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Updated: 2 days 21 hours ago

The rise and fall of MuchMusic, from crucial TV to bust

2014/07/18(Fri) 10:15

Much Music 1980sOne's thirties are the new twenties so they say, but for our embattled Nation's Music Station MuchMusic it's the new euthanasia. Launched with great gusto 30 years ago this August, MuchMusic (original tagline: "It's a lot!") has been slowly dispossessed of its magical powers over the last decade as the channel lunged from an embarrassing identity crisis into full blown televisual catatonia.

MuchMusic

While its overlords at Bell Media are quick to blame a T.K.O. combo of YouTube guzzling kids and a side of strait-jacketed conditions of licence courtesy of our proudly tone deaf Government regulatory agency the CRTC, the sad truth is that a profound lack of vision and imagination have killed this once indomitable golden goose.

Seismic waves triggered by CTVglobemedia's (now Bell Media) purchase of the CHUMCity assets in 2006 are still felt today, as one by one those colorful assets fade into a beige blur of TV mediocrity; Citytv, the incendiary local channel which gleefully re-wrote the rules of a vanilla medium is now a wasteland of second tier sitcoms, reality shows, and mind numbing infomercial loops. Bravo and Space, once bastions of high quality niche series catering to high and low brow viewers alike, are now home to sloppy seconds, practically indistinguishable from one another never mind everything else.

In other news, Netflix, piracy and SVOD are kicking everyone's ass because even us Hoi Polli are better at imaginative programming than most major broadcasters.

Reporting on the gutting of what was left of MuchMusic's original programming, the Globe and Mail (also owned by Bell Media) quoted Bell Media president Kevin Crull as saying "Kids do not watch music videos on television. You're not going to wait for somebody to program a music video when you have a million available on Vevo". It's almost as if some people have forgotten why the peons bothered to watch Much in the first place.

Music videos may well have been the bricks and mortar out of which the original condition of license was constructed back in the early 1980s, but the true pedigree of MuchMusic was always attitude.

MuchMusic was a hard partying Frankenstein's monster forged together by pieces of Citytv's creative maelstrom in the late 70s/early 80s - The New Music (alternative principles and magazine style reportage), Toronto Rocks (edgy rock and street cred), CHUM 30 Countdown (Video countdowns) and City Limits (irreverent commentary, comedy and bizarre stock footage). Unifying all of this wayward mayhem were some remarkable hosts - J.D Roberts, Jennie Becker, John Majhor, and Christopher Ward, respectively.

Later shows on MuchMusic such as Soul in the City, The Wedge, Power Hour, R U Receiving, French Kiss, Electric Circus, The Punk Show, Life on Venus Avenue and Rap City fostered an eclecticism that is difficult to find in the current online megaverse of curation-less content, where we technically have access to everything but limited or no guidance on the journey.

Sook yin leerick the temp2014717-MASTER-T.jpgstrombo

When it was first unleashed onto Canada via the madhouse at 99 Queen Street East, Much's cadre of VJs included electric personalities such as Michael Williams, Erica Ehm, and Denise Donlon, later Steve Anthony, Terry David Mulligan, Kim Clarke Champniss, Tony "Master T" Young, Ed the Sock, Ziggy Lorenc, Monika Deol, Dan Gallagher, Simon Evans, Sook-Yin-Lee, Rick "the temp", Daniel Richler, George Stroumboulopoulos, many others.

Regardless of your preferred musical genre, this motley crew of misfits chilling in their open concept work space invited you to hang out with them 24/7, learn stuff you didn't know, hear amazing tunes, have a laugh and feel like part of something much larger. Just like the best kind of cool older brothers and sisters.

The visionary man upstairs Moses Znaimer and his co-conspirator John Martin were the hip parents who let their children run amuck and experiment as much as they liked, just so long as they did it under his roof. First at 99 Queen Street East, and then later most memorably at 299 Queen West, the ChumCity building was a buzzing sentient cathedral of good vibes, good music, and good people: "The living movie" as it came to be known.

