Toronto concerts in October 2019: 20 shows we’re looking forward to

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Stereolab: October 2 at Danforth Music Hall: The droney art-rockers are back on the road after a decade-long absence – their last local gig was 2008 – to promote seven remastered and reissued albums. Their singular sound is one you’ll want to hear live. See listing.

The Garrison 10 Year Birthday: October 3-5: This Dundas West music venue has quietly been around for a decade, surviving and thriving through a venue crisis. They’re celebrating with a free three-day live music party. It’s a family affair, with nine out of the 13 bands playing (including Hot Garbage, Kaleidoscope Horse, Peeling, Komodo, Odonis Odonis, Canyun and Catholic Wilt) featuring staff who work at either the Garrison, or its sister venue, the Baby G. It’s a testament to the venue that they’re all good. Check out the full lineup here

Nuit Blanche: October 5 at various venues: Avoid the long lineups for Instagram photo ops and head to one of the music events at this all-night art thing. We’ll have a list of picks coming soon, but in the meantime check out who’s playing at this event at the Aga Khan Museum. Arrivals And Encounters: Sama features all sorts of music, from Persian Sufi music to Judeo-Spanish folk, including performances from Fiver, Joseph Shabason and more. 

Bon Iver with Feist: October 6 at Scotiabank Arena: The indie rock ear candy of Justin Vernon’s ever-shifting band and local hero Leslie Feist get the arena rock treatment. See listing

L Con with Phèdre and Isla Craig: October 6 at The Baby G: The adventurous Toronto singer/songwriter is playing the release show for her new Whatever EP, which made our list for local albums we’re most looking forward to this season. Don’t sleep on the openers either – both Toronto acts always worth seeing live. See listing

Wilco with Lord Huron: October 8 at Budweiser Stage: The long-running Chicago band celebrate their new album, Ode To Joy, with a likely chilly outdoor show at this Ontario Place venue. Die hards will be there anyway. See listing

Night Owl Festival: October 11-14 at various venues: This local festival exists somewhere on the nexus of garage rock and psychedelia, and that niche has been surprisingly prolific. The festival, celebrating its fifth year, has four nights of shows featuring psych heavyweights like Of Montreal and Oh Sees, along with local oddballs like Ice Cream, Doomsquad, Mimico, Zones, Bart and more. See Facebook for full lineup and info. 

Jeremy Dutcher: October 12 at Danforth Music Hall: A year after winning the Polaris Prize for his album Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa, the singer/songwriter continues to blow people away with his live show – his operatic tenor vocals and virtuosic neoclassical piano playing are almost hard to believe in person. This show, maybe his biggest headlining show in Toronto (where he currently lives), will feature an extended five-piece band. See listing.

Songs of Heaven: October 12-13 at the Art Gallery of Ontario: The AGO has commissioned three new choral works from musicians Owen Pallett, Cris Derksen and Matt Smith. The program is three choral pieces inspired by the Early Rubens exhibition at the AGO (admission will get you into both). They’ll be performed by the Choir of St. James Cathedral, under the direction of Robert Busiakiewicz, in Walker Court for two nights only. Pallett says, like Rubens, he’s aiming to create a feeling of “spiritual vertigo.” See listing

Charli XCX: October 14 at Rebel: On her new album, Charli, the Los Angeles-based British pop singer/songwriter brings her knack for catchy, party-starting pop, love of electronic excess and penchant for collaborating with similarly adventurous women and queer pop acts together on her best collection yet. We’re expecting a super-fun crowd for this gig. See listing.

Big Thief: October 16 at Phoenix Concert Theatre: Adrianne Lenker’s folk-rock band have been on a serious hot streak. They’re releasing Two Hands, their second album of the year, while the first one, U.F.O.F., was already a huge step forward. Expect evocative lyrics, intimate atmosphere propelled by driving rhythms. See listing

X Avant: October 17-20 at the Music Gallery at 918 Bathurst: The Music Gallery’s new music festival (the last for artistic director David Dacks) is this year exploring the theme “Forward” – “artists taking, or attempting to take, the next step in their work, career or practice.” The result is a collection of new or one-off shows from a handful of singular and interesting artists: New Chance & Willi Williams, Germaine Liu, Sarah Hennies and some long-awaited new work from Lido Pimienta. More info here.

