Top 10 Concerts in Toronto June 2016
The last time we touched base in the great city of Toronto, we were highlighting numerous fantastic shows to hit up in the month of May, the promise of warm weather and the early days of festival season. Now that May is in the past, and all the aforementioned longing for summer weather and festivals are beckoning, we at Mighty have averted our attention towards the concerts in Toronto June 2016 – yet another great month for music all over the city, and a more extreme festival schedule. Grab yourself a cold one, a ticket to as many of the below shows as possible, and join us for what guarantees to be a good time! This time around, we’re featuring a more expansive spectrum of genres, three must-attend festivals and a benefit concert in Toronto’s criminally underrated twin city of Hamilton, ON – better known around the Greater Toronto Area as ‘The Hammer’.
June 3, Supercrawl Presents “Welcome to Hamilton” Featuring The National, Hayden, Kevin Drew, Max Kerman of Arkells and more!
It’s difficult to believe that The National’s most recent album, Trouble Will Find Me, hit the shelves over three years ago! The 5-piece comprised of two pairs of twin brothers and lead singer Matt Berninger hail from Cincinnati, Ohio, but are based out of Brooklyn, NY. They have been touring globally in promotion of Trouble and their incredibly consistent and expansive discography for the past three years, and have more recently been averting plenty of time and effort towards creating and curating a massive Grateful Dead tribute album. The tribute album dropped May 20 and featured over 6 hours of content, 59 tracks and contributions from fellow indie legends Grizzly Bear, Justin Vernon, Wilco and more!
I have personally seen The National twice in live performance: at Yonge Dundas Square during NXNE in 2013 (for free!), and in April 2014 at Massey Hall for a more intimate experience. Akin to the June show in Hamilton, both prior times that I witnessed The National live, Hayden was featured in some aspect of the show. They’re great friends, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some sort of collaboration between the two in Hamilton. Furthermore, Kevin Drew yields a musical resume that shouldn’t go without mention – especially considering that he’s a lead and founding member of Toronto indie-legends Broken Social Scene. His solo work deviates from the grandiose, baroque-pop sound that BSS boasts, but it still yields a gorgeous sound that would play quite naturally in a church atmosphere.
Matt Berninger of The National is notorious for downing a bottle of red throughout his band’s live performances. I would expect a modest hesitance towards his normal routine for a benefit concert in a church – but The National always put on a consistently great performance, and I wouldn’t expect an absence or shortage of alcohol consumption to be a hindrance on their consistency. These guys are professionals.
Choice Cut: “England” from 2010’s High Violet
When: Friday, June 3, 2016 6:00 PM
Where: New Vision United Church (24 Main Street W, Hamilton, ON)
Buy Tickets: Ticketfly
June 4-5, Field Trip featuring The National, Robyn, July Talk, Of Montreal, Santigold, DIIV, Ra Ra Riot, Dear Rouge, Plants & Animals, Jason Collett, Holy Fuck, Brave Shores and more!
In case you couldn’t make it to see The National on Friday, you’ll have another opportunity to do so the following Saturday in Toronto at Fort York & Garrison Common, in the latest instalment of Field Trip Toronto. You can expect fantastic local food and craft beer vendors, a lovely venue in Fort York, and – as always, great music! This is the first of three consecutive weekends that will feature a great festival in Toronto! We’ve already discussed at length about why you should see The National, who are headlining the festival, but how about those supporting acts?!
Toronto’s own July Talk is a blues/alt rock band hailing from Toronto, who are fresh off releasing a banging new single, ‘Push + Pull’, which features a more sonically-driving sound (shout out to drummer Danny Miles) but also their trademark and familiar vocal trade-offs between Leah Fay and Peter Dreimanis, who’s voice has previously and appropriately been described as ‘Tom Waits on speed’. Their live performance is an intense and emotional sight to behold – take that from someone who’s seen them at Wolfe Island Music Festival and at Queen’s University’s QPOP Music Festival. I can only imagine their set being even more intense and upbeat with a larger crowd in front of them. If you really can’t get enough of these guys, check out the 2015 Canadian Indie film Diamond Tongues, which stars Fay and credits Dreimanis as the film’s cinematographer.
