Toronto institution, and they've made a name for themselves as supporters of the city's all ages scene, hosting shows in Regent Park Courtyard, 918 Bathurst, and Double Double Land, to name a few. On October 26th they will co-present spooky Ghost Hole V on Toronto Island.
The Shop Under Parts & Labour
Mark Pesci of Just Shows is also the booker at Parkdale bar and basement venue space The Shop Under Parts & Labour, so it's no surprise he makes this list twice. Pesci has become a spokesperson for all ages in Toronto, calling out for more venues to embrace all ages shows, and for more teens to take chances on music they haven't heard.
In regard to where Parts & Labour is at right now with all ages shows, Pesci tells me: "We still do [all ages shows] Sunday through Thursday. We try to make as many shows as possible all ages, but outside of the DIY punk and hardcore scene, there doesn't seem to be much demand. I openly challenge the young people of Toronto to come out to mid-week all ages shows. Although they may have to break curfew to do it."
For those more in tune with IRL than URL, Offerings is a free, volunteer zine and event listing source you can find at various locations around Toronto. Their listings include all ages shows, but note: because the focus is on smaller local bands and underground music, many smaller shows without an all ages notation will be so by default anyway, such as many shows at off the radar venues like Double Double Land, Cinecycle, Toronto Laser Services, The Gladstone Library (seriously), or even the Tranzac. When in doubt, ask for the info by tracking down the venue, or hell, emailing me (see the bottom of this post). The magazine is also a treasure trove for finding up and coming artists in the city. Offerings list their pick up locations on their website.
Burn Down the Capital (Feast in the East)
Tad Michalak of BDTC, the promotion company behind Toronto's monthly Feast in the East events (all ages music + food + art installations in the east end of the city) which have been taking place at Gerrard Art Space lately has made a point of seeking out all ages venues, in part because his passion for live music goes back to his own teenage years.
Of Toronto's all ages scene, Tad tells me "We've had really little kids come out to feast with their parents & they are awesome. The idea of all ages is more about inclusiveness and options for me. All ages is a starting point for musical exploration. I want kids to experience music that might turn them on to something new or excite them. It's still challenging to find friendly spaces, so most of the all ages shows I present are at alternatives venues." You can scour BDTC's site for listings and links to performers' music, or show up at the 30th anniversary of Feast in the East on Thursday, October 10th.
Mark Pesci's Toronto Punk & Hardcore Shows
Hell, let's put him on here three times. Pesci's next all ages gig is October 20th with Junior Battles, !Attention! & Wank for Peace (from France!) at, you guessed it, The Shop Under Parts & Labour — though Pesci does book at other venues and community centres around Toronto. He's also put on a ton of NXNE showcases over the years. Aside from punk and hardcore, Pesci books garage rock, indie, noise, and miscellaneous, sooin the Facebook group to stay informed: all ages shows will be noted on event pages.
Rotate This's ticket listings page isn't a be all and end all way to find out about shows in the city but it's a decent place to start, as the Queen Street record store stocks tickets to almost all the buzzy touring bands coming through Toronto, as well as many local concerts. Their listings include a space for 19+ vs All Ages (assuming the ticket producer has provided this info to them), and they'd also be able to give you the deets in store.
Not Dead Yet Festival
Not Dead Yet is an annual DIY punk and hardcore festival run by Toronto promoters Stuck in the City. The fest will take place between November 14 - 17 this year at Hard Luck, Nocturne, Sneaky Dee's, Soybomb HQ, and Wrongbar. If you aren't familiar with Toronto's hardcore scene or the kind of intimidating, black t-shirt necessitating genre in general and feel wary about attending, don't. Loud, passionate music just plain rules, and inclusivity is a cornerstone of the community (you don't have to wear a black t-shirt). All shows are all ages and the full line up is here, where Stuck in the City's Tumblr blog itself is a year round resource for punk and all ages gigs.
When in doubt, ask someone
If a show doesn't say all ages in a listing, especially if it's a smaller show, that doesn't necessarily mean fans under 19 will be denied entry. It's always worth it to ask — call the venue, email the bands or promoter, or, and I'm doing this because I love you, just email me and ask for help tracking the info down: aubrey at blogto dot com. Because it's concerts I saw in my formative, highschool years that helped shape my love of music (full disclosure: as an admittedly sketchy teen I was pretty good at making the ridiculous claim I'd forgotten my ID), I don't mind helping fans find their way to the music they're excited about, and I doubt many others in Toronto's music community would either.
Photos by Frank Chartrand, Ivy Lovell, and Keiko Chanderbhan.