299 Queen St.Nowadays 299 Queen West is a gated mortuary, where everything is hidden away from the public. Long before social media transformed our toys, its ethos was apparent in every facet of MuchMusic's soul. It was live, interactive and approachable. The VJs were actually die-hard music fans. They enjoyed nothing more than turning people onto new bands and genres. It was an adroit educational experience, and everyone including sponsors and advertisers came out smiling.

With virtually nothing, the original brains behind Much delivered on their promise of giving us "a lot". With a lot, the new owners of Much gave us virtually nothing. Reruns of The Simpsons, Degrassi, and The Mentalist might look good from a R.O.I perspective on O&O economies of scale, but they sure won't buy you a dedicated cult following.

With Much's epitaph basically written (but not yet carved in stone), it seems to be all over but for the crying. Bean counters are not usually interested in straying from their scripts, which seems all the more mystifying when you recall that kind of punk flavoured disobedience to rules was what turned Much into the cash money piñata they bought in the CHUMCity package all those years ago.

Grassroots movement #GivethembacktoMoses sprung up this week with a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/Givethembacktomoses) ostensibly to show Bell Media there is still an appetite for the brand under new (old) management. They should return their broken purchase - if they no longer want it - to its prophetic creator Moses Znaimer, who no doubt could turn things around sharpish.

Properties like Much worked best with small overheads and big ideas, and with instant access to virtually every song and music video ever created, we sorely need expert curation more than ever before. It need not be a rerun of the first 30 years, and it's no longer just about videos. The next chapter in this exciting saga is beckoning. Who better to save the wounded and confused monster than Dr. Frankenstein himself?

Besides which, Much Master T thinks it's a good idea.

Retrontario plumbs the seedy depths of Toronto flea markets, flooded basements, thrift shops and garage sales, mining old VHS and Betamax tapes that less than often contain incredible moments of history that were accidentally recorded but somehow survived the ravages of time. You can find more amazing discoveries at www.retrontario.com.

National Hot Dog Day brings free franks to Toronto

2014/07/18(Fri) 09:45

Hot Dog Day TorontoNational Hot Dog Day in Toronto is a relatively new invention, though similar celebrations have taken place since as early as the 1970s south of the border. Our homegrown version was started by Fancy Franks, who will once again carry the torch in support of SickKids charities on July 23rd. The promotion runs at Fancy Franks College St. location between 12-7pm on the patio, where guests will be entitled to one free dog.

Piggybacking on Fancy Franks' efforts, Craft Dogs will also be giving away some free dogs next Saturday, though only for the first 50 who show up.

Has Drake renamed Toronto?

2014/07/18(Fri) 00:05

Drake TorontoDrake is attention seeking again - or that's what my parents used to call it whenever I cried out for love. Amid dissing Macklesnore and gripping a Polaris shortlist nomination (has anyone told him yet?) the hip hop star / unofficial most important person in Toronto has renamed his hometown without consulting, seemingly, anybody.

While speculating what Drake's newly revealed album title Views From The 6 might mean, pieces were slowly put together by, according to BuzzFeed, "people" - Twitter users? - who deduced that "6" is the only common number shared by "416" and "647" area codes. Well, that and the "4." So is Toronto's new name "the 6" for realsies? Are we "in the 6" right now?

We know Drake shares rap's love of area code drops, but I don't think I buy the interpretation of the album title. Smooth talking Drizzy's not about to forget his east end girls with 905 numbers, first of all. Complex dished on these fake OVO billboards featuring "6" branding in the spring, which further muddies the situation.

Yet with our wayward mayor, one couldn't really be surprised to wake up tomorrow to find out that Drake has been allowed to re-brand the city on a whim. He saved the Raptors, didn't he? It's dry, but anything's an improvement over "Hogtown." Maybe Hogtown Vegan should rename themselves 6 Vegan - would you rather be reading blogThe6.com right now? Should Drake team up with spooky DETH Records for a "Triple 6" dance night in Kensington? Let us know in the comments.

