Singers, singer-songwriters, comedians, rappers, and good-deed-doers came together Tuesday night at the Drake Hotel for It’s Always Something Else, an evening aid of Gilda’s Club Toronto, the organization named for Gilda Radner that offers free cancer support to those afflicted by the disease.
For $25 a pop (or $45 including eats), guests were treated to no less than three floors of solid Canadian entertainment. In the infamously-packed Sky Yard, comics Sean Cullen and the Rumoli Bros. provided laughs beside the cool breezes and mojitos; on the main floor, acoustic sets were the mainstay, with artists The Most Serene Republic, Dala, and others performing stripped-down versions of their tunes. The evening’s second trio (the first being Peter Katz, Pat Robitaille, and Liam Titcomb) featured Kevin Hearn of the Barenaked Ladies, alt-country crooner Justin Rutledge, and Ron Sexsmith, who told the crowd he would be playing songs from his new album at the Underground later on with his band. “Don’t Be Mean Jellybean,” a Rutledge tune, found the three playing together, improvising, and figuring out lyrics and harmonies mid-song.
However, there was a mass exodus midway through the Hearn/Rutledge/Sexsmith set, and you could feel the thump-thump through the floor, as Buck 65 tore it up in the Underground. Summer dresses and beady jewelry swung round as smitten females grooved to the soon-to-be-CBC-host’s slamming set. Shortly thereafter, and minutes after ending upstairs, Sexsmith took to the stage and performed a lovely half-hour set. K-OS did his two-turntables-and-a-microphone thing later on, and following him, infectious groovers Fritz Helder and the Phantoms played into the wee hours.
Surprising (or not) was the number of young people who openly admitted to receiving cancer treatment in the past. The 23-year-old host of the lounge event said she’d been diagnosed at 19; Hearn shared that he was marking ten years (to the day, in fact) he’d been cancer-free. Drake regulars, musicians, and personalities (such as opera diva Measha Brueggergosman and fashionista Jeanne Beker) mingled with cancer survivors who’d benefited from Gilda’s Club. Radner may not be around to see how her comedic legacy has spread, but her influence in the area of cancer support is everywhere.
Photo by Catherine Kustanczy.