Darrell Vickers: Best of 2012…and…uhh…Aerosmith

Well, the year is at an end and everyone has taken yet another, giant step closer Best Records2012towards their final days here on shopping-mall Earth.  That moment, when fate grabs us by the ankles and wrenches us kicking and screaming from the only existence we’ve ever known.  Every groove in the sidewalk is the fingernail scrapings of some poor lost soul frantically clinging on till the very last.  And mass shootings, horrific wars, starvation and unbridled suffering, in its many glorious forms; dog our weary days as we march relentlessly towards our own oblivion.

On the upside, there was a lot of great music in 2012.   Not much of it on mainstream radio, but still survives in the shadows.  There was also a lot of complete shit, but I won’t bore you with that.

Except for the number one example of 2012 auditory poo.

aerosmith-music-dimensionI am, of course, speaking of Aerosmith’s new release:  “Music from Another Dimension.”  This sucker took over 11 years to write and record.  Now, that may not seem long compared to say building the Great Pyramids or inventing a type of fudge that can be eaten and worn as pants but let’s put this in proper context.  It took only 7 years from Kennedy’s announcement that we were going to send a man to the moon to the moment when Neil bounced down off that ladder thus providing paranoid delusionals with decades of entertainment, spouting inarguable proof that the whole thing was a conspiratorial fake.  Alexander the greatAlexander the Great conquered the known world in about 11 years…  on horseback and while feeling up other guys in togas.  All we asked of the Toxic Twins is they come up with a couple of hummable tunes and some listenable filler.


The Beatles wrote and recorded all of their albums in about half that time.  Imagine:  you have twice as long as the Beatles entire recording career to put together just one album.  Plus, you have all that multi-tracking and new technological gizmos to come up with sounds that John, Paul, George and Ringo couldn’t even imagine. (especially Ringo)  Plus, plus, Steven Tyler is a better singer that John, Paul and George combined.


I’ve often espoused, to anyone who would listen, that Mr. Tyler should be imprisoned in a recording studio for the rest of his natural born life and made to sing as many songs as can be physically squeezed out of his transcendent voice box.  The wastrel ways of his youth have already robbed us of countless tunes adorned with his vivacious vociferations.  Enough is enough.  I had considered petitioning Congress, but those fuckers can’t seem to get even trivial things accomplished, never mind something as important as this.

Back to My Spleen-Venting Point:  And yet… with the benefit of the average dog’s entire lifetime and unspeakable amounts of ooftish, they offer up this festering bucket of duck plop.

True, this glorious band of yore (and probably no more) did have a number of distractions to contend with.  If I had groupies lined up around the block, competing feverishly for the right to forage in my snakeskin pantaloons, I might also be hard pressed to pick up my guitar with the same regularity as I did during my humbler days…  but 11 years???  I mean, at sixty-plus, their venereal Vesuvius can only be good for one or two eruptions a day, max.

And true, they did put out that cover album along the way.  Honkin’ on Bobo should have been a clue, I guess.  (Even though I thought it was a very enjoyable musical outing.) You wait three years and all you can come up with is a covers album…  What?  It took you 3 fucking years to pick 12 lou reed MetalMachine_songs you didn’t even write?

On top of that, they’re all sober!  It’s only been seven years since the Stones’ last release and they’re way older and falling down drunks.  Keith Richards has thrown up more food in his lifetime than he’s eaten.  What the fuck have Aerosmith been doing with their time?

Now, is this the worst album I ever heard?  No.  Not by a Richard-Marx long shot.  I own Lou Reed’s Metal Machine music… on vinyl and CD!  It should just be so much better.  But, perhaps I’m suffering from Ishtar Syndrome.

ishtarLet Me Explain:  Ishtar took a very long time to make (not eleven fucking years – but quite a while) and cost 50 million dollars when the average movie cost 10.  For that kind of time and money, people were expecting to see armies of Orcs charging up the walls of Minas Tirith and what they got instead was a Hope/Crosby road picture.  Now, Ishtar is a fantastic film. (No, I’m not kidding) My family watches it at least twice a year.  We shall be screening it for my daughter’s boyfriend come Christmas Day.  It is that good.  But, there’s a great old saying: “If you’re expecting Ice Cream, the finest fish in the world will taste like poison.”  The audience was expecting to see the visual equivalent of Middle Earth in eye-popping detail and what they got was a couple of idiots staggering across Elaine May-reshaped sand dunes.  Thus, this cute, funny buddy picture became poison in the mouths of the movie-going public.

Back, Once Again, to My Venting:  So, perhaps, due to Ishtar Syndrome, their new album was doomed to disappoint before it even drew its first mediocre breath.  After waiting 11 years for these mega-talented individuals to put out a new CD, maybe my expectations were too unrealistically high.  Unreasonably lofty.  Or was Randy Newman talking about Boston’s naughtiest boys on randy newman-bad-loveBad Love when he penned:

“When will I end this bitter game?
When will I end this cruel charade?
Everything I write all sounds the same
Each record that I’m making
Sounds like a record that I made
Just not as good!”

Music From Another Dimension does sound like their other albums… just not as good.

Phew!  I’m off my soapbox now.  Probably time to get a move on and tout some of this year’s primo tuneage and there have been some humdingers.  The numbers next to the songs mean nothing.  It was hard enough whittling down my massive pile of favorite ditties to these few; my head would explode if I tried to put them in an order of preference.

