ISSAC DELGADO at Lula Lounge, July 4. Tickets: $55. Attendance: 100. Rating: NNNN
stuck between vietnamese karaoke joints and Portuguese neighbourhood bars on a grim stretch of Dundas West, the sprawling Lula Lounge does not fit into the rest of the Toronto club scene.The new artist-run Latin music club is a massive hall that looks more like a tea house than a bar, with globe lamps hung from the ceiling, a bar down one side and a huge stage discreetly stuck in the back.
Opening a new club in Toronto takes nerve. So does charging $55 a ticket for a show by Cuban timba terror Issac Delgado, but that didn't keep a hundred or so fans from turning up Thursday night. Delgado and his 16-piece band took their time warming up, almost tiptoeing through their high-octane salsa. Maybe they were tired after jamming until dawn the night before with Omara Portuondo's band, which was stuck in Toronto en route to Cuba from Montreal. Regardless, everything changed when Delgado brought up guest vocalist Haila Mompie.
That few in the room had heard of Mompie before was no surprise; turn over a rock in Cuba and you'll stumble across the greatest vocalist no one's heard before. The tiny singer has the elegance of a 40s jazz diva but a voice as strong as a foghorn, and destroyed the dance floor with three full-throttle tunes before a re-energized Delgado snatched the stage back.
By that time, people were dancing out on the street, on tables and in a line up the side of the club. The 30-degree weather aside, the vibe was way more Havana than uptight Toronto.