Music open mic nights in Toronto by day of the week
Music open mic nights in Toronto lead us to 1967, a historic year in Toronto history. The Leafs last - ahem, that is, Fat Albert's first hosted its open stage in the Bloor St. United Church in 1967, and except for a brief lockout over rent issues, and venue change to the United Steelworks building, continues weekly.
There have been no shortages of open mics since the first Fat Albert's with new open mics starting across the GTA (and some closing). They continue to be starting places for emerging artists, a chance to hone new songs, meet new people, for audiences to listen, and for some, be part of a community.
To help you keep track and achieve your dreams of stardom - or of discovering a diamond in the rhinestone ruff - here's a list of ongoing open mic / open stage / open jams for musicians by days of the week. Some series refer to themselves as open mic, with others as open stage, and open jam generally referring to a full band format and genre specific. Times listed generally reflect sign up times (at the date of this posting).
Freefall Sundays (Supermarket, 268 Augusta Ave.), sign up 5pm online
Host: Steve York and Tony "LehLo" Rabalao
The Freefall Sundays open mic/jam is easily one of the busiest not only on Sundays, for any day of the week. Performers get two songs with a featured artist every week. The Supermarket has a quality backline of house keys, drumkit, and amps (courtesy Long & McQuade). There is a pre-list sign up on Facebook that opens up at 5pm stating "the prelist is now open" and at 7pm, performers claim their spot in person in the order of commenting.
Also on Sundays
- The Cavern Bar (76 Church St.), 9pm
- The Cage 292 with Phil Hood (292 College St.), 9pm, 10pm with full backline available
- Sotto Voce Music Sessions (595 College St.), 8pm. Note: starts November 2014
- Relish Bar and Grill Stir It Up Sundays with Paul Brennan (2152 Danforth Ave.), 9pm
- King Henry's Arms with Ben Crosby (9301 Yonge St., Richmond Hill), 9pm
- Grossman's Tavern Blues Jam with Brian Cober (379 Spadina), 10pm
- McGradie's Tap and Grill R&B Jam with Dan Walek (2167 Victoria Park Ave., Scarborough), 6pm
- Black Bear Pub SNAFU Jam (1125 O'Connor), 3:30pm
- Scruffy Murphy's Jam (150 Eglinton Ave. E.), 10pm
- Lazy Cat Cafe Open Stage (Bain Cooperative Apartments Community Centre), 3pm, last Sunday of the month from September-June
- Southside Johnny's Bar and Grill with Rebecca (3653 Lake Shore Blvd. W., Etobicoke), 9:30pm
- Lizzie Violet's Cabaret Noir (The Central, 603 Markham St.), 7pm, second Sunday of the month, limited open stage.
Free Times Cafe Open Stage (320 College St.), sign up 7pm
Host: Rotating hosts every Monday
This open stage has been running close to, if not 30 years (Free Times opened 1980, with music around 1984). With a strong regular attendance, performers are encouraged to arrive on time for sign up. The venue acoustics are excellent for singer-songwriters who enjoy a listening room/audience. After 30 years, the open stage has been a launching pad for Ron Sexsmith, Sarah Slean, Jory Nash, Glen Hornblast, Jason Fowler, Liam Titcomb and more.
Also on Mondays
- Dora Keogh with Julian Taylor (141 Danforth Ave.), 8pm
- Tranzac (292 Brunswick Ave.), 9pm
- Bar Radio (615 College St.), 8pm, Note: Approx. first Monday of each month
- The Painted Lady (218 Ossington Ave.), 9pm
- Dominion On Queen - Good Neighbours Open Mic (500 Queen St. E.), 8pm, second Monday of the month
- Amsterdam Bicycle Club with Lynne Rafter (54 Esplande), 10pm
- Black Swan Tavern with Sebastian Agnello (154 Danforth Ave.), 9:30pm
- Hole In The Wall (2867A Dundas St. West), 9pm
- Scarborough Uke Jam (3750 Kingston Rd, corner of Scarborough Golf Club Road), 7:30, second Monday of the month
The Old Nick Pub (123 Danforth Ave.), 8pm
Host: Jennifer Brewer
East end performers will find a few options on Tuesday for dropping in open stages. They'll find resident musician, Jennifer Brewer, hosts the Old Nick Pub at Danforth and Broadview every Tuesday. The Old Nick has that old watering hole atmosphere, and is a welcoming supporter of emerging musicians. The stage fits solo acoustic performers best and generally all genres.
