Canadian Music Week venues, as remembered by the artists who played them
From the Cameron House to the Embassy, CMW artists recall important Toronto venues
All across Toronto local bars, clubs and taverns are celebrating Canadian Music Week with live musical performances.
These gigs can help launch an artist's career.
With that in mind, we asked four local musicians about the local venues that played a role in shaping the artists they are today.
Not My Dog - 1510 Queen St. W. : Mexican-born musician Quique Escamilla discovered this cozy bar just a few days after landing in Toronto. Lost in Parkdale, he saw a sign for Open Mic Night. That performance turned into a gig and a number of friendships with other performers. "The magic of a small place is that you don't have to try to hard to fill it up. It also creates a good vibe between people. That's the magic of having everybody a little too close. It makes it easier for people to connect."
The Cameron House (408 Queen St. W.) Back in the late 1980s, the Cameron hosted up-and-coming musicians the first Saturday of every month. "A lot of people broke their teeth here. I can't say cut their teeth here," says Shakura S'Aida. "They broke their teeth there. Because the Cameron was all about drinking, singing, playing, hanging out, really being non-competitive. ... You got to talk to the musicians one-on-one and really discover who you might want to be in a year or two of five. And really start honing your craft in a way that I don't know was possible at any other place at that time." (Shakura S'Aida performs Thursday May 8 at El Mocambo Tavern.)
Supermarket (268 Augusta Ave.) When Kae Sun first came to Toronto, he did a residency at Supermarket in Kensington. Immediately, he was struck by the neighbourhood — which reminded him of his home town in Ghana. Despite having heard that Toronto audiences can be cold, his shows got a warm reception. "That reaction encouraged me and I thought, maybe I do have a place in this city and I can just jump in."
The Embassy Bar (223 Augusta Ave.) Before she went solo, Maylee Todd performed a monthly residency at The Embassy as a member of Henri Fabergé and the Adorables. "The idea of the band was to play instruments that you don't actually play. So we sounded terrible." But, says Todd, it was a safe space that allowed her to test the waters, and eventually have her first solo gig. (Maylee Todd performs Thursday May 8 at The Horseshoe.)
Saidah Baba Talibah
The Big Bop (defunct) Saidah Baba Talibah chose a number of defunct clubs on Queen West, including Reverb, Big Bop and Holy Joe's. The daughter of famed blues singer and actress Salome Bey, she grew up watching her mom perform on Queen West. Years later, she was the one at the mic. Baba Talibah credits those experiences with helping her learn the value of authenticity on stage. "There's something about being a rock star — a real rock star. Not just playing really cool music, but being the music you're playing. From watching my mother to being here in this place, that's what I learned. To be the music. To be authentic." (Saidah Baba Talibah performs Thursday, May 8th at the Garrison.)
Canadian Music Week 2014 runs May 6-10, 2014.