winter concerts toronto

The top 10 concerts in Toronto this winter

Concerts in Toronto this winter give us a bunch of good reasons to venture outside this chilly season, potential ice storms be damned. Whether you're into straight-laced top-40 music or weirdo noise experimentalism, a band you love is likely swinging by the city sometime in the next few months.

Get your fill of CanCon indie with the likes of Alvvays, New Pornographers, and Austra in the east-end this winter, while both Canada's pride (The Tragically Hip) and great shame (Nickelback) will visit the ACC in February. Controversy-loving metalheads have Mayhem or Marilyn Manson, but if that's your worst nightmare, maybe pop sensation Ariana Grande is more up your alley. If you still need gift ideas for your parents, nab tickets to Bob Seger, Donny and Marie Osmond or Wynton Marsalis.

Those are just a handful of highlights - here are my picks for the top winter concerts in Toronto.

Nadja (December 20, Geary Lane)
After a season full of inventive and arty shows, Man Finds Fire has cooked up a wonderfully bleak way to celebrate the holidays at Geary Lane. Dubbed "A Nightmare Before Christmas," the night will be headlined by prolific drone-metal duo Nadja, accompanied by sombre soundsmith Black Walls and guitar experimentalist thisquietarmy.

A$AP Ferg (January 14, Sound Academy)
The first major hip hop show of the year brings us a member of the A$AP Mob crew. Trap Lord himself A$AP Ferg just released a new mixtape and has been touring with YG on the Bestcoast Connection Tour - their original November date got derailed at the last minute, but hopefully this reschedule goes more smoothly.

The Vaselines (January 19, Lee's Palace)
Considering a 21-year gap separates their first two LPs, it's safe to say a Vaselines tour doesn't come around very often. If you dig the infectious punky-pop hooks of this Scottish indie band even half as much as Kurt Cobain did, you'd better snap up some tickets to their Lee's Palace show fast.

Sam Smith (January 20, Air Canada Centre)
The UK's newest soul-crooning export (and perhaps most acclaimed mopey Brit since Morrissey) comes to the ACC in January to perform hits from his debut smash, In the Lonely Hour. The 22-year-old has practically become a star overnight and just nabbed six Grammy nods thanks to sheer vocal talent and relatable tunes about unrequited love. George Ezra opens.

Zola Jesus (January 22, The Horseshoe)
In support of new record Taiga, Zola Jesus brings her North American tour to The Drake's intimate Underground venue - a perfect venue to experience her dark, gothy electronic vibes up close. Her recent gig at NYC's Webster Hall elicited this new music video, which'll give you a taste of what you're in for.

Owen Pallett (January 31, Lee's Palace)
It's been a banner year for violin-wielding virtuoso Owen Pallett thanks to an acclaimed LP, popular music theory lessons and everything from Emmy to Oscar nominations (he even handled that JG controversy like a pro). His gig with Jennifer Castle will feature the intricate compositions and deft musicianship that make him such a sought-after collaborator across the music world.

Ariel Pink (February 19, Phoenix)
When he takes a break from saying gross things about women, Ariel Pink can actually be a talented songwriter and fascinating performer. He's just released newest effort Pom Pom to yet more critical praise, and though it's his first in a while without the "Haunted Graffiti" moniker, the regular backing band still accompanies him on tour.

Swans (February 20, Phoenix)
Three decades on, no wave legends Swans are still a force to be reckoned with live. Michael Gira and co. put building codes to the test with their increasingly visceral, earth-shaking music. Sonically experimental and epically loud, it'll be quite a 180 from Ariel Pink's set the day before at the Phoenix.

Sleater-Kinney (March 2, Sound Academy)
In things I've been desperately hoping to say for the past decade: Sleater-Kinney have reunited. The much-loved riot grrrls are about to release their first album in 10 years and have just announced a major tour that thankfully includes one precious date in Toronto. The only downside is the venue, which I think we're all in agreement about.

St. Vincent (March 3, 4, Danforth Music Hall)
If you didn't get a chance to see Annie Clark headline NXNE this summer (either because you didn't go, or because you did go but the sight-lines at Yonge-Dundas Square are the worst), you'll get two more shots in March. She'll play back-to-back shows to continue her massive Digital Witness Tour.


Horsey Craze (December 31, Silver Dollar)
We'll be doing a full preview of New Year's Eve picks soon, but one show that'll definitely be a highlight has to be the elusive Horsey Craze, the Neil Young tribute band comprised of Constantines members. As usual, they'll bring a string of special guests - catch Andre Ethier's Sunset Pigs and Tropics offshoot Darlene Shrugg as openers.

What did I miss? Add your suggestions for the top Toronto concerts for winter in the comments.

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Photo by Jay L. Clendenin

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