This week, beat-boxing, country music, and Caribbean Carnival experiences; a surfeit of great local comedy; art outdoors, thrilling WWII dogfights indoors, and music from The Dears, The New Swears, and more.
Wednesday, July 12
Veteran Toronto troubadour Danny Michel, who recorded his most recent album on a Russian tanker in the Arctic Circle, is spending his July playing some casual weekly park shows with musical pals, including the Skydiggers, Pretzel Logic, and Only Yours. Tonight is special, though, because Michel himself is the headliner (with opener Quique Escamilla).
East Lynn Park (1949 Danforth Avenue), FREE.
A monthly showcase of queer improvisers and pals, Kinsey Fail tonight welcomes guest performer Ty Sloane (Buddies In Bad Times’ Youth /Elder Project). The cast includes Caitlin English (Bad Dog Featured Players), Tricia Black of The Sketchersons, and Tom Hearn, also of The Sketchersons (he made his debut last Sunday).
Bad Dog Theatre (875 Bloor Street West), 8 p.m., $5-$10.
Marty Topps and Jackie Pirico both appear on comedy shows tonight.
Thursday, July 13
Thursday and Friday afternoons this summer, the corner of King and Simcoe is the place to be after work to catch free shows in the Live On The Patio Series outside Roy Thomson Hall. This week’s guests are particularly good: soulful singer-songwriter Peter Katz plays today, and on Friday, a special Paper Bag Records showcase features Lou Canon, and a special set (with symphony strings) by Murray Lightburn and Natalia Yanchak of The Dears.
July 13-14, Roy Thomson Hall front patio (60 Simcoe Street), 5 p.m., FREE.
Veteran funny fellas Morgan O’Shea and Faisal Butt produce and host We’re With Her, their monthly showcase of some of Toronto’s best female and genderqueer comics. Tonight’s bill includes Chantel Marostica, Sophie Kohn (CBC Comedy), Jackie Pirico, and more.
Social Capital Theatre (154 Danforth Avenue), 8 p.m., $5.
Also a strong comedy bill this week: Laugh Sabbath, which this week is the monthly Getting James With It, with host James Hartnett. Besides locals like Marty Topps, Evany Rosen, and Andrew Johnston, expat and Laugh Sabbath alumnus Adam Christie guests with two American colleagues: Caleb Synan, and Alice Wetterlund (HBO’s Silicon Valley, TBS’s People of Earth).
Comedy Bar (945 Bloor Street West), 9:30 p.m., $5.
Friday, July 14
The 10th annual Unity Festival, a celebration of local and youth led “Hip-Hop, Dance, Spoken Word, MC’ing and Beatboxing,” this year features their dance and beatboxing competitions outdoors, where nearly every Hollywood film imagines events—under an overpass. In this case, though, it’s the elegantly designed (and lit) Underpass Park, with hosts Hannia and Gloria from UDOOU Crew, UnStyLD, and Philly D, plus over a dozen (adult, as in, over the age of 20) Canadian beatboxers, and more than a half dozen special guest exhibiting dancers. (Saturday, the Festival culminates in a day-long concert at Yonge Dundas Square headlined by Main Source.)
Underpass Park (29 Lower River Street), 5 p.m., FREE.
Tonight’s edition of the science and suds social Astronomy On Tap will feature lectures on advancements in radio telescope research among the stars, plus, in a nod to Canada 150, an overview of great Canadian achievements in the field—plus drink prizes, merch, and more, courtesy of the Dunlop Institute and the University of Toronto.
The Great Hall (1087 Queen Street West), doors at 7 p.m., talks at 8 p.m., FREE.
Saturday, July 15
The 50th annual Toronto Caribbean Carnival (once—and still colloquially—known as Caribana) officially kicked off early this week with a ceremony at City Hall, but the festival doesn’t really hit its stride doesn’t really happen until the first week of August. But until then, there are some lead-up events to whet Toronto’s appetite for Carnival, including Carnival Village, a day-long presentation of the history of Carnival at the Regent Park Cultural Centre, with performances, interactive exhibits, and more.
Daniels Spectrum (585 Dundas Street East), 10 a.m.-6 p.m., FREE.
It’s in a the downtown core of the city, vice a hayfield, but the County Fair is promising an authentic country experience over this weekend, with BBQ prepared by a half dozen local chefs, 10 live music acts, a mechanical bull competition, line dancing lessons, and more.
July 14-15, 525 King Street West, Friday 5 p.m.-11 p.m., Saturday noon-11 p.m., $34.50-$139.50.
There aren’t many shows (and hosts) as genial as Helder Brum and Friends. The easygoing comic has a great local bill in the smaller cabaret space for his monthly showcase tonight, including Arthur Simeon, Courtney Gilmore, Jordan Foisey, a music set by Jackie Pirico, and more.
Comedy Bar (945 Bloor Street West), 8 p.m., $10 in advance, $15 at the door.
Legendary local promoter Dan Burke didn’t sit around much after the final blowout week of shows at the Silver Dollar. The first show he announced at another local venue was this one, and it’s finally here: the Toronto record release party for Ottawa’s New Swears, up-and-comers who’ve been compared to Mac DeMarco (for their stage antics as much as their cunning, catchy tunes).
Lee’s Palace (529 Bloor Street West), doors at 8 p.m., $13.50 in advance (more at the door).
Sunday, July 16
Running all weekend out front of City Hall, the Outdoor Art Exhibition features hundreds of artists displaying their work, from OCAD up-and-comers in the Student Zone to artists like Michael Compeau (who won the 2016 Now People’s Choice award). It also features a cascading beer garden by the Henderson Brewing Co., performances from Stand Up Dance and Brazilian samba group Batucada Carioca, and tours (of both the art and the beer flights).
To July 16, Nathan Phillips Square (100 Queen Street West), 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. (to 5 p.m Sunday), FREE.
Monday, July 17
Veteran puppetter Eric Woolfe’s unique take on a classic comedy duo, Eldrith Theatre’s The Lamentable Absurdical Chronicle of Punch and Judy has a two night stand starting tonight in Leslieville. Fans who’ve seen his Cabal of Horror Shows know that there’ll be some dark humour and possibly some black magic mixed in with the “puppet-on-puppet violence.”
July 17-18, Red Sandcastle Theatre (922 Queen Street East), doors at 7:30, show at 8 p.m., $20 in advance, $30 at the door.
Kirsten Rasmussen has been one of Toronto’s most exceptional comedic talents for years now, both in small quirky shows and in the mainstage revues at Second City. She’ll be taking her new solo sketch show Full Time Idiot to Montreal and the just For Laughs Festival soon, and it’s getting a one night only preview here beforehand.
Bad Dog Theatre (875 Bloor Street West), 8 p.m., $10.
Tuesday, July 18
Eric Peterson and John Gray have been wowing audiences with Billy Bishop Goes To War for more than 40 years now, and the distinguished thespian Peterson still seems to revel in donning the lead character’s pyjamas and recounting his story for audiences. This writer has seen it three times in three decades now, and it’s still a magical bit of storytelling and theatre. See it while you still can.
To August 5, Young Centre (50 Tank House Lane), check website for dates and times, $32-$96.
Urban Planner is your weekly curated guide to what’s on in Toronto—things that are local, affordable, and exceptional.