Sunday, July 29, 2007

April 2007 - Scooter Commuter

© April 2007 - Scooter Commuter By Bryen Dunn, Toronto,

Thinking of a different environmentally way to travel around the urban landscape? Do you find biking too risky, too dirty or too strenuous? Can’t afford to fill the gas tank on your vehicle these days? Perhaps it’s time to consider a scooter, one of the hottest emerging trends in these days of global warming. They are easy to maneuver within the city gridlock, you can travel great distances at minimal cost, and you look cool!

Founded in 1946, the Vespa brand has been recognized around the world as an icon of Italian design and style. With the 2007 launch of the LXV and GT60, Vespa continues to combine the elegance of classic design and vintage style with modern technical underpinnings.

The Vespa LXV was developed on the base of the 2005 Vespa LX series, which was conceived as a tribute to the 1960s—a decade that witnessed a social and cultural revolution marked by the emergence of youth, for whom the Vespa symbolized individual mobility and freedom.

Vespa’s GT60 is a celebration of the 60th anniversary of the world’s most famous scooter. Sophisticated materials and customized elements have resulted in a unique limited-edition product that will surely be a landmark in Vespa history. Only 999 bikes were produced worldwide -- the most limited edition Vespa ever manufactured --- and Canada was allocated 50 units. Each GT60 is individually numbered and comes with a gift pack with Vespa memorabilia celebrating the 60th anniversary. This vehicle evokes the romantic, timeless appeal of Vespa by re-interpreting some of the typical design and technical elements of vintage Vespas of the 1940s and 50s.

2007 also marks the launch of Piaggio’s three-wheeled scooter, the MP3, the first of its kind. The two front wheels of this innovative three-wheeler redefine the very concept of ride stability, providing an unprecedented riding experience. The funky design and greater stability will appeal to both men and women. The three-wheeler will be available at authorized Vespa dealers beginning April 2007.

Drivers require a mini-version of the full fledged motorcycle license. A short written test followed by a road test, and you’re on your way to having fun, saving money and helping us all breathe a little easier.

The Toronto-based Canadian Scooter Corp. is the exclusive importer and distributor of new Vespa and Piaggio motor scooters in Canada. For more information visit

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March 2007 - Cinefranco Celebrates 10 Years

© March 2007 - 10th annual Cinefranco Film Festival Review
By Bryen Dunn, Toronto,

The 10th annual Cinefranco Film Festival takes place in Toronto from March 23 to April 1 at the newly renovated Royal Cinema on College Street. The Festival is a celebration of French language cinema, and features 45 films from twelve different countries around the world.

French Canada contributes with the Opening Night film by Quebecois director Louis Bélanger’s newest Le Génie du crime, based on the play by George F Walker, followed by his earlier Post Mortem, a delicately sculpted love story with chilling plot twists. Roméo et Juliette from Quebecois director Yves Desgagnés is a contemporary twist on the romantic classic, and Patrick Hébert, a talented emerging Quebecois filmmaker debuts at Cinéfranco with Cercles vicieux.

Films from Lebanon (Dunia and Quand Maryam s’est devoilée) were selected for their strong female perspectives. From Morocco comes a film about hope and harmony, La Symphonie marocaine, and also Marock offers a surprising view of 90’s Casablanca youth.

France remains at the heart of Cinéfranco with its exciting line-up of rising talented filmmakers like Emmanuel Mouret (Changement d’adresse), grand auteurs Luc Besson (Angel-A) and Claude Chabrol (L’Ivresse du pouvoir), and celebrated filmmakers like Anne Fontaine (Nouvelle Chance) and Tony Gatlif (Transylvania). Paris is the star of many of Cinéfranco’s films including Luc Besson’s stunningly beautiful Closing Night film Angel – A and Fauteuils d’orchestre, which captures the atmosphere of an artists quarter in Paris while J’invente rien takes place in Menilmontant in the XXth arrondissement, the birthplace of Edith Piaf and a neighborhood with its own very specific Parisien accent and characteristics.

Cinéfranco pays special tribute to the “Great Lord of French cinema” Jean-Philippe Noiret, who passed away in 2006. Zazie dans le métro, the classic by François Truffaut was Noiret’s second film and Edy, a new classic by Stephen Guérin-Tillé co-starring François Berléand was one of Noiret’s last films.

To celebrate its 10th Anniversary, Cinéfranco is presenting a special program for youth, with five films specifically aimed at middle school and high school students that will screen each weekday at noon. “In 10 years Cinéfranco’s audience has increased more than ten fold”, said Executive Director Marcelle Lean. “From a modest beginning, Toronto audiences have embraced Cinéfranco, which has become a highly anticipated yearly event on Toronto’s vibrant cultural calendar.”

March 23 - April 1, Royal Cinema, 608 College Street, Tickets $3.00 to $10.00
Box Office – Manulife Centre, 55 Bloor St W, 416-967-1528

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March 2007 - CMW Indie Awards

© March 2007 - CMW Indie Awards - By Bryen Dunn, Toronto,

What’s up with CMW? They are on the right track with over 500 bands playing twenty various venues in Toronto over a 3-day period. That’s the good part. Getting this many performers involved must be a logistical nightmare for the troops to put together. So, congrats to the “Group of Seven” who are on the payroll with CMW.

Last year, I gripped about a few issues that fell through the cracks. There was the fiasco at Social where many bands were left holding their drumsticks in the streets due to some mismanagement of venue selection. Then there was the most difficult website ever to navigate through. Well, the weekend is just beginning so there may be booking dramas yet to come, but let’s hope not.

The website looks the same as last year with just a different line up. It’s still difficult to navigate, and there’s not enough information provided for the general public to figure out where to go or who they want to see. Even trying to locate band information or a proper schedule is no where to be found. Once you find the dropdown for the band listing, there are the names and website references. It would be helpful to have a one-liner describing the genre of music (alternative, country, jazz, etc) so that you would know if you wanted to link to their site to find out more. Clicking into 500 band websites could be fun, but you’d likely miss the Festival by the time you got to the Z’s.

Also, putting a proper schedule searchable by band, venue, date, and other variables would make it more user-friendly. How about some song samples, contests, email sign up list, fan forums, and more interactive methods for people to connect with others online. The conferences and celebrity chats are great, for those that can get out of bed early enough to go sit in a stuffy hotel conference room, still hung over from the night before. Everyone realizes events can’t go on without sponsorships, but can we not just have them listed in a drop down similar to the bands who are what this event is suppose to be about anyway. Finally, do we really need pictures of a dozen suits and their bios? Again, band pix and bios would be much more needed and appreciated. Cut the corporate bullshit, and have some fun.

Last year I bashed the Indie Awards for not recognizing enough of the unsigned artists, which “indie” is supposedly meant to be. This year wasn’t much different with homegrown names such as MSTRKRFT, The Sadies, The Trews, Cadence Weapon and Tokyo Police Club hauling out the awards. The show itself is quite laughable, given it is now in its seventh year. The Docks has a great layout with a few different VIP sections set up throughout, but the sound techs really need to pay attention to what’s going on up on the stage. There were times when the lead vocals were being swallowed up by the amplified instruments. The use of monitors and speakers throughout is a great bonus.

Who decided Jully Black would be a good MC should be worried for their job right now. She seemed to have her own agenda for the evening, and that was to promote Jully Black. She fumbled and blundered throughout the performance, going off on tangents and lazily slouching over the podium. Then as Wolf Mother finished their performance, Ms. Black hauled her ass back on the stage to thank everyone for coming, blah blah blah. Then after a few shouts from the crowd reminding her The Stills were yet to headline, she slurs oh wait, the show isn’t over yet, come back. Regardless, her recovery was horrible, and an insult to everyone involved with the show, especially The Stills who had to come back after 75% of the crowd left. Black meandered off the stage asking the crowd to remember to check out www.jully ….yeah whatever - Black never to be back.

There was then a good 20 minute needless lull in time as we waited for The Stills to sound check, finish their drinks, or whatever other reason for the unnecessary delay. The music between was anything but indie and upbeat to keep the interest of the crowd. It was a combination of 70’s pop and Gnarls Barkley craziness. Hey CMW, get a DJ next year.

As one CMW associate told me, “Things are changing as we bring in the young blood.” It’s about time. Let’s see if things change for 2008.

Not to be entirely bitter, I say grab a wristband, get off your ass and see some of the best new music being produced in Canada and abroad. Get out as early as 8pm and stay out until as late as 4am, with a band an hour. Grab a pen and a program and start planning.
If you really need to, check the CMW website for details as well -

Hot Picks


Musebox Showcase @ Silver Dollar - with Autodrone

Canteen Knockout @ Global Village

Australia Showcase @ Tranzac - with The Gear


Public Enemy @ The Docks

Pop Levi @ Lee's Palace

Live Tour Artists @ Rivoli


Denmark Spotlight @ Silver Dollar - with Vincent Van Go Go

Viletones and Hell Yeah Fuck Yeah @ Bovine

Paper Bag Records Showcase - Whippersnap Gallery - with Uncut, You Say Party.

