Tag Archives: Music
Last weekend I had the chance to attend a whisky tasting event for Auchentoshan where I was able to try three of their best bottles. I’ll admit I’m a bit of a wuss when it comes to drinking straight whisky, so these events always intimidate me, but as someone who always appreciates a good drink – I love learning as much as I can about every option available.
The first sample their ambassador introduced us to was their American Oak, the standard whisky of the three. It tasted of roasted malt and a toasty, nutty oak with a crisp, strong finish.
The second was their triple distilled 12 Year Old Single Malt which came off slightly fruitier, due to notes of tangerine and ginger.
The third, their Three Wood Lowland Single Malt, was my favourite of the three by far. Aged in three different casks (American Bourbon, Spanish Oloroso sherry and Perdro Ximenez sherry), I was able to taste notes of brown sugar, hazelnut, orange, cinnamon and toffee with every sip. As someone with a sweet tooth who can’t usually handle straight scotch, this one made me realize there is a scotch for everyone, you just have to find yours.
The best part is, it was all followed by an intimate show (it happened at Common Sort, a small vintage boutique in the east end) with Sam Roberts performing acoustically. It was free to the public, but like any in store in a small space, you had to arrive quite early to get in.
Once he took the small stage (aka the back of the store) he told us they had a couple new songs they would play from their latest, Terraform, and then they’d be taking requests from the crowd.
All the songs you’d expect people to request were yelled out incessantly, and while they did play “Don’t Walk Away Eileen” to a grand singalong, the crowd did not get to hear “Brother Down” despite not taking the hint and requesting it after every single song. Sam noted that they haven’t played some of these songs live in years, so it felt like a great risk pulling them out and hoping they’d come out right.
The set was short but fun, and having an open bar for everyone who made it in only made it all the better. Here’s to more great events like this popping up around the city.
So, this was the second ever WayHome Festival, and also my second time attending Ontario’s version of Bonnaroo.
If last year was the trial run, this year was smooth sailing all the way through. That said, there were very few kinks last year – the only one I really remember being Passion Pit having to cancel last minute only to be replaced with my faves Broken Social Scene. This was easily the highlight of last year for me, aside from seeing Neil Young play an incredible 3 hour set.
Due to work obligations, we arrived at Oro-Medonte this year on Friday evening, making it inside the festival grounds just in time to catch LCD Soundsystem – the band of the weekend.
We were still setting up our tent when we heard the opening notes to “Us V Them” and decided our tent was functional enough that we would survive the night with it as is. On the walk over, they played the one song my friend knew of theirs, “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House.” I was excited to watch him witness the greatness that is LCD, despite the fact that he honestly had them confused with the horrific band, LMFAO.
Once inside, they played “I Can Change,” and the moment I had been waiting for for six years finally arrived. Finally seeing LCD Soundsystem live was everything I had always expected it would be, and more.
Every time the opening riff for one of my favorite songs came on I looked back at my friend and exclaimed “This is my song!” Eventually, I sounded like a broken record. There is probably something quite annoying about someone explaining songs you’ve never heard before to you while you’re hearing them for the first time, but he was good sport, enduring my unending excitement/soundbites.
Songs 9 through 14 were essentially all my songs. The heartbreaking “Someone Great” was followed by “Losing My Edge,” which I excitedly summarized for him during the opening 10 seconds. It has long been a classic LCD song –and it is easily one of my songs– but to experience it with someone who was so into it at first listen that he demanded we sit and discuss it after the set, was something I’ll always remember.
“New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down” came on soon after, and I reveled in the feelings it always gives me toward my New York, Toronto. “But you’re still the one pool where I’d happily drown,” indeed.
Throughout the entire set, I was waiting for one song, which many would consider the song. When they briefly exited I was terrified for a split second that I wouldn’t get to hear it, but I knew that would be absolutely insane. They returned, and played a stunning version of “Dance Yrself Clean” and then came the moment that validated our rush hour arrival: “All My Friends.”
The opening notes hit the airwaves, and I COULD FINALLY exclaim, “THIS. THIS is my song. For real this time. This is the song.” And I danced, and sang along to every word, and cried, and enjoyed every goddamn second of it. It was glorious.
Day 2 was a little quieter due to hanging out at the tent with new camp friends and getting a little distracted by delicious Smirnoff Electric drinks we happily shared with our neighbours. They have easily become my drink of the summer (try the Electric Berry if you like sweeter drinks, the Electric Citrus if you prefer sour). Smirnoff also had an installation at WayHome, the Smirnoff Sound Collective, where they had live performances from electronic artists throughout the festival.
