Photo by Kasandra Bracken/Torontoist.
“When you see eight large columns and three heads of Zeus, you will know you have arrived in the correct spot.”
Not an excerpt from your typical Saturday night show stub. And unless you’ve recently taken some wedding photos, not a place where you’d typically head from downtown (because we folks at Torontoist ah-hem, never leave the city’s core). But this Saturday evening, the downtown kids “who know” willingly made their way east to the borough for some artsy-fartsy fun.
It was Stillepost that tipped us off about Bite Your Tongue, a mini music festival featuring Final Fantasy and friends. Presented by the Toronto Arts Council and Theatre Centre, the show included six artists in four hours for ten dollars, a bargain by any means. But with a bargain always comes a catch, one we picked up on when we picked up the ticket. To find out the hidden location, concertgoers were told they must return to the location of ticket pickup, given nothing more than assurance that the secret spot’s “majesty” would more than justify the trek. We were instantly enticed—mystery, adventure, and music, oh boy!
Come Saturday evening, we exchanged our tickets for a program of artist bios and some basic directions. A long, lonely subway ride to Kennedy and a bus through residential areas made us wonder if we’d missed our stop, but a friendly bus driver informed us we were drawing near to a lesser-known city landmark. Off the bus and now walking through the parking lot, we passed by Guild Inn itself. (Later, the locals—who got in free, unaware of the event—would tell us the inn was previously an artists’ colony. Owned at the time by a couple who spent a good part of the mid-twentieth century collecting pieces of art and pieces of demolished buildings, it stands today as a publicly owned property and historical site filled with gardens and fragments of the city’s history—like this piece from the not-so-permanent Canada Permanent Trust Company.) Across the field and atop the Scarborough Bluffs, we were greeted with a birds-eye view of water as far as the eye can see, and sky and clouds delightfully unobscured by the CN Tower. And yeah, we’ll admit: at the beginning, the scenery was far better than the sound.
Like many avid concert-goers, we expected the music to start late, and missed more of the show than we saw. Gowns, fronted by a grungy female with an immaculate blonde bowl-shaped haircut, played a heavily distorted guitar and keyboard set contrasted with whispery, wallowy vocals. The crowd didn’t seem to care, however, until Owen Pallett strolled onstage, violin and MacBook in tow. Smooth, soft falsetto with sudden punches of sound and a modern take on the violin made Pallett’s sound the model for baroque pop. He riffed through his newer repertoire, scoffing when the audience requested 2005’s “The CN Tower Belongs to the Dead.” And during the set, it was a pleasant surprise to see the perfectly disciplined performer stop abruptly mid-song to flick a spider from his ear, showing us that Owen Pallett is, in fact, human (at least to all but Polaris Prize judges). His set, unfortunately cut short by the park’s 11 p.m. noise restrictions and longer-than-planned opening acts, was intimate and interactive, short and sweet. The later police presence remained a friendly reminder that while events like this are cool once in a while, they can’t always cater to the crowd who wants an encore and another round. So while the ride was, for some, longer than the event itself, it was certainly more about the art of getting there, of urban discovery and experiment. And now that we’ve been, we’d say it’s worth going back.