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January 2007 - Jesus Camp

© January 2007 - Jesus Camp Film Review - By Bryen Dunn, Toronto,

Jesus Camp is one of those documentary pieces that make you shake your head in disbelief as you gain an in depth look into a world unbeknownst to many. It’s a left handed look at the right-winged indoctrination of children by the Evangelical Church. There’s a growing movement by Christian revivalists to capture the youth and train them on the teachings of the Lord, in hopes of recapturing the roots of religion in the United States. Right wing fundamentalists believe it’s time to stop the world destruction happening at the hands of their President, by promoting a positive Christian course of action. Bush is actually idolized by the preachers, thereby questioning the integrity of mixing religion and politics.

Concerned parents round up their children and send them off to Pastor Becky Fischer's Kids on Fire summer camp in Devil's Lake, North Dakota, where they are taught to become dedicated Christian soldiers in 'God's army'. These children are being taught the good of the Lord everyday, some even being home-schooled to ensure less chance of encountering the evil of the real world. They see the world through a different set of eyes, and several are leaders in their own right, some as young as 10 years old. From dancing to Christian metal music to handing out literature on the street, this ‘army’ is on the move.

It’s not so much a leftist view of the whole situation, but more of an awakening as to how some people feel our society has deteriorated severely over the past couple of decades. Whatever side you take, you must admit something needs fixing out there. As the Pastor remarks, “Other societies teach their children how to use guns at an early age, we are teaching our children about the good aspects of society as presented by God.” It’s a compelling and thought provoking film.

Mongrel Media releases Jesus Camp on DVD January 30th. Most chains will have the film available for rent and the SRP is $34.95. Special features include a Directors Commentary and an elaborate collection of deleted scenes. It is one of fifteen documentaries currently short listed for a 2007 Academy Award nomination.

Jesus Camp, 85 Minutes, USA 2006, Directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady
Rating – 4 Stars

Jesus Camp, www.jesuscampthemovie.comMongrel Media,

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November 2006 - FUCK Film Review

© November 2006 - FUCK Review By Bryen Dunn, Toronto

Directed by Steve AndersonStarring: Everyone except/including your mother93 minutes. Opens December 1, 2006 (Limited Release)**1/2 stars out of fiveWTF?

As 2006 comes to a close, we once again push the liberal boundaries of American culture with the release of Fuck – “A film that dare not speak its name”.

Cameos are full on with Sam Donaldson, Alanis Morrisette, and the late Hunter S. Thompson praising the FUCK word, while Pat Boone does his dirty talk without the necessity of vulgar influences. He prefers to “Boone all night long.”FUCK explores how this oft-used word, still widely seen as obscene, somehow permeates every aspect of our culture - from Hollywood, to the schoolyard, to the Senate floor in Washington D.C., where it is at the very center of the ongoing debate on Free Speech.

It’s part historical, part pop-culture, part animation. It somehow permeates every aspect of our culture - from Hollywood, to the schoolyard, to the Senate floors, where it is at the very centre of the ongoing debate on Free Speech. Sex trade workers and talk-jocks also have their say, as porn king Ron Jeremy and loudmouth Howard Stern make a living FUCKing with societal values.

FUCK first appeared in print around 1475 and has been associated with many inaccuracies - FUCK – Fornicate Under the Command/Consent of the King – is just one of the many acronyms not validated with any truth. From 60’s social change movements to today’s hip hop culture, the film explores all avenues of use.George Carlin’s “Filthy Words” and “Seven Dirty Words” skits are pitted up against the Federal Communications Commission and the Parents Television Council to wage who will be the victor of the FUCK war.

The word FUCK is used 800+ times throughout, averaging 8.88 FUCK’s a minute.After all said and done, do you really give a FUCK?Opens in Toronto on Friday December 1st - Exclusively at the Bloor Cinema - 506 Bloor Street West.

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November 2006 - Rendezvous With Madness Film Festival (Toronto)

© November 2006 - Rendezvous With Madness Film Festival (Toronto)

By Bryen Dunn, Toronto

The Rendezvous with Madness Film Festival has been around since 1993, and I believe I’ve attended the last 10 years. It’s an excellent opportunity to see several feature length films, shorts and documentaries from around the world that can’t be seen anywhere else in the city. Each presentation touches on the truths and fallacies of mental illness and addictions. The other plus is seeing these gems in the beautiful Workman Theatre, discreetly hidden within the confines of the Queen Street Mental Health Centre.

The Film Festival is actually part of the Workman Arts, a project guided by the principle that the creative process is integral to the quest for personal and spiritual development. This year the Festival presents 80 films from 10 countries, many with post-screening panel discussions involve filmmakers, artists and people with professional and personal experience with mental illness and addiction.

2006 also brings some celebrity names to the forefront, including the November 9th opening gala presentation of Pretty Broken, Canadian chanteuse Chantal Kreviazuk’s first screenplay. In a powerful meditation on mental illness, Kreviazuk delivers a convincing monologue, bravely inhabiting the role of a woman living with a mood disorder.

On Saturday November 18th there is a Guy Maddin retrospective. This Winnepeg born filmmaker has been creating unusual pieces of work for over 20 years. Here’s a chance to catch most of his work all in one day, beginning with an early afternoon screening at MOCCA (952 Queen Street West), followed by late afternoon and evening closing gala presentations. The fun then continues back at MOCCA for the closing night party.

Be sure to check the schedule for show times as some films will only be shown once, whereas others will have repeat showings.

Tickets are only $8.00.Happening November 9th to 18th, with most screenings at the Workman Theatre, 1001 Queen Street West, 416 583 4606,

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September 2006 - Virgin Festival (Toronto)

© September 2006 - Virgin Festival (Toronto) By Bryen Dunn, Toronto

So the inaugural Canadian debut of this UK Fest has come and gone, but not without some newborn hiccups. The first disappointment came less than one week prior to the event, with the announcement that the most anticipated act on the bill, Massive Attack, would not be closing the Festival as they were not able to get their travel visas sorted in time.

This proved to be a big disappointment to many fans, but promoters did their best to make up for this unforeseen last minute glitch, and plopped in local favourites, Broken Social Scene. Not a very good position to fill, but I personally overheard several fans anticipating the BSS set, amid the masses that were heading to the ferry after The Raconteurs performance. It was quite entertaining catching this new “super-group”, featuring Jack White (Stripes) on vocals. Their rendition of Nancy Sinatra’s Bang, Bang was astounding to hear with the original vocals intact.

The Strokes offered a typical indie-New York-we’re so cool performance that seemed to please those who were there to catch this where-are-they-now combo.The second disappointment came unexpectedly, this time affecting first day headliners, the Flaming Lips. Seems the early morning rains delayed the start of performances earlier in the day, which resulted in an unbelievably shortened set by the Lips, further hampered by the 11PM city noise bylaws in effect.

Both the band and the fans were quite upset with this, especially after hanging around all day in anticipation. Despite the limited time, the crowd was treated to one of the most beautiful, bizarre concert experiences as lead man Wayne Coyne arrived on stage in a large bubble and proceeded to roll out atop the masses in the field, gently prodded along by thousands of loving hands. Balloons, confetti, aliens and Santa Clauses also created to this magical wonderment.

Gnarls Barkley and his band were good and all, but perhaps his lengthy set could have been shortened a tad in consideration of his fellow performers.Toronto Islands are a great location for an outdoor music festival, and having a main stage and side stage makes sense, but a closer proximity would have helped create a more intimate vibe – but then again that filler space between stages was sparkled by all those high end corporations that most everyone scurried by without a glance.

In keeping with the spirit of music, there was a DJ tent set up just outside the main stage area that offered an array of local and international DJ names to keep the beat pumping all day and all night - 'many artists collaborate -- one spirit released' goes the motto.

The tent action was presented as part of B-Live, as in Bacardi. Yet another alcohol inducer getting involved with the music industry, this time with an online internet/mobile phone site and event sponsorships.

This was their first big scale production in Toronto and hopefully not their last -

Gripes: Why is it that Ontario still forces beer consumers to be caged in the farthest distance possible from the stage? Is this a form of punishment for drinking and supporting events financially? On a plus note, the transportation to and from the island went well.

Kudo’s to Virgin for raising funds for their charitable arm, Unite, focused on helping fight the Big 3 – Malaria, TB, and HIV/AIDS –

Statistics: The 2-day annual UK Festival averages 130,000 in attendance, while Toronto’s first attempt brought in around 50,000 – more than the UK’s first event.

As a first attempt, I’d give them one thumb up in hopes that experience will prove beneficial and make this an annual event to look forward to.

Concert Update: As previously promised by Emerge Entertainment, Massive Attack has been rescheduled for October 6th at the Carlu in Toronto. - -

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August 2006 - Time to Deliver - Toronto AIDS Conference

© August 2006 - Toronto AIDS Conference By Bryen Dunn, Toronto

The streets of Toronto are abuzz this week with thousands of delegates and media types converging for the 16th annual International AIDS conference.

The slogan “Time to Deliver” is being used to bring forth the fact that this disease has now been with us for some 25 years, and still most levels of government in many of the advanced western nations are providing little assistance with the research for a cure.

Statistics are indicating that numbers are on a fast incline and hundreds of thousands are being affected every year. In fact, Governor General Michaëlle Jean was quoted at the opening ceremonies stating, “Last year more people died of AIDS than the total population in Toronto.” It was relevant statement to make, putting things in perspective to the average individual with not much understanding of the scope of the worldwide epidemic.

