Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Place To Stand, A Place To Grow...

Y'all know I'm not a "go out on Saturday night" kind of person, but the weather has been truly spectacular and we've got the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games going on in TO at the moment (aka the impetus for much new infrastructure and fun free entertainment). The fact that I couldn't find one sustainable objection to walking over to Nathan Phillips Square on a gorgeous evening, to see a free concert, put me on an interesting - and spontaneous - trajectory. Usually my husband relies on me to come up with some excuse for staying in, especially after dinner at home. But I was all: Let's get our adventure spirit on (and go to see that act you like). That act was Amon Tobin, a Brazilian electronic musician who's lived and worked practically everywhere in the world. As I understand it, he lives in Mtl. now.

At any rate, while I definitely dislike crowds and noise, I was encouraged by the set up. We arrived at the tail end of a concert by a Venezuelan pop band that was mega-cheesy in a way that totally appealed to the very happy audience. Said audience was predominantly Spanish-speaking (let's just say I never before knew what a robust Latin American community we have in Toronto) and it responded to the predominantly Spanish-speaking lead singer with much enthusiasm. The energy was lively and cheerful and strangely welcoming to a non-crowd / non-noise kind of person.

Here are a few shots of the venue and general environs:

That's Old City Hall in the background (the clock tower) and the arches denote the position of the venerable, wintertime skating rink. That TORONTO sign is surprisingly chic. Money well-spent, IMO.

Look at that gorgeous sky!!

I couldn't resist the buildings reflected in the building...
And finally, a sense of the main event:

The reason I have access to a shot of this caliber is that my husband bamboozled me into moving to the front of the stage. Have I mentioned that I don't like crowds and noise? Have I mentioned that the subwoofers were 6 feet from me, infusing me with the kind of all-encompassing bass-thud that aims to divest one of her identity, like, existentially?

Here's what happened: The Venezuelan band finished and about 2000 concert-goers made a quick departure. Scott convinced me that no one was going to be there to see his little electronic music crush. (Ahem. Doesn't it strike you, if the City schedules the musician as the last act on a Saturday evening, they expect him to bring a crowd?) I resisted but you know how that's futile and all.

Hilariously, the original crowd was replaced almost instantaneously by one that made me feel SO utterly stereotypical that I actually laughed out loud. Strollers, brightly-coloured outfits and multi-generational families were exchanged for an audience of seriously white people between the ages of 35 and 55. Extra points went to the couples wherein the woman was @45 and the man @51 (with a 15 year old daughter in tow, of which there were a statistical number). Natch, beards, tattoos, plaid clothing and rimless glasses were on overdrive and weed was de rigeur. At one point, I looked over at a short blond woman wearing the same shoes as me, who said with a smile: Is it me, or did the demographic just shift? If hell were a hipster-fest, this would have been my Huis Clos.

I love to think of myself as a vaguely unique, progressive urbanite who blogs about her interesting life (albeit with a small L). People, I'm a cardboard cutout.

My biggest fear was that I would be crushed by thousands of fans. Scott pointed out (and to his credit, he appears to have been correct) that it would take 3 minutes, max, to get out of the throng and that there were unconcerned children in our midst. How many parents, he asserted, would put children in harm's way? He then proceeded to draw my attention to the fact that we were free-concerting so TO-style that there were messages, posted regularly on a big screen, reminding attendees to hydrate due to extreme weather conditions and please not to smoke (which is against the law in public places). Note: They weren't referring to marijuana, be assured. They meant cigarettes - which are considered to be ultimately declasse around here, these days.

After 30 minutes of keeping my sanity, barely, in the wake of crazy lights / insane noise / zillions of fans, I advised Scott that I was done. We briskly made our way to University Ave. and decided which way to walk home. Dundas was the preferred route. I had a hankering for some sashimi (yeah, @11 pm) and a glass of wine. Alas, our fave place closes at 11 so we decided to walk and see what we might find.

A while (and many conversations about the potential state of my eardrums) later, we happened upon a place I'd never noticed before. We opted to stop in because of its glorious patio. I am a patio slut. Give me some good flowers and street-privacy on a warm summer evening and I'll pay practically anything for a glass of wine. Turns out we had one of our servers from another resto who had recently joined this one and we spoke about old times in the 'hood. He convinced me to order this slaw salad that isn't on the menu. I was so impressed by how he reeled off the 19 ingredients that I could scarcely say no.