Update: a tipster whom for whatever reason is too cool to comment on blogTO (but might have commented on blogThe6, right?) has informed us Drake's pal Jimmy Johnson originally coined the nickname. Good work, team Drake Watch.

Photo courtesty of Ron Turenne/NBA photos

The top 5 alt-country bands to watch in Toronto

2014/07/18(Fri) 00:04

Alt country TorontoThe top alt-country bands to watch in Toronto may be under-the-radar now even to long time fans of twang, but y'all (sorry) better plan on seeing them around. Toronto continues to be home to both established and emerging alt-country (alternative country - think country for indie fans) artists. More recognizable names include Justin Rutledge, The Wooden Sky, The Strumbellas, Elliott Brood, Cuff the Duke, and now in Nashville, Lindi Ortega.

It was Grant Lawrence (CBC) who said, "Blue Rodeo were alt-country before the genre existed." Even those country-rockers who started in '84 owe a slight something to Handsome Ned (Robin Masyk). As much of Toronto's alt-country scene still lives on Queen St., Handsome Ned began his country music career there in the early '80's, leading to a residency at the Cameron House, and a few 45rpm singles. Ned, who died of a suspected drug overdose, remains an influence on later artists Blue Rodeo, the Skydiggers, and the Sadies.

Here are five alt-country bands worth keeping on your radar.

The Lovelocks
Ali Raney and Zoe Neuman have accomplished a lot with their combination of vocal harmonies, fiddle, mandolin, and acoustic guitar in only a few years. Their crowdfunding campaign raised $30,000 and they continue to chart on the iTunes country list. Fans also know them for their natural charm, hilarity - and limes and tequila.

Dani Nash
There's more to Dani Nash than just her bio-advertised leather pants. This rising musician is brimming with talent. Nash delivers her own country rock and also performs with The Pining, Samantha Martin and the Haggard, and others. Also keep an eye out for her visual art, which reflects her Northern Ontario roots.

Animal Parts
Joshua Cockerill looks to have made the rights moves, as far as his music career - he knew he wanted to be a musician since age 10. Cockerill moved from Alberta to Toronto, and self-released "The Trick With Your Heart I'm Learning To Do" after forming the alt-country band (with a touch of pop) Animal Parts. The band has gone on to release 3 albums in 14 months. Dubbed mammalites, they all claim to be good for a hug at their shows.

Local 164
Local 164 bring murder ballads, harmonies, and big dreams to the Big Smoke with their alt-country/roots sound. Gordon Bolan (vocals), Jenny Young (banjo), Dave Chan (drums/mandolin), and Jason O'Brien can be regularly found playing the Tranzac on the 2nd Wednesday of the month.

Kayla Howran
Kayla Howran's debut album "Pistol" has been called, "a twangy back-to-basics alt-country album." After finding her way from Peterborough to Toronto's Queen St. and the Cameron House, Howran established a Friday night residency there for a year. She can now be seen live on most first Fridays of the month at the Cameron House.

Writing by Ryan Ayukawa. Photo of Dani Nash via Facebook

Toronto Food Events: Thrill of the Grill, Oyster Fest, Taste of Thailand, Summer Sundays, Sausage League

2014/07/18(Fri) 00:03

thrill of the grill torontoToronto Food Events rounds up the most delicious events, festivals, pop-ups, winemaker dinners, supper clubs and other food related happenings in Toronto this week and next. You can find us here every Friday morning.