AIDS is finally being recognized as a disease not just associated with the gay men and drug user demons of the world. In fact, the highest increase of infections is now being seen in straight women and aboriginals.

Also in attendance at the star-studded opening ceremonies were various members of parliament, including David Miller and Dalton McGuinty. However, missing in action was our newly elected Prime Minister Stephen Harper. This did not go unnoticed by anyone in attendance, and in fact there was a very strong vocal bashing, and shouts of “Shame” could be heard throughout the Skydome (Rogers Centre).

There were some VIP’s from the United States that journeyed north of the border as well, including former President Bill Clinton, and mega-moneyman Bill Gates and wife, who recently donated half a billion dollars toward international research efforts.

The opening ceremony was followed by a contingent of musicians who gave up 10 minutes of their busy schedules to do a song or two for the visiting throngs and to the locals who bought their tickets through Ticketmaster, who again showed their greed by not waiving or donating the service fees to a worthy cause.

Performances by the Bare Naked Ladies, Our Lady Peace, Alicia Keys and more played to the enthusiastic crowd. Then again, if you’re a researcher or media member covering a subject as depressing as the AIDS epidemic, I’m certain there’s a need for a release outlet once in a while.

Other celebrity endorsements came by way of Actor/Activist Richard Gere who is tying his star power into various youth awareness campaigns around the world. Gere made mention of the effectiveness of both the “Stop Speed” Russian campaign and the “Wrap It Up” campaign in Africa, which have both been successful in educating youth about protection methods.

He stated, “AIDS is the true terrorist on the planet today.”The conference is jam-packed full of events, not only at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, but throughout the city.

The website is so full of information that it is basically a non-resource of information.

For program at a glance, visit and for the more entertainment focused events, visit Global Village at

The most important message to take away from this event is to educate yourself and others about AIDS and what it means to today’s society. Do your research.

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August 2006 - Identity Crisis

© August 2006 - Identity Crisis By Bryen Dunn, Toronto

Do you know who I am? I’m having an Identity Crisis.

This appeared to be the words emanating from the mouths of the many individuals partaking in the excitement of the newest board game to hit the scene. Rock It Promotions recently held a launch party at the Drake Hotel recently as a pre-launch to the public sale of this new fun and interactive game that can be played almost anywhere, even within a bar.

This new game has the makings of success as the one of the partners is also the co-inventor of the highly successful Balderdash. The slick white box has the resemblance of the new age of technology (think Apple Macintosh). The inners are also cool and sleek, and the directions are actually quite simple…and only one page.

The creators came up with the game by playing with friends during house parties.

The premise is quite simple and it all just fell together quite naturally. Surf on over to for more information and a chance to try it before you buy it.

The game is currently available in various outlets throughout North America.

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August 2006 - Queer Lounge at Tiff

© August 2006 - Queer Lounge at Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) By Bryen Dunn, Toronto -

The first ever Queer Lounge in Toronto arrives here on Sept 9th for 3 days and nights of gay glamour.

The main Lounge will be centralized in fashionable Yorkville—the heart of industry activities during the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF)—and will serve as "a hub of events" for queer and queer-friendly festival-goers. Many of Queer Lounge's events will happen at Church of the Redeemer, located at Avenue and Bloor.

Guests can obtain information about queer-themed Festival films through the official Queer Lounge Film Guide, distributed in special editions of Xtra. There will also be 3 special educational panels: Post-Brokeback: New Horizons in financing LGBT Film, The Bubble and Shortbus. Film Guides and panels are free to the public.

At night, Queer Lounge shines with exclusive VIP Concerts and Parties, including the Shortbus After-Party on September 10th featuring a multitude of local queer performers, and The Bubble After-Party on September 11th with hosts Scott Thompson and Elvira Kurt with special guest Hawksley Workman.

Both events are being held at the Phoenix Concert Theatre (410 Sherbourne St) and tickets are available at the club or Ticketmaster.

The Queer Lounge made its debut at the Sundance Film Festival a few years back, and has been nothing short of a smashing success. We welcome you to Toronto with loving arms!

For all the latest news and gossip, jump onto

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August 2006 - Film Review – Shortbus

© August 2006 - Shortbus Film Review By Bryen Dunn, Toronto -

Found: One overly sexed up flick for (semi) mainstream audiences. This makes Sex in the City, Red Shoe Diaries and Queer as Folk look like After-School Specials. Some scenes give new meaning to the words “cum on”.

The Title: The name of a salon where the characters meet to give readings and performances, and sometimes to have public sex. It is modeled on real-life salons in Downtown Manhattan.

The Plot Line: A group of off-beat New Yorkers merges together via their sexual oddities and escapades.

The Director: John Cameron Mitchell – creator of that other infamous cult underground sexually charged flick – Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

The Players: Sex Therapist: Sook Yin Lee, Dominatrix: Lindsay Beamish, Gay Man: Paul Dawson, The Boyfriend: PJ Deboy

The Music: Yo La Tengo, Gentleman Reg, Hidden CamerasThe Quote: “It's just like the sixties, only with less hope. See anything you like?”

The Funding: Partially by oddball musician Moby but avoided by most major corporations:
The Success: Cannes 2006 and now TIFF

The Canadian Content: HighThe Why See It: A mad nexus of art, music, politics and sex

The Party: Sunday Sept 10, Phoenix Concert Theatre, 410 Sherbourne Street, 10PM, $25

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June 2006 – Film Review - The King

© June 2006 - Film Review - The King By Bryen Dunn, Toronto -

A film by James Marsh, Starring Gael Garcia Bernal and William Hurt, Running time: 105m When Malerie looks at Elvis and says “We are all going to hell” she wasn’t kidding.

The creep factor is high in The King. It is creepy not in a horror movie vein, but in an adult societal taboo way. Watching this movie will make you squeamish and certainly uncomfortable as the plotline dives into a dark pit, which is hard for the lead character Elvis (Gael García Bernal) to crawl out of. You are left wondering if all the carnage and destruction was planned or happenstance. Those subtleties can be credited to a stellar cast, Bernal in particular. With just a look, he can convey emotions so deep you are taken on a roller coaster ride. One minute he is sweet and disarming, the next an unrepentant monster.

Plotline: Bastard son travels to Texas to find the father (William Hurt) he has never met. He discovers his father is a Baptist minister with his own family and wants nothing to do with his past sin, at least initially. Along the way he develops feelings for his half sister and the descent begins.This movie is quiet and dreamlike and stays with you long after you have seen it. It’s also a stark look at Christianity and how far one will or should go with forgiveness.

Overall it’s a terrific movie that delves into the personal lives of each character, illuminating their true spirit and dark inner zones.

Beware: abrupt ending.

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May 2006 - Inside Out Film Festival Review

© May 2006 - Inside Out Film Festival Review By Bryen Dunn, Toronto -

Yes we’re in the midst of independent film festivals, and one of the more interesting offerings in the Toronto market is Inside Out, the 16th annual Lesbian and Gay Film and Video Festival, Canada’s largest.

It’s enticing, titillating and definitely entertaining. There are screenings, artist talks, panel discussions, installations and parties that highlight more than 275 films and videos from Canada and around the world.With the recent success of such mainstream queer-oriented films such as Brokeback Mountain, Transamerica and others, is Inside Out as important today as it was when it first began? Most definitely it is. These are independent films made specifically for queer and queer-friendly audiences, by queer identified individuals with a passion to tell a story.

For many it’s a first effort, for others it’s a profession. For some it’s based on personal experiences, for others it’s a documentary project. For viewers, it’s pure excitement. Oh, did I mention party?As well as flicks there are many panel discussions and workshops, as well as focus features that include a slew of Latin American produced works. As well, to make films accessible to all, there are five free screenings taking place throughout the Festival.

There are also Four Play ticket packages offering four films within a similar category for a reduced price.Individual tickets are available online,,via phone, 416 967 1528, or in person at the box office, Manulife Centre, 55 Bloor Street West. Call for hours.

Tickets are priced at $10.50 for non-members with various discounts for members, youth, seniors, PHA’s and disabled patrons. As well, same day sales and rush seats are available at the screening location one hour prior.Did someone say party? From the opening gala on May 18th to the closing on May 28th, there are nearly a dozen “official” parties to keep things hoping.

Keep your ears open for the “unofficial” parties that tend to happen sporadically as well. Visit all the party details. Meet you at the bar!


So the time has come. Its opening night fun at the Inside Out Lesbian and Gay Film Festival and what better way to begin than with a night of musical film and musical talent. Be sure to catch the following two flicks prior to heading out to party. They are both well done retrospectives of how far the queer community has made strides within the mainstream markets. Enjoy!

Pick Up The Mic – Friday May 19, 7:30pm, ROM. This is a revealing and fast paced documentary on the world of queer rappers. The film captures n unapologetic underground music movement just as it explodes into the mainstream – defying the music industry’s most homophobic genre in the process. The film shines the spotlight on more than a dozen talented, likeable and fierce queer rappers, representing a remarkable range of sexual and ethnic diversity. This unpolished gem was shot over a three-year period and features scenes from San Francisco’s underground music scene of the early 1990s as well as performances from as recent as 2005.

