You know what’s weird about Toronto? In spite of being the most populous city in the country, we can’t ever seem to win popularity contests.
Take CBC Radio 3’s hunt for the best live music venue in the country (that was indoors and had a capacity of one thousand or less). When the CBC sent out a press release to solicit suggestions, it began with: “What is the best club to see live music in Canada? Will it be the legendary Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver or the venerable Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto? Maybe it’s the Royal Albert Arms in Winnipeg or Broken City in Calgary? The Marquee in Halifax, Amigo’s in Saskatoon or Jane Bond in Waterloo?”
Toronto was well-represented early: the long list of one hundred and something venues announced on January 28 included the Cameron House, the Dakota Tavern, the El Mocambo, the Gladstone Hotel’s Ballroom, the Horseshoe Tavern, Hugh’s Room, Lee’s Palace, the Lucky Dragon, the Mod Club, the Music Gallery, the Phoenix, Rancho Relaxo, the Rex Jazz Bar, the Rivoli, the Smiling Buddha, Sneaky Dee’s, the Tranzac, and Wrongbar. But then a strange thing happened: people started voting. When the top fifty were announced on February 3, the Dakota, the Horseshoe, Hugh’s Room, Sneaky Dee’s, the Tranzac, and Wrongbar were the locals left standing; when the top twenty were announced on February 11, only Hugh’s Room remained, news we greeted with a hearty “WTF?!” And now that the list is down to the final ten, Toronto has been totally knocked out, even though the rest of Ontario is doing just swell: London, a city we were pretty sure had banned all forms of fun years ago, has a totally ridiculous two venues on the final list, and Waterloo, Ottawa, Windsor, and Kingston all have one each.
But we aren’t, for once, the only ones with hurt feelings. Of the CBC’s own “What is the best club to see live music in Canada?” list, the answer was “none of the above,” and, judging from the results so far, the more good venues a city has, the less likely it is for any one of them to win. So maybe “best” isn’t exactly the best word.