In a matter of hours, I'll be heading to Toronto, mainly for a family event but also to play a gig at Tranzac Friday evening at 7:30, with my friends and accomplished musicians Michael Herring and Nick Fraser. It's an evening of firsts: my first time at Tranzac (as an attendee or performer); my first time ever playing with Nick, though I've seen him play so frequently these past few months I feel as though I have; the first time a lot of this music is going to be played in my "hometown."
It'll be an interesting visit, as I haven't been back in about two and a half years, a rather tumultuous time period in the city's cultural agenda. Toronto has its own indie-rock boom going on, thanks to, among others, the Broken Social Scene, and finally musicians like Herring, Fraser, and Joe Sorbara's Association of Improvising Musicians of Toronto are gaining a foothold in the arts circles. There's also this whole buzzword of "Torontopia" which sounds nice, but I don't really understand what it's about. Yet two of the legendary jazz institutions have shut their doors, for better or for worse (and there's valid arguments on both sides), and I've heard off-and-on reports of artistic stagnation.
I've always felt that Toronto is a city far more accommodating of insularity than Montreal -- it's possible to function in a bubble. In Montreal, I'm not a film buff, but the Film Festival shuts down the city. Jazz Fest in Toronto was limited to Nathan Phillips Square and a handful of other venues, and it really was possible to ignore its presence. (I use the past tense because I haven't really been paying attention since I've lived here in Montreal.) On the other hand, Toronto always seemed to have a more consistent, if smaller, audience for creative music, whereas Montreal composer Charles Papasoff can rightly proffer the song title "You Only Love Me Two Weeks a Year."
I harbour ambivalence about Toronto - Kensington Market's cool, and there are some wonderful musicians there, a list of friends and colleagues too long to enumerate here. But, as of my last visit, I still find it overbearing, cold, and sterile a lot of the time. Maybe on this visit, that will change.