Check out NOW's Bar & Club Guide 2008!
You're in luck. The sheer volume and diversity of venues makes Toronto pretty much the awesomest city in Canada to be a live music fan. Seriously. You can walk into a random club and catch a band that's at least moderately decent for little to no cover 365 days a year. (Christmas might be a bit dicey, though you can usually catch a passable wassail or two.)
Your preferred genre may not determine which clubs you wanna check out. Most of T.O.'s best venues feature a broad range of artists, depending on who's on tour and who's booking the bar.
That said, some places are safer bets for certain kinds of tunage than others. The Kathedral, for instance, located in the Big Bop complex (651 Queen West, 416-504-0744), regularly attracts hardcore, punk and metal bands and hosts Darkrave events (if you're into glowsticks and aggression) every now and then.
Same goes for the Funhaus (529 Queen West, 416-703-4999), just down the road, where you can usually catch artists who err on the louder side of the spectrum. And while it doesn't have a de facto headquarters, Noel Peters's Inertia Entertainment often brings the blackest of black metal shows to the Opera House (735 Queen East, 416-466-0313), though that east-end destination is also a pit stop for bigger-name touring bands (Bright Eyes and Camera Obscura have rocked the joint in the past few months).
Beyond the valley of the rock, Toronto's currently in the midst of a jazz club crisis. In the past year, at least three of the scene's most reliable and respected venues - Montreal Bistro, the Red Guitar and Top o' the Senator - have closed, leaving jazz fans jonesing for new places to get a regular fix. Your best bet is the Rex Hotel (194 Queen West, 416-598-2475).
Still going strong after two decades, the Rex offers greasy fries, cheap beer and an impressive 18 gigs a week, running the gamut from Exitman's jazzy spins on contemporary pop tunes to the timeless bop of weekly classic jazz jams. A new addition to the scene is Opal (472 Queen West), which is bringing smooth grooves to the Queen West strip.
Ultimately, there are a number of local clubs where you're guaranteed to see a kick-ass show most nights. Here's a handful of our favourites:
LEE'S PALACE (529 Bloor West, 416-532-1598) A fail-safe destination for superlative rock 'n' roll action. A raised stage, high benches along one wall and a relocated bar mean that the erstwhile movie theatre provides an even better showgoing experience than it did when Kurt Cobain smashed beer bottles during Nirvana's inaugural swing through T.O.
LEGENDARY HORSESHOE TAVERN (270 Queen West, 416-598-4753) The 'Shoe comes by its title honestly. Franz Ferdinand played here before they blew up, and the Rolling Stones blew the roof off by beginning 1997's Bridges To Babylon tour here. The oddly shaped back room has good sightlines, and the sound is great (if a bit bass-heavy). Shows range from killer alt-country and roots to vicious rock and twee pop.
SILVER DOLLAR (486 Spadina, 416-763-9139) Gloriously sketchy - it's located above the notorious Comfort Zone, which has hosted after-parties for the amphetamine set for years, and beside a men's shelter - the Dollar is the ideal place to weep into your dirt-cheap beer while international blues grandfathers belt out the trouble they've seen. Make it your business to become a regular at the free weekly Wednesday-night Crazy Strings hoedowns, which feature some of the best bluegrass pickers in town.
DRAKE HOTEL (1150 Queen West, 416-531-5042) Founded by dot-com dandy Jeff Stober, this artsy and hipster-choked hotel's facelift marked the start of West Queen West's gentrification. Still, you can find pretty rad bands rocking the basement-rec-room-style Underground (which recently got a goth makeover, including chandeliers!) with anything from noise rock to techno. Sound can be spotty, but there are comfy seats for reclining during slow-paced singer/songwriter shows and a great view from the upper level near the front bar.
MOD CLUB (722 College, 416-588-4663) If pristine sound is your thing, look no further than this medium-sized venue on the Little Italy strip. Drinks are pricey (upside: they come in plastic glasses to avoid drunken disasters), but the raised stage, extended dance floor, elevated table area and superlative sound system add up to a killer rock experience. Look beyond the Vespa and Mary Quant-ified target murals adorning the walls and focus on efficient shows by touring acts like Lady Sovereign, OK Go and Wilco.