Top Toronto Concerts 2011

The top 15 concerts in Toronto of 2011

The top concerts in Toronto of 2011 are a reminder that people from other cities across the country begrudge our hometown not just for the reasons they state, but because they're jealous of all the great bands that make their way to play here. Whatever one's musical preferences, 2011 proved to be steller year for live music in this city, as acts big and small treated concert-goers to some of their best stuff. So here are our staff picks for the top performances of the year. Of course, even with multiple writers covering shows, we're bound to miss a few gems, so throw in your picks in the comments.


Godspeed You! Black Emperor (Lee's Palace)

Gold Panda

The band that first attracted me to Canadian alternative music as a young foreigner returned to the live arena spectacularly this year. In the year of "the protester," the Montreal refuseniks intense instrumentals seemed as important as ever.

Austra (Wrong bar)
Katie Stelmanis and co filled out the Phoenix towards the end of this year, but Austra's promise was on full display at this early 2011 show, which has arguably even more urgency. Awesome local support from Metz and Little Girls, too.

Next Music from Tokyo (Rivoll)
Each act at this Japanese showcase seemed full of fresh ideas and energy, but it was Hyacca whose confrontational noise reaffirmed my faith in rock and roll.

Gruff Rhys (Horseshoe)
Gruff Rhys had me smiling from ear to ear with surreal stage antics for the duration of his Horseshoe set. Of course, it helps that the Super Furry Animals veteran is still as sharp a songwriter as ever.

Gold Panda (The Drake Hotel)
I fell in love with Derwin Panda's fresh electronic sound early in the year at the Drake Underground. Something about the show captured the euphoria of the arrival of spring and abundant new possibilities.


Japandroids (Sneaky Dees)


Post-Nothing, Japandroids debut album, was one of my favourite records of 2009. Unfortunately, I only saw the Vancouver band perform for the first time this past summer, though the duo's live set proved to be every bit as vital as some of their best recorded material. The group also played three new songs that made me all the more excited for a proper follow up to Post-Nothing.

Fleet Foxes (Massey Hall)
Of the concerts I have listed here, I think the amazing set Fleet Foxes put in at Massey Hall will be the one that I remember most fondly for years to come. The combination of a perfect venue with a band at the absolute top of their game conspired to create the perfect night.

Baths and Braids (El Mocambo)
Somehow I found myself seeing Braids perform on five separate occasions this past year, though the first time I saw them in mid-February at the El Mocambo was definitely the best. Oh, and Baths, the main act, was great, too.

Barr Brothers (The Drake Hotel)
I saw a lot of concerts this past year, the sheer amount of which makes some of them difficult to remember (world's smallest violin, I know). That said, I have no trouble recalling the night I saw Barr Brothers perform at The Drake Hotel. The band's frontman, Brad Barr, promised me that the group's performance would defy expectations, and he and the band certainly delivered on that promise.

Girls (Mod Club)
Like most bands, Girls came to Toronto with an encore prepared, but, as the night progressed, and the audience gathered at the Mod Club showered the band with its collective love, the band decided to ditch whatever plans they had for the rest of the night and continue playing. Encores are supposed to be spontaneous affairs, and for once one of them actually was.


Bon Iver (Massey Hall)

Bon Iver

If Justin Vernon and co. can make the bloody Sound Academy sound good, you were in for a treat for the back-to-back Massey Hall sets. You know what I'm talking about if you were there. Can I get an amen?

James Vincent McMorrow (El Mocambo)
This was the most intimate and sublime show this year. Perfect audience — dead quiet during songs, uproarious in between. Perfect banter. And perfect pitch and builds in the songs. Perfect until an asshole stole my bike, anyway.

Mumford & Sons (ACC)
A gift from my girlfiend for my birthday, at first I was a little upset that Mumford & Sons, a band with just one album, was selling out the ACC. But then I went. And it was one of the best shows of the year. The half-crazed audience would have concured.

Handsome Furs (Garrison)
Premiering their new tunes off of the red-hot-dance-party-in-a-box album, Sound Kapital for the first time in Toronto at NXNE was one sweaty dance party. Sweat. New music. Dance party. Awesome in my books.

The National (ACC "theatre mode")
Once again defying the cavernous ACC, The National pulled out all the stops. The sound projected nicely (good job, sound guy), the band really got into it halfway through (this being aided by frontman Matt Berninger bringing everyone to the front of stage) and ended with the audience and band singing an a cappella version of "Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks." Bringing Owen Pallett onstage and premiering new tunes was just an added bonus.

All photos blogTO.

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