drake underground toronto

Drake Underground

The Drake Underground has seen its fair share of epic acts grace its tiny, subterraneous stage.

Despite the number of small venues in Toronto continuing to taper off year after year, this intimate room located in the basement of the Drake Hotel has persisted as one of the most accessible spaces for both local and international DJs and musicians of every genre.

drake underground torontoHeavy-hitting acts like M.I.A., Sampha, Beck, and Broken Social Scene are just some of the big-ticket performers who have electrified this intimate room large enough for just 150 guests, while upstairs, hotel guests in the lively lounge dine on burgers worth phoning home about.

If you grew up in Toronto, it’s possible that a show at Drake Underground was the first concert you ever went to, or maybe  the only time you drifted down from the Sky Yard to accidentally find yourself jamming to a grime star.drake underground torontoPart incubator and part festival hub for musical cornerstones like CMW and NXNE, there’s no dispute that the Drake Underground—and the Drake brand as a whole—has become a certified cultural institution in the city.

drake underground torontoOnly thanks to the financial backbone of the Drake Hotel (which businessman Jeff Stober first bought in 2001 for a mere $860,000 before injecting more than $6 million into the project for renovations) is the Underground immune to Toronto’s shrinking venue scene.drake underground torontoBut it hasn’t been all smooth sailing for venue: the Underground emerges from a months-long hiatus following a flood in August 2018 that wiped out the entire basement space, Titanic-style.

drake underground torontoThough the venue itself is well-woven into the fabric of Toronto’s music scene, it’s taken work and careful planning to bring back the momentum.

Aside from the impressive sound system (an Avid Venue SC48 console and BoldAudio speakers working with BFX218S subs) and highly skilled sound technicians, some basic renovations have added a sleeker quality to the experience.

drake underground torontoNew art comes by way of Toronto artists Shellie Zhang (the rainbow neon installation by the front door) and Nate Nettleton (the giant wooden sculpture behind the stage), while the Kissing Booth area has gotten a wallwork upgrade via American artist Andrew Schoultz.

drake underground torontoThere’s also a new mobile neon lighting system with changing colours gracing the ceiling, while the back bar and countertops have gotten glassy upgrades. Drink rails have replaced a few clunky booths by the stage to open up the floor.

drake underground torontoAccording to Chris Wilson, Drake Underground’s music programmer, there are about 200 to 250 artists playing the Drake Underground every year. Considering the venue’s reputation as a top-notch space (staff hospitality extends down here, too) it’s likely not hard to fill up the roster.

“A lot do people are really shocked when they come in and see the level of respect and care that’s taken for the act to sound good,” says Wilson. “For us, everybody is a star.”

drake underground torontoA testament to the conducive relationship between music hotspots and the hotel industry, Drake Underground maintains its largely DIY feel thanks to inclusive community parties like the queer party YES YES Y’ALL, the groove-loving Beam Me Up Disco, and Practice, the improvisational stage for Toronto talent.

drake underground torontoAnd as the world begins to recognize local acts beyond those who get the most radio play, the Drake Underground plays an essential role in the development of new artists looking to hone their craft in a polished space.

“It’s important to have a small space like this....it’s important to see the emerging music that pushes the boundaries, whether that’s experimental stuff [from] POC, women, and LGBTQ,” says Wilson. “It’s an interesting time in Toronto music scene.”

drake underground toronto

Photos by

Hector Vasquez

Drake Underground

Leaflet | © Mapbox © OpenStreetMap Improve this map

Join the conversation Load comments

Drake Underground

10 Upcoming Events
About the Event
  • November 14

    The word that jumps to mind when hearing Deanna Petcoff's music for the first time is yearning. Although yearning is a verb, not an adjective, it is the closest thing that can describe the hold her music takes on the listener. The warmth and texture of her sweeping vocals intertwined with the almost playful blueness of her lyrics fills the listener with a sense of intense longing, and reveals t...

  • November 15

    Ali Barter initially found success following the release of her debut EP, entitled Trip, in September 2012, it featured the single "Run You Down". A 2013 Triple J Unearthed winner, she earned a spot on the lineup for the annual St Jerome's Laneway Festival of that year. She followed this with support slots for Vance Joy, Cloud Control and The Rubens.

  • November 16

    Fancy Footwork is back for another edition with residents Kill Them With Colour (www.soundcloud.com/killthemwithcolour), Mike Don't (www.mixcloud.com/mikedonot), and Mista Jiggz (www.mixcloud.com/mistajiggz) playing the best in Indie Dance, Nu-Disco, Future Funk, and more all night long!

    Expect to hear music from artists such as Flight Facilities, Tuxedo, Chromeo, Kaytranada, Daft Punk, Disc...

  • November 18

    A career in music was always in the stars for the 21-year-old artist from Toronto’s outskirts, Whitby, Ontario. Malachi’s relationship to music and its many sounds and forms runs deep.  Witnessing his father’s career as a Trinidadian Reggae singer, Malachi grew up singing in his grandmother’s gospel choir at church from age 4, and absorbed the sounds of his mother’s favorite R&B artists like Ma...

  • November 19

    Joan Shelley is a songwriter and singer from Louisville, KY. She draws inspiration from traditional and traditionally-minded performers from her native Kentucky, as well as those from Ireland, Scotland, and England, but she’s not a folksinger. Her disposition aligns more closely with that of, say, Roger Miller, Dolly Parton, or her fellow Kentuckian Tom T. Hall, who once explained—simply, succi...

  • November 23

    23-year-old electronic artist creating intimate, plaintive songs in his bedroom studio. Spent several years studying poetry and creative writing at Harvard University before returning to his hometown of Seattle this past year to begin recording and performing full-time.

  • November 26

    H.O.N.Fest is a night filled of live music from the top emerging artists in Canada’s diverse music scene. We want to create an environment where artists can come and share their artistry in a setting, similar to OVO Fest or to Jay-z’s Made In America. Our 4 day event uses music, media exposure, and fashion as the common ground that links all artists, our goal is to bring more awareness for thes...

  • November 27

    Fortunate Ones is Newfoundland’s JUNO-nominated duo Catherine Allan and Andrew James O’Brien. Known for dynamic live performances, effortless union of voices in harmony, and anthemic melodies – they embody a wide-eyed energy, deliver messages of reflection and optimism, have an earnest mission for connection, and are endearing audiences across Canada and beyond. Their songs celebrate coming of ...

  • November 28

    Holding fast to the emotional honesty of Playing House (2017), Common Holly’s sophomore record, When I say to you Black Lightning is a look outward; an exploration of the ways in which we all experience pain, fear and self-delusion, and how we can learn to confront those feelings with boldness. A swift change of course, WISTYBL couples a submergence into the dark and dissonant with its consolat...

  • November 30

    When you listen to Another Sky, it's probably Catrin Vincent's voice that'll catch your attention first. It is a weapon -- peculiar, androgynous, lurching and defiant -- that she wields to beautiful, evocative effect.

Latest Reviews


Bar Volo

Daisy Toronto

Supernova Ballroom

The Little Jerry