Once inside, I caught an incredible set by M83. Due to my friend being a huge Arctic Monkeys fan, we left early to catch Alex Turner’s other group – The Last Shadow Puppets. Personally, I was not feeling this set, it was the definition of rock and roll cliche, and beyond their obnoxious stage presence it did nothing for me sonically – but I see how their fans love it. It was certainly high energy.
Arcade Fire’s highly anticipated set was next, and having previously seen them play at Massey Hall and Bonnaroo in their early years, I knew they would be giving one of the most memorable performances of the festival.
A huge highlight was their quick cover of Springsteen’s “Born In the USA” before going into “Keep The Car Running,” a very Bruce-y track from Neon Bible.
Of course they saved all their best work (i.e. Funeral) for the end, with “Haiti” followed by “Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels),” “Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out),” “Rebellion (Lies),” with a quick change to “Here Comes The Nighttime.” They saved their greatest song of all time, “Wake Up,” for the finale – exploding confetti, fireworks and all. Due to the logistics of having no cell service at WayHome and losing my friend in the crowd, this set was not the highlight of WayHome for me that it might have been otherwise, but that is irrelevant to their spectacular performance. They played flawlessly and it was even more of a spectacle than it was back at Bonnaroo–although little blue lights didn’t drop from the sky this time.
After miraculously reuniting with my lost compadre, we overheard some of Savages set before heading to see Patrick Watson, who had a late start but made up for it by playing until 2am. It was the perfect way to reverse what ended up being a bit of a stressful evening, and it finally made me a full blown fan after hearing only good things for many years. He is incredibly funny, a talented performer, and very much worth seeing live any chance you get. The late night set under the stars was one I will compare many musicians to for years to come.
Day 3 arrived and while we were determined to see Stars, sleeping in after a late night and packing up left us missing their early set.
We did manage to make it inside in time for Black Mountain. I’ve seen Stephen McBean perform before, but always as Pink Moutaintops, so it was exciting to finally see the band in this formation, especially since their recently released IV is one of the most beautiful albums of the year so far. They played the secluded, shady forest stage, which was the perfect environment for this hippy Vancouver band to showcase their space aged concept record.
We followed it with The Arcs, (Dan Auerbach’s non-Black Keys outfit) that thankfully, sounds just as great as the Black Keys. It was a blazingly hot day at the WayBold stage which has absolutely no shade, which I think accounted for the less than energetic crowd.
Next up was Haim, the band I was most excited to see on Sunday. I had yet to see these sisters live so my expectations were high, after having fallen in love with Days Are Gone back in 2013. I must admit I wasn’t quite as blown away by them live as I had expected I would be. But it was still excellent to finally hear so many songs I’ve adored over the past few years live.
While I otherwise would have headed to see Ray Lamontagne next, with the festival winding down, I still hadn’t taken a trip on the Ferris wheel–so we overheard Glass Animals set while waiting in the lineup, and signed our life away for a spectacular view of the festival.
While I would have been fine leaving during the Killers set in order to get home to our real beds, we decided to stay for the finale. Again, Brandon redeemed himself from the terrible performance I have burned in my memory from their Hot Fuss tour. They gave a great show and it was fun to have a band we could both sing along to, all cool points aside.
Overall, it was an incredibly well organized, delightful festival, and they managed to build on what they started last year to create an Ontario festival that will certainly stand the test of time.
I love WayHome, and I miss it already. Until next year.
The Queen’s Plate has been a staple event in Toronto for many years. Channeling the glamour of the Calgary Stampede and the Kentucky Derby – it is the one event in Toronto that people go all out for, style wise.
Despite its long running history – this was the 157th Queen’s Plate! – this was my first time attending. While I’ve been to Woodbine once before, years back, and spent some time last summer visiting Mohawk Racetrack – I had been missing out.
That all changed this year, possibly because they changed the event up to include a live music portion after the races. Where there is music, I will go.
With this being my first year attending, I wanted to get there early and attempt to experience everything. This was probably not the smartest idea with it being such a long day, but I’m glad I now know how to plan for it in the future.
Upon arrival I explored the outdoor parties taking place, took in the outfits on display and enjoyed the local live bands that were playing the daytime portion. It can be an overwhelming site if you’ve never been before. The space is huge, and there is a lot going on before you even get inside to the racing portion.
After trying the official Queen’s Plate drink of the day (one of my favourite parts of the event), we went inside to find our seats and watch the races. While the earlier races aren’t as attended as the main event, it was interesting to watch the hardcore betters get excited about their horses.
When the main event – the Queen’s Plate race – approached, the inside of the venue began to be packed, and the seating area filled up quickly. This is what everyone was here for, and it showed. As the race began, the cheering was like nothing I’ve experienced yet in my visits to live racing. It was absolute madness. In a good way. In an exciting way. I immediately understood the appeal.