Again, and on the subject of my warped self-perception: "that in-the-know, urban lady who eats the good food", I discovered the next day - and only because one of my friends advised that it's "totally famous" - that we'd been at Bent, one of Susur Lee's restaurants. If you click on the links, you'll see that it's been on the scene lo these last 3 years and I've never so much as noticed it. (I guess that's the mark of a city with stupendous food everywhere. Or perhaps, of my being very out of touch.)

Look, I like Susur Lee as much as the next person. I went to Lotus in the 90s (not that I could afford it). I've had many a Saturday brunch at Terroni on Queen West, accidentally sitting next to him and his family. You can't hit a sidewalk crack, in this town, without invoking a Susur Lee anecdote. And yet, I'm not a fan. Truth is, I don't much like Asian fusion. And I certainly don't like it enough to pay 300 bucks for it.

But while the irony flowed (like the Rioja), we managed to spend 78 bucks on a salad and two glasses of wine. Ha! (More dubious still, the place was in the dying throes of Summerlicious, a "culinary festival" wherein popular or pricey restaurants offer a prix fixe by way of enticing suburbanites to stop on in. Servers hate it. Locals hate it. The menu is the food equivalent of elevator music.)

I'm not doing a good job of recounting that this drink and snack stop was actually very pleasant because the serving was more or less over for the evening by the time we arrived, the night was perfection, we knew and liked the waiter, the patio was grand and the food was very well-prepared (if not my thing). Did I mention that the wine was excellent?

We stayed for an hour and then walked home. And that's the only time in recent memory that I've been outside till midnight - like in the world at large!

My aim is to invest in the many experiences I have at my fingertips here, because they're frankly, stupidly omnipresent. With a blue sky and warmth, Toronto is a gem - a place where you can have a conversation with a stranger (albeit a reserved one), where the open-air concerts are respectful - but badass, where the food is legendary, but down the block.

So that's my Saturday night. Thoughts or feelings? Have you checked out the Games or Panamania? Let's talk!


  1. Thanks for the tour, K! I'm really missing TO these days!

  2. Well write us a post about what it's like in Boston! I'd like to take a virtual trip there, since a real one isn't in the cards as quickly as I'd like. xo

  3. Hi K! I was at that show, too, and had a very similar reaction. I'm familiar with Amon Tobin's music but I just 'didn't get' what the point of standing around watching a middle-aged man in a tweed cap twiddle knobs. But I have been loving all the PanAm activities in general and I'm delighted by all the free live music and art in addition to being able to see world-class athletics for reasonable ticket prices. Enjoy!
    --Lori B

    1. Wasn't it a gorgeous night? And yeah, electronic music is SO drab to watch live. Not to mention that he pulled out all his new stuff (understandably) when the stuff Scott likes is from a few previous albums.

  4. Too funny! If I manage a really good afternoon nap (hey, I've got almost 20 years on you!), I might end up doing something similar in Vanc'r. Paul occasionally talks me into going out to watch the Fireworks competition but I feel as you do about the crowds. Live music makes a difference, though. . . Sometimes we just have to tell the inner editor to shut the fuck up, though, no? Joining the hoi polloi, occasionally, turns out to be a stupid kind of fun.

    1. I should have napped! But I still need to go to bed by 11 pm. After that it's the middle of the night :-) I LOVE fireworks and there were fireworks after the concert (one of the reasons I wanted to go), but I couldn't wait for them. It was too loud.

  5. Thinking what an extraordinary time we live in. You described it all so well I could almost hear, smell, and taste your beautiful evening . . . as I sit here near the Pacific Ocean in Washington. Thank you for the Toronto experience.

    1. Thanks so much Tami! I love to hear about the Pacific ocean - it's so gorgeous where you live...

  6. Concerts like that give me the heebies. I haven't been to one in over a decade and I'm happy with that. I'm envious of your ability to walk home and grab some lovely wine en route at that time of night. It's the thing I miss most about living in a city.

    1. Ha! I like a nice concert at Massey Hall with assigned seating in the good rows that give you a view. I do think the best thing, bar none, about living in a city, is that everything is there (and often open).