Disclaimer:  You will notice that there are a lot of double X-chromosomed singers in my list.   I have a weakness for bubbly pop chanteuses.  “I’m not proud of it, but I’m not ashamed of it either.” (A line from Ishtar)

Second Disclaimer:  I don’t listen to much radio and I don’t watch those “hip” television shows that feature emerging artists, so if any of these tunes have been played so much that you’d rather stab yourself in the ear with a Bic pen than listen to it again, I apologize.

audra mae-and-the-almighty-sound1. Audra Mae and the Almighty Sound – Little Red Wagon

Audra Mae just possesses one of those magnificent voices and adds it deftly to this is a joyous and tuneful celebration of economical transportation.  This album is highly recommended.


dia frampton2. Dia Frampton  – Isabella

Ms. F. was on one of those television game shows for singers.  Luckily, I didn’t know that when I listened to this song so I wasn’t able to put my snob ears on quickly enough to cock a snook at it.   The sad fact is, I really like this song despite her appearance on The Price Is Right of music shows.  And you will too.


imaginary flying machines3. Imaginary Flying Machines – Country Road

This 2012 ear-grabber is off the Princess Ghibli album and the sun doth rise up its musical ass.  A John Denver song being sung in Japanese by a heavy metal band?  It just doesn’t get any better than that.


gemma ray4. Gemma Ray – Alright! Alive!

It was very hard to pick the song I liked the most of Gemma Ray’s Island Fire album.  After much back and forth listening and teeth gnashing, I decided on the above but it could have easily been Bring Ring Ring Yeah or Runaway.  This is a very good album. Pop at its finest.


IvyQuainoo-do+you+like+what+you+see5. Ivy Quainoo – Do You Like What You See

Miss Quainoo also won one of those horrible singing shows. (In Germany, I believe)  Again, I could not get my snob-ears on in time.  This is just wonderful.


hoots and hellmouth6. Hoots & Hellmouth – I Don’t Mind Your Cussing

When you come upon a band with the name Hoots & Hellmouth, you don’t really no what to expect.   There is just something about I Don’t Mind Your Cussing that grabbed me and made me smile.  It’s a simple enough song but it has a real charm.


sara watkins7. Sara Watkins – You and Me

I went to see the Watkins play at the Largo about six months ago.  Sara had just put out her new album and she played this song.  It was love at first hear.


leo o'kelly8. Leo O’Kelly – Alcohol

This is Leo O’Kelly I got this song off a compilation which I seem to have lost.  Luckily I still have this tune.  I found it obsessive and haunting.


9. Mim Grey – Traveling Star

mim greyI only heard this song by Mim Grey the other day so I’m hoping my judgment is sound and it’s not just a Johnny-Come-Lately pick. (the opposite of Ishtar Syndrome) I can remember when CHUM-AM would periodically put out a “Best Songs of All Time” list.  I used to get apoplectic when people would vote and 17 of the top 25 songs of all time were on the CHUM chart that week.  I mean, fuck off, people.  Have some Goddamn perspective.  This, on the other hand is a very nice song.


Janiva_Magness-10. Javina Magness – Make It Rain

A blues song that got me.  Not that blues songs don’t get me but this one got me.


whitton11. Whitton – ‘Til the End

Girlie pop.  You may have noticed I have a weakness for it.  And girls in general, but it’s still a terrific song and I can give up girls anytime I want.  Honest.


the lumineers12. The Lumineers – Flowers in Your Hair

A bouncy little country-folky tune that makes you feel good on a cloudy day.


san cisco13. San Cisco – Beach

I can imagine being on a beach with the sun going down and listening to this song.  Of course I would have to have a glass of fine wine and a deck chair.  Sand can get cold pretty fast, once the sun goes down.


ruffled feathers14. Ruffled Feathers – Canals of Suzhou

Another chick of the female persuasion.  But there is a trumpet in the song.  I find that to be a very male instrument, don’t you?


serena ryder15. Serena Ryder – What I Wouldn’t Do

Great song and a terrific voice.  And… she’s Canadian.  As much as I have a weakness for girl singers – if they’re from Canada, it just seems to completely tip the musical scales in their favor.


the cold stares16. Cold Stares – Jesus’ Brother James

A little testosterone break here.  This is a nice rocker, the way they used to rock in the good old days.  Sibling rivalry can happen, even in the most pious of families.


This tune is just as good with an acoustic guitar.


IMG_379017. Brendan Benson – Bad For Me

Brendan put out one of my top songs of the year 12 months ago with A Whole Lot Better.


He’s back with another corker, from his new album.  Bad for Me is the kind of song that would have been a gigantic hit and considered a classic, if it had come out in the ’80s or earlier when people had taste.  Alas, there doesn’t seem to be much call for well-crafted songs anymore.


Ladysmith+Black+Mambazo18. Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Dolly Parton – Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.

I wasn’t going to include this song because it came out in 2008 but Frank Gutch Jr. egged me on.  It was on a retrospective this year, so I might be able to squeak it through on a technicality.  Dolly does one of her all-time best vocals on this.  It really is a new look at a great old song.


bonnie & the clydes19. Bonnie and the Clydes – It Ain’t Nothin’

What a cute little tune.  I’m so glad people still like this kind of whimsical country-flavored pop.  The world is a happier place for it.  http://www.divshare.com/download/21476430-f26

jordan mino20. Jordan Minor – The Ballad of William Bonney

I dithered over this last choice.  Dithered I say.  There were so many very worthy candidates I had left to pick from but, in the end, my ears kept leading me back to this song.  There’s something about the way it builds that just sautés my asparagus.


