Photo by Kathleen Munroe
Shortly after my run for Mayor, a summer of touring and living in one of the worst neighbourhoods with drug addicts* in Hamilton, I very abruptly left the home I’d known and lived in my whole life and moved to the Big Smoke: Toronto.
I’d opened the for what seems like countless, amazing and influential acts in Toronto. There are a few too many to name but some particularly proud slots in those early years were, Blurtonia, Mrs. Torrence and Weeping Tile. My act, for better and worse was seen by a lot of people. The Canadian music industry knew who I was. It was time for me to move to Toronto and let them know I was serious about making the big push.
Perhaps the best gig that I have ever been the opener for happened as a result of me being friends with Weeping Tile, who would later split off to be Sarah Harmer, Luther Wright and The Wrongs and Ass Machine (to name a few). They were quite possibly the first peers to really push and tell people, “hey, this guy is really doing something special.”
Aside from opening for them, their bass player, Sticky would hook me up with a bunch of other acts. One day I got a call from Jason Beck, who had been in Sticky’s legendary punk band, ‘The Shit’. His band, ‘Son’ was having their CD released and I was asked to open the show, they would go on second and, ‘The Dinner Is Ruined’ would play after their headlining set.
I got to the venue and met the band who were all awesome guys. Their soundcheck sounded fucking amazing and they got the disco ball going for effect (this was the first time I realised how a disco ball worked). They took a little while to sound check which was fine with me because I got to introduce myself to what would become my favourite Canadian band; The Dinner Is Ruined: Dale Morningstar, Dr. Pee and Dave Clarke.
I played my set and was congratulated by Son’s drummer, Dom who gave me one of his vinyls as they got ready to go up.
Son went on and played what is still to this day, one of the best sets I’ve ever seen a band play. They were a three-piece: drums, guitar and Jason the lead singer played bass, keyboards and sang lead all at the same time (really, really well, I might add). Usually I could feel a bit proud of the multi-tasking that I did but this guy was really out of this world.
Their songs were poppy but dirty, it had kind of a disco edge (which was really not a popular style at the time but still awesome). In spite of the fact that I was never able to find their second album (I did manage to find and buy their first), there are a few songs that ring out in my head twenty years later after hearing them only a couple of times.
I kept looking around to see if people were as blown away as I was and it seemed they were. The bobbing heads were proof. They were going to be a huge act and I was stoked to be a part of their story.
I thought it was odd that The Dinner Is Ruined went on after Son at their show but after they started, I realised why: Son was an exceptional band but The Dinner Is Ruined was more than a band; they were an experience. On stage, I remember two drum kits, keyboards, a tape recorder, guitar and various musical toys. The wandered the stage fluidly and gave a performance that would only be outdone by the dozens of times I watched them perform after. Nothing can ever compete with your first time, though. Right?
I left that gig with a feeling of accomplishment but I also felt I had to work harder if I wanted to be on a bill with either of these bands ever again. So I did work harder!
I kept a close lookout for Son in the future and other than seeing one add in Exclaim (the Canadian indie magazine) I struggled to see or hear them anywhere on TV or radio. It was shocking to me that they weren't a household name. They had everything that I thought a popular band should have yet somehow, it didn’t take off like it should have. This was the first inkling I had that Canada (or the Canadian music industry) may not give me support I’d hope for. I thought; if their wasn’t a place for Son then what chance did I have?
I lived in Toronto for four years. In that time, I met countless industry folk. Most said they loved me but were unable (or unwilling) to give me a helping hand in my career which was desperately needed. Ultimately, one of my biggest champions, Eric Warner came in to save the day but by that time, my time in T.O. was complete.
Towards the end of my time there, I discovered that Son had moved to Europe and individually became: Mocky, Talyor Savvy and, 'The Musical Genius', Chilly Gonzales. They had to leave Canada to be appreciated by Canadians. I thought to myself; one day, perhaps I would do that too.
*though this could be an interesting story, I choose not to tell it in support of my friends who are now sober