Backalley Jukebox – Friday May 19, 9:45pm, ROM. Backalley Jukebox is a curated program, by Matt Thomas, and is the world’s largest, filthiest and first touring queer music video program debuting at Inside Out. The program is unique in its content with videos made by queer artist crossing a large spectrum of genres from queer rappers to bent electro rockers. The body of work represented in this historic screening speaks large volumes to the talent, productivity and commercial success brought to the forefront by unafraid artists opening working as queer musicians.

Included in the program is a new video from Scissor Sisters “Filthy Gorgeous” Uncensored, that was banned from MTV, directed by award winning queer director John Cameron Mitchell; “You Are My Sister” from Anthony And The Johnsons featuring Boy George, directed by award winning visual artist Charles Atlas; Gentlemen Reg’s racy new video “The Boyfriend Song” which was not accepted at Much Music, and directed by Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew, just to name a few from this program.

Individual tickets are available online, via phone, 416 967 1528, or in person at the box office, Manulife Centre, 55 Bloor Street West. Call for hours. Tickets are priced at $10.50 for non-members with various discounts for members, youth, seniors, PHA’s and disabled patrons. As well, same day sales and rush seats are available at the screening location one hour prior.

The official “Back Alley Jukebox Party” is happening at the Mod Club (722 College Street) following the screening ~ featuring performances by Kids on TV, Fritz Helder & the Phantoms, Syntonics, DJ Will Munro and more.

Tickets $7 at the door, start time 10:30PMKeep your ears open for the “unofficial” parties that tend to happen sporadically as well. Visit for all the party details.

Meet you at the bar!

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May 2006 – NXNE

© May 2006 - North By Northeast (NXNE) Music & Film Festival and Conference By Bryen Dunn, Toronto -

It’s all about music – bands, films, conferences, concerts, parties and lots of networking.

There are hundreds of bands from all over the world that will be flocking to Toronto to take over the streets and clubs over the weekend of June 8th to 10th. From no-name to big-name, it’s your chance to catch the best or the next-best. The spectrum of music covers rock and roll, alt-country, hip hop, underground and indie so there’s something for every musical taste. It’s good to keep an open mind and step out of your boundaries, as you never know what’s out there until you discover it on your own.

There’s also plenty of music related flicks to entertain should your ears need a break. These include the Canadian Premiere of Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out, Colonel Tom Parker: Manager of Elvis, and High and Dry: Where the Desert Meets Rock N Roll.As well, various conferences will help bands figure out how to survive in the music industry. Topics include getting your first CD release, finding a manager, major label dealings, DIY options and legal advice.

Icon highlights this year include appearances by the elusive Tom Verlaine and Television, Homosapien Pete Shelley with his Buzzcocks, and ex-Police member, Stewart Copeland. Each will be doing a “celebrity interview” and both Television and Buzzcocks are playing shows at the Phoenix, Friday June 8th and Saturday June 9th respectively.

Your $28.00 wristband is great for club hopping, line jumping, and a guarantee of no cover at all of the participating 33 venues during the NXNE weekend (subject to capacity). Wristband wearers also get into any of the film screenings, and into the closing night party, Sunday June 11, 9PM at The El Mocambo. Not a bad deal, but be prepared for lineups and sometimes disappointment on not being able to get in to see your favourite band.

Pick up a wristband ticket at one of the following locations then redeem it at any of the participating clubs to receive your wristband:• Sam the Record Man - 347 Yonge St • Soundscapes - 572 College St • Steve's Music Store - 415 Queen St W • Sonic Boom - 512 Bloor St W • Big Daddy's DVD Shop - 3044 Dundas St W • I'm With Stupid - 1300 Queen St W • CD Replay - 762 Yonge St • The EDGE Street Level Studios - 228 Yonge St • NOW Magazine - 189 Church St Wristband tickets will also be for sale at all of our participating clubs during the Festival.

Surf on over to for all the latest updates.

Party on Wayne!

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May 2006 - Hot Docs Review - Exiles in Lotusland

© May 2006 - Exiles in Lotusland By Bryen Dunn, Toronto -

One quarter of Vancouver’s street youth have migrated there from the inner regions of Quebec, where they have run away from abuse, family issues, detention centers, and other hardships of life. Exiles in Loutsland is an intimate portrait of a couple (Milo and Ti-Criss) in search of escape. For now, their only certainty is each other.

In 1999, Director Ilan Saragosti moved to Vancouver from his native Quebec. Walking the streets one day he recalled hearing several of the panhandlers speaking a familiar Quebecois dialect. He soon discovered a whole underground population of youth that fled their homeland in search of something new. Saragosti mentions that this trend first began back in the 70’s and continues today as youth believe it to be a sort of El Dorado, with its favourable weather and accessibility to drugs. It’s a place to find your dreams, or supposedly so.

Saragosti admits, “Having privilege to a stable home environment, I decided to do this documentary more out of curiosity, exploration and understanding than anything else.” He initially approached Milo and Ti-Criss with the idea, and once trust was established they began their journey as a team. He endured a fluid relationship with the couple, sometimes spending up to 8 and 10 hours today in their company. “We’d finish up for the day, and the crew and I would head back to our hotel rooms and they would head off to find a place to crash”, he recalls.While Milo maintains contact with her family members back in Quebec, Ti-Criss has no contact whatsoever, fleeing an abusive home.

The film providing in depth views as they maneuver around surviving as best they can on a day to day basis. They are shown looking for the next meal and searching for a place to bed down for the night. It also takes a startling and somewhat expected turn at the end, and is an indication of the potential downfalls of street life.

Positively though, today Milo is off the street, off drugs, and working ~ with aspirations of becoming an Outreach Worker.While government assistance is available for street youth, many are reluctant to take advantages of the services as it’s the very thing they are sometimes running from. Saragosti admits, “The funding helps, but it also pushes them to the streets.”The film has won the Best Canadian Feature Film at the Whistler Film Festival and Honourable mention in Houston.

Exiles in Lotusland is showing at Hot Docs and will be available at the NFB private viewing stations after the Festival., 2005, 70 min) Director: Ilan Saragosti Photo Credit: Mia D – Ilan Saragosti.

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May 2006 - Hot Docs Review - Cottonland Review

© May 2006 - Cottonland Film Review By Bryen Dunn, Toronto -

Tiny Glace Bay, Nova Scotia gained the reputation of a drug ladled community stricken by the generous prescriptions and availability of morphine-derivative OxyContin. Director Nance Ackerman was first introduced to this epidemic of addiction when she was working as a photographer with the Toronto Star and was assigned to assist with a feature article on the subject. It was during this visit that she first met her soon-to-be documentary collaborator, Eddie Buchanan, and two years later they are in Toronto awaiting the screening of their efforts.Ackerman states, “This is a global issue not confined to Glace Bay, but present in several post-industrial communities.” She argues that the government should be held accountable for letting this happen.

Glace Bay was a typical situation where a once vibrant coal mining community fell into despair as the mines closed and people were forced out of work. Several lawsuits have sprung out within the U.S. and possible action is forthcoming in Glace Bay where one doctor just recently had his practice shut. The film has one doctor stating that there may have been too many prescriptions given out without much thought about the situation.

As typical with coal miners, lower back pain symptoms are not uncommon. As Buchanan states, “If a doctor is giving out, then there’s no business.”Buchanan describes how he became part of the “pill community” that included not only OxyContin, but Percodan, Percocet, and Fiorinal.

“I’ve been on and off drugs since I was 16, now I’m 29 but feel like an old man of 60.” Although he’s cleaned up and is considered a recovering addict, he still maintains a regular regime of methadone, which he considers a tool not a cure.

He started drugs as escapism to black out any problems that he was facing at the time. He admits, “It became not so much about getting high, but about not getting sick by continuing to use.” Luckily he is hear to share his story as there were 24 drug related deaths reported in just over a year and a half in the Glace Bay area.

The positive effects are seen through his smiling face as he announces he’s now working as an electrical apprentice. Ackerman is quick to point out that his resume now includes Filmmaker as well.Glace Bay is also making progress and now has a government funded prescription monitoring program, addiction services assessing individuals by way of harm reduction, and plans to incorporate a methadone clinic within the Glace Bay Hospital. Currently the nearest clinic is 15 minutes away in Sydney, and has a huge waiting list.

Both Ackerman and Buchanan admit that the media coverage played a big role in bringing light to the situation and pushing forward some of these changes.

Ackerman concludes that she would like, “the next step to be for the government to show these communities how to live with pride, identity and worth.”Cottonland is showing at Hot Docs and will be available at the NFB private viewing stations after the Festival. (Canada, 2005, 53 min) Directors: Nance Ackerman, in collaboration with Eddie Buchanan.

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April 2006 - 3 Needles Film Review

© April 2006 - 3 Needles Film Review By Bryen Dunn, Toronto -

If you’re a fan of movies with a poignant storyline, great cinematography, a bit of seriousness and some nun-sense, then grab your syringe and go for the plunge.

The plot carries itself well, spotlighting the plight of “the virus” as it transforms three continents into death camps.

Not all is dark and dim though, as the scenes with the three nuns in South Africa provides for some comic relief and a couple of great one-liners, such as “That baby was born early, now he’s always going to be impatient.” Young and rebellious Sister Clara (Chloe Sevigny) wants to make change and stops at nothing to succeed. Sister Hilde (Olympia Dukakis) and Sister Mary (Sandra Oh) also contribute strong performances.Jin Ping (Lucy Liu) sets up a blood donor clinic in rural China, acting as a blood-runner.