Do not make the mistake of overlooking the rest of these supporting artists as well. Ra Ra Riot are a lovely band from New York who were at this very festival, Field Trip / Arts & Crafts in 2013. Their newest material introduces synthesizers to their sound, which has boasted a lovely string section since their inception. Holy Fuck is another great group out of Toronto who push the borders of electronic music, particularly in their live performance where they do not incorporate laptops and your typical electronic music gear. Finally, DIIV’s new album Is The Is Are is a dreamy, shoegazey spectacle that sounds like something you wouldn’t want to miss in performance!
Choice Cut: ‘Under The Sun’ by DIIV, from 2016’s Is The Is Are
When: Saturday-Sunday, June 4-5, 2016
Where: Fort York & Garrison Common (250 Fort York Boulevard, Toronto, ON
Buy Tickets: Ticketmaster
June 9-10, Brand New at Sound Academy
Perhaps a dose of nostalgia, Brand New have always been known for their high energy, scathingly emotional live performances. Their recently released single ‘I Am A Nightmare’ has yielded rave critical appraise, and has also resulted in their cult-like fan base hoping for their long-overdue-though-much-anticipated fifth album to finally be released. They haven’t released an album since 2009’s Daisy, which yielded mixed reviews but was nonetheless considered underrated in many opinions. I witnessed Brand New live while they were touring in support of their critical masterpiece The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me, which is nearing its 10-year release anniversary, subsequently making me feel aged. They have recently released a swath of previously leaked demo recordings earlier this year, but true fans long for an actual record. At a venue like the Sound Academy, this show has the potential to be a spectacle, and perhaps (but hopefully not) a final hurrah at what may be the tail end of Brand New’s career.
Choice Cut: ‘I Am A Nightmare’, 2016’s fresh new single
When: Thursday-Friday, June 9
Where: 11 Polson Street, Toronto, ON
Buy Tickets: Collective Concerts
June 10, Florence & The Machine at Molson Amphitheatre
Currently, Florence Welch’s band could easily be considered the face of indie rock after riding the success of 2015’s How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. Florence & The Machine have had a quick ascension to the top of the indie genre, illustrated by their annual festival slotting position; from mid-level, daytime act in the earlier 20-teens, to co-headlining Coachella 2015 and headlining Osheaga 2015 – despite Welch breaking her foot at the former though still performing at the ladder. Their lead singles are constantly pumped from all indie radio outlets across Toronto, and they seem to be continuing their musical and career ascension, perhaps eventually towards being one of the biggest musical acts in the world, let alone their current position in the indie scene. This show could be your last chance to catch these Brit’s performing at a venue without a stadium-sized capacity in Toronto.
Choice Cut: ‘What Kind of Man’ from 2015’s How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
When: Friday, June 10, 2016
Where: Molson Amphitheatre (909 Lake Shore Blvd W, Toronto, ON)
Buy Tickets: Ticketmaster
June 11-12, Bestival featuring The Cure, Tame Impala, Jamie XX, Odesza, Classixx, and more!
The second consecutive weekend featuring a solid festival in Toronto, Bestival’s 2nd instalment yields a similar line up to 2015’s debut line up on the exact same weekend in June, though with a new venue! Instead of being held on Toronto Island – as was the case last year, Bestival will now take place in lovely Woodbine Park in East Toronto, near the Beaches.
Jamie XX returns to the forefront of the Bestival line up – though this year his debut album In Colour will be more familiar to festivalgoers. The album’s one-year anniversary just passed at the end of May, whereas last year it was a mere one-week infant at this time. I was fortunate to catch Jamie XX open for Caribou in Hamilton last summer at Pier 4 Park, and the outdoor environment was an unexpectedly superb atmosphere for his spacey set – particularly during sundown with a clear, starry sky on the horizon. Normally a DJ set would be considered more ideal to be held in the controlled environment of a darkly lit venue or club, but the summery vibes oozing from Jamie XX’s music beg for the outdoors.
Furthermore, the true headliners of Bestival 2016; veterans The Cure and Aussie rockers Tame Impala are the main draws for the weekend. The Cure’s Disintegration recently turned an astounding 27 years old, which is not only a strong reflection of Robert Smith’s longevity as a songwriter and performer, but also a testament to how before-its-time Disintegration was, particularly with their melodic deployment of synthesizers in opener Plainsong and, my personal favourite, Closedown. Speaking of synthesizers, Tame Impala’s newest album, last years Currents, features Kevin Parker exploring the world of synthesizers significantly more than his band’s prior two albums. Tame Impala’s debut album Innerspeaker put them on the map as a psychedelic rock outfit, particularly featuring expansive songs and Parker’s John Lennon-esque vocal delivery. Their sophomore effort, Lonerism further established them as a legitimate rock act with the ubiquitous lead single ‘Elephant’, and fan favourite ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’. Currents has even further cemented them as one of the biggest rock bands in the world right now, and witnessing how they re-enact Currents cuts live with the heavy synths, vocal modulations and looping effects would be a sight to behold.