Orville Peck: October 18 at Lee’s Palace: It’s hard to believe it was just the beginning of the year that this masked and moody country singer played the tiny Monarch Tavern. The Toronto-based artist has since signed to Sub Pop, released his debut album, Pony, and he’s been getting booked for bigger and bigger festivals and bigger and bigger media appearances. If you miss this gig, he’ll be back at the bigger Danforth Music Hall on December 5. See listing.

Red Bull Music Festival: October 17-21 at various venues: This festival does a good job of booking shows that are about the city they’re set in. They’ve given local artists MorMor and Jessie Reyez both special one-off shows and arranged a deep dive discussion with local heavyweight producer Frank Dukes. There’s also a gigantic multi-room rave at the Symes called Encounters, which gathers some of the most important voices in the electronic music scene, including Ciel, Chippy Nonstop, Bambii and Karim Olen Ash,  Joel Eel, Kehdo, Korea Town Acid and many more. See more info here.

Tegan & Sara: October 18-19 at Winter Garden Theatre: Canadian indie-pop heroes Tegan & Sara are taking a time machine back to their teen years. They’ve written the memoir High School, which takes the twin sister singer/songwriters back to 1990s Calgary, the rave scene and the exploration of their queer identities. They also have a new album, Hey, I’m Just Like You – also the name of their tour – which is made up of newly recorded versions of their early teen songs. This show will feature songs from that album, readings from the book and even archive video footage from their teen years. See listing

Shura with Hannah Cohen: October 20 at the Horseshoe: The British pop musician, last seen onstage in Toronto opening for M83, has survived the internet hype machine and put out a summery and solid second album. Forevher is a warm and heady record about queer love that’s full of gorgeous melodies and gentle funk rhythms. Now she gets a proper headlining show. See listing

Elton John: October 23-24 at Scotiabank Arena: The music legend has been stretching out his farewell about as long as it could go, so we’re not totally comfortable saying this will be the last time you’ll be able to see him in Toronto, but even the possibility of it being his last stand means it’s probably worth shelling out for. We gave his concert last September a perfect NNNNN. See listing.

King Princess: October 28 at Rebel: The young Brooklyn singer/songwriter is ready to be the next big thing in pop with her debut album Cheap Queen landing just before this concert. With her clever but straightforward songs about queer desire, her ascent has been swift – it probably won’t end at Rebel. See listing

Big K.R.I.T. & Rapsody: October 29 at Opera House: The perpetually underrated Southern rappers come to Toronto for the sole Canadian date on their upcoming tour – a stacked double bill for the folks who know. See listing

Covers In A Dangerous Time: October 31 at the Baby G: Halloween is on a weekday this year, which means many of the parties and shows will actually take place in November. This one (co-organized by NOW contributor Jesse Locke) happens on the night proper and features local musicians doing full cover sets of Devo, Bikini Kill. Guided By Voices, X and Nico. There’s also a costume contest with prizes from Venus Fest, The Beguiling Books & Art, Telephone Explosion, Pleasence Records, Coach House Books, Likely General and more. See listing and stay tuned later in the month for more Halloween music picks. 

More shows on our radar

Thrush Hermit: October 4 at Danforth Music Hall. See listing.

The Black Keys with Modest Mouse and Jessy Wilson: October 9 at Scotiabank Arena. See listing

Rick Ross: October 11 at the Phoenix Concert Theatre. See listing.

Gord Downie’s Secret Path Live featuring Buffy Sainte-Marie, Sam Roberts, Tanya Tagaq, July Talk and more: October 19 at Roy Thomson Hall. See listing

Chastity with Nicole Dollanganger: October 30 at Longboat Hall. See listing.