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London’s most cherished live music venues, old and new

Musicians playing live music on stage.
Image Credit: Brendan Beamish

As we slowly emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, audiences and musicians alike are hungrier than ever for a return to live music. The industry was hit hard by the pandemic, and London lost some beloved establishments. Here, we’ll be highlighting all of the music venues still running today, as well as memorializing some of the iconic venues that once called London home.

1. London Music Hall (active)

185 Queens Ave.

The London Music Hall is one of the largest venues in the city, and is where you’re most likely to catch Canadian indie darlings like The Beaches, PUP, and Mother Mother. With a capacity of 1,600, including two private boxes and five bars, this venue is a must-attend if you’re looking for a premiere place to witness your favourite indie acts.

“The 150-year-old building has hosted performances by Canadian icons like The Tragically Hip, Barenaked Ladies, and Teenage Head.”

2. Rum Runners (active)

178 Dundas St. E

Located directly above the London Music Hall, Rum Runners is your place to catch more local, indie artists in an intimate but powerful space. With a capacity of 350, you can get up close and personal with your favourite local acts, as well as the occasional DJ performance.

3. The Embassy Hotel (inactive)

Previous 732 Dundas St. E.

Throughout the 1970s, the former Embassy Hotel became a cultural hot spot. The Embassy Cultural House, as it was known then, was a cross between a hotel, a bar and a restaurant, that united artists, poets, activists, theorists, filmmakers and musicians. Through the 80s and 90s, the space became more widely recognized as a music venue for local bands and future household names. Sadly, the Embassy would be sold in 2009 to make way for condos, only to mysteriously burn down two months later. Today, the Embassy is remembered by local punks, artists and musicians who grew up experiencing live music at the Embassy Hotel. And soon, the lot that once called the Embassy home will be turned into a community hub with a focus on affordable housing.

4. Call The Office (temporarily inactive)

216 York St.

The pandemic sadly took a toll on Call the Office (CTO), causing the owners to temporarily cease operations of the venue in Nov. of 2020. Still, the memories that Londoners have made at this London staple will be cherished for years to come. The 150-year-old building has hosted performances by Canadian icons like The Tragically Hip, Barenaked Ladies, and Teenage Head. Up until its closure, CTO was a go-to for catching local talent, dancing to retro music on Sunday nights, and fostering community for London’s punk scene.

5. Aeolian Hall (active)

795 Dundas St. E.

The Aeolian Hall has served many purposes over the years. Originally slated to house a City Hall for London East, the building then became the home of Fire Station No. 2, after London East was forced to amalgamate with the rest of the city in 1885. Designed by George F. Durand, the space is a cross between High Victorian and Italianate design, featuring tall traceried windows and biochromatic brickwork. Later, it would house a public school, then a public library, and even a Goodwill. The site would then become the home of the new Aeolian Hall (after the original was destroyed by arson), and turned into a concert hall by Gordon Jeffrey in 1968. Today, the Aeolian Hall is home to countless live acts, and has twice been awarded “Best Live Venue” at the Jack Richardson Music Awards.