Blow Up goes up
Contrary to popular belief, the space above computer store Factorydirect.ca on College near Spadina isn't full of dusty Commodores and 5-inch floppy discs. It's actually home to Swallow Lounge , a newish club that looks like it could be the posh new East Village apartment of the Yeah Yeah Yeah's drummer. The joint is notable cuz on Saturdays it's the new home of Blow Up , the teeth-chatteringly cool mod-rock/oldies/whatever night that used to go down at Lee's Palace, where trend mavens with ironic facial hair, cowboy hats and Parisian striped tops came to judge and be judged. Oh, yeah, and also to dance, preferably after a couple of drinks to numb them to the highly self-conscious vibe.
The clean venue's simple layout, interesting yet benign artwork and MTV2 wall projections make it a better, cozier fit for Blow Up than Lee's, which had more of a high-school-gym-with-the-lights-off vibe.
The club may have changed, but the music's stayed the same. Expect CDs of Motown jams abruptly cross-faded into whatever big indie hit Edge 102 is beating into the ground, and all points in between. At around 1:30 am there were way fewer people here than we'd ever seen at Blow Up at Lee's. But that should all change once word gets out, right?
Sunday night we were finna get crunk on some hiphop, so we explored Queen West in search of some of that ol' boom-bap. First stop was the lush yet snug Fressen , which has comfy chairs, soft red-bulb lighting and a soothing lounge ambience - the kind of spot that would make a good setting for an Erykah Badu video. The crowd's made up of pretty bohemian types, but there's nothing intimidating in the air.
Every Sunday the club hosts something called Red Beet Lounge , where DJs General Eclectic (the best handle we've heard since the 80s), Sircut Breaker and Tarik throw down some of that neo-soul and positive earth-rap shit. On the way in, we heard some Jill Scott, and on the way out, the good General was rocking Slum Village.
Ran into MC Phat Cat chilling outside. He does a hiphop jam called Souled Out every Wednesday with DJs Grouch , Taktiks , P-Plus and Ononymous at Reilly's , the same place where rapper Tara Chase got slobbered on last week (see Vibes feature, page 94).
Halfway down the street, I heard the underground illness of an Aesop Rock instrumental coming from Modesto , an open, stony bar where DJ Steptone was playing. Dude does a weekly thing called Big Chillin' . Go.
At Queen and Bathurst sits an old classic, the Reverb , a big, dingy dance hall with a wicked sound system, often known for hosting good underground nights. Sunday night we pressed through the fog of weed smoke outside and up to the club, where DJ Twist (of Daydreamer and Twist, who do a Tuesday-night jammy at Down One Lounge called Recline Tuesdays ) had the needle on some K-OS. Turns out he was playing between sets. Van City's Sweatshop Union had just gotten offstage, and Kyprios was next. Gotta say, Kyprios does a hype show with a live three-piece band and DJ S-Luv - a fucking scratch virtuoso. Check him out alongside his Rootsesque rap group Pocket Dwellers at their September 24 video release party at the Mod Club Theatre .
As for Kyprios, the man got the 150-strong crowd of heads crunk on his own takes on Jay-Z, Queens of the Stone Age, Salt-N-Pepa, a shit-funny Shawn Desman mockery - and surprisingly, not one racial slur.