Road Blog: Thursday September 07, 2017 - Toronto, ON
September 7, 2017
We met at Gabe's early afternoon to load the van and get an early start into the always brutal Toronto traffic. Spirits were high as Karen Jacobsen - The GPS Girl (our GPS) tried in vain to route us over the Ambassador Bridge rather than the tunnel from Detroit to Windsor. It was as if she knew something we didn't, as if there was bad news waiting at the other end of that long hole beneath the Detroit River. We've learned not to question sweet Karen, for she's liberated us from many a sticky situation over the years, but damnit I wanted to take the tunnel. For one, trucks aren't allowed in the tunnel, which makes traffic (theoretically) lighter. For two, last time we took the bridge we were stopped by immigration, searched, and set back 30-45 minutes. So the tunnel it was. As we came out on the Canada side, we were pleased so see that there was no wait in Canadian customs. We pulled up to the booth and chatted it up with the agent. He was having a little trouble wrapping his head around the fact that we were going all the way to Montreal to play a show that wasn't going to line our pockets with cash. We didn't offer up much about Toronto or Windsor, and he didn't press. A little friendly banter and we were on our way down the 401.
Within 10 minutes we were arguing about the artistic merits of Steely Dan, a topical discussion since the recent death of founding member Walter Becker. Patty defended them as talented musicians pushing the edges of rock and roll ahead of their time, while Gabe and I tossed their accomplishments off as self-indulgent wankery that just further made the revolution of punk rock eminent. In the end, I think we all knew that we each had valid points and just like breaking balls. Meanwhile, Bachman–Turner Overdrive was blaring, and we were all just happy to be on the road again.
The drive was mostly uneventful, hitting the usual congestion just past Mississauga. We pulled onto the street next to the venue with full bladders and empty bellies and 90 minutes to burn before soundcheck. We chatted with the bartender/manager a bit, loaded in our gear, and settled in at a small Mexican joint (Playa Cabana Cantina) a block over with some carnivorous options for us and some vegan options for our friends Woody and Paul who were en-route to join us. I had carne-asada and octopus (soft) tacos and a spicy rib tip (fried shell) taco, Pat and Gabe tried the LA Food Truck taco, and Woody and Paul got the vegan option. It was a good meal – full of flavor and heat and not too heavy. After dinner, we stopped back at the van to change some clothes and grab some stuff and found that we had a ticket for parking next to a fire hydrant. This pissed me off because we were right underneath a sign that stated quite clearly that parking was allowed (with a receipt, that we had) and I had assumed the hydrant was out of commission. I took a photo and will fight it, though I know my efforts will ultimately be futile. Paul got a parking ticket too, and we were all a little grumpy about it. We moved the van and headed in for soundcheck. Woody and I darted over to an adjacent record store for a few minutes where I was tempted by a couple things but left empty handed.
Junction City Music Hall is a long room in a basement beneath some stores in the old Junction district of Toronto. This area was once the crossing of many train tracks and has been built up into a hip neighborhood with lots of bars and restaurants and cool stores. We met the other bands and the engineer Darryl and ran through a couple songs before doors opened at 8pm. I ran into my buddy Nelson who I met last time we played Toronto who was playing guitar for The Celebration Army then, but on bass duty for headliners Subject To Change last night. He welcomed us back to Toronto with a big smile – it was a cool surprise. Dorval went on around 9:30 to a medium-sized audience that mostly arrived moments before they hit the stage. These are some young dudes who play dirty blues/indie-rock. Their singer Daniel has an old Gibson amp, some cool old guitars, and some great chops and tone, but it was his voice that got me – dude sings with a killer rasp and swagger that guys twice his age can't usually get. Patty likened it to a later-era Eric Burdon, and I think that's not too far off. They were joined for the last few songs by Saffron, who's sweet voice and harmonies lent a nice texture to their grit.
We played second to an ok sized, attentive room and had a hot, sticky time up there. It was nice to be on the stage again after just one show in the last 2 months, but there were some cobwebs for sure. The sound was great and we played ok. After us, Subject to Change came up and threw us for a bit of a loop – these are some big dudes with cool gear and a look that is all business. They ripped into some riff-laden, almost punk jams with great vocals and blusey hooks that kept their crowd engaged. They were super tight and had great groove.
After the show we loaded out, said goodbye to Paul and Woody, and headed out to the east towards our AirBB. The ramp to the 401 was closed so Karen provided a great detour that got us on our way in no time. Patty wasn't impressed, but we all hold Karen in the highest regard and were grateful she had our backs.
I was up early today. It was a late night but there wasn't too much partying and we've got a long drive to Montreal ahead of us. I got a couple mile run in and it was great to get the blood flowing in the crisp morning air. I am looking very much forward to seeing my friends at Barfly tonight and once again visiting that city. Toronto was fun, not our best show here, but definitely not our worst either. Big thanks to the guys in Dorval (and Saffron!) and Subject to Change for being stand-up local support and great bands too! See ya tonight Quebec!