So as this year ends, we stand at on the borderline between all that was and all that will ever be.  We can all look back with thankfulness and joy to the great music and the artists who gave it to us over the last 12 months but at the same time, we can also look forward to the next Aerosmith album… in 2023.

You can also follow Radio Vickers on Facebook now… should that be your wish.



Darrell Vickers is now a Friday Contributor to DBAWIS

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS_ButtonDarrell Vickers started out as one half of Toronto area band, Nobby Clegg.  CFNY fans may remember the cheery song “Me Dad” which still gets airplay.  From there, he valiantly ventured to L.A. and eventually became head writer for The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.  Since then, he’s created numerous sitcoms and animation shows in Canada and the U.S.  He still writes music and has an internet band called Death of the Author Brigade (members in Croatia, Canada and the U.S.)   Mr. Vickers also had a private music mailing-list where he features new and pre-loved music.  Anyone who would like to be added to his daily mailing list, just write him at Radiovickers1@gmail.com .


Segarini: The Weekend Roundup: Broke and Bored?


Segarini: The Weekend Roundup: Broke and Bored?

Things are difficult in the Segarini household these days. Like so many folks suffering the effects of the economic meltdown of the last couple of years, we find ourselves living hand to mouth, one day at a time, and wondering when things will turn around, get better, or at least be less stressful. The financial woes of the music industry, the meltdown of the print media, and the lockout of innovation, the format riddled inability of consulted radio to allow creative on-air personalities to spread their wings, and staff downsizing on the part of corporate radio, have made it almost impossible for many of us to get jobs in the fields we know best, leaving us with a huge amount of passion, frustration, bills, and problems that seem insurmountable. I thank God, and David Farrell for allowing me to write these columns and at least exercise my creative muscles so they don’t atrophy, and for giving me hope in the face of so much gloom. If any of you feel like investing in a worthwhile cause, have a gig I could do, orvoice-work, you know where to find me. For those of you in the same boat, let me share some of the great diversions that have kept me from sliding into the deep, dark black hole of depression….

Continue reading

My Dad

This is reprinted from my column at FYIMusic from last Father’s Day. I miss my parents a lot, but I never got to thank my dad for all he tried to teach me, all he tried to instill in me.

Happy Father;s Day, Pop…I love you.

My Dad

His name was Giovanni Segarini, John or Uncle Johnny to everyone that knew him. He and his three brothers, (Ed and George, the twins, and Vic, the oldest), and their baby sister, Della, came to America from a little village outside Genoa, Italy in 1906 or 7, when he was 3 or 4 years old. The whole family moved here, his mother, (my gramma Sunta), maybe his dad, and some other relatives, all settling on Ellis Street in Stockton California in a little apartment building my family eventually bought and still owns.

Everybody went to work. I don’t think any of the brothers made it past the 5th grade, because it was more important in those days to provide for your family than get an education, and that’s what the Segarini’s did. Provide for one another.

His father, (my grandfather), committed suicide somewhere along the line. I’m hazy on whether it happened after they came to America, or if it was before they left Italy. It was very rarely talked about, and certainly not in front of us kids.

Sometime in the mid or late ‘30’s, my dad and Uncle Eddie borrowed $500 from an uncle and opened a little corner grocery store next to the apartment building on Ellis Street. The first month they were in business, they paid the uncle most of their profit, $15 dollars. They continued to pay what they could until the loan was paid off. By then, the other two brothers were in the business with them, and they bought and opened a larger Market a few blocks away on Eldorado Street. The Segarini Brothers were in business. They took wives, and set about having families and, as always, providing for everyone.

The Brothers all bought houses on Ellis Street and one, George, on California Street, just around the corner.

My cousin, Vic Junior, was the firstborn Segarini on American soil, followed quickly by my cousin’s Judy and Diane, and then, the rest of the next generation.

My mom and dad were unable to have children. My mother laboured through 8 stillborn babies, a tragedy that deeply affected them, and made them all that more determined to have a child. They turned to adoption.

My Mom and Dad: On the Santa Cruz Boardwalk 1944

That’s where I come in.

In those days, the adoption people did their best to match you up as best they could. I was born in San Francisco and abandoned to a Catholic Nun run orphanage that placed Italian children with Italian families. My birth parents were also from Genoa, and because of the care that was put into the process, I have relatives in my current family that I look like, even though I am adopted.

John and Mercedes, (my adoptive parents), took me home on a sunny day in February when I was 6 months old, and my mother sent me a second birthday card on that date every year, until she passed away in 1997.

I was now a Segarini, and I could not have been more fortunate.

As I grew up in that tiny house on Ellis Street, I learned about family, food, tolerance, and music. My dad was so happy, and so much fun when I was a kid, I could hardly wait for him to come home from the store.

I can remember him always taking me to the Stockton Railway station after work when I was 3 or 4 years old, even though he had been up and working for at least 12 hours, and parking right next to the tracks to watch the big freight trains and the Super Chief Golden Gate passenger train pass through on its way to Oakland. Great steam engines and modern diesels alike, massive and mysterious to me, standing on the front seat of that old ‘38 Chevy 4 door next to my dad, a giant grin on his face, watching me, wide eyed and laughing, begin my love of trains and train travel. A gift of Lionel Trains and track sealed the deal at Christmas when I was 5 years old.

