Toronto the Beautiful, the Musical ♫


You’ve all seen that diagram of flight schedules that are in those in-flight magazines?

Hundreds of lines converging towards one city from all ports of the globe in glorious half arcs that never cease to remind me of my days feebly attempting to use a protractor and compass in math class.

Well, that visual of high traffic lines-a-converging…that’s what Toronto *felt* like two weeks ago.

Three major events were taking place simultaneously in the city, filling Toronto with palpable air of aural buzz, and mayjah foot traffic!

There was the eclectic Luminato festival, North by North East (NXNE) & the Much Music Video Awards (MMVA’s)—a veritable potpourri of musical offerings.

While Luminato boasts some fascinating programming, I mainly took in the NXNE shows scattered around the city, like croutons on a leafy, melodic ♫ salad.

NXNE has firmly placed Toronto on the map as a music aficionado’s destination, and is recognized as one of Canada’s most respected festivals for breaking in and discovering fresh new talent. It also boasts a comedy performance component, interactive panel discussions and a mini ‘music’ infused film festival—something for everyone, really. This is the place to discover the unfettered and the underground, well before they sell out to corporate filth and, well, show up in a car commercial or, say, on the Much Music awards—(more on that later).

Music lovers flock together in cramped bars, theatre venues and outdoor sites shoulder-to-hipster-shoulder (and sometimes) patchouli-shoulder sweat all in the name of good tunes, and ‘I saw them first’ braggadocio stature.

My first show was seeing Diana at the famed Horseshoe Tavern on June 13th— a Toronto trio with a mammoth local following—touted as a MUST SEE for NXNE 2013. While it was uncomfortably packed to the gills, the band lived up to their hype—a mixture of chill wave and soft rock 80’s synth with lead singer Carmen Elle sounding like a hopped-up-on-pain-killers Lana Del Ray. Plus there was live saxophone!

On June 14th, I took in the *free* outdoor concert at Yonge Dundas Square to see famed indie rockers The National perform and later on that night San Francisco’s Mikal Cronin at the Silver Dollar Room. His sound; a pastiche of Beck, the Beatles, and if you listen close enough–the sounds of Haight Ashbury. Perfect music for Cameron Crowe’s next film soundtrack.

Saturday afternoon I ventured to the co-ed Vocab Lounge at the spanking new King Blue Condominiums. Part gifting lounge, part Art of Music Video Gallery Exhibition by the NE Creative Group.

Vocab Lounge Entrance

Vocab Lounge Entrance

As I sauntered through the lounge with my trusty assistant to help carry my wares, I was thrilled to see my Montreal friend Julie Greenbaum and her father Hillel promoting their F-Ck Cancer movement which raises funds through ‘awareness events’ all over Canada and the US.



While there were many incredible Canadian companies on display I clocked in on a select few that truly impressed me.

Daedfyshe Shoes

Daedfyshe Footwear

The first was Daedfyshe Footwear, the branding quite brilliant—simply…sneakers for suits. The all leather shoes run for a cool $350.00 a pair, and the styles are quite timeless yet versatile. I wish these Toronto entrepreneurs all the success in the world with their innovative line.

Next up was Kings of Past—Luxury Vintage Eyewear boasting a 100% guarantee that they are original, unused, and authentic.

They sell everything from vintage Playboy aviators to YSL, Dior to a blasty blast from the past Gianfranco Ferre –a trip to their website *will* knock your socks off—also guaranteed.

At 8pm later that evening, I joined a friend at the Soho House to catch a pared down acoustic performance from the lead singer of Dublin’s Villagers.  Conor O’Brien voice is truly original in both its dusty texture and elocution–but what made him so engaging to listen to was his lyrical gymnastics that literally pierced my heart–in a GREAT way. I was so touched by O’Brian’s poignant word play and I managed to take this craptastic picture of him on my wilting blackberry (♫ iPhone can you HEARRRR ME?)

Lead Singer of Villagers: Conor O'Brien.

Lead Singer of Villagers: Conor O’Brien.

Being that it was a balmy eve, I decided to walk over to the Spoke Club for the famed *ULTRA* VIP Rockstar Hotel PARRRRRTAYYYYYY!!

Rock Star Hotel

Rock Star Hotel

The theme this year was British Punk Revival, and included some authentically non-flinching Buckingham Palace Guards…

He won't smile...I tried.

He won’t smile…I tried.

Thematic Libations…I had the most delicious ‘Raspberry Fields Forever’ cocktail…

Britain's Finest Hooch

Britain’s Finest Hooch

…and some REAL RAUCOUS ‘ENGRISH’ PUNK ROCK with a live performance by The Stranglers

The original UK Punk Rock Outfit-The Stranglers

The original UK Punk Rock Outfit-The Stranglers

Capping off the weeks musical invasion was Sunday’s MMVA’s. Now, I want to be careful, as BELL MEDIA pretty much runs the world I tend to swim in from time to time, but I also feel the need for some organic REAL TALK, about how I feel about the show, the red carpet frenzy, the saccharine rehearsed VJ’s and the musical guests and presenters.


From choosing PSY (ummm…vomit?!) as their guest host this year, to the tween stars? walking the red carpet, I find it to be getting, dare I say…cheesier and much more commercial and formulaic as each year goes on. I guess I no longer fit this TWEEN demographic, nor do I recognize these pre-pubescent TV stars? Even MTV isn’t as juvenile? Also, the driving up the red carpet in select vehicles only to be accosted by perma-smile VJ’s asking the most banal questions as throngs of tween fans and their chaperoning mothers yell at decibels only canines can hear?

I mean…REALLY.

And speaking of the red-carpet, and the other BELL MEDIA affiliates all giving their arm chair fashion criticism of…um…that brunette from Pretty Little Liars and Cody Simpson?

Sorry, it’s hard to swallow, and by the way… is very un-Canadian. We don’t do Red Carpet fashion commentary ‘well’. It just doesn’t work here and often feels desperate and try-hard.

And speaking of Canadians…to the ‘reporter’ who was fawning over Kardinal Offishall’s very non-descript outfit like it was made out of gold–who did you think you were convincing? And, really…it makes CANADIANS look like farmers by the OVERWHELMING FAWNING of EVERY artist that walks down that red carpet. Take it easy sister? It was just a turquoise button down and jeans? Hardly head to toe McQueen? And like, giving EVERYONE a ‘best dressed’ pair of shades, kind of DILLUTED *that* honor?

Love you Kardi...but your outfit was...regular styles...

Love you Kardi…but your outfit was…regular styles…

And…I mean PSY as HOST??!! This guy will be a FOOTNOTE in a year and not in a good way.

PSY-Riding His One Trick Pony *PLEASE MAKE IT STOP*

PSY-Riding His One Trick Pony *MAKE IT STOP*

The only redeeming (and recognizable) talent that was on the show was Taylor Swift & Ed Sheeran, and while I guess Demi Lovato has a great voice…she’s still a Disney/Nickleodeon construct to me.

I’ve always championed Avril’s singing prowess, but her latest release
‘Here’s To Never Growing Up’ is as John Mayer would say… “Cheap Songwriting” and a cheap ploy at keeping that teenage demographic that she KNOWS she NEEDS to hang onto. WEAK STUFF AVRIL. You’re better than that. I think.



NB. I’ve also interviewed/met Avril & Chad in person on separate occasions; she has the personality of burnt toast, he is quite lovely, warm, and smart. No Nickelback bashing from me!

And….so there you have it. The MUSICAL TRUTH.

May the Bridges I Burn Lead the Way

Renee Gold
The PopCulture Rainman

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