Solid supports locals
Got in the door at Surface just before last call Saturday night for the Solid Garage Deep party, and looked over to see Dale Arsenault behind the turntables rocking some raw but soulful house beats to a half-empty room. It was one of those up-and-down nights when the room would fill up for a bit, empty out and then fill up again with a new batch of people. Sure enough, a few songs into John Kumahara 's set, the room started getting crowded again.
Kumahara's new label, Iwanai Music, has just released its second 12-inch, its first vocal track. Featuring Gemma Records producer Martino and vocals by Syreeta Neal, Cultured Girl is a deep jazzy number with a bouncy, driving bass line.
Since the Solid Garage guys stopped bringing in out-of-town headliners for their parties, they've had a hard time getting their crowd to make their parties a final destination. That's a shame - all their local guests are great deep house DJs. Kudos to them for trying to shine some of the spotlight back at Toronto.
Decided to take a stroll on the College strip last Friday night. Stopped in first at Liquids Lounge , which changed owners a little over a year ago. The name's the same, but the small club's been redesigned into something more upscale-looking, streamlined and modern. The vibe is a little cold, though. While decent mellow soulful music gets played, the sound system is even more inadequate than it was - way too tinny-sounding and a bit distorted.
Down the street, Lounge 88 was at capacity. The doorman took names and sent people to the pub upstairs to wait (owned, of course, by the same people). The interval wasn't too long, and it was amusing to notice that more than half the people upstairs were waiting to get downstairs.
Downstairs, the vibe is more luxurious than the sports bar atmosphere upstairs, but it's still essentially a place to drink and talk. The DJ played old funk and disco records, mainly the more recognizable hits, for a well-behaved and friendly crowd. Not terribly exciting, but a decent spot to lounge around with friends.
The smell of garlic and the sound of roots reggae pulled us into John's Italian Pizza , where the manager told us about a weekly roots reggae soundclash on Thursdays named Pizzamaker vs Manager . Kind of a weird concept for a night, but they serve beer, so it's almost like going to a bar. At least it's a change from the chi-chi joints filling up most of the strip.
Finished the night at the charmingly down-to-earth Cloak & Dagger , still one of the best bets on the strip for off-the-beaten-path DJ nights and a warm and mellow pub atmosphere with a total absence of pretentiousness.