Late Saturday night, Therapy Summer Madness drew me to the Palais Royale. Therapy is the brainchild of Montreal-based DJ Jojoflores , who's made impressive inroads in Toronto's deep house scene. This year, however, he's been concentrating more on the Philippines, L.A. and Singapore, doing few high-profile Toronto parties.
Because the flyers hit the street relatively late, the turnout was a little smaller than last year. The crowd was big enough to pack a normal dance club, but not a venue as massive as the Palais.
It was quickly apparent that the Hump (Camel's covert club promotions team) was involved in making the party happen, which seemed odd now that you can't smoke in clubs. But the large outside patio was initially busier than the inside.
E-Man was singing Brooklyn, one of his bigger tracks, when we arrived, finding a half-full room, but the crowd didn't seem to notice. He was also acting as the host and quickly brought out UK soul singer Shaun Escoffery , who played here not long ago. He skipped the obvious hits and sang a couple of newer numbers. Escoffery's a good performer, but in a live context the limitations of his voice become apparent. By now, the main room was filling up, but there was still a missing vibe.
The solution came soon, with a smoking set by powerhouse vocalist Lady Alma . Not only does she have the lungs and control to shine live, but she's also got charisma to spare, and expertly worked the room. Next time she comes to town, make a point of catching her if you like soulful vocal house or if you have any appreciation for gospel singing.
When so many parties are still trying to make it by hiring big-name DJs, it's nice to see a night that succeeds mainly through its residents. Denise Benson and Andrew Allsgood have worked Synchro, their Friday night at Andy Poolhall , into a consistently well-attended and fun party, without big names to draw people in. They've still had guest DJs, but mainly locals and lesser-known out-of-towners.
This time around, they brought out Krista from Montreal, who's generally known for sexy pumping tech house. Synchro's theme, however, is an eclectic anything-goes attitude that she seemed to get off on, dropping vintage funk and oddities along with some house beats.
Allsgood and Benson have really been embracing the guilty pleasures lately, and it's actually quite refreshing to hear "underground" dance music alongside well-known rock and pop songs. It may be a hard time for dance music purists, but for those with an open mind things are looking pretty good.
Fish go swimmingly
Fish Go Deep (aka Greg Dowling and Shane Johnson ) are the longest-lasting DJ duo in dance music and have been bringing house music to Ireland since 1988. While most of the biggest house DJs in the world have played their night at some point, few in Toronto know them. They made their first local appearance last Friday at Surface , but as might be expected, didn't exactly ram the joint.
Due to technical problems, Nick Holder didn't play the front room as scheduled, but this was probably for the best, since it pushed everyone into the back for Fish Go Deep.
They played a tight, versatile house set and made it easy to forget the empty room next door. The crowd wasn't blown away - we're a spoiled house scene - but no one left disappointed either, and word will surely have spread by the next time they cross the ocean.