CMW 2014 venues

The top 5 venues to hit up during CMW 2014

Canadian Music Week (CMW) 2014 is set to officially kick off Toronto's summer music festival season, finally moving from its normal dreary March time slot to May 6-10. Aside from all the conferences talks and schmoozing, the 32nd annual edition of this massive industry event promises to bring more than 800 bands to roughly 60 venues all across the city - a schedule that can leave even the most informed music nerd feeling totally lost.

Thankfully, the CMW programming czars have organized most acts and genres into the venues that best fit them, making it a bit easier for concert-goers to find a good show at their favourite local haunt. Some places, however, have more worth checking out than others. Nab yourself a wristband or tickets, take a peek at our full CMW 2014 preview for must-see bands and more info, and head over to any of these top five venues during this year's event.

Here's where to hang out during CMW if you're too lazy to spend hours making schedules.

Horseshoe Tavern
As one of Toronto's most venerable music institutions, it's no surprise the "Legendary" Horseshoe gets packed with must-see bills during every festival. This year, CMW brings a bunch of artists making highly anticipated comebacks; growly-voiced goddess Brody Dalle headlines May 7 to promote her first solo record, Diploid Love, after a five-year break, while Edmonton country-punk heroes Jr. Gone Wild (recently reunited after a nearly 20-year absence) take the stage May 8. Other performances of note include The King Khan & BBQ Show, Bedouin Soundclash and "The Aussie BBQ," a string of artists from the Down Under playing all Saturday afternoon.

No longer known as "Tattoo Rock Parlour," this slick Queen West establishment is undergoing a rebranding strategy that should be on full display during CMW's festivities. Just like the venue's transitioning focus, their week of shows phases from rock one night (The Reason, The Dirty Nil) to hip hop the next (Naturally Born Strangers, Tre Mission, The Airplane Boys), plus electro dance parties to end the week (ODESZA). A last-minute hiccup with M.I.A.'s planned Yonge-Dundas Square gig has shuffled her over to this 400-person space, so if you're one of the lucky few to win wristband access via lottery, you'll have to squish into this much more intimate setting to see her play. As long as Tattoo's excellent sound quality stays intact, the changes should be worth it.

El Mocambo
With the El Mo going up for sale once again last month, the best reason to see a CMW show there is because, frankly, it might be your last chance. Both the upstairs and downstairs portions of the venue are open with a very eclectic, global mix of bands, giving you plenty of chances to discover "the next big thing" (or a band that drives you to drink more than ever before, thus saving the El Mocambo) on the same stage that's hosted The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix. Here you'll find Juno Award-winning blues-rockers Monkeyjunk, Taiwanese EDM-ers RED and British singer-songwriter Gabrielle Aplin.

The Central
This popular hangout for young 20-somethings is hosting the largest number of CMW acts this year by a wide margin - 63 in total. That, coupled with some of the lowest single-ticket prices of the festival, guarantees the most bang for your buck. Lineups mostly consist of danceable pop-rock groups and folky singer-songwriters, a crowd-pleasing blend you'll have no problem convincing a group of friends to come see. Big Mumford and Sons fans should hold out until the wee hours Thursday to discover their next favourite band, The Dead South, while those who want to jam to more modern sounds should see Heartcopy, a Montreal five-piece that sets sombre boy-girl harmonies against a catchy synthpunk backdrop.

Adelaide Hall
One of the newest live music venues in the city, Adelaide Hall is still honing its identity and getting its feet wet in the festival circuit. But it's quickly built a great reputation thanks to its location, layout with impressive balcony sightlines, and ability to book stellar acts. The CMW schedule includes, interestingly, a couple nights of straight-up country (such as Brett Kissel), and youthful emo-rockers Ten Second Epic, who just announced their breakup earlier this year, playing a farewell show Thursday night. The most talked about showcase has to be the Osheaga-sponsored Saturday lineup, though; it features electro punks We Are Wolves, loud shoegazers Nothing, and two slots for secret mystery guests at the end of the night. Let the speculation begin.

Writing by Shazia Khan. Photo of Tre Mission at Tattoo by Matthew Forsythe.

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