THIS WEEK

  • Taking place on Saturday, July 19 from noon to 4pm, the Thrill of the Grill, organized by the Danforth BIA, will raise funds for kidney cancer research while showcasing local restaurants and merchants. Five Danforth restaurants and one butcher will compete to win over crowds and celebrity judges with delectable racks of BBQ ribs.
  • Taste of Thailand, a free outdoor festival celebrating Thai food and culture, takes place at Nathan Phillips Square th July 19 and 20 from noon until 8pm. The event will feature free cultural shows, Thai delicacies for sale, cooking demos and carving workshops.
  • The 26th Ontario Oyster Festival at Rodney's (469 King St. West) promises a shuckin' good time, featuring fresh oysters, mussels, and lobster, on Sunday, July 20 from 2pm to 10pm. Tickets ($32) get you admission plus two drink tickets, and one plate of oysters or one hot food item. Additional food and drink tickets are $5.
  • Summer Sundays, happening July 20 and 27, will transform the rooftop terrace at Malaparte (at the Bell Lightbox) into a champagne garden featuring full service brunch stations catered by O&B. Tickets are $45 and include two complimentary Perrier-Jouët champagne cocktails.
  • The Sausage League at Marben (488 Wellington St. West) continues this week with, Valdez facing off against Caplansky's on Tuesday, July 22, and Geraldine taking on The Drake Hotel on Wednesday, July 23. From 5:30pm on, diners will have the chance to taste and vote for the winner.
  • Fancy Franks (326 College St.) is partnering with SickKids for National Hot Dog Day on Wednesday, July 23, serving up free hot dogs from its patio from noon until 7pm. Enjoy a free weiner and support a good cause with a donation or purchase of a drink or merchandise.

UPCOMING EVENTS

OTHER NEWS

  • The Stop Community Food Centre 's Farm to Fork Brunch, originally planned for Sunday, July 27 fhas been cancelled. Ticket holders will be refunded.

Queen and Broadview to reopen early, more woes loom

2014/07/17(Thu) 13:16

toronto queen broadviewIt looks like relief is in sight for the businesses of Riverside. The TTC says it is planning to reopen the intersection of Queen and Broadview a week earlier than scheduled following streetcar track replacement work.

TTC spokesman Brad Ross attributes the rare good news to "a lot of really good timing and hard work by everybody involved to get things finished ahead of schedule."

"The big push for us was to reopen that intersection, to resume our service, to allow traffic to start flowing through there again," he says. "Queen East this spring and summer has really borne the brunt of a lot of important work that had to get done."

As in Leslieville with the closure of Queen and Leslie earlier this summer, businesses that rely on the 501 Queen streetcar complained of a precipitous drop in revenue. Michael Summerfield of the bar Prohibition estimated business had fallen by 30 to 35 per cent earlier this week. He said the business had considered temporarily closing down.

Ross says some sidewalk work still needs to be carried out but that it will be undertaken at a later date. The east-end streetcar headache isn't quite finished yet, however.

The Broadview streetcar tracks between Danforth and Broadview subway station are due to close for six weeks starting this Sunday for rail replacement and overhead wire upgrades, just hours after the reopening of Queen and Broadview.

As a result, the 504 King will divert up Parliament, travel east on Dundas, then south on Broadview to Queen, back to Parliament. The 505 Dundas will divert up Parliament to Gerrard, travel east to Broadview, turn south and rejoin Dundas (see graphic.)

Shuttle buses will complete the connection to Broadview subway station for both routes.

Queen and Broadview is due to open late on Saturday when the TTC completes a series of safety tests. There are no diversions planned on Queen for the remainder of the year.

Correction: An earlier version of this post misstated the scope of the closure on Broadview. Although the planned construction work is north of the Danforth, streetcars will not be able to go north of Gerrard on Broadview. Shuttle buses will run between Dundas and Broadview station, stopping at Gerrard.

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Photo by Steven Hoang

Road closures in Toronto: July 19-20

2014/07/17(Thu) 13:14

toronto road closuresRoad closures in Toronto for the weekend of July 19 and 20 rounds up the key transportation shut-downs affecting the city, including street and TTC closures.

KEY ROAD CLOSURES IN TORONTO

Strachan: Lake Shore--Fleet, Lake Shore: Strachan--British Columbia. The Honda Indy Weekend has closed portions of Lake Shore and Strachan. The roads will re-open Sunday, July 20 at 11:59 p.m. Access to Ontario Place via Lake Shore and Strachan.

Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival's Junior Parade and Festival Multiple road closures on Saturday, July 19 from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. to accommodate the parade route, which is as follows: 30 McLevin Avenue to Sewells Road, west on Sewells Road to Neilson Road, north on Neilson Road to Neilson Park Drive, and east on Neilson Park Drive to the entrance of Neilson Park.