Also on Tuesdays
- The Press Club (850 Dundas St. W.), 10pm
- The Groove Bar & Grill (1952 Danforth Ave.), 8pm
- Axis Gallery & Grill Junction Jam with Derek Downham (3048 Dundas St. W.), 10pm
- Brooklynn Bar with Alex Quail (1186 Queen St.), 9pm
- The Duke with Frank Wilks (1125 Queen St. E.), 8:30pm
- The Rex classic jazz jam (194 Queen St. W.), 9:30pm
The Corktown Ukulele Jam (Dominion on Queen 500 Queen St. E.), 8pm
Host: Steve McNie
The CUJ has the unique title of being the longest running uke-centric open jam - likely anywhere in Canada. On three of the regular Wednesdays of the month, find a uke workshop, group jam, then open stage - seven people sign up in advance. The remaining night is a theme night (think event night or artist cover night) with a longer open stage. The CUJ brings out a diverse community of performers and listeners.
Also on Wednesday
- Not My Dog (1510 Queen St. W.), 9pm
- Black Swan Tavern with Nicola Vaughn (154 Danforth Ave.), 9:30pm
- Chalker's Pub Vocalist Friendly Jazz Jam (247 Marlee Ave.), 8pm
- Ein-Stein (229 College St.), 8pm
- Johnny Jackson with Matt Cooke (587 College St.), 9pm
- Lola with Johnny Bootz (40 Kensington AVe.), 8pm
- Fat Albert's Open Stage (United Steelworkers Hall, 25 Cecil St.), 7pm
- The Unicorn Pub open jam (175 Eglinton Ave. E.), 9pm
Dave's on St. Clair (730 St. Clair Ave. W.), 9pm
Host: Brian Donkers, Jay Pennell
Running for about 5 years now, this open mic was previously hosted open mic mainstays "Uncle" Herb Dale and Fran McCann. Brian Donkers and Jay Pennell are the current hosts. Dave's boosts bottle selection, but a small menu. Most open mic nights sign up fill up quickly. Folk, blues, jazz genres are welcome in solo or small band, and a partial kit and upright piano are available. Regulars will be glad to know, after health issues, Uncle Herb has briefly resurfaced musically elsewhere.
Also on Thursday
- Aspetta Cafe (207 Augusta Ave.), 8pm
- Birchmount Bar (462 Birchmount Rd.), note: starts Sept. 2014
- Kensington Lodge with Derek Mok (21 Kensington Ave.), 7pm
- The Local Gest with Porter (424 Parliament St.), 8pm
- Pauper's Pub with Mike Barnes (539 Bloor St. W.), 10pm
- Karla's Roadhouse open mic (4630 Kingston Rd.), 7:30
- DeSotos Jazz and Classic Rock open jam (1079 St. Clair Ave. W.), 8pm
Catweazle at Smock Cafe (287 Roncesvalles), 7:30pm
Host: Special host each month
Every month Catweazle promises a special and unique show including an open stage. The show is based on Catweazel (a club-slash-show-slash-format) in Oxford that has the feel of a house concert. High level performers engaging an audience, is something magical each time. As with many house-concert style shows, totally acoustic (well, there's a Roland keyboard).
Also on Friday
- Big Daddy's open mic (460 Elgin Mills Rd. E, Richmond Hill), 9:30pm
Rebas Open Mic at Full of Beans (1348 Dundas St. W.), 2pm
Host: Special guest host weekly
Rebas open mic has moved venues a few times and finally settled at Full of Beans on Dundas in Little Portugal. Full of Beans has a number of fair trade coffee blends, in-house made snacks, and weekend music, including their Saturday open mic. The open mic is a mix of emerging (many local area residents) artists, and some more established. This one's generally only for solo or duo acoustic acts, as the sound system supports only that.
Also on Saturday
- King's Belly English Pub (429 Donlands Ave.), 8pm
- Port Credit Legion (35 Front St. N., Mississauga), 3pm
- MacKenzie's Bar (1982 Bloor St. W.), 2pm
Writing by Ryan Ayukawa. Photo: Nic McPhee