February update

self-portrait walking in Little Portugal, Toronto

It’s been a busy time in these parts. Working on the short story I mentioned last post, working on a Canada Council grant (because why not), as well as working-working.

My day job has been affected by the economic downturn since about September of last year. September is typically a busier time for therapists — end of summer/vacation, anxiety about returning to school, etc — but for me it was the opposite. And it was more or less that way until January, where it continues to be patchy. This wouldn’t be as much of a problem if it weren’t that I have an office lease and a number of other regular professional expenses. I’m getting by ok enough, but the lack of predictability can be stressful. The thing I also remind myself of is that psychotherapists are typically downstream from whatever’s happening in society, so it’s no surprise the economic crunch that so many are experiencing now should visit my doorstep.

February was…fun? Keeping the momentum going from seeing Quebec band La Sécurité in late January at The Monarch here in town, earlier this month my partner and I hopped on a train to Montreal, where I haven’t been in nearly a decade, in order to see one of my favourite current acts, Sweeping Promises, play at La Sala Rossa (note: they are not Quebecois but hail from Kansas). I was not let down. Super-impressed with their energy and their songs translated to a live venue easily. Strangely, having heard all my adult life about how tame Toronto audiences can be, I was surprised to see the Montreal crowd’s energy was so restrained…and here I was, in my early 50s and one of the more enthusiastic people in the audience. Needless to say, it was great to be in Montreal and I was struck by how little damage the pandemic lockdowns did to their bars, restaurants and live venues. Otherwise, I pushed myself to get out and socialize more this month, which I’m thankful for, even though I’m a little more introverted than others, as it was good to connect with old and new friends.

If I do get some grant money I’d like to see about booking a return to the artist’s retreat run by the Pouch Cove Foundation in Newfoundland. It really is a stunning place. If I have a burning frustration with the airline oligopoly in this country it’s that it’s cheaper for me to fly to Las Vegas (3,619km) or Vancouver (3,359.km) than St. John’s (2,686km), and believe me I would take St. John’s any day over those and many other destinations (okay, only between the months of May and October).


Glenn Branca

I just discovered Glenn Branca. I don’t actually remember how this came about, but it was late last week that I tripped over him, perhaps as part of a randomized Spotify playlist or some post-rock/Minimalist rabbit hole I was chasing. [edit: what’s odd is that I couldn’t have discovered him on Spotify because what I’d first heard was a track from his tremendous early album The Ascension which doesn’t exist on Spotify; a bit of a mystery, I admit.]

It’s like both barrels of a shotgun going off. The first barrel fires and I’m like Whoa — what’s this? And all I want to do is dig further and research and figure out what the deal is with his music. The second barrel fires, and rather than reactive it’s reflective and I suddenly realize that what I’m hearing here, recorded many years earlier, was the essence of the calamitous and shambolic guitar orchestrations I was eagerly intrigued with from the generation of Montreal bands (usually on the Constellation label) I discovered in my 30s, namely Godspeed You Black Emperor, Silver Mt. Zion, and (to a lesser degree) Arcade Fire.

I found myself both thankful to have discovered his music and regretful that I didn’t discover him back in my late teens where for a while I was specifically searching for someone who might elevate the guitar to the heights of symphonic performance. Needless to say I’m mainlining pretty much everything I can listen to.

There’s a very thorough and well-reflected piece on Branca here, and I’m thankful that there are people out there sharing reflections like this.



Help Save Lipstick & Dynamite

Hello everyone,

One of my favourite places in Toronto is facing a major financial challenge. For just over 7 years Lipstick & Dynamite has been a destination on Queen West for artists, locals and especially the queer community (for whom there are less and less safe spaces on Queen West). It’s a dive bar with friendly staff and an aesthetic that makes you wish it was Halloween every day. Unfortunately, due to COVID, they’ve been forced to close since 2020 and now they need to raise money in order to keep their lease (and help their landlord, who has been trying to keep things reasonable, it seems).

A sofa in Lipstick & Dynamite

If you can, please spare some $ for them here (that is their GoFundMe link).


All those whose mind entitles themselves,

And whose main entitle is themselves,
Shall feel the wrath of my bombast!

– Mark E. Smith

Planet Kensington is Closing

Yes, Planet Kensington, the venerable punk/rock venue and cheap drink haven is closing at the end of February.

Rumours are swirling about what the new owners of the space will do, but knowing that gentrification and niche-obsession are the current trends in Kensington Market, my hopes are not optimistic.

As before, I ask people visiting this blog who live in or near Toronto to come down and see the fabulous surf-rock outfit, the Z-Rays, as they play their last Saturday residence gig at this fine, fine establishment on February 17th. They play from 3pm to 6pm. Bring ear-plugs and money for alcohol. It can’t be anything less than boss.

I hereby raise a glass to yet another piece of Toronto’s character chipped away by weasels.

Update: The band is only playing the 17th – there is no show on the 12th as previously noted, due to unforeseen circumstances.

Update #2: Okay, there will be a show tomorrow (the 10th). It will not be the Z-Rays proper, but rather some sort of open jam with two of their members – which could be really fun. In any case, it’s one more chance to enjoy the venue and listen to live music on a Saturday afternoon.

Update #3: Second show added! Aside from tomorrow, there will be two Z-Rays shows to round out the end of Planet Kensington. As mentioned, Saturday the 17th is still on – their second show will be the following Saturday (Feb 24th). The very last day PK is open will be for “Death Metal Brunch” on Sunday the 25th. Yum.