Toronto Musicians—What’s Great About Toronto’s Music Scene?

By Elena Gritzan

Toronto is an amazing hub for music of all sorts. There are a million “scenes” within the larger one. One of our favourite parts is the DIY aspect. There are all these hidden gems in the city, scattered by some motivated artists. You can catch some of the most fun shows at some off-kilter spaces: The White House is an artist studio, Double Double Land is tucked in an alleyway, and Soybomb is basically a room with a half-pipe. Then there are music series like Feast in The East that showcases an eclectic mix of music, while offering delicious healthy meals at an affordable price.

Other than keeping your ear to the ground — or, rather, your eyes open —, for homemade posters, the best way to find out about some of these DIY shows is to pick up a copy of independent, artist-run publication Offerings, that documents “Toronto’s Anomalous Music Scene”. Last, there are a handful of small record labels, some of which are musician-run, that keep it real and put out fantastic bands: Calico Corp, Pleasence, Not Unlike, Telephone Explosion, Buzz, Pretty Pretty, and the one that we run, Daps Records.

– Phèdre


What I love the most about Toronto I also hate the most about Toronto. A great local band can play as many cool shows as they like from Wavelength parties to off-location Extermination Parties. People may care for a minute. Your journalist friend may write about you in a local clueless paper. If you were signed with Paper Bag at one point you may even have scored a cover photo. Is anyone going to buy your record? Nah. Are your shows going to organically grow through word of mouth support throughout the city? No, probably the opposite. “Ya they are great, but that drummer bumped into my girlfriend at Ronnie’s, boo hoo”.

We, as a city, make you work for it like no other. You must cross borders. We force our bands out of their comfortable Facebook network of 150 friends to hit the road. We are scared to love things — to form a solid opinion. But when our exports start to grow outside of the bubble, we come crawling back like we always knew and show them the love they deserved all along. I do believe this strange environment separates our serious acts from the acts that should never be heard. I can’t remember the last time I heard a Brooklyn band that didn’t make me want to choke on a cronut, how much easier it must be for them to be seen by the “tastemakers” who feed the Pitchfork machine. As Torontonians we have no serious geographical advantage yet, unless you are in the hot bed of rap led by Drake (although it remains to be seen if the world will take any of our other hip hop artists seriously, let alone ourselves).

From our infamous moron mayor to our uniquely supported music culture, I sometimes wonder if, as a city, we really hate ourselves this much? Whatever the answer may be, I truly love this place, I love its bands and I love its people but, Toronto, “you better work”.

-Ben Cook (Young Guv/Yacht Club/F***ed Up)

This article appeared in Demo‘s January 2014 print issue.


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