The Canadian connection has Denny (Shawn Ashmore) working in the porn industry, much to his fathers approval and mothers (Stockard Channing) chagrin.

Denny is in denial about “the virus” and does anything to avoid knowing.Canadian Director Thom Fitzgerald (Hanging Garden) does an amazing job of bringing the global reality of “the virus” to the forefront in this strong film with a stellar cast. Sit back, travel and think.

Opens April 21st - Check local listings for locations and show times – Running Time: 125 min.The opening scene shows a group of young African boys preparing themselves for manhood.

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March 2006 - Absolut Tracks

© March 2006 - Absolut Tracks By Bryen Dunn, Toronto -

Absolut Vodka has always been known as the trendy artsy vodka, right from that day in 1985 when they collaborated with Andy Warhol to create exclusive artwork for the label. They’ve since worked with many others in the art and fashion worlds, including Tom Ford, Jean Paul Gaultier, Gianni Versace and Kenny Scharf.

March 23rd was the official Canadian launch of their newest project, Absolut Tracks and specifically Absolut Kravitz, a venture into the music business with a recognizable internationally known personality. Legendary Lenny Kravitz agreed to write, produce and release his latest single exclusively via Absolut. “Breathe” is an excellent dance track that will likely be all over the airwaves this summer.

It’s yet another direction Kravitz has taken, as with all his other non-categorical releases. He’s quoted as saying, “I wanted something with a simple dance beat, ala Donna Summer’s I Feel Love”. I think he may have that down pat.The one stipulation when developing the song for Absolut was to incorporate the brands core values ~ clarity, simplicity and perfection.

Kravitz admits, “There’s nothing more simple, clear or perfect than the essence of true love. Once I’d felt that, the track just came.”What makes this release even more interesting is that it has already been remixed by 10 different artists, and all tracks are available for free download at Absolut Tracks, along with the video.

Not sure what the major labels are going to think of this approach, but Absolut seem to be once again on the leading edge of pop culture. The Canadian link to all this is a remix done by Montreal’s DJ-duo Chromeo, who performed their remix version at the launch party.

Other featured artists are from Australia, Germany, Mexico, the US, and China.The Launch was held at the Artcore Gallery in the Distillery District of Toronto.

Thanks to Absolut for their newest creations: Absolut Limelight, Apple Sweety, and Monsoon.

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March 2006 - Beastie Boys - (Da 3 Dudes)

© November 2006 - Da 3 Dudes By Bryen Dunn, Toronto -

Da 3 Dudes known as the Beastie Boys are trying the talents in film nowadays – well sort of. “AWESOME; I … SHOT THAT!” – it’s concert footage from their 2004 Madison Square Garden show taken by 50 concert-goers who were given cameras to film the Boys in concert, the fans, and anything else they felt like supposedly.

The result is a grainy-amateur-like 90 minute waste of time, visually anyway.I think this could prove rock stars do not equal film producers. I totally get what they were trying to accomplish, but let’s leave this for the amateurs and independents who don’t have corporate backing and therefore it’s an honest depiction of what they are capable of, not something “creatively” put together by professionals. To add to the hype, THINKfilm did a pre-release on March 23rd that was shown on close to 200 screens across North America.

This was preceded by the world premiere of “A DAY IN THE LIFE OF NATHANIAL HORNBLOWER,” a 30-minute short created specifically for this one-time event.This was quite the entertaining piece that followed Mr. Hornblower (David Cross – Arrested Development) through the streets of NYC doing his day-to-day activities while on his cross country skis – with no snow. He goes about his business dressed as a German Biermeister – not a leprechaun!

There were a couple of priceless lines such as when finishing his morning expresso – “It’s the elixir of the gods ~ a tiny cup of crystal meth”.FYI – Hornblower is a pseudonym for Beastie Boy Adam Yauch, who directed both flicks. THINKfilm states the short “will self-destruct right after it is presented on March 23rd, never to be seen again.”

This enterprise is the force behind independent and non-fiction film for the past four years, and future projects include the movie version of “Strangers With Candy”.”AWESOME; … I SHOT THAT!” hits theatres for its regular run on April 14, 2006.

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March 2006 - Strut Magazine Toronto Launch Party

© March 2006 - Strut Magazine Toronto Launch Party By Bryen Dunn, Toronto -

On Wednesday March 8th The Berkeley Church (Queen and Parliament) was once again transformed into a concert venue/promotional showcase for a Strut Magazine event. Last year they created headlines by bringing in Juliette Lewis and the Licks. This year performances by NYC’s “Morningwood” and Montreal’s “The Stills” didn’t bring the same buzz but the bands rocked out in fine format.

Strut defines itself as “Canada’s Coolest Magazine” and “the best in Canadian fashion, photography and culture. I personally flipped through the glossy pages scanning the 50% advertising content, 30% pictures, and finally the 20% text that might of interest to readers. If you’re a fan of GQ or Vogue this is likely aimed at you, and you were likely at the launch party as well.

This year the purpose of the party was to announce their new Toronto digs over near Queen and Dufferin in the trendy west end of the city, after 3 years in their home town of Montreal. VICE Magazine recently moved into the Parkdale area as well. Strut is now claiming they are going to conquer the country one city at a time. Not sure if they know of the success/failure rate of most publications, but then again with a 50% advertising content I’m sure they will likely stay afloat longer than other upstarts.

The Launch Party itself was jam-packed, thanks to some excellent PR work. Corporate sponsorship was everywhere including Oakley, Motorola and Skyy Vodka. Morningwood came out shortly after 9 and within minutes lead singer Chantal Claret had me thinking of her as the new Patti Smyth. Tons of energy, hard-ass vocals and a no-shit attitude give her control of the stage. Their single, “Take Off Your Clothes” was inspiration for her to call up a young vixen from the crowd and then proceeded to rip her clothes off her and got into some girl-on-girl soft core.

Their self-titled debut is a hit on college, university and indie stations across the USA. It helps to have the credibility of producer Gil Norton (Echo and the Bunnymen, Pixes, Foo Fighters) behind them.

The Stills were quite tame after the explosive openers, but they did their best to keep the attention of the largely non-attentive crowd. This crowd was there after receiving complimentary invitations (and drinks if you arrived early enough), again thanks to the good PR work. After a solid 30 minute set, The Stills left the stage to make way for Carlos D, from NYC’s Interpol. Apparently he was quite late arriving, and again an uninterested crowd couldn’t care less and started filing out by 11pm.

I’m sure accomplishment was achieved by all parties involved with this party. Let’s see what they get up to next.

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March 2006 - Canadian Music Week (part 1 of 2)

© March 2006 - Canadian Music Week Festival (part 1 of 2) By Bryen Dunn, Toronto -

Canadian Music Week blew through town once again last weekend, and just like a hurricane it wreaked some havoc. There was the usual confusion, cancellations and disappointment amongst the highlights of the Festival. I’m not going to give you the typical band reviews, but more a CMW critique.

The “week” began on Wednesday with “The Indie Awards” which could be an excellent venue for promoting “indie” bands, but it’s more a who’s hot right now sort of event. This year they even honoured a couple of old school Canuck bands, Parachute Club and Pursuit of Happiness, into the “Indie Hall of Fame”.

Back in the 80’s the sound was known as “alternative” until mainstream took over that word. Now it appears “indie” is about to be morphed into the corporate world of music as well. What next? “Underground” seems to be still valid as an all encompassing homage to the undiscovered talents out there.

There were performances by The Stars and Magnet that were not really much to drool over. Overall winners sounded like a top 40 play list with Arcade Fire, Bedouin Sound Clash, Broken Social Scene, Metric, DFA1979 and even Sum 41. If this is “indie” then I would say suggest all bands out there sign up to a (major) label quick if you want to be recognized.

Seriously though, something a bit more “underground” is The Galaxie Rising Stars Award of the CBC, which helps new artists promote their name in the Canadian music industry. This year the Award was determined by Critics' Choice where music journalists across Canada voted to determine the winner.

The shortlist for the 2006 Galaxie Rising Stars Award of the CBC was as follows, with Elliott Brood being chosen the overall winner with most votes.All Purpose Voltage Heroes "Already Haunted" (Rectangle) Black Mountain "Black Mountain" (Jagjaguwar/Scratch) Elliott Brood "Ambassador" (Six Shooter) Comeback Kid "Wake The Dead" (Smallman) The Diableros "You Can't Break The Strings In Our Olympic Hearts" (Independent) Final Fantasy "Has A Good Home" (Blocks) Holy Fuck "Holy Fuck" (Dependent) Jon-Rae and The River "New Songs For The Old Town" (Permafrost) Republic of Safety "Passport" (Independent)

So the “week” continues the following evening, which is the first night you can use your wristband for anyone who actually purchased one of these. At $35 a pop, it’s hard to get full value over the three nights (Thursday to Saturday) of the “week”. Don’t forget to add on cab fares if you actually want to catch bands in various venues, but if you stuck to one venue for the night at $8, you’d be paying $24 for all 3 nights – a savings of $11 right off the top.

