Toronto concerts in January 2020: 15 most anticipated of the month

Laurie Anderson, iskwē, Burdock's Piano Fest, Long Winter and the Class of 2020 series get the new decade of live music off to a good start


The Class of 2020: January 4-24 at various venues: Exclaim! and Dan Burke are teaming up once again for this set of shows predicting some of the talent to watch in the year to come. Always a solid bet in the early-January live-music dry period, the series offers weird indie rock and punk (Luge, Dish Pit, Piper Maru), R&B (Myles Castello), singer/songwriters (Luna Li), jangle rock (Ducks Unlimited) and a lot more. With five Toronto shows at the Monarch Tavern, Horseshoe and Lee’s Palace, there’s bound to be something you like. Last year brought a then-unknown Orville Pack to the tiny Monarch, so there’s a good track record. Full lineup and ticket info via Exclaim! 

Piano Fest: January 6-12 at Burdock: Another low-key early-year favourite, this series takes the Burdock’s trusty piano and builds a whole festival around it. You can catch singer/songwriter piano-pop, jazz, laid-back neo-classical and a lot more. Our highlight: the final show on January 12 featuring Leland Whitty and Matty Tavares, a current and former member of BADBADNOTGOOD stretching out around the keys. Full lineup and ticket info via Burdock. 

Luke Lalonde: January 9 at the Drake Hotel: The leader of long-running indie rock band Born Ruffians returned with his second solo album in 2019 (and first since 2010) in the Perpetual Optimist. Now, the local singer/songwriter will give the twangier new material a proper fete. See listing

Pkew Pkew Pkew: January 10 at the Horseshoe: This local rock band’s brand of punk existentialism is perfect for the “oops, I’ve already broken all my resolutions” time of year. Order a 50 or two, it’s ok. See listing

Long Winter: January 11 at Gladstone Hotel: Following a building-wide takeover of the Harbourfront Centre, this roving all-ages art and music series is back at the Gladstone with an event celebrating the one-year anniversary of DIY Chinatown art space Tea Base, which will curate a night of anti-gentrification art. Musical acts include electronic artist Korea Town Acid, punks Kiwi Jr., pianist Robin Hatch, plus Ian Daniel Kehoe, Nailbiter, Joseph Shabason, No Frills and more. See listing

Matthew “Doc” Dunn, Lavender Bruisers, Mr. Joy, DJ Meg Remy (U.S. Girls): January 17 at the Baby G: The Cosmic Range groover-turned-prolific-singer/songwriter Matthew “Doc” Dunn leads this front-to-back stacked local bill. See listing.

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Matt Barnes

iskwē: January 17 at the Mod Club: The Cree singers/songwriter is back in Toronto in support of her deeply personal and awareness-raising new album acākosīk. See listing.

Laurie Anderson: January 18 at Koerner Hall: In her sold-out performance at the Royal Conservatory of Music’s 21C festival, the avant-garde icon will mix sounds, images, poems and electronics and performing her solo works with cellist Rubin Kodheli. It’s sold out, but Anderson will be in town for a while. She has a VR installation opening at the ROM, where she is also lecturing on January 16, and is presenting a screening of her 2015 documentary, Heart Of A Dog, at Hot Docs Cinema on January 19. See listing

It’s OK* – Episode 5: Theo Croker and Waleed Kush African Jazz Ensemble: January 18 at Betty Oliphant Theatre: Toronto’s roving music series gets jazzy in its fifth installment with two genre-pushing projects that will make for one hell of a double bill. See listing

Chilly Gonzales: January 20 at Roy Thomson Hall: The Canadian pianist, musical educator and Drake collaborator is returning home for a concert that will focus around his celebrated Solo Piano series. Expect to learn a little bit, too. See listing

The Strumbellas: January 21-26 at various venues: The folk-rock band are doing a mini-tour all within their hometown with five shows in six days, all at different venues. They start on January 21 at the Cameron House with a show for concert winners, then move on the 22 to the Dakota Tavern, the 23 to the Horseshoe, then they take a night off and resume on January 25 at the Phoenix Concert Theatre and on January 26 at Danforth Music Hall. If you’re a fan, you have no excuse not to catch them. 

The Jim Cuddy Band, Elliott Brood: January 23-24 at Danforth Music Hall: The towering lead singer of Blue Rodeo brings his solo band to his hometown as part of his Countrywide Soul Tour. Don’t miss long-running folk-rock strummers Elliott Brood, either. See listing

Ali Gatie: January 27 at the Mod Club: There’s some buzz growing about this 22-year-old artist, who mixes singer/songwriter tropes with R&B, pop and his own Iraqi background. He’s signed to the major label Warner Canada, who seems to be making a push behind him. This is a release show for his debut EP, You, which came out in November. See listing.

Rex Orange County: January 29-31 at Danforth Music Hall: The London-based songwriter and Tyler, The Creator collaborator has been a major breakout artist of late. He’ll do three straight nights at the Danforth, and it feels like the mini-residency matches the hype. Catch him while you can. See listing

Han Han: January 30 at Lula Lounge: The Filipina rapper is celebrating her long-awaited album Urduja, which is out the same day as this show, with a Venus Fest-curated show that doubles as a celebration of Filipina culture with support from comedy collective Tita Collective and music from Charise Aragoza. See listing

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