When I was 6 or 7, my peeps and cousins from Ellis Street would wait on the corner of Ellis and San Joaquin Street with me for my dad to come around that corner on his way home for dinner. He would turn off the engine and slow down so we could jump on the Chevy’s running boards and hold on for dear life while he coasted into our driveway at the end of the block.

He was the best dad in the neighborhood.

Until I was 9, I could speak and understand Italian. That’s all the family spoke when we were at Sunta’s apartment for dinner or a visit. Although the brothers had all gotten houses, dinner was usually together at Sunta’s, where I spent a lot of time with her in the kitchen, grating parmesan and dicing onions, garlic, and celery.

Sunta had a chicken coop full of chickens and a goat or two in the back yard. I used to go out and get fresh eggs in the morning, the chickens all clucking and running around like…well…chickens, and me just loving the chore, the excitement, and even the smell.

One day the police came to her front door and told her she had to get rid of the farm animals in the back. She picked up a shotgun she kept behind the door and aimed it at them and told them to get off her porch and don’t come back, as always, in Italian.

They never did.

When she passed away a short time later, everyone stopped speaking Italian except when they’d argue, which is why I can no longer speak or understand it…but I can still cuss pretty good.

My dad could also be very demanding.

When I was 5, he insisted I take up the accordion, which I did. After that, I would be trotted out after dinner to play a few tunes for whoever was at dinner that night, and rewarded with a silver dollar from my beaming, proud, father. Lady of Spain and Oh, Marie were his favourites. I had learned how to tap dance at the request of my mother when I was 2, so this was my dad’s way of encouraging me further, letting me know at a very early age that I could do anything if I worked at it.

My folks took me everywhere. They went out to dinner, I went out to dinner with them. To San Francisco to see the Harmonicats or Dick Contino, or any of my father’s favourite entertainers, I was there. I will always be thankful for that, too.

As I got older we drifted apart like some father’s and son’s do, and I wish we wouldn’t have.

By the time I was 16, after we had moved to Monterey Avenue, (when I was 12), just 5 blocks away from where I had grown up, I used to run into him in the garage at 3 in the morning. I’d be coming home, he’d be going to work. For a couple of years, all he ever said to me was, “Don’t you ever sleep? When are you going to get a haircut?”

God, I wish I could tell him how right he was, and how wrong I was.

There for a while, as I was your typical ‘head-up-my-ass’ teenager, I thought my dad was a goof. Always working, never taking it easy, falling asleep as he read the paper before dinner, and always telling me what to do…I thought I was so smart, and my dad was so lame. I mean…he owned the business. Why did he also do all the work?

I thought that way until one day in the summer of 1966.

We now had five supermarkets, a bowling alley, a liquor store, and lots of houses, apartments, and property. The Segarini Brothers were successful.

I was the only son that hadn’t gone into the family business. I wanted to write and play music. I wanted more than Stockton.

I was dividing my time between San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Stockton, and I was renting a little house on San Joaquin Street from my dad for a whopping $75 dollars a month. It was right next to the little corner grocery he and my uncles had started the family business in, on the corner of San Joaquin and Ellis.

I was mowing the little yard in front of the house when I noticed my dad standing on the sidewalk just staring at the former store, which had been a studio for some young artists, and now stood as a storage shed for this, that and the other, that was no longer in use by one brother or another.

He had tears in his eyes, which was disturbing to me. I had never, ever seen him like that. To me, my dad was tough as nails, always working, and not a little serious.

It was Stockton hot, a dry 100 plus degrees Fahrenheit, so I stopped mowing, walked over, and asked him if he would like a glass of lemonade. He would.

We sat on my porch sipping lemonade in silence for a few minutes before I got up the courage to ask him, “So…what’s goin’ on Pop? You look sad.”

He didn’t say anything for a long time. Then, he turned to me and said, “You know that little building used to be the store we had before Eldorado Street?”

I nodded.

“Your uncles and I started out there, and now we have so much because of what we did there”, he continued, “but it’s not going to be there any longer”.

“Why?” I asked.

“City ordinance. We have to tear it down and provide parking for the apartments”.

“So?” I said.

He looked at me like I was an idiot…and he was right.

My father loved what he did. He loved the long hours, the hard work, the feeling of accomplishment he felt every day. He was proud of what he did, and he was grateful, and he was happy with his life.

My father was a damn good man.

I didn’t say anything, I had not put two and two together yet, but my dad saw me trying to grasp the meaning of the moment, stood up, and walked back to his pickup truck, while I sat there thinking about what he had meant.

A couple of minutes after he left, it hit me.

The grocery stores, the deliveries he made every morning, the plumbing and handy man chores for the properties he owned, the pruning of the trees, the stocking of the store shelves…my dad loved it all.

It was his rock and roll.

He felt the same way about what he did as I felt about my music.

It was his life.

…and the city was making him tear down the place where it all started. And my dad…my dad was deeply affected by that.

That’s when I remembered how much I loved him, and that’s when I knew I could never be the man my father was. The only way I could come close, was to work as hard as he had to make sure his family had everything they needed. That was his applause, and his reason to work as hard as he did.

If I could go back in time, I would have grown up a lot sooner than I did, but I can’t…and I will always regret not living up to his expectations.