But the purpose of CMW is to bop around club hopping, perhaps getting somewhere to encounter a line up, or they are at “wristband capacity”, then it’s another decision to be made.So in order to see the bands you want you have to be pretty slick and on the ball.

The CMW website isn’t any help as it seems the format hasn’t been updated in years, and navigating around is very cumbersome.

As for the tradeshows, these are actually quite valuable to those in the industry. It’s great for networking and learning tricks of the trade for new musicians. There are tons of seminars with guest speakers, not all of which are sales pitches.

These are industry-only events so no need to flash your wristband here.I didn’t actually notice many line ups this year, except for the show piece event on Saturday at Lee’s, with current darlings Mstrkrft. These cover boys (on NOW Magazine) packed the place and evidently this was a known fact long before the Saturday performance as NOW had the show listed as “sold out”. Another loss for those with wristbands, but they are pretty though and likely reusable for something.

Then over at Social and Spin Gallery, the owners decided to cancel the showcase that evening due to poor turnout the previous nights. The owners didn’t feel like taking a loss when they could generate more revenue from their regular Saturday night DJ crowd. How could CMW let this happen? Are there not any contracts in place with venues? Will Social be allowed as a participating venue next year? So the cancellation sucks, not only for people heading there to catch some bands of interest, but also to the bands that came in specifically to play CMW.

Luckily some quick thinking and the show went on as a “house party” just up the street. Now that’s the “indie” spirit of a true music festival.

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February 2006 - Canadian Music Week (part 2 of 2)

© February 2006 - Canadian Music Week Festival By Bryen Dunn, Toronto -

Canadian Music Week is the largest Music & Entertainment Convention in Canada with delegates representing radio, music and television broadcasters, music manufacturers, record companies, music retailers and distributors, new media/internet producers, concert promoters, venue managers, music & video producers, recording artists and musicians.

Once a year the "suits" and the concert going public meet in venues across Toronto for a single purpose - to hear the hottest acts, known and unknown. The A&R reps come with a mandate to find next year's stars, while the fans bring their passion. Whether it's the next "big thing" or one of today's hottest performers, there’s something for everyone at the Festival. The four day event encompasses two conferences, a trade show, and a slew of live performances. All convention functions take place at Toronto's Fairmount Royal York Hotel.

The Executive Conference March 2-4, 2006 Targets Music & Media business professionals and attracts top industry leaders from around the world.

The Tune Up Conference March 2-4, 2006Designed to help new and experienced artists hone their skills in both the business and artistic aspects of their careers.

CMW Trade Show March 2-4, 2006 - Fairmont Royal York TorontoThis is the best way to reach the cream of the industry crop, those VIP’s with the freedom to make strategic decisions and major purchase orders.

There’s also four different Awards Presentations that take place during the Festival.The Indie Awards – March 1 - The Docks, 7PMCMW Industry Awards – March 2 – the gala event of the Festival The Crystal Awards – March 2 – radio accolades – Fairmount Royal York, 1230PM Canadian Radio Music Awards – March 4 –Fairmount Royal York, 1230PM

If this isn’t enough, then there’s check out the following specific to performers:Canadian Radio Star (Songwriting Competition), Finals – March 3-4Urban Star Quest, March 4International Songwriter’s Festival, March 3-4Xtreme Band Slam, March 2-4Tin Pan Alley North, March 3-4

Now if this isn’t enough to keep any musician or avid fan busy for a few days, then you’ll just have to wait until North By Northeast heads into town in June.Check out for all the details on the above, a complete schedule of performances, and links to band websites. Enjoy!

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February 2006 - Scott Bishop Interview (Blue Man Group)

© February 2006 - Scott Bishop Interview By Bryen Dunn, Toronto -

It all began as a performance piece in Central Park – Funeral for the 80’s - to protest against yuppies, cocaine and postmodern architecture. It was 1988 and the birth of Blue Man Group.

The following three years were spent busking on sidewalks developing the concept and testing new ideas. They are now celebrating 14 continuous years of performances at NYC’s Astor Theater.

Scott Bishop has been with this eccentric troop since the Toronto opening back in June 2005. Born in Kentville, N.S. and a classically trained musician, he found both his location and profession offering limited possibilities. After a short stop in Vancouver, he landed in Toronto as one of the “blue men.”

He describes the audition process as “very lengthy”, but he’s glad that he “applied at the last minute with the encouragement of friends.” After 2 months of intense training in NYC, where he was actually performing with the NYC troop, he made his way to Toronto. Part of his training was to have between 200 and 300 objects thrown at him every day. “I used to bounce balls off the wall and catch them in my mouth several times a day”, he laughs.

He’s happy to now be working with such a fun bunch and states, “It’s all about hiring the right people. We’re like a family working within a very positive, supportive environment. We talk after each show, share our feelings on the night and offer each other feedback.”This concept was part of the vision of the original Blue Man, Chris Wink, who is still very much involved with the creative input. The various show segments are created by coming up with an idea, developing the scene, and adapting the music to match. The show explores the stability of pop culture by examining social interactions between individuals.

Although they now could be considered a corporate entity, every show still has a charity fundraising focus. It was decided as a responsible group initiative to make people aware of various issues, often with an environmental focus. This certainly stays true to their grassroots origin back in the 80’s.Besides Toronto, BMG are now performing in London, Berlin, New York, Boston, Chicago, and Las Vegas. Visit for show times and ticket information.

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February 2006 – VORTEX

© February 2006 - Blue Man Group- VORTEX Review By Bryen Dunn, Toronto -

I’m not quite certain why, but Blue Man Group has delved into the world of an art curator. VORTEX, noted as their first annual art competition in Toronto took place on February 6th at the oh-so-artsy, Drake Hotel. A call went out to artists of any age to submit a piece of work in any medium that would “challenge established expectations”.

Now what exactly does that mean?A list of chosen curators were put together to decide which lucky individuals would walk away with some of the over $5000.00 up for grabs.VORTEX: 1. A spiral motion of fluid within a limited area, especially a whirling mass of water or air that sucks everything near it toward its centre. 2. A place or situation regarded as drawing into its centre all that surrounds it. 3. The greatest art competition ever.

Shamsi Shahrokhi took top honours in the Adult (18+) division with Rendezvous, an exploration of Toronto's multiculturalism whereby she used TTC transfers as the background to depict images of individuals she encountered during her travels around the city. This process is known as Heat Drawing and accomplished by using a heated object to burn the image into a paper based background.

Runner-Ups in the Adult division were Ljuba Adanja's Deep Sleep and Sol Friedman's Qbert. By far, the most interesting piece was created by Lulu Hazel Turnbull, who won the Youth Division (12-17) with Red & Black No. 12. Turnbull used ink on canvas to delve into her fear of the social dilemmas facing our global community, including war and overpopulation. Remember, this is the Youth Division! Overall, the works were not extraordinarily different or outstanding, but the event did serve its purpose.

All winners will now have their work displayed at the Panasonic Theatre (651Yonge Street) where Blue Man Group is currently performing their amazing “theatre, ritual, performance art, comedy, rock concert and dance party rolled into one.” Visit for more information and tickets.

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February 2006 - Hot Doc's

© February 2006 - Hot Doc's By Bryen Dunn, Toronto -

Spring is just around the corner, and that means one thing is certain – Film Festivals abound throughout the city. Although not quite a “film fest”, Hot Doc's is certainly a festival worth exploring.

It’s billed as North America's largest documentary festival and the 13th annual edition takes place April 28 to May 7 this year.There were recent changes at the helm of the Festival as the Board of Directors appointed Alliance Atlantis Executive Norm Bolen to Co-Chair and Corus Entertainment’s Michael Harris to Treasurer. As well, it was recently announced that legendary director Werner Herzog will be presented with the Outstanding Achievement Award this year, and Quebec filmmaker Serge Giguere has been selected as the individual for Focus On, showing a retrospective of his past works.

During the downtime between actual Festival dates, those so inclined may want to check out the monthly Doc Soup running from October to April at the Bloor Cinema (506 Bloor Street West) at 7:00 pm.

At select DOC SOUP screenings, guest directors will be on hand to introduce their work and answer questions from the audience. The next two screenings are March 8 and April 5.

On March 8th, Unknown White Male explores how a New York City man suddenly leaves his home heading somewhere, but not knowing who he is or where he is going.

He must then try to put the pieces of his life back together just like a jigsaw puzzle.There’s an outstanding selection of 100+ documentaries from Canada and around the world as well as the renowned Toronto Documentary Forum, running May 3 & 4, 2006. For more information and the latest updates, go to

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December 2005 - The Passenger

© December 2005 - The Passenger Film Review By Bryen Dunn, Toronto -

The Passenger is a rare gem of a movie that was produced over 30 years ago, way back in 1975, just prior to Jack Nicholson’s (One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest -1974) rise to top in Hollywood. Michelangelo Antonioni directed this film-noir of sorts, with plenty of suspense to sustain the interest level, while dreamy panoramic views create for an interesting travelogue.

The film also features Maria Schneider (Last Tango in Paris - 1972), as “the girl”.Oh the passenger He rides and he rides He looks through his window. What does he see?

What is seen on the surface isn’t necessarily reality. Journalist Locke (Nicholson) is on yet another assignment, this time tracking down rebels in the African desert. The morning after socializing with a fellow journeyman at his hotel, Locke awakes to find his hotel mate no longer breathing.

