(Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
We recently made a quick visit to Toronto for a concert. Los Lobos have been on my musical bucket list for a while and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to see them. Before showtime, however, we had a couple of stops to make.
Toronto has a great transit pass offer on weekends: 2 adults (and up to 4 children) can ride all day for a total of $12.00. With single rides costing $3.25 cash, the pass pays for itself if 2 adults take one return trip. We did that…and much more.
Our first stop was a neighbourhood that used to be known as “Little India”. Somehow, I had never visited this part of Gerrard Avenue East (between Greenwood and Coxwell) despite living in Toronto for 3 years. It’s now known as the “Gerrard India Bazaar” but it still has several blocks of restaurants and shops featuring food and clothing from the Indian subcontinent.
We were hungry and slightly overwhelmed by the number of restaurants, so we went to the first one that looked a little different from Kingston’s Indian restaurants. Karma’s Kitchen featured Indian, Nepalese and Tibetan cuisine; I settled on a sizzling plate called Chicken Tangra.
After picking up some unusual food items (including a delicious Punjabi peanut brittle!) for home and dropping them off at our hotel, we did some music shopping in the Queen West/Spadina neighbourhood and then headed to The Annex.
I lived on the edge of The Annex many years ago and often visited this part of town for dinner and/or entertainment….and so it was on this night, as we visited the venerable Country Style Hungarian Restaurant on Bloor Street West. As you can see from the photo, the size of the schnitzel did not disappoint! There was lots of spätzle underneath and a cucumber salad besides. It’s not fancy but you cannot possibly leave hungry.
We sauntered slowly from the restaurant to the concert venue. It was all quite promising: an acclaimed band, an acoustically renowned concert hall, a supposedly “unplugged” concert theme, and seats in the first row of the side balcony, right by the stage. We looked forward to seeing and hearing with astonishing clarity.
Well, we did *see* Los Lobos up close. Unfortunately, the concert was marred by unbalanced and muddy sound. It was strange to be only a short distance from the saxophone player and yet not hear any of the notes he was obviously playing. Same with the vocals; in fact, even the announcements (without music) at the start of the concert were unintelligible. However, we did hear plenty of the wall of guitars. Our ears rang for quite some time afterwards; this was certainly not an unplugged or acoustic performance.
I walked the length of the balcony, to see if we were in a sonic “dead zone”, but things didn’t seem to be any better. Los Lobos finished their concert with a seamless medley of “La Bamba” and the Rascals’ “Good Lovin'”. They clearly are accomplished and adventurous musicians – other songs wandered into portions of “Not Fade Away” and “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” before returning to the original Los Lobos song.
Despite the disappointing sound at the concert, our trip was still a success…particularly with some great finds the next morning at the antique market and spectacular gelato (as always) at “G is for Gelato” on Jarvis Street. And we can listen to brilliant albums like “Kiko” at home anytime!