Ready for Anything

Continuing Success at the Danforth Music Hall

By: Bradley Myles

Photo by Roland van Gend

What do Dragonette, Hollerado, Stars, Walk Off the Earth, and Wintersleep have in common with Chvrches, Hugh Laurie, KT Tunstall, Mayer Hawthorne, and M.I.A.?

They’ve all played the Danforth Music Hall recently.

Since December 2011, the current incarnation of the Danforth’s cultural hub has hosted some of Toronto’s hottest shows. In 2012, Rihanna chose the Hall for the Toronto stop of her widely publicized 777 Tour, and Lorde graced the stage shortly after her massive breakout last fall

The venue’s recent level of success has been a long time in the making. Although the current incarnation of the Hall has only been open for just over two years, the site has served as a combination of cinema, theatre, and music hall since it was built in 1919. As the venue changed hands over the years, each of the property’s owners have struggled to reinvent it as an engaging and respectable venue for the arts. The original Allen’s Theatre was replaced by the Century Theatre, which became the Titania, and then the Music Hall, which then closed in 2004 and sat abandoned and deteriorating for over a year. It briefly reopened in October 2005 under a new owner who renovated the venue and solved some of the building’s structural and plumbing problems. However, it closed once more due to nonpayment of rent.

Current general manager Michael Sherman and Impresario, Inc. arrived the following year, and quietly re-opened the Hall again in December 2011—but first they put the “Danforth” in Danforth Music Hall and made some restorations of their own.

The renovations were thorough, but according to Sherman, his team “left almost all of the original bones, moldings, and character of the building” intact. That historical character is evident in the pale blue walls trimmed with gold, the chandeliers, the architectural flourishes on the room’s 27-foot ceiling and the original moldings of Allen’s Theatre.

The space could pass for a 19th century ballroom, if it weren’t for the acoustic and technical equipment installed throughout. “Being built for shows with no amplification and then converted into a concert hall in the ‘70s, the room faces a lot of acoustical challenges,” Sherman admits. The sound issues have been resolved by the installation of over 60 custom acoustic panels. The venue has also been equipped with a stellar lighting system; the flashing screens and display of lights at a recent Two Door Cinema Club show at the Hall were practically a show of their own.

The result is a stage equipped to handle anything, but Sherman and his team have done a lot to render the space more “welcoming and functional.” Outside, a new marquee graces the front of the building. Inside, the venue’s old seats were replaced with new, custom seating that can be removed and stored on-site. In less than four hours, they can clear the main floor for standing shows to support a maximum audience of 1427.

Versatility is the key to the Hall’s success: “We are ready for anything,” says Sherman—and he’ll book “anything,” from classical musicians like pianist Ludovico Einaudi or ‘90s throwbacks like Hanson. The Hall occasionally even books non-musical guests like comedian David Attell or author Neil Gaiman.

The Hall’s cozy space and low stage create an intimate atmosphere that appeals to artists and concertgoers alike. Even from the back, audience members won’t miss a thing; the proximity makes for an immediate connection between performer and audience that can’t be replicated in the nosebleed section of a stadium show.

With historical character, modern renovations and brilliant artists on an intimate stage, it’s easy to see why artists and fans love the Danforth Music Hall. “There’s a certain magic in the air here,” says Sherman, “and I think it just has that draw.” If the past two years are any indication, there are plenty of great shows still to come.

Upcoming shows On the Danforth is excited for:

  • Danko Jones, March 14
  • Warpaint, March 25
  • John Newman, April 5
  • Pentatonix, April 8
  • Christina Perri (with Birdy), April 14
  • Ingrid Michaelson, April 22
  • Ledisi (with Robert Glasper Experiment), April 28
  • James Blunt (with Oh Honey), April 29-30
  • Chromeo (with Oliver), May 2
  • Owen Pallett, May 10
  • Elbow (with John Grant), May 17

For Danforth Music Hall event listings and ticket purchases, visit thedanforth.com.

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