Reality Soundcheck: The Disappearing Histories of Music Venues in ‘the 6ix’

 Photo: Abbie Chalmers

Photo: Abbie Chalmers

The recent string of music venue closures across the city has left residents wondering about the effects on Toronto’s live music culture. In a time of high property value and rapid development, there are definite challenges in preserving these historic hubs for live music. These venues are anchored deep in the music history of this city, so shouldn’t we be doing more to recognize their cultural value? Soundcheck:TO aims to inform viewers of the cultural significance of live music venues in Toronto.

In September 2016, a friend and fellow Ryerson Media Production peer, Bianca Tomori, approached me with a thesis production idea about recognizing unique Toronto music venues. Why do people rave about the sound quality of The Horseshoe? What does it feel like to step on the same stage as Canadian greats like Bob Dylan and The Tragically Hip? These were the kinds of questions we wanted to ask performers first-hand. And so, we did. Rolling with that idea, myself and eight other Ryerson Media Production students joined forces to create Soundcheck: TO. This three-part documentary series beckons to anyone interested in peering into the inner workings and histories of some of Toronto’s iconic music venues. We narrowed it down to profiling The Horseshoe Tavern, The Rex and The Silver Dollar Room in short vignettes exploring their histories and featuring a performance by a Toronto-based act. Our team matched acts with performance histories in these venues featuring rock outfit Poor Young Things at The Horseshoe Tavern, independent jazz vocalist Sammy Jackson at The Rex and punk rock up-and-comers PUP at The Silver Dollar Room. The docu-series infuses a mix of interviews with the respective venue owners, musical acts and a venue walk-through.

Fast-forward to January 2017, and we’ve long since heard the news of yet another seedy rock club in a hot-spot location, with more stories than your gran, with its days numbered due to development. Despite its tragically dated interior, complete with electric blue diner booths and pool tables, The Silver Dollar Room still holds its edgy charm. Most recently the venue can add Toronto punk-rockers PUP to their list of successful alma mater. In an interview with Soundcheck:TO, PUP calls The Silver Dollar Room their ‘homebase,’ accrediting its legendary booker Dan Burke’s influence in helping them gain traction as a band in Toronto. This is just one part of the much larger story that is Toronto’s live music scene. We need to ask more questions; should we be placing more emphasis on the cultural value of these music venues? Or does the monetary value of future building developments take priority?

Soundcheck:TO will announce a public screening and launch party date in April. Those interested should visit Soundcheck:TO on Facebook for more details.