My dad was a character.

During World War II, my dad was rejected by the army for some kind of medical reason, so he and the others that stayed behind would make trips to San Francisco and make deals with Italian farmers over there so that there was always meat, and other hard to get goods available to his customers. He would sell liquor and beer to all men and women in uniform, getting arrested for it a few times because some of them were not 21, and always telling the police that if they were willing to fight for their country, they could damn well have a drink if they wanted one.

He was robbed many times, and once, with the other employees face down with their hands behind their backs, a thief held a gun to my dad’s head and told him to empty the 3 tills. Pop opened the first one and started counting, “20, 40, 60, 100, 110, 120, 125, 130, 131…”, the thief yelled, “What the fuck are you doing?, and my old man said, “If you’re going to rob me, I want to know how much you’re taking”. The thief shut up, my dad counted all 3 tills out. When asked to open the safe, my dad told the crook he had bills to pay, and there was no way he’d give him any more money.

Balls of steel.

The crook, waving his gun around, told my dad to stay where he was and not move for 20 minutes because if he called the cops or chased after him, he’d kill him. My dad just glared at him. The thief ran, my dad called the cops, helped my cousin and her husband up off the floor, and opened a bottle of Four Roses.

They caught the crook less than two blocks away.

In the mid ‘60’s, my folks went to Italy for two weeks. They did the tourist-y things, and went back to the little village where my father was born.

When they got back, I asked my dad how he liked the trip.

He said, “Damn good ice cream…but the sonovabitches don’t have any goddam ice cubes.”

My Dad and his Grandaughter Amy 1976

In 1977, I was in Toronto on the phone with my mother in Stockton when she let out a little squeak and laughed. I said, “What was that?”, She said, “Just your father…I have to go”.

“What happened?” I asked.

“He was pruning a tree and fell off the ladder. I saw him fall by the kitchen window…gotta go see if he’s alright”, and hung up.

He was 73…and he was fine.

A year later, he went into the hospital for a gall bladder operation, and the doctors told him he had cancer that had spread too far to be stopped, and that he only had weeks to live. He became so jaundiced at one point, a priest was called in to give the last rites. When he finished, the color returned to my father’s face and he sat up and said, “Can I eat now?”

He lived two weeks to the day.

My father’s funeral attracted over 1000 people. Mailmen in their uniforms, on-duty policemen, every person my dad had helped out, or waited on in the stores, or unclogged a toilet for, it seemed. One of my uncles gave me the keys to the liquor store, and for almost 3 days, we all sat drinking and eating, and telling stories about my dad, which is where I heard most of what I just shared with you, for the first time.

I learned that even though he gave me grief about pursuing music and growing my hair long, etc, he had taken my first album around to all the bars and restaurants he delivered to and demanded they put it on the jukebox.

“John”, they’d tell him, “that’s an album. The jukebox only plays 45’s”.

“I don’t give a damn”, he told them, “put it on there anyway”.

After he passed, my mother and Vic Jr. were going over the rental records of a couple of the apartment buildings. Vic freaked out when he found out that my dad was only charging long time residents what he had rented the apartments to them for in the first place. Some people were paying $45 dollars a month, the same they paid in the ‘40’s and early ‘50’s. When Vic told my mother to raise the rent, she told him that if my dad wouldn’t raise it, neither would she.

He shut up.

If you own a vinyl copy of “Gotta Have Pop”, take a look where the grooves run out just before the label. I etched his birth date and death date there myself, before the record went to the presses. He had passed away just before it was released, but that record was the result of one of the few times I tried to live up to my dad’s example.

Do the work. Do it as good as you can. Do it for the right reasons.

I miss you, Pop.

Thanks for everything…and happy father’s day.

John Segarini 1903-1978

The Complete 2010 Toronto Summer Hang Lists

NXNE Hits Toronto today, and the city is in for six days of great music, films, and events geared to the muso in all of us. Here’s a list of great places in Toronto that are not only musts for this week, but highly recommended as cool places to hang this summer.

The 2010 Toronto Summer Hang Lists

These are by no means the only destinations this city has to offer, but they are personal favourites and we think you would like them too. Every one of these places will afford you a great time, whether it be for music, food, or drink. Just click on the links for more information about each place. If you are in the music, media, movie, or entertainment industries and are visiting Toronto this summer, these are the places you will find your contemporaries and get a good taste of the city and its inhabitants. If you’re in a touring Indie band, these places will connect you to your peers, or offer a break from the travails of the road. Every one of the establishments listed below will lead you to more places equally as interesting.

Here are the lists…

All Around Best

Academy of Spherical Arts: This bar/restaurant/pool hall is unique for many reasons. First of all it is huge, yet intimate and cozy. The food is top notch, and the pool and snooker tables well maintained and absolutely beautiful examples of fine craftsmanship. The bar is the most compelling reason this watering hole is a standout. There must be at least 200 different Scotches available, a massive wine cellar in the basement, and one of the best collections of Bourbons in the city. The physical bar itself is an awe-inspiring hand crafted work of art, and they need a library railed ladder to reach some of the bottles. The bartenders know their stuff, and there is a bus stop at the corner, ample parking, and an inexpensive cab ride to just about anywhere downtown. Leave the car at home…you’re going to want to sample some of the amazing collection of fine liquors and wines available here. This is where the Rolling Stones partied when they were in town rehearsing their last few tours.

