There have been performances determinedly going on, in trying conditions, for the last few weeks, but pending last-minute derailment, March 1 means indoor entertainment is definitively back in Ontario — at full capacity and therefore economically viable, and without provincial mask requirements. For some, this is too early; but for culture vultures who have spent most of the last two years yearning for a return to normalcy, it’s been a long time coming.
No one should coax you out if you’re in the former group; this list is for the latter. It’s suggestions for live entertainment to seek out, every day for the whole month. You’ll notice it’s light on touring acts and big stage shows (which can’t reassemble themselves instantly after a hasty thumbs-up from the premier’s office) and heavy on the local and low-tech. But there’s lots of good stuff and — fingers crossed — this is only the start.
(Do check the artists’ and venues’ websites to confirm plans haven’t changed and to check their mask/vaccine policies.)
March 1: For the most determined of door-crashers — the sorts who got vaccinated on their first day of eligibility before noon — there’s the pianist/multi-instrumentalist Ewen Farncombe leading his group at the Rex at the punctual time of 5:30 p.m., perfect for right after work downtown, if you’re among the handful actually working downtown.
March 2: Ahh, that didn’t take long: Our first touring act is Illuminati Hotties, an American “tenderpunk” band drawing comparisons to Weezer and Le Tigre, playing a wonderfully familiar venue for rock fans: the venerable Horseshoe Tavern.
March 3: Is it time to laugh again? At what we hope is the end of two years of everything being terrible comes the tour of Everything Is Terrible, the found-video compilation show beloved in the Ironic Before Times. You are promised “skateboarding web-surfers, rapping math equations, gigantic baby ducks” and more at the Great Hall.
Also: If you think it’s never the time to laugh, German band Obscura plays Lee’s Palace. Who is surprised that the death metallers are among the first to charge across the border?
March 4: An honest-to-God dance party: Bambu at Toybox, featuring Toronto DJ institutions Manzone and Strong among others.
Also: U.K. post-punk institution Gang of Four at the Horseshoe. The band is in their 60s and touring North America — what’s your excuse to stay home?
March 5: U.S. comedian Andrew Schulz — sports fan, podcaster and hustler — has had a fine pandemic, with surging popularity in part due to his naughty Netflix series “Schulz Saves America,” and so only a few seats are available for his three shows at Meridian Hall.
Also: If you love comedy but can’t yet imagine being with 3,000 maskless people at Meridian Hall, we recommend local standup hero Gavin Stephens at Absolute Comedy in midtown.
March 6: High culture shows that it’s also returning as MacArthur “Genius” prizewinning pianist Jeremy Denk leads Quebec’s Les Violons du Roy through some Renaissance and Baroque material in the afternoon at Koerner Hall.
March 7: Second City’s “Swipes Right” at Comedy Bar’s spiffy new eastern location (2800 Danforth Ave.) promises a 90-minute sketch/improv show finding laughs in love and dating. And it’s a Monday, so if you can’t find a date you don’t have to be hard on yourself.
March 8: Standup and sketch are great, but the one-woman show “Our Fathers, Sons, Lovers and Little Brothers” brings serious theatre back, as writer/performer Makambe K. Simamba takes us on a journey — at Tarragon Theatre — with a young man named Slimm through the afterlife.
March 9: The first arena show of the current show revival: Australia’s psychedelic rockers Tame Impala hit the Scotiabank Arena.
March 10: It’s a humble, contained return for opera as the Canadian Opera Company Theatre hosts “Fantasma,” a 45-minute creation of former COC composer-in-residence Ian Cusson and acclaimed playwright Colleen Murphy. It’s a story about ghosts recommended for teens, but adult opera fans … you’ve been waiting a while.
March 11: Rap fans, this is where your drought ends: Tyler, the Creator is at the Scotiabank.
March 12: Fellatio! U.S. comedian Jacqueline Novak has built an entire show around talking about it, garnering acclaim from the New York Times and more. Now “Get On Your Knees” is touring and takes the American to the Royal Theatre.
March 13: Let’s admit it now: nobody liked streaming concerts. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra makes it right by venturing north to the Meridian Arts Centre in North York to perform selections that it played online during the last two years in “Screen to Stage: Appalachian Spring & More,” featuring works by Beethoven, Aaron Copland and others.
