On our travels this month we’re off to the exotic climes of Toronto, with Katie Stelmanis aka Austra.
“I grew up in Toronto so I love to hate it, but ultimately I keep coming back to the city and can’t deny that it’s one of my favourite places to be in the world despite how much it’s changed. I feel especially lucky to have come of age in that city when it was still cheap, and there was stuff going on almost every night. There was a party promoter called Will Munro who used to through these monthly queer parties called Vazaleen that people from all different scenes would go to. He booked a lot of crazy bands before they were super famous, like Peaches, the Gossip, and even Nina Hagan one year. The party was super liberating, and Will was a really kind man who knew everyone by their first name. He, unfortunately, died of brain cancer in his mid-thirties and a lot of the energy he brought to the city seemed to have died with him for a while, but I think it’s still alive, maybe just a bit harder to find. Will’s legacy still carries on, as a touring musician now I am constantly running into artists who knew him, loved him, partied with him, and therefore still think of Toronto as one of the queer, punk, party capitals of the world.”
The market is situated in the middle of Chinatown in downtown Toronto and has somehow managed to resist gentrification entirely. It’s probably expensive to live there now, but it still feels dive-y, there is a ton of cheap food and some really good bars and venues. It’s nice to have a space in the city that doesn’t feel totally commercialised.
Double Double Land
The best DIY venue in the city, of course located in Kensington. It's named after the Tim Horton’s special, the “double double” coffee. Anyone who has been to Canada will know what I’m talking about.
The Beaver was opened by Will Munro before he died and persists as one of the consistently cool queer places to hang out in the city. When he stopped doing his parties he opened a bar so that the kids would keep having somewhere to go.
Holy Oak is in Bloordale which used to be pretty sketchy but is now kind of my favourite neighbourhood to hang out. These guys are a coffee shop and also throw parties and shows ranging from experimental jazz to queer R’n’B nights.
This record store has been around forever and is usually my go to when looking for vinyl. I could be wrong, but I feel like it sells only vinyl which is something they started doing when it was pretty risky to do.
The Common is really good and cheap. There are three locations, and I feel like I know everyone who works there. It's a locally owned business that treats its employees really well and knows how to make a very good Americano for $2.
My favourite musical instrument store in Toronto also located in Kensington market. I probably shouldn’t let the secret out, but you can rehearse in the basement which is something my band does pretty often.
My friends from the band Fucked Up started throwing this insane monthly party that only happens in the winter when people are depressed and don’t want to go out. They take over this entire huge heritage building called the great hall and fill it with DJs and bands and artists and food and it's the best.
Austra's album 'Future Politics' is out now.