We’ve just returned home after almost two weeks away on the road. There really is nothing like coming back to your hometown. Especially when that place is beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. Our city is one with a majestic skyline, clean air, and quiet streets. Mountains and ocean collide and inspire. Rainfall bathes you in a serene familiarity and welcomes you home. This is home. And yet, somehow, for the first time ever, Toronto has left a favorable impression on us.
As is often the case, touring makes one appreciate what you have back home, and upon returning to Vancouver, I indeed felt so happy to go for my favourite sushi and a stroll down Yew St. to the beach. However, it was only a matter of days before I found myself yearning to be back in the thick of things in Toronto. The nation’s capital is Canada’s mega-city; a sprawling, bustling, culturally diverse and surprisingly friendly epicenter. It is also the heart of the music business and home to a rich and diverse scene.
Having spent almost an entire week in Toronto, we had the opportunity to take a lot in. Of course we did have our 2 shows there, as well as business meetings with industry connections and some members from our team who are based there. The rest of our days were spent catching shows, hanging with locals, and generally trying to submerge ourselves in the music scene. Much to my surprise, it was apparent from the get-go that a lot more goes on there. There is a really supportive and welcoming scene, where it would appear to an outsider ateast, that there is no real sense of competition. We were accepted right away.
The city’s heritage and history lend themselves to Toronto’s musical depth. On any given night, you might catch Feist, Ron Sexsmith, or Jim Cuddy walk into the Dakota Tavern and join the house band for a few songs. We actually met Jim’s son at an after-party at the Cameron House, where 30 or so musicians gathered and stayed until 5am, playing songs, dancing and getting to know each other with no pressure or expectations. It was refreshing to see. Bands in Toronto take residencies and the faithful come each week to hear them ply their wares. We were offered a few already…
Our show at the Horseshoe was a night to remember. With Matt Mays, Hannah Georgas, Max from the Arkells, Andy from the Skydiggers and Peter from Teenage Kicks all guesting with us on stage, there was no better way for us to make a formal footprint on the Toronto map. It was possible because all these artists were there. Jully Black was there too. As were Jay Malinowski, Buck 65 and Kathleen Edwards. We hung out with the other house bands that were there – The Treasures and Jane’s Party and ended up playing shows with them through the week, sharing gear, beer and good times. Our Dakota show was equally as memorable as we managed to get a good chunk of industry folk there to take it in. People from radio, the labels and agencies, MuchMusic and the press were all there… because they all work nearby.
I love Vancouver and will always call it home. It’s a remarkable city and a great place to live. But it is also a young city, still trying to find its identity and build its own story. I can’t quite believe I’m saying this, but we could learn a few things from Toronto.