Our survey of 2012’s most notoriously nocturnal people, places, and things—all lovely in their own ways. (Okay, maybe not everyone.)
The New Cultural Cool: The Gladstone Hotel
Cyber stalk: @gladstonehotel
Most likely to: Be the last remaining champion of the West Queen West vibe.
Dirrty worthy: Hands up if you’ve been impressed by the Gladstone’s programming this year? Duh. As the oldest continuously operating hotel in Toronto, the Gladdy has largely been stuck in the shadow of the neighbouring Drake Hotel. It’s like: who’s the Rhoda and who’s the Mary? But 2012 marked a shift in consciousness for the hotel to become a true cultural touchstone. From hosting ridiculously awesome teen sleepovers to Nuit Blanche realness, their mandate is to try anything at least once or twice or whatever. I was happy to be invited to guest-host a Friends-themed trivia night last October, and witnessed first-hand the powers that lay within. It’s magic. Plus, well, “the indomitable Peter Styles” on karaoke duty is legendary, and he lets me sing Supremes songs.
In 2013: An emphasis on better live music touring acts, maybe?
The Badass: Jenna Syde
Most likely to: Drink your blood out of a champagne flute.
Dirrty worthy: I am a little bit fascinated by Jenna Syde in the same way I’m fascinated by Sharon Needles from RuPaul’s Drag Race. She’s beautiful because she’s not typical. She’s interesting because she’s not pandering. Self-proclaimed as “Toronto’s ONLY punk-rock drag queen,” Syde got her start a mere three years ago, and has now performed during Pride, at Buddies in Bad Times cabaret nights, and punk rock-night STAIN at Velvet Underground on Queen West. She endeavours, always, “to incorporate surreal-socio political performance art as a drag medium.”
In 2013: Watch her live, but first watch the video below.
Photo: Courtesy of Tom Sandler
The Breakout Star: Ambur Braid
Cyber stalk: @MsAmburBraid
Most likely to: Blow your mind.
Dirrty worthy: At this year’s Operanation fundraiser, in support of the Canadian Opera Company, there were performances by Nelly Furtado, the Arkells, and budding singers from the COC Ensemble Studio training program. And Jian Ghomeshi made a surprise karaoke performance of “Psycho Killer.” Out of all this micro-star wattage appeared classically-trained soprano Ambur Braid for a string of duets—and she stole the whole damn show. No contest. I mean, I wasn’t even paying attention until I saw her strut around that mic stand and own that entire stage. She’s got a Spice Girls/pop-star sensibility with a voice Adele can’t even touuuccch, even though she played that role in the Company’s recent production of Die Fledermaus. Oh, and she’s also performed with Broken Social Scene and Austra, and opened for Tony Bennett.
In 2013: Want to see a superhero in action? Catch her saving my interest in Canadian opera.
Photo: Courtesy of George Pimentel
The Hype Hole: Uniun/Cube
Cyber stalk: @UNIUNNightclub, @CubeNightclub
Most likely to: Give you a seizure.
Dirrty worthy: In case you didn’t hear, Uniun is Charles Khabouth’s newest club venture, housed in the old Devil’s Martini space. It’s not that I hated it—it’s just that it all feels the same at the end of the day. (See: Cube opening.) Ultimately, I don’t care how one polishes a turd, but that doesn’t mean I don’t give shit a fair chance. Sadly, Uniun might have been my last Khabouth opening ever.
In 2013: Visit the place and prove me right or wrong.
The Biggest Marketing Miss: Smirnoff’s Red Door Party
Cyber stalk: @SmirnoffCanada
Most likely to: Make you look once, not twice.
Dirrty worthy: In the words of Smirnoff’s marketing team: “What do you get when you take over a mansion, add a pillow fight, confetti cannons, LED balls, live graffiti, and invite Zeds Dead and Cazzette to play in your backyard? The most epic house party experience ever, that’s what.” Actually, you get the most heinous marketing experiment, a sign of our flailing times. Kudos to the effort that went into the Red Door Party series, a traveling event that touched down all over Canada to make us all sick with #FOMO. However, when someone spends all their budget renovating a dank frat house into a place to spin Rihanna jams, it forces the largest vodka brand in the world to charge lucky winners $3.50 per drink. (NB: I didn’t pay, but C’MON!) Also, no legendary house party contains hired cops eating pulled pork—sorry! If we could, though, we’d give a very special award to the video-editing team for creating the masterpiece below, because we wish that’s the party we’d actually gone to.
In 2013: Seriously though, try that marshmallow vodka.
The Silent Star: Metro Theatre
Cyber stalk: metrotheatretoronto.com
Most likely to: Give you a new experience.
