When it comes to catching live music, the club-saturated quadrant bordered by Bloor, Spadina, College and Bathurst makes U of T party central.
The big kahuna on the Bloor West strip is Lee's Palace (529 Bloor West, 416-532-1598), the archetypal T.O. rock club where countless films have shot their crazy rock show scenes. Savvy bookers, a recently renovated set-up featuring an elevated stage and a fab sound system mean you pretty much can't go wrong with a Lee's show. Upstairs is the Dance Cave , where frosh pick up frosh while grinding to top 40 and retro 80s tunes on Friday and Saturday nights.
Head down Spadina to College and you'll find the glowing facade of the Silver Dollar (486 Spadina, 416-763-9139). Tucked in beside a sketchy hotel and a men's shelter, head inside for dirt-cheap beer and acts that range from blues legends to the latest snarling garage rock crew.
Next door is the Comfort Zone (480 Spadina, 416-763-9139), a venue better known as the after-party after the after-party for legions of teeth-gnashing after-after-party partiers, though it has hosted some fine shows -- including a killer Handsome Furs gig -- this year.
You'll recognize the El Mocambo (464 Spadina, 416-777-1777) from the campy neon palm tree out front. Once the raunchy rawk pit of choice for the Rolling Stones and Elvis Costello, plenty of gigs by decent pop, rock, rap and reggae artists still happen on both the upstairs and downstairs stages.
Along College, folk fans flock to the Free Times Café (320 College, 416-967-1078) for good hearty grub and a cute coffee house in the rear where troubadours perform every night of the week. The Savannah Room (294 College, 416-975-0845) features live singer/songwriters, small-scale rock and pop shows and the occasional low-key dance party. Located on the second floor of margarita-tastic Mexican resto Rancho Relaxo (300 College, 416-920-0366) is a stucco sliver of a space that still manages to contain frenetic art rock bands.
And student paradise Sneaky Dee's (431 College, 416-603-3090), home of late-night nachos and Tex-Mex hangover breakfasts, is the place to see wicked indie acts without paying through the nose, particularly on Sunday's pwyc Wavelength indie night.