People, Places, Things (and Beer)

It’s been a bit of a crazy week! My body’s already protesting the lack of sleep, but I just keep promising myself that things will cool down a bit once the weather prompts me to turn into a hibernating bear with that extra fur coat (also known as my delicious duvet in my deliciously large bed). I am listening to The Rural Alberta Advantage to placate my ears, which have had a week or so of nonstop listening to bands and strangers-becoming-friends and general city cacophony. Here is a little soothing “Sleep All Day” for a hazy Sunday night:

Here are a few recent encounters with new people, new places, new things. They aren’t really reviews so much as my feelings about the place, all very subjective. (But I suppose that’s the nature of the review genre in general, no?) I seem to like everything way too much to be a truly effective critic, but I guess I can come to terms with unwavering positivity being in my life, so long as it pairs nicely with the cynic in me.

Slack’s
562 Church Street
www.slacks.ca

On Wednesday night, we went to see This Ship’s second concert in Toronto, and were joined by a small but enthusiastic crowd. The motto for Slack’s is “Not just another pretty space,” and it was really pretty, with a hint of the industrial-chic that’s popular these days and intimate in just the right way.

We drank Steam Whistle, which is an impressively drinkable pilsner made by an independent Canadian brewery. I am no beer expert, and my only credentials are that I enjoy the beverage in certain social situations. But I have the feeling we will become good friends rather quickly, Steam Whistle and I, by virtue of the fact that it is on tap everywhere in this city.

We could hang out maybe

This Ship played another fun show, and they cavorted about despite the stage being about a quarter of the size of the one at The Horseshoe Tavern. It was cozy, in the three-feet wide sense of the word, but they made it work. After This Ship played, Justin and Kat of Minus World treated us to an awesome set that compelled everyone to dance – you can check them out here. They had a more electro-pop vibe, similar to if Diamond Rings were to fall into a video game and really enjoy the experience.

Both This Ship and Minus World have shows coming up in December in Halifax, and you should consider braving the cold for them, if you should happen to find yourself in that part of the world.

Bovine Sex Club
542 Queen Street West
http://www.bovinesexclub.com/website/home.php

After the show, we all headed to Bovine Sex Club in the band’s badass van (read: a soccer mom’s white van), which is a great place if you are not afraid of swinging, rusty bikes and farming implements or the relentless, eyeless gaze of naked baby dolls with dirty wings. The former are hanging around the entrance, the latter suspended from the ceiling inside – and accompanied a million other things nailed to the walls, strings of Christmas lights, wire fencing, and a never-ending line of empty Jagermeister bottles.

One word for Bovine’s style? Eclectic. It works, though.

Unfortunately, we got there too late to hear Tupperware, another Halifax-based band that recently moved to Toronto to make it big in the big city. We hung out as they packed up their equipment, and the night eventually evolved into our group dancing in a circle to “Candy” in the midst of some bemused onlookers. (Perhaps the correct word here is devolved.) We left soon after to crash because the band had to get back on the road eastwards the next morning, but I loved this place. Can’t wait to check out a band here sometime soon.

El Mocambo
464 Spadina Avenue
www.elmocambo.ca

On Thursday night, Mink and I went to see band called Cletus Carlyle at El Mocambo. To sum up the bar in one sentence fragment: poorly lit (in a good way) with tea lights on tables, large space for dancing if one is so inclined, sticky foosball table, pleasingly garish red curtain gracing the back of the stage, the odd gargoyle placed here and there for effect. Non-music highlights included finishing a crossword puzzle scavenged from the floor of the streetcar in record time while waiting for the band to start and getting into a debate about the potential merits of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged with the guy sitting next to me.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect after a brief audio perusal of the ole’ myspace page, but Cletus Carlyle seemed catchy in that it’s-country-but-it’ll-be-funny-live kind of way. Going to school in the Maritimes has trained me well for that sort of pleasant surprise, where the band’s energy is so contagious that I no longer care that I am listening to twangy guitar. (Although to be fair, Cletus was not really twangy at all, and the true test of this particular brand of band energy is whether it can make me forget that I am listening to a steel guitar. My hatred for that instrument is ungrounded and probably unfair, but it is likely also insurmountable.)

We stayed to listen to the next band as well, although I didn’t catch their name. They were more loungy, although a little one-note, and the lead singer had a solid set of pipes. And there was an accordion player, so they got some major points for that even though he was not featured nearly prominently enough. (Your time will come, accordion man. Have patience.)

Holy Oak Café
1241 Bloor Street West
holyoakcafe.wordpress.com

Next, we accompanied Cletus Carlyle’s lead singer, Mike, to his friends’ other concert at the Holy Oak Café. By sheer coincidence, I had already been there that very afternoon, having coffee with a friend who knows how to pick the good coffee shops. During the day, this café was very chill, with lots of laptops and novel reading murmured conversation and mismatched coffee mugs and the like.

At night, however, the Holy Oak was transformed into an intimate venue, very warm and abuzz with happy people. The band, called Moves, was playfully irreverent, and a perfect follow-up to the show at El Mocambo. Everyone stayed to bask in that after-show glow for a while, pleased to be talking with like-minded strangers in a hole-in-the-wall bar late on a Thursday night. There was none of the pretension that certain types of hipster tend to lug along with them like an oversized treasure they rescued from a secondhand stop, which I saw quite a bit at concerts in Montreal. (Not that I have anything against rescuing oversized treasures from secondhand stores, mind you.)

This smaller-scale music scene is like a favourite sweater’s hug – warm and fuzzy and something you want to be in the midst of whenever you can.

More on the weekend soon!

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