The Underground Fights Back
Independent artists across Toronto are rising up to challenge gentrification, the force most responsible for tearing down their venues.
In the past year, many spaces that catered to the city’s underground art scene have been shut down, mainly due to the rise of real estate prices in the downtown area. Among these establishments were The Silver Dollar, The Hoxton, The Central, Soybomb and so on.
In retaliation, youthful musicians, photographers, comedians and other artists have banded together to create platforms where their work can be experienced, ensuring that as this city grows and develops, there will still be a passionate and cultivated art scene.
Organizations such as Black Siren, which caters directly to young artists, have been working towards buying their own venue where all forms of art would be welcome. Their aim is to have a music performance space, a rehearsal space and rental spaces which can be used for photography, film and a variety of other crafts. Under the guidance of Deborah Daniel, Black Siren finally achieved this goal at the end of August through funding from various benefit concerts and events. The opening of The Hub, a space in the Distillery District, will take place this month, so be sure to check it out on Facebook!
Another incredible collection of artists come from the self-branded label, Fried Records. Their musicians are local to Toronto, and they produce a wide array of snazzy music while also seeking to promote and support local talent. For example, Fried Records makes use of DIY spaces to prevent further erosion of the community; their latest show, Backyard Boogaloo, was hosted behind a churro place in Kensington Market. They are doing everything they can to keep interest growing in the local scene. In their newest release, a band called Passport Radio sings:
It’s melting through my fingers, it’s melting my imagination / It keeps me shackled up beneath my own creation.
Alex Fecioru, a band member, stated that “venues are slipping away from right under me and it makes me feel shackled to my work, not being able to share it as easily because all the venues are closing down…. I think these DIY spaces are going to become more prolific as venues go under.”
Queen’s Park Water Tower is a collective that is much newer to the scene. They link artists from all types of creative communities together, creating a network that allows innovative projects flourish. At the moment, their filmmakers are working on a live video recording series showcasing local musicians (called The Water Tower Series) for YouTube. Through their use of social networking, Queens Park Water Tower has created a platform to promote their members, providing artists who are just starting their careers with the ability to reach a much wider audience. Their next show is at The Supermarket in Kensington on Saturday, November 30.
Lucan Wai, owner of The Smiling Buddha, commented: “I’m glad to see Toronto’s youth culture taking a stand and protecting their artistic endeavours. When The Central was open, new bands and artists could start out there, developing relationships, forming an audience base and getting a taste of their potential. Now, we’re running out of places like that.”
There are many other collaborative organizations fighting to preserve the integrity of Toronto’s underground scene, such as Mask Toronto and Buzz Records. Thanks to these driven, hardworking and passionate individuals, our artistic community will survive the obstacles thrown at it. This underground scene and its current climate represents the creative, off-beat essence that is the Toronto we all know and love.