Tag Archives: toronto
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.
I know it’s been a while. That’s because life has been absolutely insane these past few months. Lot of things have happened, mostly good – but of course, some incredibly bad.
Part of me has wanted to put the blog on complete hold until I can finish the never ending redesign (which is why I have been silent here for a while) but when someone like Trump is elected president, and then we find out Leonard Cohen died, it feels wrong to stay silent. This has always been where I come to vent, and today will be no different.
Obviously, I am not an American, but the reality is, Americans are our neighbours, and they’re also our brothers and sisters. They are not that different from us, despite how much we might protest otherwise and lay claim to superiority since we have Trudeau – a feminist – while they have Trump, a man who campaigned on pure hatred and vitriol toward everyone but white men.
A world under Trump is terrifying. Not because Trump is terrifying (he’s just a clown, nothing more than a power hungry entertainer with a great marketing team) but because if he is impeached (a likely possibility) an even worse monster – Pence – becomes President of the most powerful country in the world. I’d like to believe Trump isn’t nearly as racist or sexist or xenophobic as he campaigned himself to be, he just knew it would work on the people who are.
That said, in the face of the rampant increase in racism and sexism being displayed in full force since his win, it is up to us to do the right thing and protect the people who are now free targets to a once mostly silent majority of the population. Speak up if you see someone saying something hateful. Stand with the person being targeted. Being a bystander is never okay.
As Canadians, we also have a responsibility to not fall into the trap that has taken hold in France, England and America – the nationalist trap that fears the other. This is how devastating wars begin. This is why the violent tragedies that have happened recently have happened at all. Being afraid of refugees moving here is what convinces those vulnerable people to believe the rhetoric of dangerous groups and sign up for their ranks. With every nationalist win like Trump and Brexit, they only get stronger. Aaron Sorkin wrote that ISIS is having a party after Trump’s win, and that’s what strikes me the most about this whole nightmare. By being afraid and filled with hate, you are only making them stronger. This isn’t a solution to the problem, this is how you increase its power over you.
When America had Bush, we followed with Harper. Once they had Obama, we followed with Trudeau. We tend to follow their political ping pong party game pretty closely, and I hope and pray that this doesn’t happen again with our next election in three years. We cannot buy into this world of fear and hate. It only puts us at risk. When you hear a certain Conservative woman on the news spouting about Trump and how she hopes to follow in his footsteps here, tune that shit out. Turn the channel. Don’t write about her. Don’t give her press time. Please don’t validate any Canadians who campaign on hate, like the American media did by giving Trump non-stop press just because it was good for ratings.
We like to believe we are less racist and sexist here, but as we found out last Tuesday night, the silent majority might just be silent until it comes time to vote. Don’t take that for granted. Try your best to educate anyone around you who seems to support the Trump win. Do it without anger (if you can, I know this is incredibly hard for me). People only understand life through their own eyes, their own experiences, and that means your suburban relatives can’t always relate to your point of view. They haven’t experienced the diversity we embrace in cities like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. They only see the issues that affect them personally, and that is how they vote. Educating the people in your life about what it means to care for your neighbour is key. Educating them about what all this fear mongering nationalism does to strengthen terrorist groups is key. It might not work – people are inherently stubborn and self-interested, but you have to at least try.
In other news, I recently went to NYC for the first time in a DECADE! And it was as incredible as I remembered it to be. There was a time when I wanted nothing more than to leave Toronto for New York, and I think I had to stop visiting in order to truly embrace my city. Now that I adore Toronto and it has developed into an incredible place, I can resume my just as intense love for New York.
I went down there for a writing conference run by and for women, where I learned a ton. Screenwriting has been the most recent passion of mine, and I was able to attend a seminar led by Jenny Lumet, who wrote a film I truly love, Rachel Getting Married. I also got to wander around the MOMA, see the spot where Paul’s Boutique used to be, stay in Brooklyn, get drenched by a full day of rain, live on about 4 hours of sleep a night, eat the finest pizza $3 will ever buy you, tour Greenwich Village to indulge my Bob Dylan love, get lost on the vast subway system, meet a bunch of incredibly talented women writers, attend live tapings of The View and Dr Oz (because all the shows I wanted to see… Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, Trevor Noah, Steven Colbert, SNL were sold out) and visit the 9/11 memorial. It was an incredibly packed 4 days.
Before that, I fulfilled one of my biggest music industry dreams – I was a Grand Juror for the Polaris Prize 2016 – which as you know by now went to Kaytranada’s 99.9% – a truly fantastic album that I never would have given a fair listen to were it not for the privilege of being on this incredible jury. It wasn’t the album that I was there to fight for (that would be Black Mountain’s fantastic IV) but I understand exactly why it won and I stand behind the choice.
One more great thing, I checked another big career goal off the list by having my first byline in Marie Claire (about a 90s film I love, The Craft), a publication I’ve always wanted to write for. Yes, my writing here has been sparse because I have an entirely new vision for this blog that has me stockpiling material, but also because I’ve been focused on freelance writing full-time, which is a non-stop hustle. With that point, I should make it clear that TTRO is not over, it is just on a semi-hiatus until I can turn it into something that represents me in my 30s instead of this old version of me in my 20s. I feel like when I post here I’m walking around in an old outfit that just looks silly on me now, so I’ve been holding back. But soon! An early 2017 launch is the goal, and things around here will be a lot more consistent (and hopefully very useful for you) come that time.
One last thing – by some strange and awesome twist of fate – after 7 years on Twitter I was finally able to get my name out from under someone sitting on the handle – so @lisa_TTRO is no longer. Now you can tweet me @lisalagace, which is the same as my Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and Periscope names. Yay for consistency!
And finally, let me just say, one last time for the record, RIP Leonard. When I watched you perform live in 2009 it was one of those rare musical moments where I knew I was witnessing pure genius, a poet who understood our pain for us, made it somehow more tolerable.
“And even though it all went wrong, I’ll stand before the Lord Of Song, with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah.”
Cider has easily become the drink of choice in Toronto, replacing our obsession with craft beer – and I for one am not complaining. The Toronto Cider Festival is back for its second year at Dundas Square, and if you love cider as much as I do, you should probably be there on August 27th.
Thanks to the lovely team running this much needed event, I have a pair of tickets to giveaway to the daytime slot, happening from 11:30am until 4pm.
There are also tickets available for purchase to the evening slot from 5pm until 10:30pm. For $30 you get a commemorative mug, 4 sample tickets, live music and entertainment, a photo booth, games, food trucks, a flair cider cocktail competition, and access to 20+ of the best ciders available.
To win a pair of tickets to the daytime session, email me at email@example.com with the subject “Cider Fest.”
Those who subscribe to the upcoming newsletter get a bonus entry, so be sure to mention if you are subscribed in your email. Sharing this post also gets you a bonus entry.
The winner will be contacted via email on August 24th!
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.