One can assume this to be the result of heart failure given his statement from the previous night - “I have a bad heart and shouldn’t be drinking – want another?” Locke sees this as an opportunity to secure a new identity, and so the plot begins. Passports are mocked up and Locke leaves the hotel as “Robertson” while “Locke’s” body is left to be transported back home.

What Locke doesn’t realize as he assumes this new life, is that Robertson is actually a gunrunner for an underground operation. Leaving Africa, he heads off to keep the dead man's appointments, hoping that his new life will be more interesting than his old one was. As his travels take him through various regions of Europe, he encounters “the girl” who eventually tags along for the adventure.

She is trekking around at free will and welcomes the opportunity to experience the thrill and excitement of “Robertson’s” secretive life upon his confession, “I ran out on everything except a few bad habits”.He sees the bright and hollow sky. He see the stars come out tonight He sees the city’s ripped backsides He sees the winding ocean drive Locke’s wife soon realizes what’s happened and sets out on her own mission to track him down.

He’s also now on the run from a team of assassins who want to kill the man selling guns to the rebels in their country. It’s all very surreal, yet real at the same time. “The Girl” tells Locke, “People disappear everyday”, and Locke replies, “Every time they leave the room”. Leaving one’s life may seem that simple, but taking on a new one proves to be no easy task.

And everything was made for you and meAll of it was made for you and me’cause it just belongs to you and meSo, let’s take a ride and see what’s mine.It’s a slow moving movie that may not appeal to a newer MTV generation, yet it’s a classic in its own right.

However, with retro-vogue so popular these days there likely will be some curiosity appeal. The Passenger is being released across Canada by Mongrel Media with Nicholson owning full global rights to the movie.

A limited Toronto showing takes place at Jackman Hall (Art Gallery of Ontario, 317 Dundas Street West), from January 13th to January 18th inclusive. Tickets are $11.50 for non-members.Check the Cinematheque website for show times and additional information.** Lyrical excerpts are from “The Passenger”, a musical classic of the same title by famed Detroit musician Iggy Pop.

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November 2005 - Blue Man Group

© November 2005 - Blue Man Group Review By Bryen Dunn, Toronto -

It is a concert…it is performance art…it is a theatrical documentary…it is Blue Man Group.
The spectacle known as Blue Man Group opened in Toronto earlier this summer amid some local controversy, but that hasn’t stopped the gang from delivering an amazing show.

It dazzles and amazes for the full 90-minutes. Three grown “blue” men are the focus of the audience’s attention as they flip back and forth between various performance antics. The show is described as, “an explosive party atmosphere that appeals to people of all ages, languages, and cultures”.

There is the feeling of sensory overload in all directions as the Blue Boys bounce around the stage and up and down the aisles. You know something weird is about to happen when the first 4 rows of the audience are handed full-body plastic bags to cover up with, and other audience members are wearing head bands made of toilet paper.

Audience interaction is an integral part of the show - be prepared to be selected for your “5 minutes of fame”.One of the show highlights has to be the paintball/marshmallow scene which is jaw dropping, in more ways than one. Don’t try this one at home kids. There’s also the 3D internet café portion that is created via black lights and optical illusions. “TV Heads” was created exclusively for the Toronto performance and is highly entertaining.

The show has an amazing finale and continues on even after exiting the theatre. The troop members mingle with the audience in the theatre lobby posing for pictures, signing autographs, and collecting change for the local AIDS foundation. The attention to detail goes so far as to even have recorded music being played in the washrooms after the show with lyrics about bathrooms.

The musicians are very much a part of the show and in fact are becoming quite known beyond the performance venues. They have released two CD’s and a DVD, and have done some work on movie soundtracks and animation projects.BMG have performed outside of North America in Berlin, and just recently opened in London, England.

They were also presenters at the 2005 Billboard Awards and performers at the Earth to America benefit in Las Vegas in November. With this much adoration, can they now be considered part of the pop culture?

It’s a show for all ages, and a fun time is guaranteed whether you bring your mother or your daughter. Just a friendly warning – don’t be late arriving.

There are nightly shows (except Monday) at the Panasonic Theatre, 651 Yonge Street, with tickets prices ranging from $59.00 to $64.00.

There are also afternoon weekend performances.For more information visit and for ticket information visit or call 416 872 1111. Tickets are also available at the theatre box office.

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November 2005 - Canadian Urban Music Awards

© November 2005 - Canadian Urban Music Awards (CUMA) By Bryen Dunn, Toronto -

The 2005 Canadian Urban Music Awards (CUMA) were recently held in Toronto over a two night span. The first night was the Gala Dinner and Awards Presentation held on the 53rd floor of the TD Bank Tower, with a panoramic view of the downtown core and Lake Ontario.

The overall feel was somewhat low-key given the organizers push to grow the Awards and gain a broader audience. Hosts Rich Fagon and Arisa Cox looked awkward in the large venue with the sparse audience. Part of the problem was the empty tables purchased by label execs and sponsor organizations that didn’t bother to fill the seats with people. It’s fine to toss money toward the cause, but actually showing an interest makes a huge difference as well. As well, the pricey $150.00 tickets for this event likely make it out of reach for the real fans.

Established in 1996, the Urban Music Association of Canada (UMAC) is a not-for-profit, member driven organization dedicated to building the domestic and international profile of Canadian urban music. CUMA is the annual signature event that spotlights leaders in the industry in several categories, honouring the best Canadian urban artists.

Canadian Idol judge Farley Flex was presented with the Special Achievement Award for raising the profile of urban music in Canada. The Lifetime Achievement Award went to jazz drummer Archie Alleyne, who has played with countless jazz greats throughout his 56-year career.

The Kool Haus event the following evening was better attended at $30.00 a head, which is worth the price just to check out the performances and possibly rub shoulders with Canada’s next big sensation.

The show will be broadcast on December 21st at 9:00 PM on SUN TV ( ). Seems like quite the delay in broadcasting and not much of a surprise when all the winners have already been chosen and listed on the website ( )

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Monday, July 9, 2007

The World As We Know It

"Imagine A World Without Cars"


The term carcinogen refers to any substance, radionuclide or radiation which is an agent directly involved in the promotion of cancer or in the facilitation of its propagation. This may be due to genomic instability or to the disruption of cellular metabolic processes. Several radioactive substances are considered carcinogens, but their carcinogenic activity is attributed to the radiation, for example gamma rays or alpha particles, which they emit. Common examples of carcinogens are asbestos and tobacco smoke.

Carcinogens may cause cancer by altering cellular metabolism or damaging DNA directly in cells, which interferes with normal biological processes. Aflatoxin B1, which is produced by the fungus Aspergillus flavus growing on stored grains, nuts and peanut butter, is an example of a potent, naturally-occurring microbial carcinogen.

Cooking protein-rich food at high temperatures, for example broiling or barbecuing meats, can lead to the formation of many potent carcinogens that are comparable to those found in cigarette smoke (i.e., benzo[a]pyrene).[1] Pre-cooking meats in a microwave oven for 2-3 minutes before broiling can help minimize the formation of these carcinogens.

Benzene, kepone, EDB, asbestos, and the waste rock of oil-shale mining have all been classified as carcinogenic. As far back as the 1930s, industrial and tobacco smoke were identified as sources of dozens of carcinogens, including benzopyrene, tobacco-specific nitrosamines such as nitrosonornicotine, and reactive aldehydes such as formaldehyde — which is also a hazard in embalming and making plastics. Vinyl chloride from PVC is a carcinogen. Certain viruses such as Hepatitis B and human papilloma viruses have been found to cause cancer in humans. The first one shown to cause cancer in animals was Rous sarcoma virus, discovered in 1910 by Peyton Rous.

CERCLA identifies all radionuclides as carcinogens, although the nature of the emitted radiation (alpha, beta, or gamma, and the energy), its consequent capacity to cause ionization in tissues, and the magnitude of radiation exposure, determine the potential hazard. For example, Thorotrast, an (incidentally-radioactive) suspension previously used as a contrast medium in x-ray diagnostics, is thought by some to be the most potent human carcinogen known because of its retention within various organs and persistent emission of alpha particles. Both Wilhelm Röntgen and Marie Curie died of cancer caused by radiation exposure during their experiments.

Recent reports have found that the known animal carcinogen acrylamide is generated in fried or overheated carbohydrate foods (such as french fries and potato chips). Studies are underway at the FDA and European regulatory agencies to assess its potential risk to humans. The charred residue on barbecued meats has been identified as a carcinogen, along with many other tars.

Co-carcinogens are chemicals which do not separately cause cancer, but do so in specific combinations.

A vagabond's tale of underground life in Toronto's Queer West Village

Out and About with Bee-Dee Eyes

January & February 2006

I walked downstairs into the Underground at the Drake Hotel last Wednesday (January 25), which is not really “the Drake” on some nights. Tonight was one of those nights. I immediately spotted the trucker caps and leg warmers and knew I was soon to be assaulted by Stink Mitt , the “Cougars from Surrey, B.C.”

These two “ladies” sing about all things smut. Back and forth they frolic across the stage, Jenni Craige and Betti Forde, with an entourage of Madonna wannabe’s (circa 1985). It’s a mix of hip hop, rap and freestyle that the in-crowd of scenesters ate up.