Check out our Bestival 2016 Festival Preview! (Coming Soon)
Choice Cut: ‘Gosh’ by Jamie XX from his 2015 debut album In Colour
When: Saturday-Sunday, June 11-12, 2016
Where: Woodbine Park (1661 Queen Street E, Toronto, ON)
Buy Tickets: Bestival
June 14, MSTRKRFT at Horseshoe Tavern
An electro show at the legendary Horseshoe Tavern? Mark this one down as a must-see for Toronto two-piece MSTRKRFT. Jesse Keeler, whom many know from his work with Death From Above 1979, teams up with close friend and Mississauga native Al-P (not to be mistaken with El-P from Run The Jewels) in this duo, who are back on the scene after a long duration where we saw Keeler putting the majority of his focus towards DFA1979. MSTRKRFT has a new album coming out in July, titled OPERATOR, and it will be their first album release since way back in 2009, when they released Fist of God. They’ve already released two fresh singles to build the hype and anticipation for OPERATOR, ‘Little Red Hen’ and ‘Party Line’, and their list of indie music remixes is as vast and expansive as anyone you can name.
Choice Cut: ‘Heartbreaker’ featuring John Legend, from 2009’s Fist of God
When: Tuesday, June 14, 2016
Where: Horseshoe Tavern (370 Queen St W, Toronto, ON)
Buy Tickets: Horseshoe Tavern
June 17, Cold Specks at Lee’s Palace
Cold Specks are one of those bands that I personally hold dear, as they fall under the category of ‘discovered when opening for / touring with another band. March 18, 2013 – the day after St. Patrick’s Day no less, I was an undergraduate at Queen’s University and I bought a ticket to see Stars at the Sydenham Street United Church, a fantastic venue where I was also lucky enough to see Bahamas, Ra Ra Riot and The Weather Station, amongst others. Needless to say, it was quite the hung over day, and if it weren’t for the financial commitment of buying a ticket to this show, I likely would have stayed in bed. I arrived in time for Cold Specks, and Ladan Hussein’s dark soul/gothic sound left a more lasting impression on me than Star’s performance upon the night’s completion. Hussein’s Cold Specks project is signed to Arts and Crafts, and she hails from Etobicoke, Ontario. Her most recent album, 2014’s Neuroplasticity, features vocal contributions from Michael Gira of Swans – a surprising collaboration that makes for as unique of a sound as you would expect.
Choice Cut: ‘Bodies at Bay’ from 2014’s Neuroplasticity
When: Friday, June 17, 2016
Where: Lee’s Palace (529 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON)
Buy Tickets: Ticketfly
June 13-19, NXNE Featuring Father John Misty, Schoolboy Q, Ghostface Killah, Mother Mother, Dan Mangan, The Zolas and more!
Another summer, another NXNE, perhaps the most fun, accessible, and value-driven festival of the summer. I say accessible because it literally takes place all over our great city, all week long, at venues of all different sizes and capacities. I also say value-driven because, from an attendee’s perspective, I can’t think of an event where you can get more bang for your buck than NXNE. Buying a wristband gets you access to any show/venue across the city for the duration of the festival as long as that venue hasn’t already reached capacity before you arrive at the doors (punctuality is key to fully exhaust the maximum value of your wristband). Furthermore, the larger acts play at Yonge Dundas Square… for free! To give you a full grasp of the potential value in this festival, a couple years ago I purchased an early bird pass for $90 and saw Spoon, St. Vincent and Mac DeMarco for free, along with Spiritualized, Tune-Yards and Rhye – all at the beautiful Massey Hall, as well as Speedy Ortiz and Courtney Barnett at other venues of which I can’t recall. The year before I didn’t even buy a ticket, but in one day I caught (for free) The National and Hayden, along with an exclusive screening of The National’s Mistaken For Strangers film at a Bloor Street Cinema.
