Canadian Music Fest: Plan Your Week


Diamond Rings will perform a late-night DJ set at Wrongbar on Friday during Canadian Music Fest. (Julia Pelish/

Tips from Adrian Brijbassi Managing Editor


Suzie McNeil, who plays Lee’s Palace on Wednesday, is one of the outstanding performers you’ll want to see at the 30th annual Canadian Music Fest. (Julia Pelish/

TORONTO, ONTARIO — How do you see it all?

That’s the question anyone who attends the annual Canadian Music Fest asks. The answer is, you can’t; which  perhaps means that the question is wrong. Let’s try, How do I get the most out of the experience?

That’s a good thing to ponder for any situation, especially if you’re a traveller and especially if you’re attending an event that is spread across 60 venues in North America’s fourth-largest city.

I’ve attended Canadian Music Fest each of the past four years and the key for enjoyment, I’ve found, is to have a plan for the week and enough spontaneity in your spirit to change that plan as each night unfolds.

First thing you should do — if you haven’t already — is purchase a wristband, which will get you in the many of the more than a 1,000 concerts in Toronto this week. No, it won’t get you a ticket into the Rihanna show (though, Canadian Music Fest probably isn’t for you if that’s your thing, anyway). And some other popular shows, including Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds performance at Massey Hall on Saturday, will also turn away festival wristbands and require that you purchase a separate ticket.

But the festival is about emerging artists looking to make their mark in front of executives as well as influential music fans. It’s a week of outstanding entertainment and you can get the most out of it if you first look at the schedule and sketch out your own personal guide (or use the Canadian Music Week app). Find out who you really want to see and then figure out what’s feasible, because your ideal plan may involve going from Point A to B, C, D and possible all the way to K in one night. You also need to know where to grab a bite, throw back a shot and keep the fun going late into the night.

With that in mind, here is a day-by-day planner for the 2013 Canadian Music Fest, which runs Tuesday to Sunday.


The lightest night of the shows for the week means the chance to check out some venerable venues in the city.

8 pm, El Mocambo (464 Spadina Avenue): Catch Torontonian Justin Dubé and his acoustic pop sounds at one of the city’s most fun rooms. Dubé was a MuchMusic Video Awards runner-up in 2011.

9:45 pm, grab a bite at BQM Burger (354 Queen St W): Dependable burgers next door to the next venue on the list. Prices range from $7-$13. Try the sirloin BQM Burger ($12) or a trio of sliders ($13).

10:15 pm, Horseshoe Tavern (370 Queen Street West): Punk-influenced Artful Vandelays will rock this haunt that’s among the favourite places for any music lover in the city.

1 am, Crawford (718 College Street West): DJ Richard Stanley spins a tribute to 1970’s punk in Little Italy while you can drink til 4 am.

Getting Around: It will take you less than 15 minutes to walk from the El Mocambo to the Horseshoe Tavern and 30 minutes to go from the Horseshoe to Crawford. A taxi from the Horseshoe to Crawford will take six minutes and cost you $10.65, according to


Things heat up with some veteran Canadian stars and up-and-coming artists from around the globe.

8 pm, Annex Live (296 Brunswick Avenue): Emily Reid is an emerging pop and country singer originally from Victoria, British Columbia and now based in Nashville, Tennessee.

9 pm, Lee’s Palace (529 Bloor Street): Suzie McNeil opens for Colin James. She was once a fan favourite on Rock Star: INXS and had a leading role in the theatre production of the Queen musical “We Will Rock You” in Toronto. If you’ve never seen her perform, you’re in for a treat. Great personality to go with an amazing voice.

10:15 pm, grab a bite at Harbord House (150 Harbord Street): One of the best gastropubs in the city, the Harbord House is a short walk from Lee’s Palace. You’ll love the Blackened Salmon Tacos ($16).

11 pm, Horseshoe Tavern (370 Queen Street West): Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo fame will pack in the fans by the hundreds.

2 am, Dakota Tavern (249 Ossington Avenue): The Washboard Union hits the stage at the best small venue in the city and one of the best in the country, in my book.

Getting Around: Annex Live, Lee’s Palace and Harbord House are all within six blocks of each other. To get from Harbord Street to the Horseshoe Tavern, you can take the Spadina Streetcar ($3 fare) south to Queen Street and walk one block east or take a taxi ($9.23, according to A taxi from the Horseshoe to the Dakota will cost $10.40, or you can take the Queen Streetcar ($3 fare) and exit at Ossington Avenue and walk north to Dundas Street.


8 pm, Clinton’s Tavern (693 Bloor Street West): Digging Roots perform their unique form of rock songs inspired by their aboriginal heritage.

9:30 pm, Drake Underground (1150 Queen Street West): Heritage Centre is one of the acts featured in the “Music from Ireland” showcase at the Drake Hotel.

