Best places to check out free live music in Toronto

The ACC, Massey Hall and Molson Amphitheatre aren’t exactly known for freebie concerts, but Toronto’s a big enough city that there are plenty of alternatives. Next time you want to check out some live music where the only cost is refreshment, head to one of these local venues.

The Rex Jazz & Blues Bar

194 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5V 1Z1

The Rex is one of the oldest and most respected jazz venues in the city and for good reason: it has remained true to the genre, showcasing bands and soloists that would be right at home in jazz clubs in New York and New Orleans. The Rex often present free concerts by promising student musicians and a free blues matinee most Saturday afternoons. Pints are reasonably-priced, the interior is cozy and there’s not a bad seat in the house.

The Reservoir Lounge

52 Wellington St E, Toronto, ON M5E 1C8

This is one of the best places in Toronto to hear great jazz. Well-known headliners include Tyler Yarema and His Rhythm, Bradley and the Bouncers and Dee Dee and the Dirty Martinis. Sometimes there’s a cover charge on the weekends but during the week you can often listen to cool jazz music for free. Order a bourbon and go back in time to the roaring ’20s.

Cameron House

408 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5V 2A7

Along with the house bands, you can hear Toronto’s up-and-coming talent play at the Cam. The space is divided in half with live music available in either the front or back room, with bands like Freeman Dre and the Kitchen Party and Matthew Hornell up to entertain you. The selection of beer is also decent, combining megabrands with Ontario craft brews so the money you save at the door can pay for your pint.

Black Swan Tavern

154 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4K 1N1

If blues and roots is more your thing, then make this Danforth bar the next stop on your list. The locale regularly features bands and artists who plug away for genuine love of their craft instead of sliding towards mass commercialization and you’ll be humming these tunes all the way home. It’s also one of the host venues for Winterfolk, the annual blues and roots festival in Toronto that combines established talent with rising talent.

The Silver Dollar Room

486 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON M5S 2H1

Along with playing host to multiple music festivals throughout the year, the Silver Dollar also boasts an impressive lineup of musicians the rest of the time. It’s definitely the kind of venue where the phrase “big risk, big reward” applies, because, if you’re a regular, it’s just a matter of time before you hear a new standout artist that’s going places. The Spadina Avenue landmark has a storied history as one of Toronto’s premier venues for blues, rock and garage bands.

Sneaky Dee's Ltd

431 College St, Toronto, ON M5T 1T1

It’s grimy, grungy and loud and it’s where you want to be for a show that’ll rock you to your bones. There are few better places in the city to get a reading on Toronto’s best indie bands, especially when the nightly lineup is so varied. Shows can get pretty loud and raucous but once you’ve had a pint or two you’ll be right at the front, dancing and clapping

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