The Day Thread Celebrates 75 Years of the ‘Shoe

At the corner of Queen Street West and Spadina Avenue in Toronto, Canada, you’ll find an unassuming white paneled building that happens to be home to one of the city’s most legendary concert venues, the Horseshoe Tavern.

The Horseshoe was opened in 1947, and during the 1950s it became known as a country and rockabilly bar, playing host to acts like Hank Williams and Loretta Lynn. It also helped launch the career of Canadian icon Stompin’ Tom Conners, who played nine weeks straight of sold-out shows at one point. Rock and folk began playing a more important role at the Horseshoe into the 60s, with other prominent Canadian acts like Bruce Cockburn and The Band playing shows there regularly.

The Horseshoe Tavern in the 1970s.

In the 70s, the ‘Shoe turned to punk and New Wave, and established a reputation as a cutting edge venue, hosting acts like the Police, Talking Heads, and The Cramps. Unfortunately, those cutting edge acts didn’t bring in a lot of money, and the tavern underwent a few years of tumult, which saw the building divided into a smaller space, and a span of time when few musical acts played there.

Fortunately, in 1983 the tavern re-opened under new ownership and in a new configuration, with a small bar area out front, and the stage in back. Combined with a focus on booking new and upcoming acts, both from Canada and around the world, the Horseshoe has built a reputation as an intimate and exciting venue.

The stage and iconic checkerboard dance floor as it exists at the Horseshoe today.

In it’s modern incarnation, the ‘Shoe has served as both a launchpad for iconic Canadian groups, like The Tragically Hip and Barenaked Ladies, as well as an occasional destination for big name acts who want to play a smaller venue, such as The Pixies and even the Rolling Stones.

The Pixies at the Horseshoe in 2015.

Though the Horseshoe had some struggles through the COVID pandemic, as many live music venues did, they have made it through to the other side, and are celebrating their 75th anniversary this year, booking concerts for many of the artists who have helped shape its reputation over the past few decades. Here’s looking forward to the next 75 years.