Dirrty worthy: Metro Theatre, Toronto’s last great adult-film hub for rubs, got a re-brand this year under new ownership. While they continue to go XXX during the day, the Koreatown staple that’s been around since the 1930s has gone back to its roots with indie programming. Plus, they’ve started hosting events, like a Halloween bash and burlesque shows. It’s still got that kitschy, sketchy, run-down vibe, but you can’t say it’s not a truly unique 416 experience that even Bourdain would dig in all his faux-edgy glory. For New Year’s Eve, they’ve got a special treat: Skin Tight Outta Sight, Canada’s longest-running burlesque troupe, will perform.
In 2013: Please don’t close.
Photo: Courtesy of Paul Steward
The Underground Stars: hugsnotdrugs
Cyber stalk: @hugsnotdrugsTO
Most likely to: Show you the world.
Dirrty worthy: Hugsnotdrugs is a DJ trio (plus one MC) that you probably haven’t heard of before, and I still can’t tell if they like it that way or not. In the summer of 2012, they brought the most discreetly anti-Toronto thing out from the underground: an unofficial after-party for the Skrillex Full Flex Express Tour near Fort York—as in, under the Strachan Bridge. The location was announced on Twitter during the show, and it seemed to just pop up magically. I can’t tell the story enough: how this muscle-bound dude lowered everyone into the pit of dirt (and vagrant urine?); how there was a car with a sound system spilling out of the trunk; how there were straight-up lasers ricocheting off everything and everyone; how the cops came and, like, just turned around; how we danced until too late/too early. Hugsnotdrugs operates with a simple philosophy: “morally ethical partying.” Most recently, they played a dubstep show at The Great Hall, and they do stuff like the Strachan jam sporadically. Their mantra: “If you have a warehouse that needs to be lit up with lazers and filled with people then we are the ones to do it!”
In 2013: Cyber stalk and start worshipping.
Most Improved: The Junction
Cyber stalk: @MargretBar, @3030DundasWest, @indiealehouse, @holeinthewallTO
Most likely to: Change your mind about taking the bus.
Dirrty worthy: It’s my firm belief that a community can’t be a community until it has somewhere to communally relax and have fun. This year, the Junction exploded on everyone’s lips, with an influx of worthy day-trip options like Magic Pony-affiliated Narwhal Art Projects’ new gallery space and night fun at 3030, the new brunch/arcade/cafe/live-music venue that brought a fresh vibe to the area. Let’s not forget the one that started it all: Margret Bar, which was recently reno’d, too—in sexy velvet. Since we last visited in August, the budding hood saw the arrival of The Indie Alehouse, a 4,000-square-foot brewpub with 110 seats and 10 taps starting at $5.50 a glass. Very honourable mention goes to Hole In The Wall, a tiny place worthy of its name with the most perfect live music, recently under new ownership this year with a veneer to match.
In 2013: One thought: the Junction Flea.
Photo: Courtesy of Connie Tsang
The Homecoming: Peaches Does TIFF @ The Drake
Cyber stalk: @peachesnisker
Most likely to: Actually entertain you.
Dirrty worthy: 2012 bore witness to several press-dubbed “homecomings” this year: Drake’s OVO Fest, Azari & III at Sonar, The Weeknd’s first formal four-night tour stop, er, Justin Bieber, etc. But no amount of Nicki Minajes could live up to the Toronto return that was Peaches. Feist’s former roommate landed at TIFF for the premiere her new concert documentary, Peaches Does Herself, based on her highly spiritual, highly sexual, highly gender-bending Berlin stage show. She set up camp at The Drake and mounted a building-wide spectacle, performing alongside stars from the film—including full-frontal appearances from a transsexual and a 65-year-old stripper. By the end, she came back to close with a DJ set and sprayed the audience with champagne. A perfect closer to TIFF. Was it all a dream?
In 2013: Find a way to watch Peaches Does Herself. For optimum results, watch not-sober. Here’s the trailer to start:
Photo: Courtesy of Ryan Emberley
The Plastic Surgery Award: Firkin Pubs
Cyber stalk: @FirkinPubs
Most likely to: Make you question whether or not Britain is actually cool anymore.
Dirrty worthy: Earlier this year, the beloved Firkin Group of Pubs—serving our fair city since 1987—threw several of its high-traffic locations under the knife for a complete head-to-toe renovation, an overhauled menu, and a new girl-friendly attitude. The result was polarizing among its clientele: bowler-hat light fixtures, couches clad in the Union Jack and paisley, decidedly less grime. It had attempted to elevate the pub concept to mirror the evolution of Toronto while grasping tightly, maybe pointlessly, to its old charms. It was too… British in an Austin Powers kinda way? I didn’t hate it, though, since all places that serve alcohol look the same to me. Did the chain succeeded in trapping their coveted 25-to-45-year-old FLEs (Fun Loving Extroverts)? You tell me.
In 2013: More Firkin re-brand unveilings! A pub is a pub is a pub.
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