This year, NXNE is offering a new venue location in the Port Lands during the Saturday and Sunday of the weeklong event, which should give these two days a more legitimate ‘festival’ feel in an outdoorsy, park environment. Headlining at the Port Lands is Father John Misty, a Mighty Records favourite who passed through Toronto as recently as this past April with a stop at Massey Hall! I was lucky enough to grab a ticket to that particular performance, and left the show nothing short of being blown away. Check out our Father John Misty Concert Review at The Orpheum in Vancouver from April. His expansive set featured almost all of his songs from both albums, 2012’s Fear Fun and 2015’s I Love You, Honeybear. Though I didn’t become a fan of Father John until his sophomore album, I most certainly found that the cuts from his first record yielded more of an upbeat sound in the live setting, and his fantastic band certainly contributed on a grander scale on these tracks. Misty’s stage presence is Mick Jagger-esque and over-the-top in the best way, yet it doesn’t sacrifice his actual performance of the songs in any way! He prances from left to right of the stage, interacts with the crowd in between and during songs, and often falls to his knees or back while pirouetting his microphone stand as if it were a tipsy dance partner. Father John Misty’s live performance consists of sheer entertainment and strong musical performance, and it will certainly highlight what should be yet another fantastic week of music at Toronto’s annual NXNE.
Check out our NXNE 2016 Festival Preview!
Choice Cut: ‘Tee Pees 1-12’ by Father John Misty, from 2012’s Fear Fun
When: Monday – Sunday, June 13-19, 2016
Where: Port Lands (The Port Lands, Toronto, ON)
Buy Tickets: NXNE
June 19, Modern Baseball at Opera House
Pop Punk is not dead! This testament is particularly true in Toronto, where we have home grown bands like Seaway growing incrementally larger to a national audience by the day. Modern Baseball may not be from Toronto – they’re part of the ever-growing Philadelphia music scene (which also notably claims Kurt Vile and The War On Drugs, for example), but one can be quite certain that they have quite the following in our great city, based on the deep-rooted pop punk scene that calls Toronto home. They just released their 3rd album Holy Ghost in May, and it has since been subject to rave reviews across music blogs that don’t normally cover their genre. The album packs quite the punch for a 27-minute run time, and also features numerous memorable quotes, in particular my personal favourite from album standout ‘Note to Self’’: “All I found were empty cans of cigarette butts lining dirty parking lots in Ottawa.” Pop Punk certainly doesn’t have to be your genre of choice to have a good time at this show. It’s not my go-to listen, but this is definitely one show in June that I am excited for. Their breezy sound makes for a responsive audience in the live environment, perhaps resulting in a mosh pit breezy enough for me to handle.
Choice Cut: ‘Wedding Singer’ from 2016’s Holy Ghost
When: Sunday, June 19, 2016
Where: Opera House (735 Queen St E, Toronto, ON)
Buy Tickets: The Opera House
June 26, Steve Gunn + Promised Land Sound
An old adage in the music industry is that you won’t hit the jackpot with your first musical endeavour, and that you have to build up your name or your ‘brand’ before taking off. Steve Gunn’s rise to the indie music forefronts certainly fits that mould, and so do those who helped him on his journey. Though his discography paints a picture of him regularly releasing albums under his own name and frequently collaborating with other folk/rock/classic dudes since 2007 (including the lovely Hiss Golden Messenger), Gunn’s big break was in 2013 when he toured with Kurt Vile and was a member of Kurt Vile & The Violators in support of Vile’s breakthrough album; the fantastically summery Wakin On A Pretty Daze.
It’s quite ironic that Gunn had Kurt Vile & The Violators as a launching pad for his solo career, because keen indie enthusiasts will remember that Vile was a founding member of The War On Drugs with his good buddy Adam Granduciel, but left the band after their debut album to focus on his solo work. Perhaps Vile saw a bit of himself when he recruited Steve Gunn and provided him with a base to build his brand from; after all, they’re both killer guitarists and frontmen. I’m confident that I don’t need to cite any of Kurt Vile’s work to prove his guitar capabilities (you’ve been living under a rock if you haven’t heard ‘Pretty Pimpin’ on the radio in the last 8 months), but check out Steve Gunn’s most recent album from 2014, Way Out Weather, if you’re a fan of catchy and hooky acoustic and electric guitar riffs. Akin to Vile’s album that he toured with, Way Out Weather has a sunny, summery vibe that would soundtrack a cottage weekend in the best way. The Great Hall is a perfect environment for such a sound.
Choice Cut: ‘Milly’s Garden’ from 2014’s Way Out Weather
When: Saturday, June 26, 2016
Where: The Great Hall (1087, Queen St W, Toronto, ON)
Buy Tickets: The Great Hall