Top shows for NXNE 2015

Lauded and loved Toronto music festival North by Northeast (NXNE) hits the the city for its 21st consecutive year of music, art and film programming of all shapes and sizes. The crowds sometimes get big and the line-ups sometimes long, but the huge energy that invades the city during this five-day stretch keeps spirits high and bodies moving. Check out which venues are on our YP City Editor’s radar this year.

The Horseshoe Tavern

1
368 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5V 2A2

The legacy of local and international music echo through the rooms of this rockabilly tavern turned A-list venue. The intimate spot has hosted such unforgettable acts as The Rolling Stones, The Police, Etta James, and The Ramones, and continues to program a delightful mix of emerging, mid-career, and heavy-hitter solo artists and bands. The Horseshoe is well known for their fantastically curated NXNE shows, which will this year feature the nostalgic electro-pop of For Esmé as well as the dreamy pop-rock of Moon King – both local acts – alongside the grungy Seattle-based female quartet Chastity Belt.

The Modclub Theatre

2
722 College St, Toronto, ON M6G 1C4

Whether you’re holding hands to the soulful croons of Aidan Knight or gawking wide-eyed at the nightingale melodies of folk singer Angel Olsen, the Mod Club is decisively the spot to get cozy and romantic during the NXNE weekend. The Little Italy venue effortlessly provides a charming, low-lit atmosphere complete with a velvet-curtained stage, a hardwood standing area, parlour tables off to the side for seat-seeking listeners, and a balcony for a prime gaze to the stage.

Berkeley Church

3
315 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M5A 1S7

Although it will host events on but a single night this NXNE season, the east-end church is one of the most ephemeral spots to hear live music in Toronto. The gorgeous beam framing, celestial lighting and heavenly acoustics create the otherworldly vibe at this local treasure. If you’re into the eclectic combination of metal, rap, techno and pop sets, check out Thursday’s seven-act event on the Church stage, while electro-seekers should head to the more mellow Field House stage to catch back-to-back DJs.

The Silver Dollar Room

4
486 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON M5S 2H1

This fixture on the Spadina strip is a destination or emerging talent, always paired masterfully by veteran promoter and local celebrity Dan Burke. The Silver Dollar manages a rare mix of quality music and quantity programming over the five-day festival, with around eight bands playing each night (they take Sunday off). Pop in for a few sets or stay for the whole show, and hear some diamond-in-the-ruff music a year before it hits Pitchfork. Personal picks include Toronto psych-rock band Dirty Frigs, and Montreal-based No Joy, the latter of which will be playing the stage three consecutive nights.

The Music Hall

5
147 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4K 1N2

Toronto hip hop artist Jazz Cartier is reason enough to hit this east-end concert hall this year. The intense lyricality and heavy beats toted by the just-22-year-old rapper have earned him substantial international buzz. Not to mention the venue itself, which gives the feeling of being at a supersized cabaret of the past that happens to have a selection of local craft beers. The vast dance floor usually allows plenty of room to move, sway or mosh – whichever you’re feeling – and an upper level balcony provides more chill attendees a spot to sit and listen from a distance.

Drake Hotel

6
1150 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6J 1J3

You know that energetic buzz you feel through the floors when you're having a drink the Drake lounge? It's the subterranean Drake Underground beckoning you downstairs. The intimate setting hosts emerging and established musicians of all genres and this year’s NXNE line-up is stacked with a slough of buzz-worthy names. Minimalist electronic duo Prince Innocence will spin tunes on Wednesday night and Toronto-based band DIANA is sure to draw crowds. Get in line early for these guys – line-ups will sometimes stretch well down the block.

Handlebar

7
159 Augusta Ave, Toronto, ON M5T 2L4

Sip on the famed locally-sourced dark n stormy at this hip Kensington Market watering hole and under-the-radar venue for NXNE programming. This year’s gems include Murder Murder, a “bloodgrass” band that induces intense cowboy vibes with bluegrass and country ballads infused with an air of outlaw culture. The Halifax-born psych-rock band Walrus are sure to supply sweet tunes for a nice early show option. The Saturday show, organized by Ion Magazine will be saturated by moody, dreamy, psychedelic and nostalgic indie-pop and rock, a worthy contender for show-goers’ coveted weekend plans.

Mariposa Cruises

On the annual Bruise Cruise, a shimmering yacht picks up eager NXNE patrons and sails around Lake Ontario for the afternoon, blaring the live tunes of bands curated by media maven M for Montreal. Hop aboard for the Saturday event and enjoy the sounds of rock n’ roller meets R&B crooner Michael Rault, bilingual rappers Dead Obies, and a surprise guest. Fair warning: line up early at the Queen’s Quay docking station, because limited space and intense hype can be a problematic pairing – if you can manage you way on board, you’re in for an insanely fun afternoon.

Cameron House

8
408 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5V 2A7

A local institution for 7-days-a-week live music, this once-hotel boasts an air of intimacy and romance, with its baroque-style painted ceiling and cozy stages (one in the main bar and one in the back room). Many well-known Canadian artists have played inaugural shows here and its rich history and legacy have made The Cameron House a permanent fixture for local music aficionados and thoughtful conversationalists alike. If you find yourself needing a wee break from the crowds and the intensity, stop into this Queen and Spadina venue for a pint and check-in with some local lore.

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