11 pm, Supermarket (268 Augusta Avenue): Head to Kensington Market for Shawn Hook, a Juno Awards nominee. He will be followed by Winnipeg’s The Treble (midnight).

12:45 am, grab dinner at New Ho King (416 Spadina Avenue): A favourite late-night spot in Chinatown, New Ho King has large and delicious portions. Try the Szechuan Style  Chicken Stir Fry with Cashews ($9.50).

1:45 am, Horseshoe Tavern (370 Queen Street West): Ben Caplan and the Casual Smokers will have you singing along in no time to East Coast-inspired songs.

Getting Around: From Clinton’s to the Drake will cost you $12.75 in taxi fare, or you can walk west on Bloor Street to Ossington Avenue and catch the 63 bus ($3 fare) that will take you south to Queen Street, leaving you about five blocks from the Drake. If your legs are up for it, it’s a 40-minute walk between the venues. A streetcar ride ($3) heading east from the Drake to Spadina Avenue will leave you in walking distance to the Supermarket, New Ho King and the Horseshoe.



Colin Linden will be in a Canadian Music Fest showcase with his Blackie and the Rodeo Kings cohort Tom Wilson. (Julia Pelish/

8 pm, The Great Hall (1087 Queen Street West): Tom Wilson, aka Lee Harvey Osmond, has made your Friday night easy. Stick here for a fantastic night of music featuring Andy Maize, Colin Linden and Michael Timmins of the Cowboy Junkies.

11:15 pm, grab a bite at Savoy (1166 Queen Street West): There are a number of quick bite spots on Queen Street West, but the Savoy kitchen is open until 11:30 pm and sometimes later. You can try decent sandwiches, wraps and butter chicken in an elegant atmosphere, although the crowd is on the immature side.

Midnight, Wrongbar (1279 Queen Street West): Diamond Rings, aka John O’Regan, has a night filled with great Toronto-based music and closes it off with his own DJ set at 1:30 am that promises to be the highlight of the festival.

Getting Around: Wrongbar is west of The Great Hall, less than a kilometre away. It will take 10 minutes to make the walk, and Savoy is on the way.


7 pm, El Mocambo (464 Spadina Avenue): Charlotte Church, who made fame as a pre-teen with an astonishing voice, is sure to wow in this Live Nation event.

8:30 pm, Cabin 5 (225 Richmond Street): Friends of Emmet and Running Red Lights are two talented young acts from Ontario taking the stage at this funky little club.

11 pm, Rivoli (334 Queen Street West): The Music Nova Scotia showcase features the Danger Bees, Town Heroes, and Gloryhound. You can also get some excellent late-night food at the Rivoli, including Chana Dahl Fritters ($7.95) and Three-Bean Nachos ($12.95).

2 am, Silver Dollar (486 Spadina Avenue): Keep it going with a visit to one of Toronto’s favourite blues bars, where you’ll see B-17 and the Mohawk Lodge at the end of the night.

Getting Around: You can walk to all of these venues, with the farthest distances being between El Mocambo and Cabin 5, and Rivoli and the Silver Dollar. You will be walking for 20 minutes in both instances. You can also get a TTC day pass ($10.75) and use it on streetcars, buses and subways to make your way around town.


6 pm, Mod Club (720 College Street): This showcase features 13 bands, with the first act taking the stage at 3 pm.

9 pm, Dakota Tavern (249 Ossington Avenue): Wrap the weekend with Alright Alright and the Beauties. You’ll also be able to enjoy some excellent fare from the Dakota’s menu.

Getting Around: It’s a 10-minute walk from the Mod Club to the Dakota. Head west from the Mod Club, then turn left on Ossington to head south.

More About Canadian Music Fest

Dates: Tuesday to Sunday in Toronto
Wristbands: Purchase wristbands at the Canadian Music Week website or at the event’s headquarters at the Marriott Hotel at 525 Bay Street (see map below). A six-day wristband runs $60 while the VIP wristband is $120.
Tickets: Individual show tickets can be purchased at the door of the venue or on the CMW website.

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Adrian is the editor of and Adrian has won numerous awards for his travel writing, travel photography, and fiction, and has visited more than 55 countries. He is a former editor at the Toronto Star and New York Newsday, and was the social media and advocacy manager for Destination Canada. His articles have frequently appeared in the Huffington Post, Globe & Mail, and other major publications. He has appeared on national and local broadcasts, talking about travel, sports, creative writing and journalism. In 2019, he launched Trippzy, a travel-trivia app developed to educate consumers about destinations around the world. He also edited "Inspired Cooking", a nutrition-focused cookbook featuring 20 of Canada's leading chefs and in support of the cancer-fighting charity, InspireHealth. "Inspired Cooking" was created in honour of Adrian's late wife and co-founder, Julia Pelish, who passed away of brain cancer in 2016.

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