The best Toronto concerts happening in May 2018

Fever Ray plays first local show in nearly a decade. Plus: Alice Glass, Jorja Smith, Roy Woods, Broken Social Scene and HAIM


1. Fever Ray

It’s been nearly a decade since Sweden’s Karin Dreijer, better known as Fever Ray, has performed in Toronto. Now the electro-pop producer, who’s also half of the Knife, returns in support of her 2017 album, Plunge. Compared to past hits like Seven and Triangle Walks, tracks on Plunge are even more experimental, at times dissonant and harsh like in Falling and This Country, where Dreijer’s vocals shape-shift over pounding beats. On her North American tour, Fever Ray is supported by Brooklyn art-rapper Bunny Michael, known for her energetic and self-assured stage presence.

May 17, doors 7 pm. Rebel. $41. ticketmaster.ca.

2. Alice Glass at CMW

Canadian Music Week takes place from May 7-13 at several venues throughout the city. We’ll have separate picks of what to see there later in May, but one show stands out: Alice Glass, making her first hometown headlining debut as a solo artist. The former Crystal Castles singer is ready to step into the spotlight, and this should be a great homecoming.

May 11, doors 7 pm. Mod Club. $30. ticketmaster.ca.

3. Jorja Smith

The British singer/songwriter’s audience has grown exponentially since she played Velvet Underground last August: she’s sold out two nights at the Opera House. The 20-year-old fills her smooth, downtempo soul with jazzy vocal acrobatics that recall Amy Winehouse, but hit a new level of exposure with the club-friendly Drake collab Get It Together. It’s probably safe to expect some new material in the set: her debut album, Lost & Found, comes out on June 8.

May 5 & 6, doors 7 pm, all ages. Opera House. $27.50-$40. ticketmaster.ca.

4. HAIM

The last time the Haim sisters played T.O. they were melting faces at Kool Haus with a blazing, classic rock-influenced set that included covers of Fleetwood Mac (Oh Well) and Beyoncé (XO). They’re returning with double the catalogue thanks to last summer’s Something To Tell You, an extremely polished and hook-y (and criminally underrated) pop album. It’ll be interesting to see where they slot in the intense shredding.

May 7, 8 pm, all ages. Massey Hall. $22.50-$75. ticketmaster.ca, masseyhall.com.

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Left to right: Mykki Blanco, Cindy Li and DJ Bambii

5. Tomorrow, Tonight

Strap in for a night of hip-hop, techno dancehall and positive vibes at this diverse and inclusive dance party headlined by Mykki Blanco. The California-based rapper, performance artist and activist known for dynamic, high-energy performances will be supported by NYC’s Stud1nt and Toronto DJs Ciel (Cindy Li), Bambii, Nino Brown and Ktana. Tomorrow, Tonight is presented by Absolut Vodka, with all proceeds benefiting Rainbow Railroad, a local charity helping LGBTQ folks find routes to safety around the world. The party is preceded by a panel discussion on inclusive nightlife.

May 3, doors 10 pm. Great Hall. Pwyc. absolut.ca/yyz.

6. The Diversity Tour

Canadian progressive pop duos Bonjay and Too Attached have teamed up to fill diversity quotas. Literally. “Naming it ‘The Diversity Tour’ feels like an important way to call out the tokenism and the fallacies implicit in the current celebration of ‘diversity’ in Canada,” says Too Attached’s Vivek Shraya in a release. It’s anti-tokenism – a celebration of real Canada in all its queer, racialized, genre-blurring, fist-pumping glory.  

May 28, doors 8 pm. Drake Hotel. $12-$14. ticketfly.com.

7. CBC Music Festival

In a noticeably lighter festival season, this one-day Echo Beach event is a much-needed day in the sun. Indie rockers July Talk, who are apparently big enough to headline, lead a bill that includes party-starters A Tribe Called Red, NOW cover star Charlotte Day Wilson, the Rural Alberta Advantage, the Northern Touch All-Stars – a reunion of the Rascalz, Checkmate, Kardinal Offishall, Thrust and Choclair – and more. Thank goodness for CanCon.

May 26, doors 1:30, all ages. Echo Beach. $39.50. ticketmaster.ca.