Cadillac Lounge: An excellent menu of the wings/burgers/clubhouse variety and some great live music that spans terrific roots/country/punk locals, new Indie acts, and legends ranging from Robert Gordon to Wanda Jackson. The Caddy also boasts one of the largest and best patios in the city. Most of all, the drinks are well poured, the tap and bottled beer are ice cold, and the staff like being there just as much as you do. Say hello to the owner Sam, share an order of fries, dig the music, and enjoy the patio. Indie roots, country and punk bands play and party here regularly. The Queen car stops right out in front.

Grossman’s Tavern: It ain’t fancy, but it has the ability to take you out of the present and plop you down in an un-definable past when everything was better and life wasn’t full of bad news and lousy breaks. A home for most every local blues musician for the past 40 years, Grossman’s is a friendly, homey, excuse to bend elbows with old friends, make new ones, and get a good buzz on either to start an evening out or end one. Again, the beer is ice cold, the drinks are well poured, and the staff are more like family than employees. More about their food and music below. Give our best to Dawn if she’s waiting tables the night you’re there. The local blues and folk community can be found here most nights. The Spadina streetcar stops right in front.

Laide: It’s dark, exotic, and driven thematically by Russ Meyer, Bettie Page, and gentrified pornographic day dreams. The bartenders are adventurous and creative, and Laide is one of the few places we hang where you can trust the staff behind the bar to make something just for you. Tell them what you like and they can come up with a drink that you have never had before, but will please even the most demanding palate. There’s a stripper pole in case your date has one too many shooters, and nice booths and intimate corners to insure a modicum of privacy. A solid, inventive menu, great background music, and drinks you will remember for a long time. Upscale chic with a low brow mindset. Great place to unwind. I recommend taking a cab.

Eat My Martini: There are 150 different martinis on the menu here and well poured well drinks. The prices are such that you will want to try as many of the martinis as you can handle. A lively, young crowd, loud house music, and a tiny patio that affords some of the best people watching on the College Street Strip. A  limited budget goes a long way here. College streetcar stops right across the street.

Southern Accent: More about the food down below, but the bar here is not only beautifully stocked, the bartenders are fun, engaging and you will return as much for the conversations that spring from these bar stools as you will for the Hurricanes, Bourbon Sours, and ice cold Creemore on tap. One of the better Bourbon selections in the city thanks to Francis, one of the owners, seeking out and adding the best ones available. Great clientele, lots of movie and creative folks, and the kind of conversations that make you lose track of the time. The ‘40’s New Orleans ambiance doesn’t hurt either. Great Cajun, Zydeco  and Blues played at a ‘just right’ volume fuels the discussions, and Richard, the main bartender, will charm the bejeesus out of just about anyone. Actors, directors, and professionals can be found at the bar most nights and lovers of New Orleans sights and sounds feel most at home. The Bathurst streetcar and Bloor subway line are just around the corner.

The Dakota Tavern: A great place to drink. Dark, funky, and full of people who still believe in great music. Lots of regulars, including some very well known musical artists from the Toronto area. A long bar, comfortable bar stools made from what appear to be whiskey casks, and a friendly, attentive staff. By the way, the food here is wonderful comfort food and the house made mac and cheese is unbelievably good. Keith’s on tap as well as a whole bunch of other good brands, and the bartenders know how to mix a highball. Ron Sexsmith, Tom Wilson, and other musical dignitaries can be spotted at the bar when they’re not out on the road. Ossington bus stops right in front.

The Emmit Ray: A little off the beaten path, The E.R is west of the madhouse that makes up the College Street Strip in Little Italy, but manages to have a large and interesting clientele who come for the great prices, cool regulars, and eclectic musical choices by both the live performers and the D.J’s. Again, this bar offers extremely reasonable prices and a solid menu of treats you won’t find anywhere else. Good brown whiskeys abound, and there are specials all the time. Try the warm olives, cheese platter, pate, or house made pot pies. Fun crowd, cold beer, easy access. Andrew knows his whiskeys and Bourbons, Christa and Matt also add to the friendly vibe, and Sebastian and Fiona are behind the bar when the owners take a break. The College streetcar stops at the corner of Dovercourt and College, a 30 second walk to the Emmit Ray.


Cherry Cola Rock N’ Rolla Cabaret Lounge: This is the bar for the summer of 2010. It has the potential to become legendary, joining the front bar at The Troubadour in L.A, Nobody’s in Greenwich Village, Thursday’s in Montreal, and Bemmelman’s and Blues on Belair in Toronto as places I will never forget. From the ‘50’s Brothel ambiance, to the beautiful women who dance in the window box, to the legions of fans who pack the place late in the evening, to the incredibly friendly and alert bar staff, Cherry Cola is the place that just screams ‘ground zero’ for a good time. A lot of that is attributable to co-owners Glenn Hughes and Cherish Stevenson, who make their presence known every night adding their personalities to the place and taking it up a notch every time they’re in the room. It is a well known fact that the people who are responsible for the vision an establishment pursues need to be in the building, and like all the other places on this list, these two are here putting their all into what is clearly a labour of love. This is an extremely well stocked bar, and the bartenders are without a doubt the cutest, sexiest, and quickest in the city. If you order a Long Island Ice Tea here (a summer favourite) you will get one made from scratch, not a pre-made cocktail out of a plastic bottle. The dirty classic gin martini is frosty and potent. The drinks are liberally poured, and the staff sport smiles and genuinely seem to really be enjoying themselves at all times. There seems to be a camaraderie amongst not only the staff and the owners, but almost every person in the place. It is the kind of bar that instills loyalty and respect in its clients, and Cherry Cola seems to possess an overflow of both. The bar pours some inventive and creative shooters, the beer is ice cold, and the mixed drinks are crisp and well poured. There is a secluded patio for smokers and conversations are frequent between strangers here. We have yet to depart Cherry Cola without at least a few new friends. Spotted here recently, music maven Cameron Carpenter, Led Zeppelin/Them Crooked Vultures bassist John Paul Jones, members of Sum 41 and Billy Talent (pictured here, Bob with Sum 41’s Tom Thacker and Billy Talent’s Ian D’Sa), entrepreneur David Daniloff, and musical artist Jay Sparrow.  More about The Cherry down below. 200 Bathurst, a 30 second walk north from the corner of Bathurst and Queen. Look for the red door, chandelier, and Tom.


