Review: The Barberettes in Toronto

The Barberettes at Lee's Palace
The Barberettes at Lee’s Palace

This past weekend was a super fun one if you’re a Korean music lover in Toronto. The Barberettes, a Korean girl trio who sing 50s and 60s do wop style music – both their own music and some covers of classics I’m sure you’re familiar with – were in Toronto for two concerts plus a free coffee house open mic gig at a Starbucks near Ryerson University. So, of course, I had to go to all three.

Okay, that may sound a little crazy but the two concert venues were so very different that I just knew that their performances/shows would also be different… and how can I write about them without the complete picture. Plus, who doesn’t love great music – and from their YouTube videos, they have a fabulous sound and I couldn’t wait to see them live. And they didn’t disappoint.

So let’s break it down by show.

The Barberettes doing a free "open mic" show at a Starbucks in Toronto
The Barberettes doing a free “open mic” show at a Starbucks in Toronto

The free Starbucks open mic show

I arrived a little late (I got lost, don’t ask) and missed most of the open mic performance by Rookie, the opening act for The Barberettes. But luckily I got to see the short set The Barberettes did – and find out that I knew the guy who brought them here (more on that later). Now, it was a surprise show at a Starbucks so I wasn’t expecting a lot of people so I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were about a dozen or more people catching the show. It was low-key, acoustic and hooked you quickly on their music. I just wish the set was longer.

The Barberettes doing a free "open mic" show at a Starbucks in Toronto
The Barberettes doing a free “open mic” show at a Starbucks in Toronto
The Barberettes at the Toronto Centre for the Arts
The Barberettes at the Toronto Centre for the Arts

At the Toronto Centre for the Arts

The Barberettes pretending to audition for the show at the Toronto Centre for the Arts
The Barberettes pretending to audition for the show at the Toronto Centre for the Arts

This was a more formal performance – complete with show to keep the audience engaged. I loved how the organizers pretended it was a music show from the 50s, complete with a host and a producer/director who “auditioned” The Barberettes for the show. So cute!

Rookie, opening for The Barberettes at the Toronto Centre for the Arts
Rookie, opening for The Barberettes at the Toronto Centre for the Arts

Rookie, a Toronto-based group, opened the show (all of The Barberettes shows actually) and quickly caught the audience’s attention. I suspect not many knew anything about them beforehand but I’ll bet they converted some fans. The lead singer has a powerful voice and a performance style that reminds me of the 1950s (not that I actually saw the 50s), complete with some crazy dance moves. I can definitely see them having a wide appeal and would be keen to check out their upcoming album which they said was coming out this summer.

The Barberettes at the Toronto Centre for the Arts
The Barberettes at the Toronto Centre for the Arts

The Barberettes came on the stage – after the cute fake audition – in beautiful blue gowns and quickly captured the audience. The crowd was a mix of young and mature, Korean and non-Korean, and everyone loved them. It was easy to see the love with the audience actually getting up out of their seats and dancing (it was a seated venue). In fact, The Barberettes even got a few audience members to come dance on stage with them. Speaking of which, that even led to a proposal – one male member of the audience proposed on stage to his girlfriend (and she accepted) after dancing on stage with them. So much positive vibes!

There was even a proposal
There was even a proposal

And of course, the music rocked! While they each have beautiful, distinctive voices on their own; together, the harmony of their voices together is fabulous! I liked hearing them on YouTube but live they are so much better. I know I’m a sucker for live music – I could go to concerts 24/7 – but The Barberettes really are worth seeing live. I can’t stress how much fun you’ll have if you catch one of their shows – great music, fun performances and such a positive vibe you’ll be smiling for hours afterwards.

The Barberettes at Lee's Palace
The Barberettes at Lee’s Palace

At Lee’s Palace

Remember I said at the beginning of the article that the two venues were quite different? Well, while the Toronto Centre for the Arts is a more formal, seated venue… Lee’s Palace is one of the venues in Toronto that is synonymous with live music, totally laid back and ready to rock. That’s why I knew the shows would be different.

Rookie, opening for The Barberettes at Lee's Palace
Rookie, opening for The Barberettes at Lee’s Palace

Rookie again opened for The Barberettes and got the crowd pumping. I was left again with the thought that this was a band I’d like to hear more from.

The Barberettes at Lee's Palace
The Barberettes at Lee’s Palace

And then The Barberettes came on. As you can see from the photos, their look and vibe was completely different and while I really liked Saturday’s show, I loved Sunday’s! They brought so much energy to the stage and were so fun to watch, and that’s not even mentioning how much I liked their music live. I can’t stress how much I recommend catching one of their shows, they are just so much fun (yeah, I know I just said that but I’m stressing it because it’s true) and their voices are so amazing – distinctive yet able to harmonize so well. You can’t help but want to dance with them. But don’t just listen to me, check out the pics. Plus there were a lot of people dancing… at both shows so I wasn’t the only one feeling their vibe.

The Barberettes at Lee's Palace
The Barberettes at Lee’s Palace
The Barberettes at Lee's Palace
The Barberettes at Lee’s Palace
The Barberettes at Lee's Palace
The Barberettes at Lee’s Palace
The Barberettes at Lee's Palace
The Barberettes at Lee’s Palace

Final Thoughts

Beyond the fact that it was so much fun to see The Barberettes perform live, and that I highly recommend catching one of their shows if you ever get the chance (go see them!), it was super cool to get the chance to see them three times, and in three very different shows. Huge props to Hypr Creative and Peter, for bringing The Barberettes to Toronto. I enjoyed all the shows and from the reactions from the audiences, so did they. The coffee house show was sweet and acoustic, the Saturday show was a fabulous performance, and the Sunday show was just plain rocking! Seriously, check them out!

Cindy Zimmer

Live life to the fullest everyday - this is a the philosophy I try to live by and it's taken me on many adventures. I write about Korean culture from a non-Korean perspective as the editor/founder of ATK Magazine and I'm the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Toronto Korean Film Festival (TKFF). Previously, I ran a Korean-English language exchange group (in Toronto) for 3 years to stay connected to my three years living in Korea as an English teacher. I love music, film, food and sports and write about 3 of the 4.

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