FEAST IN THE EAST SECOND ANNIVERSARY featuring ABSOLUTELY FREE, FRESH SNOW, OSTRICH TUNING and BLACK WALLS at Polyhaus (388 Carlaw), Friday (May 10), 9 pm, all ages. $7. CB, FB. See listing.
For Toronto musicians and fans, going to a show usually means travelling west of Bathurst.
Two years ago, east-end pals Tad Michalak and Neil Rankin devised a plan to battle that cultural march. They started a music, food and art series called Feast In The East. Now celebrating its second anniversary, the night has proven itself a bona fide excuse to cross the Don Valley.
"We just kept running into people in the west end who live in the east and thinking, ‘Why do we have to be the ones to travel all the way out there?'" says Rankin, who plays in bands like Gay and New Positions and formerly bartended at recently defunct Queen East hub the Avro.
That sentiment is often misinterpreted as an attempt to entice musicians to an east-end scene, but there's a healthy congregation of artists already there - from psych-weirdo Slim Twig and wife Meghan Remy of U.S. Girls to Fucked Up guitarist/Yacht Club singer Ben Cook (see sidebar).
Bradley Davis, who recently moved to Cabbagetown, is quickly picking up the east-end vibe. "A lot of people think the world ends at Yonge Street, but I'm happy to say it doesn't," he says. His band, Fresh Snow, joins a lineup of locals for the anniversary party that includes Absolutely Free, Black Walls and Ostrich Tuning - whose psychedelic drone and groove should go well with the intriguing meal by chef Basil AlZeri: sweet and savoury soft-serve.
"It's more of a bedroom community," explains Rankin, sporting a "Leslie Villains" T-shirt from an earlier rec league baseball game. "A little sleepier, a little quieter, definitely more relaxed."
Michalak, Rankin and their collaborator, visual artist Cameron Lee, program the series as purposeful antidote to the boozy ostentation of Dundas and Ossington, offering a laid-back, unpretentious mix of bands and art that will entertain you for a whole night.
"When people are at ease in a space, they start interacting in a really amazing, positive way," Michalak enthuses. "That's what we want - people to come in and think, ‘I'm home.'"
East-end scene stalwarts
Associated acts U.S. Girls, Tropics, Onakabazien, Zacht Automaat
Neighbourhood South of Greektown, north of Broadview Chinatown
Favourite haunts 388 Carlaw, the Only, Circus Books & Music
"I like the out-of-the-wayness while still being 15 minutes from downtown. I think people living out east are perhaps less driven by their social lives, so the music pockets tend also to be a little less connected."
Associated acts Fucked Up, Yacht Club, Young Guv, Huckleberry Friends, Actual Water
Neighbourhood Broadview and Gerrard
Favourite haunts 388 Carlaw, Rooster Coffee House, Riverdale Park, the Avro (R.I.P.)
"I like being out here, because it's perfectly anti-social when you want it to be. I'm not running into anyone at the local coffee shop, no stop-and-chats on the street. I don't mean to sound like a prick... but when I want to socialize I go downtown and when I work, it's out here. It's also not that expensive, and it's beautiful."
Associated acts Gay, New Positions, White Suede, Foxfire
Favourite haunts 388 Carlaw, Wayla, Curzon, Table 17, Gerrard Art Space
"It's not about ‘I've got to be the biggest fish.' Instead it's like, ‘We're all in the same pond; let's hang out, be a school, bond together, fight the sharks.'"