Techno events are often crapshoots attendance-wise, and the Drake is hardly the kind of place you'd expect to hear bangin' Detroit beats. So it was with a measure of apprehension that we approached the launch of Tempo , the Drake's new monthly techno party. Those doubts turned out to be unfounded, though; the Drake Underground was packed with a pleasingly wide variety of partiers on Saturday night, boogieing down to the sounds of Detroit's Mike Huckaby .
Huckaby's known as a fairly versatile DJ, moving easily from deep house to hard minimal techno within a few songs. On this night he favoured the techno side of the spectrum more than in past Toronto appearances, which makes sense considering the nature of the event.
He's a good DJ who's picking up more of a following with each appearance here, but he sounded looser than usual. Not that he completely flubbed any mixes, but you could hear it coming dangerously close to train-wreck territory a few times before he quickly adjusted the records back in sync. Even so, Huckaby's still tighter than most, and his song selection more than made up for a few shaky moments.
The cold minimalism of the Drake Underground actually suits this vibe, and the sound system handled the material more effectively than you'd expect. It may not have been earth-shakingly loud, but hearing loss is overrated anyway. Good start for some new promoters. It will be interesting to see how these kinds of events mesh with the Drake over the long haul.
The number of people involved in the underground dance music community hasn't been reflected in the amount of music coming out of Toronto, but in the last few years there's been a definite surge in new record labels and in DJs making the shift to production. The newest addition to the list is House League Music , founded by Alvaro Gonzalez and Mike Sitchon , who've both been around long enough to be considered veterans of the local house scene.
Saturday night they threw a good old-fashioned warehouse party in the east end to celebrate the launch of the label and the imminent release of its first single. Joining them on the decks were Steve Yanko and Jason Hodges , who both contributed to the first single, the former as co-producer with Gonzalez and the latter as remixer for the B-side.
Hodges has been steadily building a strong rep as a producer, and is starting to get those highly sought after international gigs, while Yanko just celebrated the launch of his own label, Truffle Recordings , which has already made waves with its well-received first single, produced by himself and Alphonse Lanza .
The party itself was good messy fun, but that's pretty standard for this crew. I hadn't caught Hodges playing for a while, and he did a great job of showing why he gets so much love from the house scene. Tight, stripped-down funky beats, but not just mindless pounding.
Garage amps up
Like much of the Toronto garage and soulful house scene, the Solid Garage guys have scaled back the number and size of events they put on. These days, they're throwing events at Gypsy Co-op , and seem to be feeling comfortable there. Last Saturday was actually only a month after their last, so they're back up to the pace they used to maintain. Caught the tail end of their guests this month, Toronto house veterans Dino & Terry , and it looked like they drew a decent-sized crowd. The renovation at Gypsy has opened the place up a lot more and made it much more dancing-friendly. There's still a weird tension between its dual personalities as a restaurant and small club, but at least now the club side is working better.