Sadly, I didn’t end up betting on a horse this time, because, with the event as packed as it was – I didn’t want to be the one person taking an hour at the booth trying to figure out how to place a bet. Yes, I’ve done it before, but not enough to remember how a year later. With so many people lined up behind me waiting to place theirs, I instead decided to just enjoy everyone else getting excited for their winnings.
Food wise, there was a nice variety of food trucks available to change it up from the standard food court inside Woodbine. I ended up trying some “Italian Poutine” that was actually just what I needed.
Now that the races were over, the concert portion officially began. One of my favourites (they almost made it onto my Polaris Short List vote ballot), The Strumbellas, took the stage. Sadly, I mostly missed their set due to the logistics of the horses getting in and out of the venue (you have to wait a while to get from the inside area of the building to the outside every time the horses leave and enter), but what I did hear of it was as excellent as I’ve come to expect from these guys.
At this point, it had been a long 7 hours on our feet running around the huge venue, and we were getting incredibly tired, but I did want to stay for Matt Good. I ended up staying for about half the set (which was excellent) before we called it a day.
Overall it was an exciting event, the kind of event we don’t see in Toronto often. And I think the choice to make it a ticketed event with a solid lineup is a big step in the right direction in terms of bringing out the younger crowd to an event we would otherwise likely miss.
Next year, it would be nice to see the concert and the races overlapping a bit more, if only to make it less of a long day on your feet when you’re that dressed up. But I do hope they keep running with the live music idea.
I hear a new live music venue is actually being built onsite, which is exactly what the city needs.
Open Roof Fest, the summer long festival that supports two of my favourite passions: music and film, returns to Toronto this week, providing your weekly live music and awesome movie fix.
This year the films screening include Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!!, Sing Street, The Lobster, TIFF darling Sleeping Giant, Off The Rails, A Bigger Splash, My Blind Brother, and Hunt For the Wilderpeople.
Music includes Matrox, Fresh Show, Kayla Diamond, Bruce Peninsula, Tomi Swick, Grand Analog, Chloe Charles, Sam Drysdale, Yuka and Most People.
when & where
Opening night happens on Tuesday June 21st and it runs every Tuesday at 99 Sudbury until August 24th, with doors at 7pm, bands on at 8pm and movies starting at sunset around 9pm.
As usual, Amsterdam Brewery will be on hand for beer, and food trucks such as the Food Dudes are being incorporated this year to provide the eats.
If you’re looking for a great summer date night, there is no better way to impress your beau than with the latest Linklater movie + beers under the stars. They pulled off a stellar lineup yet again this year. Be there.
The other week, I had the chance to take part in a bourbon tasting event with Jim Beam, before heading off to the surprise Yukon Blonde show they put on at the Mod Club (if you were lucky, you might have even won a pair of tickets to it from me).
There are few things that go together better than a good bourbon and live music, so this was the perfect night for me.
I arrived early at the venue, where a handful of bloggers were on hand to learn all about the different varieties of bourbon Jim Beam makes. Each bottle had various levels of aging involved, and there was even a Honey and Apple variety that I was proceeded to happily drink the rest of the night. Who knew flavoured bourbon was a thing? Turns out it’s a really, really great thing.
Their fabulously bearded mixologist taught us all about what goes into aging the perfect bottle of bourbon, and I found it interesting that whiskey barrels can never be reused for whiskey because, high standards (they do get recycled for aging other kinds of liqour though).
Also, there is a minimum rule that (I might be remembering this wrong) whiskey in Canada must be aged at least 2 years, and all Jim Beam bourbon is aged at least 3 years. So this might be why I find bourbon so much stronger than any other hard liquor I indulge in.
We each had the chance to create our own drink for the evening, and because I was so into the Apple bourbon during the tasting, he suggested I try this combo:
1 ounce regular Jim Beam
1 ounce apple Jim Beam
1 part simple cinnamon syrup
Top with ginger beer
No lie – it ended up tasting like apple pie. It is going to become my new go to staple at my home bar. So simple, so yummy.
After we had our new cocktails in hand, we headed downstairs to see the Luke Austin Band open, and then Yukon Blonde took the stage. As per usual they brought their uplifting, carefree west coast pop rock to Toronto and the packed venue was singing along to every song. While On Blonde hasn’t pulled me in quite as much as Tiger Talk did back in 2012, I still always have a blast seeing these guys live. Jeff and co. always give their all onstage, and the crowd of diehards that won their way into this event were definitely happy to see them again.
Overall, it was an excellent night of live music and great tunes, and I will be incorporating more bourbon cocktails into my bartending repertoire immediately.