The Emmit Ray: A great mix of cool DJ’s and live jazz. A great spot to chill and groove. Terrific local jazz groups like ‘New and Used’ who channel some of the greats.

The Mod Club: Many will tell you that the sound and sightlines in this high-ceilinged concert hall cannot be beat and I would be hard pressed to argue with them. Everything from touring biggies and up-and-comers to the best of the local Indie bands. Platinum Blonde’s Mark Holmes spins tracks with the best of them on Saturday nights.

The Hideout: Awesome layout, busy bar and a fine patio. An Indie favourite.

The Orbit Room: One of the few places that has built a reputation with residency bands that deliver fine soul, R&B, funk and blues. Hot crowd and good sound. Lots of fun and the music is always top notch. In the heart of the College Street Strip.

The Rivoli: A Queen Street West favourite since the late ‘70’s. The showroom in the back features solid local bands and touring artists from everywhere. Good food, a nice lounge upstairs, and a usually packed bar and dining room upfront.

The Drake Hotel: I first saw Ali Milner here, and Athens, Georgia’s Caspar and the Cookies, and there are a lot of Indie showcases in the intimate basement showroom. Make sure you check out the rooftop patio.

The Bovine Sex Club: Hard to get hipper than this. The Bovine has been around for like 30 years and still draws the coolest of the cool and the edgiest and hottest new bands that play downtown Toronto. When the horror/comedy vampire flick ‘Suck’ premieres at NXNE next weekend, catch Alice Cooper tending bar at the Bovine during the film.

Cherry Cola: The new kid in town, Cherry Cola has already established itself as the go-to place for band members as well as their fans. The Eagles of Death Metal opened the place and are returning for another show, and more bands are doing showcases here every week. Great DJ’s like Starboy and DJ Andrew keep the joint jumping until the last person leaves, and the dance floor gets jammed in the wee hours. Great fun.

Grossman’s Tavern: Da Blues, Baby! If you love the blues and solid roots music, Grossman’s will fill your cup. Everyone from Jeff Healey to Downchild, to Jerome Godboo have played this place and have always found an appreciative audience. Not only that, the grilled cheese sandwich and French fries are delish and inexpensive. Ice cold pitchers and great blues. Saturday afternoons the Happy Pals play New Orleans style jazz and have been doing so for decades. Do not miss.

Hugh’s Room: Perfect sightlines and good sound make this a favourite for CD release parties and roots showcases. My only complaint is this: I would really love this place more if the menu was a little more ‘down home’ with ribs, chili, meatloaf, and chicken fried steak replacing the stacked-up ‘cuisine’ they serve now. I could see Hugh’s being more like the Dakota Tavern, even wondering to myself what the vibe would be like if they put sawdust on the floor. Still, you will always hear great music in this venue every time you visit.

Horseshoe Tavern: It isn’t known as the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern for nothing. Everyone has played this place. The first time I saw the Talking Heads was here. The ONLY time I saw Johnny Paycheck was here. New bands debut here and legends return, like last week’s Diodes reunion. A must see and hear venue and a guaranteed night of great music and cold beer.

The Dakota Tavern: This walk-down basement venue is one of my favourite places ever. It is all about the music in this establishment. The bands that play here are the real deal and I have never walked away without thinking about what a great show I had just seen. Myk Gordon, Harlan Pepper, and Lee Harvey Osmond are just a few of the stellar artists who have packed this room in the past. The sound is always wonderful and the vibe is warm and natural. Do not miss.

FOOD: Eat In

If you get hungry while you’re here for NXNE or on vacation, you are in luck. Toronto is a city full of great places to eat. Here’s a short list of some of the best, and our pick for one of the best restaurants anywhere.

Rancho Relaxo: Authentic Mexican cuisine, perfect margaritas and a fine showcase venue upstairs. Owner/Chef Donnie Blaise has been a avid supporter of music and bands for decades, including running the still missed Fryfogel’s in London Ontario. He not only makes sure that young bands have a place to play upstairs, he has put together a menu of ridiculously good Mexican fare. This is where the Dos Equis Man has dinner…and a Dos Equis.

Sneaky Dee’s: Less authentic and more Tex-Mex, Cal-Mex than Rancho Relaxo, but also has a showroom upstairs that presents quite a few All Ages shows. The portions are huge and they serve breakfast until 4 every afternoon. Good luck trying to finish the large nacho platter or combination plates.

