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

5 Upcoming Events
Date
About the Event
Location
  • July 22

    There’s strength in numbers. With seven distinct personalities, Juice distills rock, r&b and hip-hop into a signature sound with a distinct kick of electric violin, rich harmonies, honest lyrics, and festival-worthy choruses.

  • July 23

    The duo’s singular dynamic has manifested in *repeat repeat’s magnetic stage presence, with Jared bringing a joyfully rebellious spirit and Kristyn channeling a subtle effervescence. “The music we make is really an extension of our life together,” says Jared. “We wanted to create something that takes you out of that reality—music that makes you feel hopeful and positive and empowered, and just ...

  • July 24

    There is a new voice rising from Toronto. Emerging from the scene that gave rise to DVSN, Majid Jordan and The Darcys, Freddie Future brings forward a fresh collision of indie pop and R n’ B that pulses with the funky heartbeat of city living. On his debut self-titled EP (due mid- 2019), Freddie breathes life into classic pop tropes of romance and heartbreak while driving lyricism and musicalit...

  • July 27

    Formed in a small town in South Dakota, a state not widely recognized for its contributions to the world of music, PARADISE FEARS has set out with a unique mission: tell a real story. "We wanted to write songs that matter," says lead singer Sam Miller. "Simple as that."

  • July 30

    Shawn James’ voice is a force of nature, a musical preacher to a flock that accepts everyone, a combination of the gospel choirs he sang with as a youngster and his training in classical music and opera. Born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, James’ timeless sound is steeped in blues legends like Robert Johnson and Son House, forever at the crossroads of damnation and redemption, the two...

Latest Reviews

Par-Tee Putt

Simon Says

Miss Pippa's

Her Nightclub

The Gaarden

Mother Cocktail Bar