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NXNE Prelude: The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern

posted by Safa Jinje on June 06, 2012

In its sixty-five years of operation, the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto has garnered a legendary reputation for booking great live acts before their imminent rise to fame. The humble yet intimate 350-person capacity space has seen innovative acts like The Rolling Stones, Etta James, The Police, and the Foo Fighters.

The first time I saw a show at the Horseshoe was in January of 2006. A few friends and I had braved the bitter night air to see California-based indie rock band We Are Scientists. And what struck me as most memorable was the band's shockingly all-encompassing performance. The close stage is at an arm's reach, allowing every show to feel like a private, yet enveloping public experience.

As I survey the Horseshoe’s impressive booking history, it seems to me that the venue's music tastes has mirrored the progression of popular rock music. In the 50’s the Horseshoe was the place to catch new country and rockabilly acts; the venue even hosted Willie Nelson, Loretta Lynn, and Conway Titty before these legendary acts reached their prime. And in the 70’s, the venue’s promoters took inventive risks in introducing punk and new wave to Toronto, booking bands like the Ramones and the Stranglers.

For nearly nineteen years now, the Horseshoe has supported independent home-grown talent through Dave “Bookie” Bookman’s Nu Music Nite, which takes place every Tuesday for a very affordable FREE! admission.

Bookie, who is a radio personality for Toronto’s 102.1 the Edge, had the following to say about the Horseshoe: “From its early days as a roots/country music venue, to its time in the late 1970's when it served as Toronto's home for punk rock, to the way it's always been the place for eclectic new music, the Horseshoe has the look and feel of a place that ‘if the walls could talk’ would tell the story of rock n roll!”

The Horseshoe inspires a positive, music loving atmosphere. Bookie believes that this has contributed to the venue’s success and longevity: “The best thing about the Horseshoe are the people. Both staff and patrons, who treat the place with the respect for its history, and for the soul and spirit of the music and musicians who've graced its presence.”

The Horseshoe is an official NXNE venue and will be hosting many live shows from June 11 to 17.