A cat on acid
July 17, 2009, 4:00 pm
Filed under: Life in Toronto | Tags: ,

Here is one of the reasons I love living in the city. Below is a photo of a poster I found walking home from work one day (I think it was a Thursday). You just don’t see this kind of random, hilarious wisdom in the suburbs on weekdays.

A cat on acid - city wisdom at its best

A cat on acid - city wisdom at its best

Wisdom you ask? Sure – thanks to this photo, I am reminded that some things you just can’t judge unless you can experience them from the perspective of the parties involved. That’s wisdom if ever I’ve heard it. Thoughts?


NxNE wrap-up
July 15, 2009, 12:11 am
Filed under: Life in Toronto, Media | Tags: , , ,

It’s hard to distill the experience of North by Northeast, Day Three into words. It was fun, it was loud and it was a little bit blurry. It included spilled beer, a fair bit of embarassment and a friendly Englishwoman name Cat. I learned never to stand on the seats at Black Bull and Iain learned not to trust me with event calendars – though we all learned that the best way to make friends at an indie music festival is to take your copy of said calendar and discuss it loudly enough that people around you can hear what you are saying (pro-tip #3).

Musically, it seemed to be the night of cover tunes – though covers are somewhat rare at NxNE, at various points, we heard fully legitimate renditions of a Johnny Cash tune, the Stooges’ “Search and Destroy” and the Beastie Boys’ “Fight for Your Right”, which – astonishingly – the band managed to PULL OFF.

Other highlights included:

  • catching a great string of sets at the Black Bull (one of NxNE’s more underrated venues – there usually aren’t crowds here, but the music has been quirky and catchy and exciting for two years running)
  • making it in time for an after-hours set at Horseshoe (not at all underrated, but just as consistently good during NxNE)
  • and getting a free copy of Three Day Threshold’s newest CD, then getting the whole band to sign it. Every single one of them made a penis joke.

If I can offer any conclusions from Day Three, it would be these: take any chance you get to go see either Three Day Threshold or You Handsome Devil. And if you have the chance to be the only person in front of a stage screaming your head off to the lyrics of “Search and Destroy” while the band screams them back at you, take that too (pro-tip #s 4 and 5, respectively).

But of course, the most important pro-tip of all for NxNE is just go. Get out there. Get into it. You’ll never be sorry. It’s the best weekend of the year.

North by Northeast wrapped up on Sunday so, as promised, here’s another set of highlights from the best weekend of the year. This will cover Friday night, which was night two of the three nights we spent peregrinating around Toronto’s best indie rock venues to see the world’s best indie rock bands.


Trucked it out to Mod Club to go see Brody Dalle – failed to gain entrance, despite possession of 5-day wristbands. Have decided (for future reference) that, at NxNE, if you have to take a streetcar to get there, it is not a show worth going to (pro-tip #1).


Saw The Superstitions at Reverb (upstairs – I forget the actual name of the room). They looked like clean-cut kids who’d just arrived from the sock-hop, which is a good metaphor for their show – tight and fun, if a little safe.


Caught the last minute of…something…in the bottom floor of Reverb. Some kind of death metal with only discernible lyrics being “BLOOOOD! BLOOOOD!!!!” Fantastic.


Stopped to talk to marketing street team for Strut brand wine. Entire group of friends I was with had individual photos taken and projected 30-feet tall onto neighbouring building. Discovered that when I do a disco pose, I look silly in photographs. Got free wine out of it, though, so no harm.


Discovered my new favourite TO patio at Hideout. Large-ish, with comfortable (and not mouldy or sketchy) couches. Also spontaneously developed a taste for Amsterdam Blonde. Watched set by Triggerfinger, a bluesy hard-rock band from Belgium. Singer was amusingly creepy, repeatedly reminding audience that “booties are made for shaking”. Almost as hilarious were the drunk scenesters who (mid-set) enthusiastically pestered the bass player with business cards and technical questions about distortion pedals until being escorted away from stage by bouncer.

(Here’s some more from Evil Shananigans on our encounter with Triggerfinger – that’s right, our experience was so awesome that news of it made it all the way to England)


Walked to Queen and Spadina to see who was playing at Horseshoe. Encountered line-up, decided that, at NxNE, if you have to line up to get in, it is not a show worth going to (pro-tip #2). Tried Rivoli – made it through 1/2 a song and walked out. Don’t know how Rivoli manages to attract so many bands that I hate, but it’s the only club I ever walk out of during the festival and I did it three times.


Head to Kensington to check out Supermarket. Made it in time for last two songs by the paint movement, an indie-pop group with a killer sax player. Stayed for Fox Jaws, a dance-rock group from Barrie, who was a personal highlight at last year’s festival largely because of their singer and the almost Shirley Bassey quality to her voice. They did not disappoint. In between sets, my friends and I broke into spontaneous rendition of some song by Boston (I think it was Boston – maybe Europe), garnering strange looks and guffaws from other patrons. Sang louder.


Walked to El Mocambo to catch the downstairs closer, a hardcore band from Montreal called Bionic. Got there in time for last song by The Sadies, kind of a rockabilly band from Toronto. Not bad. Saw Melissa Auf Der Maur on the way back from the bathroom, rudely interrupted her conversation to tell her I liked her show the previous night. She said thanks. I’m not claiming to be cool or anything, but I did talk to Melissa Auf Der Maur. Just saying.


Bionic absolutely destroyed the small crowd assembled – just destroyed them. Also destroyed my new sneakers, but whatever. Were loud, fast and aggressive with blazing licks and absolutely no filters or hang-ups in front of an audience – one of those bands that has fun from the moment they step on stage and like to make sure you’re having fun too (largely by making you feel like a pussy if you’re not having fun). Announced that they were breaking up and that this would be their last show in TO, much to our disappointment. Still, this was a definite highlight. Iain gets big props for forcing us to stay up way past our bedtimes to see them.


Home around 4am after pizza and a cab ride. Vaguely remember heated argument in cab about whether Jaguar XK8s are nice cars or if they are only for “old men”. Someone pulls out a comparison to Astin Martin, which I feel is unfair. It didn’t come to blows, but it was close.

Day Two completed successfully – details on Day Three to come.

North by Northeast I
June 19, 2009, 2:53 pm
Filed under: Life in Toronto | Tags: , , ,

NxNE started this week, and it’s easily my favourite Toronto event of the year.

Highlights from last night included:

  • Blood Group, a dancey post-punk group from Iceland. The singer is in a category all her own on account of the fact that she is a) unbelievably talented, b) extremely attractive, and c) takes a good 15 seconds to introduce herself because of her very long last name.
  • Drunkula, who played a whole set of 90-second biker punk songs. Impossible not to get up and dance around. And the singer kept playing the maracas, which makes no sense because it’s biker punk but it sounded awesome.
  • Zoo Bombs, a psychedlic blues band from Tokyo. This was 40 minutes of the keyboard and bass players holding down awesome funk riffs while the drummer and frontman lost their minds overtop. Sick.
  • Random people in the street, including a guy who thinks my name is Tom (for reasons I can’t understand) and that my friend Iain’s name is JD (because we told him it was). There was also the girl who was being helped home on a bicycle by her friend because, as her friend explained it, “she’s Polish”.

I have to say, the performance level is up this year. I mean, it’s always good, but usually there are some standout frontpersons (I say “persons” not frontmans because of the number of frontwomen we saw last night) and some that are not so good. Every single lead in every single band we saw last night absolutely killed it. Fantastic.

More later. Three more days of festival, come out if you’re in TO!