A Day At The Distillery District

A few days ago, I believe it was Saturday the 25th of June (2011) I ventured on a lengthy quest to the mysterious land know to few as “Downtown Toronto, Canada.” There’s an Ontario missing there, but I’ll skip that. Actually, NO, no I don’t think I will. Like many ex-British colonies, Canada does not have STATES, it has PROVINCES. So in the land of Canada, the proper name of a place is “Name of City” COMMA “Name of Province” COMMA “Canada.” Meaning that Toronto would properly be described as Toronto, Ontario (Ontario is the largest province [of 10] in Canada), Canada. That was a little geography lesson there, so you all can have that one. However, I wasn’t in Toronto for a business trip and I certainly wasn’t there because I was being forced to be; this Saturday, I attended the Toronto Jazz festival a 9 day festival held in almost every nook and cranny of Downtown Toronto. I, however, attended the portion of the festival found in the Distillery District; a part of Toronto where all the major brewing companies once held ground, and by “Once” I mean from 1832 to 1988, when the district was designated as a National Historic Site of Canada. Suffice it to say, only a few ACTUAL brewing companies have any land there, and the ones that do are small and usually quite local to Ontario; regardless of this fact, the district has somehow managed to evolve into a MAJOR artist district.

Now, I know that it seems like this is nothing but a geography and history lesson (or WORSE, a travelog), and for the most part? It is. For example did anyone know that the Mill St. Brewery is found in the Distillery District? See, I didn’t even know that! Though that’s not entirely fair, now is it? Let’s start from the very beginning of the day; the very beginning of the journey. As always, the journey starts by moving forward and getting to the place that one must to BEGIN their journey the location of which, people, I took the bus to downtown. Though not just ANY bus; I took a TTC bus. Most days out of 7, the Toronto Transit Commission runs on a fairly decent and accurate schedule. If you want to get somewhere, you pay a single TTC token or 2-3 dollars (depending on your age group and how often you plan on riding).

That’s not too difficult to figure out, but what becomes REALLY troublesome is when the TTC decides that it’s a good time to go on strike, and the WORST part is that you don’t know when it’ll happen. All you know is that it WILL happen; maybe today, maybe tomorrow, maybe next week, but it WILL happen. See, I have the bad luck of having to go downtown WHENEVER the TTC goes on strike, meaning that whenever I go to Toronto, I’m always part of the lucky few tourists who have to endure the strike, and trust me when I say that the TTC KNOWS how to go on strike. Luckily though, this time the trip was safe and easy. The kind people at the TTC decided NOT to bargain for safer conditions and higher wages, and the kind people of Toronto decided NOT to do anything that would force the conductors, drivers, and workers of the TTC to go on strike and ruin my trip!

The subway was running on time and didn’t require maintenance; the buses ran on time and the drivers were neither disgruntled nor disheartened; the streetcars were quick and easy to use, and MOST importantly, the conductors were happy. Fast forward about an hour or so, because it takes a while to get to the Distillery District via TTC, and I’m there and staring in the face of artistic beauty. See, the thing that I love about the distillery district is the fact that (and if you were reading the twitter posts while I was there, you’d know this) almost EVERY SINGLE SIGN or piece of public structure has text that is (say it with me) SANS SERIF. Meaning that as soon as I stepped foot on the brick lane roads, I was greeted with BEAUTIFUL typography, all of which lacked any reference to Roman Architecture (that’s a comment on typography, not the Roman empire), which is (for all intents and purposes) FANTASTIC. Though I am focusing far too much on the typography of the district; thanks to some sort of universal irony, the Distillery District is actually one of Toronto’s largest artist districts. What does that mean? It means that almost every SINGLE road leads to a gallery, or a studio, or a lounge, or a parlour, where SOMEONE is playing music, singing, painting, sculpting, writing, drawing, or sewing their next masterpiece.

Speaking of masterpieces, I should point out that while I was exploring the creative outlets of many an artist, the prominent focus of the trip was, in fact, the Jazz festival itself. Unluckily, I managed to miss the earlier shows at 3, but I was able to catch the 6 o’clock show by a French (see: from France) groups called Les Droits En Hommes, with a style that is predominantly French and Gypsie (French is called Freedom jazz for some reason; go figure, am I right?) with punk and rock mixes. That pretty much means that at any given moment, they could play a jazz beat and throw in some Green Day just because they feel like it. Which they did; American Idiot on double bass sounds just as awesome as one would think it does!

Though, I am getting a little ahead of myself in the critiquing portion. You see, I’ve a theory that jazz cannot be critiqued, it can only be listened and experienced; that might be because I’m too lazy to critique it, but it’s also because jazz is nothing more than an umbrella term for HUNDREDS upon THOUSANDS of musical styles that all feature a “Swing” beat. Therefore, claiming the ability to critique jazz is like claiming the ability to critique singular grains of sand in a beach; it’s EXTREMELY time consuming and ever so pointless. Jazz, much like sand should be enjoyed and listened to and, frankly, so long as there’s a bass instrument, ANYTHING can become jazz.

That being said, the group was FANTASTIC and if you’re ever in a location where they might be playing, I say go and listen to them. Just be wary that their ballads ARE a little dry and emotionless, though suffice it to say they’re playing skills can go nowhere but up. Now, I suppose I could continue on with the details of the day, but apart from the Distillery District, no other part of the festival was really intriguing. The remaining acts for the day were good, don’t get me wrong, but there was something about them just didn’t compare to those in the district, and while they were good, they DEFINITELY weren’t great. Though, who knows? I could be incredibly wrong and due to me not critiquing jazz properly, I could’ve been listening to some of the BEST jazz on the planet and I wouldn’t know. Then again, they weren’t playing American Idiot on a double bass!

As always, this has been your Admin, comment, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-EK

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