8. Roy Woods

If any act signed to Drake’s OVO Sound is going to wind up as Hotline Bling-esque dancing meme, it will be Roy Woods. The young Brampton rapper might exemplify the broody and minimal sound the label is known for, but he’s got a few sly, pop-oriented singles up his sleeve and a free-form approach to movement on stage that makes him fun to watch. His two concerts this month are his biggest hometown headliners to date.

May 7 & 8, doors 7 pm, all ages. Danforth Music Hall. $34-$102. ticketmaster.ca.

9. Broken Social Scene, Portugal. The Man

Indie rock elder statespeople BSS are coming home to play a co-headlining show for Hug Of Thunder. It’s a fitting choice to kick off the summer concert season at Budweiser Stage’s first show of the year. It’s also the band’s first local headlining gig since last year’s Field Trip Festival. BSS will be joined by psych-pop veterans Portugal. The Man, who are still riding a wave from their surprise hit Feel It Still, currently playing in every grocery store.

May 24, doors 5:30 pm, all ages. Budweiser Stage. $29.25-$205. ticketmaster.ca.

10. Power Trip/Sheer Mag

A dream bill for open-minded fans of vaguely heavy music. Heavy Trip’s reinvigorated take on thrash metal and Sheer Mag’s punkified take on Thin Lizzy classic rock are the kind of pairing that you wouldn’t have thought of off the top of your head, but that totally makes sense. Expect endless flavours of riffing and soloing and all varieties of band patches on denim jackets. Also playing: Fury and Red Death.

May 13, doors 8 pm. Lee’s Palace. $21.50. ticketfly.com, rotate.com, soundscapesmusic.com.

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Electric Island

11. Electric Island

The reliably fun electronic music festival is back and, weather permitting, it will actually be held on the island this year. As usual the festival will span five shows over the course of the summer, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to bop on the beach. Like last year, this edition will have two stages for double the fun. The series kicks off on Victoria Day weekend and features South African house heavyweight Black Coffee and Toronto’s own DJ Demuir.

May 20, July 1, August 11, and September 2-3. Doors 2 pm. Hanlan’s Point. Individual tickets $35-$55, season pass $160-$200. ticketweb.ca. Tickets also available at Moog Audio (442 Queen West) and Park Agency Print Shop (1418 Queen West).

12. Negative Gemini

House-y synth-pop act Lindsey French released the excellent EP Bad Baby earlier this year, and the title track – specifically the club mix – deserves to attain summer anthem status. The New York City-based musician’s sound is very 90s Balearic acid rave and full of warm and fizzy atmosphere, but she also deftly weaves in more of-the-moment beat patterns. She’s supported by two excellent local openers: post-punky duo Ice Cream and Nyssa, whose EP of 80s-referencing electro power ballads is in heavy rotation in the NOW office.

May 17. Doors 9 pm. $12. The Baby G. ticketfly.com.

13. Jessie Ware

Three albums deep, the British R&B singer/songwriter is all about marriage and motherhood, but still maintains a healthy queer following (not that those topics have ever been a barrier to gay icon status – hello, Beyoncé singing Ave Maria in a wedding dress). In addition to crafting very singalong-able pop songs – Alone is the top tune from her latest LP Glasshouse – she’s hilarious, so expect some ace stage banter.

With Albin Lee Meldau. May 3, 7 pm. Danforth Music Hall. $35-$45. ticketmaster.ca, livenation.com.

14. Pangaea

It’s difficult to categorize Pangaea’s music because he draws his sound from the edges of so many genres – house and techno, of course, but also UK garage, jazz and experimental. The London-based DJ born Kevin McAuley makes his Toronto debut at this underground show presented by Frequencies, the long-running electronic monthly at Handlebar. As such, Frequencies alumni Acote and Korea Town Acid, who was named one of NOW’s 2018 electronic artists to watch, are supporting, as is ‘R,’ who recently contributed a track to local label Forth’s debut compilation. The venue will be disclosed to ticket-holders before the show.

May 4, doors 10 pm. Venue TBA. $15-$27.50. universe.com.

15. Anagram

Toronto’s scuzzy, scrappy slow-mo punks Anagram called it quits in 2012, but the call of Owls Club’s unflattering lighting and no-frills veterans’ hall setting has pulled them back for a reunion show. It’s not a Coachella-level reunion, but one that will have a lot of local fans excited.

May 25, doors 9 pm. Owls Club. $10-$12. Tickets at Ransack the Universe (1207 Bloor West). Facebook event.

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