The top 10 bars for up and coming DJs in Toronto
The top bars for up and coming DJs in Toronto are the places to be if you think you got what it takes to become a choice selector, or if you're a fan who likes to seek out (and dance to) talent on-the-rise. It helps that cover charges are usually cheap or non existent, too.
There's almost no question that the heart of any party is the DJ. Dropping the right tune at the right time can make or break a night. Seamlessly mixing sets requires skill with the equipment, an encyclopedic knowledge of genres, beats and styles, and a sixth-sense for the crowd. These days it can seem like everybody's a DJ, but not everybody's a good DJ - at least not without some practice.
Here are Toronto's best bars for up and coming DJs ranked by their official capacity. PLUR! Is that the right time to say PLUR?
This tiny dive bar in the heart of Kensington should be the first place you look if you're trying to find a DJ in Toronto. Despite its small size, Detour's become a hub for the city's underground dance community. Co-owner/operator Chris Buck (a DJ himself) says Detour Bar is all about fostering a community where music producers and DJs can connect with each other, and it's true - on any given night you couldn't swing an RCA cable without hitting a DJ. If you're an up an comer who thinks they're ready to rock a room full of their peers, just stop in and talk to Chris.
Milk Glass Co
Art gallery turned event space, Milk Glass is a quirky, charming venue on the Dundas West strip and a great spot to book your first DJ night. There's no official dance floor, but there's room to shake multiple booties, and the place is small enough to start a party without much pressure. The venue hosts a diverse range of events including some goth(!) nights, and monthly drone... um... party? So your genre of choice will probably be welcomed here. Owner Kelly Wray advises all potential bookers and DJs to bring a positive crowd with good vibes, and have a good time.
This low key cafe by day casually transforms into a low-key neighbourhood pub by night. The vibe here is very relaxed, and should you stop in there's a good chance you'll catch a dedicated genre-nerd curating deep cuts from lesser-known country, soul, or funk artists. Aspiring DJs, here is a place where you can flex your curational muscle without the pressure of making people dance (no dance floor). If you're a music fan, check out their listings to hear things outside of the well-played catalogue.
Owner Anthony Guerrera has been encouraging Toronto DJ talent at TOTA for years. He seeks out DJs who are passionate about the craft and display the necessary skills to progress in their careers. He believes that Toronto audiences are educated and selective about music and recognize quality, so aspiring DJs should have some skills and a few gigs under their belt before booking. TOTA is a place where fans of drum n' bass, hip-hop, and house can check out the city's emerging talent.
A self-described "micro-club", some of the best DJs in the city play at Bambi's. This unassuming basement enclave at Dundas and Dovercourt hosts the likes of Kevin McPhee, Gingy, MEMBERSONLY, and should you stop-in around Electric Island or Digital Dreams you might catch an international headliner rocking a club the size of a bachelor condo. But owner Mikey Apples is also a big booster of local talent, and will hand-pick stand-outs from local monthly events to shuffle the decks at his bar. Fans of forward-thinking house, techno and hard disco will find a cozy home here.
Owner Craig Kovacs likes to think of his club as the C.B.G.B.'s of Toronto's DJ scene and loves to invest in new, up and coming talent. His goal is to see the scene grow and prosper by giving promoters and talent a place to network, test their skills, and try out new material. Subtle Blend takes place every second Friday showcasing work by local producers; and every Tuesday they hold Open Decks which is like an open mic for DJs where you can sign-up and get up to a half-hour to strut your stuff. The only rule, no hip-hop. No hip-hop? No hip-hop.
751 is where Toronto DJs have been cutting their teeth (and their tracks) since before the internet (ok, definitely before Facebook). Their cramped, sweaty, downstairs still hosts all genres of party DJs including the monthly Motown Party and even a Soca! night. The upstairs portion caters more to rock and punk and hosts a weekly metal party too. At their open mic on Tuesdays, aspiring DJs can take a turn at the decks for an allotted 15-20 minutes. If you're a DJ looking for a gig, chances are good to start a party here.
Flexibility is key at The Central where they will move heaven and earth (furniture, I mean) to make your DJ event a success. Aspiring, or up-and-coming DJs booking a night here will have access to a range of professional DJ gear and if you'd like auxiliary lights, they'll rent it. Want to decorate? Go for it. A special house cocktail or shot for your party? They'll make it. For the guests, drinks are cheap so your friends won't go broke trying to support you. The Central is always looking to book people who show passion for what they do.
Round is a relatively new venue that has taken up residence in what used to be Augusta House. The renovated interior brings out the best in the space and even seems, dare I say, classy. Pop in any time (preferably after dark) between Thursday and Sunday to catch EDM, house, techno, trap, and drum n' bass. Every Thursday, Round hosts Archi-Textures - a PWYC DJ event series curated by a different promoter collective each week. Round also features a bamboo dance floor. Talk about trying to panda to the audience! I'm so sorry...
In the six years that owner Spencer Sutherland has been operating Nocturne, he has kept the focus of his club on the talent. The venue is one of the smallest places in Toronto to feature a full entertainment/nightclub license making it a transitional venue for artists on their way to bigger gigs (including the first show ever by Trust). In addition to two rooms each equipped with a stage, a dance floor and a full range of professional DJ gear (bring your own needles), DJs booking here will have access to a full-time sound tech to walk them through the equipment and help them make the most of it. There is also a dedicated club-photographer to capture the DJ performance.
Photo by Jesse Milns
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