March 14: Our third pianist of the month is the big one — Lang Lang — with a price tag to match, but classical fans have nearly sold out Roy Thomson Hall anyway.
March 15: Some of those who suffered most during lockdowns are the most restless ones under any circumstance: kids. Take yours to a concert by Juno Award-winning children’s entertainers Splash’N Boots at Brampton’s Rose Theatre and unclench; the kids are in good hands.
March 16: Bassist Paulo Jr. is the only member still around from their mid-1980s debut, so platinum-selling Brazilian heavy-metal heroes Sepultura aren’t quite what they were. Who is? Commiserate and thrash away at the Opera House.
March 17: Dancers may mature as gracefully as they do everything else, but who’s to say they like it? Canadian Stage and others co-present “In My Body,” billed as an athletic investigation of the effects of aging on street dancers by an intergenerational group of performers at the Bluma Appel Theatre.
March 18: U.S. indie-rocker Mitski made an electronic turn on her new album “Laurel Hell” and it will be interesting to see how it sounds live — but you don’t need any further excuse to check out the refurbished Massey Hall, which between lockdowns and renovations has barely been accessible since summer 2018.
March 19: Standup comedian Ronny Chieng of “Daily Show” fame is at Massey; ascending superstar Sebastian Maniscalco is at the Scotiabank. But where’s your national pride? Neither has ever been in the running for a Canadian Comedy Award, unlike three-time nominee Dave Hemstad, a droll and acclaimed Thornhill native — “(babies) do smell great, and I’ve figured out what that smell is: it’s a clear conscience … which also explains why old people reek” — working at Yuk Yuk’s downtown.
March 20: If you are agoraphobic but have in the last two years grown to hate your own home, there’s a musical opportunity for you: Candlelight Symphony at the Castle, an intimate concert in Casa Loma’s Carriage Room, which you’ll reach via the 244-metre underground tunnel. The venue’s symphony orchestra and maestro Paolo Busato will perform classic scores from some of Hollywood’s most memorable films..
March 21: Teen Vogue called songwriter Conan Gray “the pop prince for sad internet teens”; there are nicer things to be called, but the earnest 23-year-old surely has won an online following in no time, enough for a date at the spanking new venue History.
March 22: Enjoy a music venue beverage with Car Seat Headrest after the U.S. lo-fi-rockers lure you back inside the Danforth Music Hall.
March 23: Black-metal survivors Mayhem play the Phoenix — not to be confused with Mayday Parade, who will play the Phoenix three days earlier, or Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. (Though two dozen people have been in Mayhem over the years, so there may still be some personnel overlap.)
March 24: Fitting culture for a country that has been kept inert for two years (some would say a lot longer), the National Ballet performs “The Sleeping Beauty” at the Four Seasons.
March 25: This one ought to be legitimately exciting: Justin Bieber back in Canada and at the Scotiabank. The screams! Your earplugs will need earplugs.
March 26: Meanwhile, new-wave heroine Carole Pope — the Bieber of 1980? — is still gigging at 71, at the Biltmore Theatre in Oshawa.
March 27: Here’s where we break your heart: wrestling isn’t a sport. Even as a child, you’d be horrified to know, you were consuming theatre, such as “WWE Live: Road To WrestleMania” at the Coca-Cola Coliseum, with special host Trish Stratus.
March 28: Nigel Ng, a Malaysian standup based in the U.K., specializes in making fun of British things, especially British food; and whether it’s Toronto’s breathtakingly multicultural population, or its embrace of everything even somewhat British, that’s a recipe for success here, starting with two shows at the Phoenix.
March 29: Alice in Chains alumnus Jerry Cantrell has survived the pandemic and, before that, the wave of self-destruction that seemed to threaten everyone in grunge. Now he has a well-received new solo album “Brighten” and might feel as lucky as his fans do to be at the show: at History.
March 30: A month of mostly indie and hard rock takes a valuable breather and lets young American folkies Liza Anne and Izzy Heltai soothe and intrigue us at the Drake Underground.
March 31: Think the lockdowns have been frustrating to you? The Toronto show by Montreal dream-pop trio Men I Trust has been rescheduled from March 22, 2020; also from June 13, 2020, Dec. 13, 2020, Nov. 4, 2021 and Jan. 18 of this year. Hoist a drink in honour of perseverance at the Danforth.
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