Road Blog: Thursday September 05, 2019 - Toronto, ON
September 5, 2019
We left Gabriel’s house at 12:45PM and crossed the Ambassador Bridge over the Detroit River and into Canada. Getting through customs is always stressful, even though we don’t really have anything to hide, but it was a breeze – a couple quick questions and we were on our way. As we drove up the 401 towards Toronto, the smell of flowering marijuana permeated the air as we passed a massive plantation that would have made Cheech and Chong drool. Traffic was light until we passed Hamilton, when it got increasingly hairy as we approached Toronto. Gabe took shotgun and Bob was in back. We passed the aux cable around and listened to The Grays, The Pink Lincolns, The new Seratones album, Drive-By Truckers, and a Whitesnake/David Coverdale bootleg from 1984. Some good lyrics on that one, I’ll tell ya.
Toronto is an incredible city – diverse, exciting, bustling, busy - but it’s also one of my top least favorite cities to drive in. I managed to get us into the city center and found a parking spot a block away from Sonic Boom– one of our favorite record stores. We stopped for a coffee and a pee then did a little shopping before heading to the venue for load in. I found an original pressing of the first MULE LP, a God Bullies record for Patrick L. O'Harris, and the new The Hold Steady record, which I’ve been looking for. I drove the 3km to the venue and we secured parking on the sidewalk right next to the stairs.
Duggan's Brewery is a basement bar with old stone brick walls, tables along the sides, a bar in the middle, and brewing vats in the back. We met the bartender and the sound guy, loaded in, set up, and blasted through a soundcheck. Our pal Paul Easterberg showed up and took us up the street to the Skyline Restaurant, a cool old retro joint that had sandwiches and Canadian-Asian cuisine in a very casual, edgy setting. Before long my old pal Woody Whelan came, we exchanged gifts and got caught up a little bit before we headed back to the venue.
David Solomon opened the show with a good solo-acoustic set. He was a proficient guitarist with a great vibe. He ended with a really different and super cool interpretation of Purple Rain. We went on second to a thin/medium sized, appreciative crowd. Our set is about 80% new material, some of which we’ve never even played live before, so we’re very much still getting our sea legs with a lot of these songs. As a result, there were a few loose spots up there on that tiny stage, but it is slowly all coming together. After us, locals The Honky-Tonk Zeros played a great set. They are a 4-piece but were missing their drummer last night. Didn’t matter – they sounded great as they worked their way through an hour of originals and covers by the likes of The Band, Warren Zevon, and the great Dave Dudly/Flying Burrito Brothers song Six Days on the Road. Everyone at the bar was really nice, we sold some merch, made some friends, packed up, loaded out, and headed out to our hotel in the suburbs.
We had an Airbnb booked, but over the last 48 hours I learned that we’d likely be arriving to dirty sheets and unmade beds because the property manager had to leave town. I explained to our host that that’s not how this is supposed to work, and that we’re paying for clean beds, not the privilege of being our own maid service. He agreed to let us cancel the reservation, which I promptly did, but have yet to get a refund from him for the fee (and the second night at the same place we had booked for Saturday), so I can see a battle rife with red tape, bureaucracy, and frustration in my near future. Anyhow, we got a great deal on a couple decent rooms through Hotwire so we’re now waking up, getting coffee and showers, and getting ready for the drive to Quebec, where tonight we’ll play in Montreal for our annual slot at the Hungover Golf Draft Party at one of my favorite bars – Barfly. Can’t wait to see my crazy friends and get back to that beautiful city!