Café Diplomatico: Authentic, unpretentious Italian fare served by a busy wait staff and best eaten on the extremely popular patio. Expect a line-up on weekends, but well worth the wait. The antipasto platters are excellent and the people watching is an added plus.

Banjara: The best Indian restaurant I have ever eaten at. The Butter Chicken is perfect, the naan is tasty. They also carry Cheetah Beer…an actual Indian Pale Ale. Warning: If the menu says an item is hot, they mean HOT! Always busy…go early.

Bella Vista: My favourite Italian restaurant in Little Italy. The sausage Penne with Arrabbiata Sauce is to die for, as are the personal thin crust pizzas. Everything on the menu is a family recipe and absolutely wonderful. Friendly service, a nice patio, and a pretty good wine list. Perfect place to dine before heading out to a show.

Southern Accent: Cajun done right. Try the blackened chicken, gumbo, and jambalaya and start with the best calamari we’ve had in Toronto. This is simply one of the most romantic and satisfying restaurants in the city. Large outdoor patio for dining, a fortune teller/psychic on the premises, and one owner in the kitchen and the other on the floor. Save room for the dessert menu…seriously.

Highway 61: Ribs, both beef and pork, the smoked chicken, the pulled pork or chicken the best cornbread I’ve ever had in Canada, and onion rings from another world. Great staff and the owner is in house most days. If you’re as sloppy an eater as I am you will need a stack of napkins and a few wet-naps. An absolute summer destination, especially if your grilling skills aren’t up to snuff. Dammit, I just drooled on my keyboard…

Rodney’s Oyster House: Rodney used to bring a big wooden tub of fresh oysters into the old Jo Allen’s just off of King Street back in the 80’s every Thursday, and my friends and I would sit there at the bar and eat until we either ran out of money or room. Rodney’s seafood savvy and love affair with food has manifested itself into this wonderful upscale restaurant where you can feast on the freshest and most lovingly prepared  Pacific and Atlantic seafood available anywhere. The clam and oyster selection is vast, he has Dungeness Crab in season, and you and your friends can buy a whole live King Crab that will feed a dozen or more people. Also check out the chowders, New England, Manhattan, and corn.

The Old Mill: Old School dining and dancing just like it used to be. Seriously, this is a great night out especially if you want to have an elegant dinner with music that ranges from blues, to classic rock and roll, to big bands and Rat Pack tributes. Perfect for a date or a night out with the Mrs. Add an overnight stay, and you won’t be sorry.


Harbour 60: Every meal I have ever had here has been memorable. Beautiful food served in beautiful surroundings. The bone-in rib steak and the seafood platter are my favourites, and the seared Ahi starter is undeniable. Excellence permeates everything on the menu, and I mean everything. Excellent service, attentive staff, and the ambiance all conspire to make you feel special and welcome. Honestly, of all the great restaurants I have had the pleasure to dine in, Harbour 60 is the pinnacle. Reservations are recommended. Valet parking.

FOOD: Fast Food/Take Out

Here’s a short list of great places for when you need a good nosh at the hotel, on the run, or wherever. Some deliver, some don’t. The menus and phone numbers are at the links.

Dangerous Dan’s Diner: Like the man says, this is a Southern style diner. Everything is good.

California Sandwiches: Best Italian sandwiches in the city. Almost always a line-up, but totally worth the wait. The sandwiches are huge.

Popeyes: Yeah, I know, it’s a chain, but oh Baby, that is some fine chicken. Great sides too.

Pizza Hut: Also a chain, but as Seb Agnello pointed out to me, they make Pizza the Sicilian way, with a perfect thick pie infused with olive oil and with an almost Focaccia bread quality and texture. The wings aren’t bad, either.

Burro Burrito: Another wonderful and singular place on the College Street Strip. Best take-out Burritos in town.

JohnnyRockets: Yippers…another chain, but definitely a cut above. The Original cheeseburger is one of the best burgers I have had, and it is the only place in Toronto where you can get an actual Nathan’s Hot Dog, a New York fave. Not Pinks, but pretty damn good for a hot dog. Great shakes and floats, and ice cold Keith’s on tap. Eat in or take out. Across the street from Dundas Square and a fine place to wait for Iggy and the Stooges’ NXNE appearance.

Caplansky’s: The Centre Street Deli is too far North of the city, but Caplansky’s fills in nicely. Order the Old Fashioned medium, you won’t be sorry.

South Sea: Great Chinese food at reasonable prices. Just down the block from the Black Swan. The pork fried rice and crispy chicken are awesome.

Churrasqueira Oliveira Ltd.: Right next door to The Emmit Ray. Just look in the window to see what’s available. Closes early, so grab some take-out for later. Wonderful chicken and ribs and the deep fried shrimp are a bargain.

Smokin’ Bones: More Southern style comfort food made with love by believers in quality. Everything on the menu is soulfully satisfying. The ribs and chicken sell out early, so act accordingly.

And finally…

The Vesta Lunch: The only place on this list open 24 hours a day. The Vesta has been dishing it out since 1955. There when you need ‘em.

bob segarini writes stuff, sings stuff, watches stuff and does stuff. He can be reached at segarini@rogers.com, read at http://www.fyimusic.ca and listened to at iTunes, http://www.rtds.ca and on CD’s by  The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, All the Young Dudes, Segarini, and Cats and Dogs.

Today’s Quote: “This business has no business being a business.”