White Denim at the Horseshoe Tavern: A Roundabout Concert Review

binkleyPal.  I have a statement for you, followed up by a question.

Great live music.  Is there anything better?

We just saw a great concert last week and I am still basking in its glow.  In most cases, full credit should be given to the band, but the venue can also be a contributor. A great venue can really elevate an experience for the concert goer.  Like the “Twelfth Man” is to the Seattle Seahawks, the venue can feel like another band member. Especially if the venue is small.  In this post, I want to give some love to the small venue, and one of my faves is…

The Horseshoe Tavern, in Toronto.


A legendary bar that has been graced by countless bands/artists that were up-and-comers at the time but eventually rose to significant notoriety. I did a little digging and it is amazing the bands that went through the Horseshoe on their way to the top. Starting with country legends like Willie Nelson, Conway Twitty, Waylon Jennings, and Loretta Lyn.  During the rise of New Wave they had acts such as the Police, the Talking Heads, The Cramps, The Ramones, MC-5, & The Stranglers.  More recently, they hosted bands/artists like Whiskeytown (with Ryan Adams), Eels, Spoon, Son Volt, Kathleen Edwards, The Strokes, Wilco, Neko Case, Arcade Fire, Franz Ferdinand, Bright Eyes, Death Cab For Cutie, The National, The Shins, Calexico, the Avett Brothers and The Decemberists.  You may have heard a few of those bands.  Pal, imagine hearing “Misunderstood” (by Wilco) at the Horseshoe.  Oh my good golly!


“I wanna thank you all………for NOTHING!!!!!!”

It must have been unbelievable to see that.  The Greats are great even before they get big, and with venues like the Horseshoe, we get to see their energy up close. They are hungry.  Their drive to be amazing is clear and the audience will always react to that. Especially with the intimacy that the Horseshoe provides.


The Horseshoe is not huge and that adds to the enjoyment. The close quarters is something to embrace. To be blessed with an amazing show at such an intimate venue is a true gift and I am so thankful that the Horseshoe exists. It is almost like we are getting away with something.  We shouldn’t be able to see such greatness in a room the size of your local bar.  It’s almost too good.

So, let’s celebrate the small venues. Sure they’re cramped, hot, loud, and sometimes difficult for great stage viewing. They are all these things. But when the magic is happening on stage and the whole crowd is feeling it, there is nothing more communal and celebratory. There is nothing more wondrous as to be elbow-to-elbow with people who love the same thing you do. To grab whatever personal floor space you can to do a small dance shimmy. Maybe swing your head up and down wildly. Possibly jump up and down and bump into your neighbour. Perhaps accidentally spit take your beer all over someone two people in front of you. And maybe to have that person turn around, greatly concerned by what you did, and ask with the eyes of someone who will do whatever needs to happen to remedy the situation, but really doesn’t want to because the show is so f-ing awesome…

“Are you alright man?”
“I’m alright! Sorry about that. It just went down the wrong pipe.”
“You sure?”
“Yeah man, I was just as surprised about what happened as you were.”
“But I am the one who is all wet.”
“Yeah…I know…great show tho’, eh?”
“Yeah man, great show.”

…for example.

We were elbow-to-elbow at one of these shows last week and saw a band that deserves its recognized up-and-coming-ship. White Denim. From Austin, Texas. Actually, these guys might already be too big for the Horseshoe. Their sound certainly is. I don’t know about you Pal, but my ears were ringing for days after that show. These guys are high energy. Their sound can only be described with an amalgam of box fitting categories like: Progressive Rock meets Classic Rock meets Jazz meets Indie Rock with a slight Country twang. They would fly through a song, inserting musical change after musical change in a dizzying array of musicianship and great song writing. Changes in key, time signatures, head riffs, etc. All the while keeping a seamless groove and making it all feel so natural. Anyone else making this music would look like they were trying too hard. Their music is frenetic, but these guys are just too cool for school. My skull was a pinball machine being thrown from side to side finding new areas to acquire big points. I got a high score. Their set list was huge. They played 25 songs, I think. If you consider the ticket price, that is under a buck a song. That’s better than Itunes! They exploded on stage leaving the crowd in a happy rocked-off-our-faces heap.  The Horseshoe was a furnace by the end of it. Everyone was sweating, and that is the way it should be. We were keeping each other warm on a cold Toronto night, and having a great time.


Thank you White Denim….. and thank you Horseshoe Tavern.

Check out this link below to hear the band



One response to “White Denim at the Horseshoe Tavern: A Roundabout Concert Review

  1. I agree 100% that small venues are the way to see a band. I wish that I could see more bands at that stage but, for me, that would happen very rarely. 1) I only get to know bands by hearing them on the radio (or through you two pals) but by then they are too big to be a Horseshoe band. 2) I am a short person and short people tend to get the “short end of the stick” at stand up venues (can’t see, get shoved around, tend to be invisible, etc.). That’s why I tend to have to pay over $100 per ticket and see parts of the show from the cheap seats. It sounds like heaven to be at this venue at the right time, with the right show, watching the right band. I envy the two pals for having this experience, knowing perfectly well that is an experience that I could not have (or at least very rarely). Great post as always.

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