Yonge: Edward--Queen. A portion of Yonge from just north of Dundas to Queen will be closed for the Live Green Toronto Festival, Saturday, July 27 from 6:30 a.m. to 11:59 p.m.

St. Clair: Winona--Christie. Salsa on St. Clair requires the closure of the road from Saturday, July 19 at 8 a.m. to Sunday, July 20 at 11 p.m.

Dundas: Spadina--Beverley Street. Street closed from Saturday, July 19 at 12:01 a.m. to Sunday, July 20 at 11 p.m for the Chinatown Festival.

Bloor: Dufferin--Lansdowne. Closed in both directions from Saturday, July 19 at 9 a.m. to Sunday, July 20 at 9 p.m. for the Big on Bloor event.

Danforth: Broadview--Jackman. The Thrill of the Grill event means the Danforth will be closed from Broadview to Jackman in both directions from Saturday, July 19 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Yonge: Queen--Dundas. Yonge will be closed again between Dundas and Queen for a Youth Day event Sunday, July 20 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

TTC CLOSURES

510 Spadina: Dundas. Water main replacement work (and later streetcar track replacement) means Spadina and Dundas is closed to all streetcar traffic until Aug. 11. The 505 Dundas streetcar will divert via McCaul, College, and Bathurst. The 510 Spadina is being replaced by bus until July 28.

Line 2 Bloor-Danforth: Islington--Kipling. The final western stretch of the Bloor-Danforth line will be closed this weekend for track replacement work. Shuttle buses from Islington station will cover the remainder of the route. Wheel-Trans vehicles will leave from Jane. Normal service resumes Monday, July 21 at 6 a.m.

504 King, 505 Dundas: Broadview. For six weeks starting Sunday, July 20, the 504 King and 505 Dundas streetcars will be unable to reach Broadview subway station due to construction on Broadview. The 504 will turn south at Dundas and Broadview and return to King via Queen and Parliament. The 505 will divert via Parliament, Gerrard and Broadview. Both routes will be completed by shuttle bus.

ONGOING CLOSURES

Over and above the special closures this weekend, construction projects across Toronto result in numerous other road restrictions across the city. For a comprehensive list of such closures, you can consult the official map maintained by the City of Toronto (also available as a PDF.)

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

New in Toronto real estate: YC Condos

2014/07/17(Thu) 13:10

yc condos torontoYC Condos at (surprise, surprise) Yonge and College is a dramatic development that while shorter than nearby Aura to the south, is far nicer looking. The two-toned rectangular sections nicely split up the 66-storey tower and the seven story podium retains a good relationship with the neighbouring Odd Fellows Hall (you know, where the Starbucks is on the northwest corner), which is the same height. Let's be clear, this is not on par with, say, Frank Gehry's designs for the Mirvish project on King West, but it's well above average for Toronto condo developments.

yc condosSPECS

Address: 460 Yonge St.
Storeys: 66
Number of units: 600
Unit types: 1 bedroom through to 3 bedroom PH suites
Unit sizes: TBD
Price: TBD
Architect: Graziani + Corazza Architects
Interior Designer: Burdifilek
Developer: Canderel

yc condosFEATURES

  • 24 hour concierge/security
  • Bicycle storage
  • Car sharing services
  • Fitness facility with exercise and aerobics/yoga room
  • Outdoor barbecue stations
  • 64th floor amenities include an infinity pool, bar area, fireplace, billiards table and dining area
  • Miele appliances

yc loungeTHE VERDICT

This is a winner in the aesthetics department. Yonge and College is also a place that can handle this type of density, given the proximity of basically every amenity you could ever hope for and the immediate subway access. There are only 156 parking spots to the 600 units in this condo, so that should give a sense of the degree to which the developer's are banking on the central location as a way to woo non-drivers. For many, I suspect, this will also prove something of a turn off, but it's good enough planning to me.