The show openers were Procon, and Miz Kitty. It was an early show and a short set, so as the night was still in its infancy, I headed along Queen over to the Gladstone Hotel.

The weekly Hump Day Bump is a billed as a Queer Dance Party, but it’s really more about being cool and Queen West that counts. I don’t really see anything overtly (sexually) different than any other trendy bar along Queen.

The Melody Bar (home to great weekend Karaoke) looks great since the upgrades. Cozier yet still gritty, the way it should be. I meet up with a few friends and hang out until closing. The music is quite simple on most evenings, and this was no exception. If you can handle one-hit 80’s lost wonders (lost for a reason) and rock anthems (Quiet Riot) then maybe you’d have some fun. Who knows, you might even pick up…a girl or a boy.

Friday January 27th, I ended up at the Metro Theatre (667 Bloor St W), Toronto’s last remaining place to catch porn flicks on the big screen. Not realizing there were two Theatres, I enter Theatre 2 only to be immediately told “you have to go to Theatre 1”. I know I’m here when I hit the can, read the horned up graffiti, and see the glory hole.

I’m not here for the porn though. It’s my first time inside The Metro and I’m actually here for the North American Premiere of Speed Madness and Flying Saucers, an art movie of sorts. I arrive with a couple cans of brew stashed in my pockets and run into my friend Nadia, who is friends with Patrick, the dude responsible for the night. There are performances beforehand, with many guests flown in from Berlin to give it that edge that Toronto seems to be missing lately. Patrick and Kitty Productions are based in Berlin and the film was shot there, hence the connection.

First thing I notice is that beer and wine are freely available, oh well. The evening was hosted by Krylon Superstar the famous Berlin and New York-based Burlesque star, standing 6’6” with another 12” of fro stacked high above her head. Classified as “post punk dada”, the pre-show entertainment included Trash Boy Brandon Rivard, The Brazen Hussies and Speed Madness Delinquents' Suzana Sucic (better known as High Scorpia), and Mella Ojeda (aka Blitzproject). All in all, just what I needed…a good shot of reality.

The after-party was to be at Lee's Palace for the final night of Vazaleen. I made my way over with my new found friends, only to arrive to see a line up of close to 100 people…at 11:00PM! My little group soon dispersed in different directions, some saying fuck it, others lining up, me in the middle looking lost and confused. I don’t do line ups. I stand, gawk at the 905’ers and Church Street boys in the line up and make my way to the subway. What a let down after such a wicked experience. Maybe I should have gone back to Theatre 1 at The Metro.

Vazaleen was a monthly Queer Rock night that began 7 years ago at the El Mocambo, put on by DJ/Promoter (soon to be bar owner), Will Munro. I had some good times there over the years, catching performances by Jayne County, Lesbians on Ecstasy, The Gossip and the Goddess of Punk, Nina Hagen. There were naked dancers, go-go boys, hot videos, and fun times, but the past two years saw an invasion of the ‘burbs and the coolness soon dissipated, likely the reason for curtain call. There will likely be one-offs around Pride and Halloween, which were always the best ones anyway.

Saturday afternoon January 28th. What to do? Check out Hoedown Saturday Afternoon at the Gladstone Melody Bar, 4pm to 7pm. It’s an odd assortment of old-timers and first-timers. This first of a monthly series happens the last Saturday afternoon of the month. Deejay Daddy-O was playing a collection of old Country & Western tracks on vinyl and new alt-country tunes on CD. It seemed like the mix worked well, and after a few “daytime” priced beverages, country music is just what the doctor ordered to give you the blues. I mingle about meeting some of the people in attendance. Most think it’s great to first off, have a place to go to hear old time country classics, and secondly to drink in the afternoon. I’m all for it. See you on February 25th.

Later that night I make my way over to the funky Wroxter for Suction Saturdaze. Not knowing what to expect but I read that DJ Triple-X was spinning Retro-Electro-Funk-Punk and Junk. It sounded cool. There weren’t many people there when I arrived shortly after 10, but by midnight it was picking up nicely. Great place with the biggest assortment of brews, wine and liquor I’ve seen in a bar in a while, and I practically live in bars. It’s a restaurant by day, and a DIY atmosphere at night with DJ’s, karaoke, and live performances being booked. It’s kind of off the beaten track for the trendoids but well worth the visit. Get your ass over there before it becomes another trendy place to be scene.

As January came to a close, I thought I needed one last reality check. Tuesday the 31st I’m back at the Gladstone again (this place is fun) but this time in the Art Bar for the launch party of Java Knights. Another new monthly put together by the Gay West Community Network and ACT Toronto, happening the last Tuesday of the month 7pm to 9pm. This evening was hosted by none other than Enza Supermodel and there was a demonstration of sorts by Come As You Are. There were plenty of free munchies for the crowd to chow down on, along with coffee (Java-get it) and non-alcoholic refreshments. Don’t panic as the Melody Bar was right on the other side of the wall, so cocktails were not far away.

So I grab a brew and a chair, and chat with a few of the blokes that came out tonight (pun intended). Java Knights is an interactive evening of fun where a topic is given, people break into groups, and go at each other with intelligent conversation. Well, basically. There are some guidelines but it’s about meeting other people and actually conversing in person. Wow, what a concept…no cell phone, text or msn here. Tonight was definitely interactive, but not in a conversational way. The night was dubbed Sex Toys and Supermodels after all. Jill from Come As You Are presented a wide variety of sex devices and guide books to let others know how to pleasure yourself, your partner or everyone, in a much better fashion. The actual conversation format starts with the next meeting, February 28th, same time - same place.

Topics are intended to be chosen on subjects from politics to sex and everything in between, so I’m told. February 1st, and I’m out and about yet again. I grab and friend of mine and head over to the TRADE release party, which wasn’t really a party, at This Ain’t The Rosedale Library Gallery, 483 Church Street. Jon Pressick has been publishing his zine for about 5 years now, all without any funding except deep within his own pockets. With each quarterly issue, he tends to have some sort of gathering with the writers, contributors and other interested folks. First time in this space and I find it a bit claustrophobic, but find myself a spot on the floor, grab a brew and listen to a reading or two. This was followed by a Burlesque performance by Skin Tight Outta Sight. Not as rowdy as other release nights, but all the gals in attendance certainly enjoyed it.

I swing by the Gladdy (we’re on a short-name basis now) again for the Hump Day Bump, meet a couple of (drunk) friends, listen to some bad music, get drunk and head home. Not sure I will be heading back too soon for this night unless they do something about the musical format. I can’t take anymore bad 70’s and 80’s shit tunes.

Thursday the 2nd. It’s Groundhog Day and apparently winter is over but did it ever begin? I’m back at The Drake to see another band, this time it’s We Are Wolves, a high energy trio of Montreal boys that know what they’re doing. Toronto’s Put The Rifle Down opened the night with their own brand of punk-electronica with plenty of sampling going on. A good sound, but lacking in stage presence.

We Are Wolves hit the stage full force with each member sporting an oversized cardboard skeleton head secured to their bodies by way of a wraparound. It wasn’t long before drummer Tony had to ditch his otherwise he would have likely drowned in his own pool of sweat. WOW is one of several art punk bands out there creating interesting noises, DIY style. Duchess Says is another Montreal band making noise (pun intended) on the scene. Beat box, synthesizer and screaming…ah what fun. They are doing a mini tour (Ottawa/Montreal) now, and a full on haul across the states later on, ending up at the “got to be at” South By Southwest Festival down in Austin, March 10th to 19th.

So the show ends, I’m making my way to the exit and run into my friend Alton who tells me Don Letts is “in the house” and going to be spinning a set. For those who don’t know, Mr. Letts was the most influential DJ/Filmmaker extraordinaire that first brought together the two musical cultures of punk and reggae. He hit up the London punk clubs in the late 70’s throwing down a mix of reggae and dub that quickly caught the ears of the punk kids and punk bands, such as The Clash.

I’m proud to say I own his first ever flick, The Punk Rock Movie, raw footage captured during his travels through the UK club scene. He’s still out there producing and just released, Punk: Attitude, showing at Harbourfront this weekend. Review to follow.

He didn’t disappoint the crowd that lingered and those in the know who showed up specifically for this unannounced DJ set. He played all the old classic reggae, dub, and dancehall tunes that he initially spun almost 30 years back. And I danced.

The next night (February 3rd) I’m on Queen Street again, but this time it’s 5 doors west of The Drake, at a trendy little hot spot now known as Lot 16, 1164 Queen. It’s that dude DJ Triple-X at the turntables again playing a bit of everything from pop to punk. The LOT, as it is affectionately known, has a rotating line up of DJ’s on the weekends that attracts a mixed crowd of regulars and the “let’s stop in for one and check this place out” crowd.

The ambience is dark and eclectic, the staff are amazing, and the bar prices are quite reasonable. It’s definitely a late night crowd, so get there by 1:59AM if you want last call.

Saturday night I’m back at Wroxter for Tinkertoy, an electronic duo from TO who are doing a live PA tonight. Just another night at The Wrox, good size crowd, and cheap booze being sponsored in part by Steam Whistle. Not the regular Wroxeter crowd, but then again I don’t really think there is such a thing here…which is not a bad thing at all. Stop by and check out the place one night.

You never know what will be going down.