Amenities-wise, most of the predictable boxes are ticked off, and you can bet that the 66th floor lounge and pool will be a nice place to spend time. Miele appliances is a nice touch, as is the promise of a hefty dose of two bedrooms plus den units (still not sure on the exact number of these, though).

yc condosRead other posts in this series via our Toronto Condos and Lofts Pinterest board.

The best and worst hospitals in Toronto

2014/07/17(Thu) 10:19

hospitals torontoWhat are the best hospitals in Toronto? What are ones that could use some love? In a country with universal healthcare and hard working doctors, nurses and staff, it's sticky to call out a hospital for its old facilities or long wait times without considering all of the factors. Hospitals in busy downtown neighbourhoods often have higher traffic volumes and older buildings, and construction for necessary updating and streamlining, takes place in already tight quarters.

I'm personally very grateful I can walk into an emergency room and be treated without worrying about the bills that will follow, and I'm happy to pay the taxes and/or wait a little longer so that everyone can be taken care of.

In any work place there is often one bad apple spoiling the bunch. With hospitals an overworked or tired night nurse or doctor with gruff bedside manner, can make for a rotten experience in an otherwise stellar environment. But, as many have experienced, not all hospitals are created equal so take this post as simply a starting point to discuss some of the discrepancies.

UPDATE: As noted above, this article is meant simply as a discussion starter and is not meant to be interpreted as a definitive ranking of any kind. The list below was largely based on suggestions from our Twitter followers and is not based on any analytical or other comprehensive research.

BEST

SickKids
What can you say? It's clear everyone who works at SickKids wants to be there, and the number of non-medical services and care workers, plus the celebrity connections (Argos, Maple Leaf players) keep Sick Kids moneyed, high profile, and as close to a pleasure to visit as any hospital given the unfortunate circumstance that might land you there. Bonus points for an emergency room that's well-streamlined for kids.

Mount Sinai
The cafeteria ain't great, but the service is stellar. Mount Sinai is well known for quality of natal care, as well as having a wonderful broad community feel. Previously named one of the GTA's top employers (in 2010), the hospital is a major research facility thanks to the presence of Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, which employs over 600 staff.

Sunnybrook
Like Sick Kids, You can see that the staff enjoys their jobs. There is amazing all-round quality of care. Highlighted by the recently overhauled and gorgeous birthing unit, the hospital is one of the most up to date in the city (save for its power lines). Once part of Sunnybrook, Women's College also deserves major kudos and is getting a major overhaul.

Credit Valley
Currently ranked best hospital in outer Toronto in multiple reports, the Credit Valley Hospital is huge and sprawling. It was opened in 1985 so buildings are comparatively new, and are noted for fine natal care, responsive ER, and professional staff. It's crucial medical stats (including mortality and readmission rates) are some of the best in the GTA.

St. Mike's
Any downtown emergency is going to be swelled with patients, and St. Mike's is no exception, taking in a ton of traffic- increasing wait times and chaotic ambiance. But St. Mike's has a great reputation for men's health, amongst other care. While it's key clinical stats put it at national averages, patient care services are highly endorsed.

COULD USE AN UPGRADE?

Toronto East General
Aging buildings with a history of long wait times won't win you any favours (the average ER wait time is pegged at over six hours). There is an overarching tired, weary feeling which doesn't create the most welcoming energy in times of need. On the plus side, clinical stats have it as comparable with other hospitals of its size in Canada.

St. Joe's
People love to hate on St. Joe's. It's an old, rather confusing building that's in need of some updates, and the emergency can be slow (almost a six hour average wait). Good news is they have moved away from a paper-based filing system to an electronic one (see video here) so things are on the upswing. Also, we received many kudos directed toward St. Joe's nurses and doctors.

Toronto Western
A world-class brain and ortho treatment centre, facilities especially designated for artists, the open atrium and other perks can't deflect some of the criticism of the Toronto Western hospital. ER can be slow (over a six hour wait is average), the building a little confusing to navigate, and readmission rates are above the national average. That said, it's important to bear in mind that this is still a world class facility.

What do you think are the best hospitals in Toronto? What are the ones that could use a bit of an upgrade? Add your thoughts to the comments.