Trying to capture a bit of the downtown Toronto’s night, life I decided to walk around Queen street to see where the crowds were gathering. My first stop was the “Cameron house”. It had so much character on the outside that it made you want to explore what was on the inside.
The front of the building attracts with the steely gaze of an ambiguous person in pink. They stare at you from across the street and watch as you enter the threshold. But not before you look up to see the larger than life white ant sculptures crawling around the brick and mortar building. A few came with pincers, and you identified the queen by her size and crown. Some of her drones even made their way inside.
It wasn’t until I left did I notice the quote, “this is paradise”. It was scrawled bold typed against a sunny yellow and sky blue, on the side of the building. Given my time in “Cameron House” and all that I witnessed, I concluded this to be true. This was another unique space in Toronto, that could be translated in so many ways. There were many unexpected elements that you could take what you wanted and leave the rest behind. It was a safe place that meant something to everyone, and something different for everyone. As such this entertainment bar saw a good variety of people, myself included. Yet I did not feel out of place, nor did anyone else seem to.
The bar was divided into two separate rooms/stages. Both had live musicians performing, here they have local talent performing every night. Tonight, the music each band played, help divide the patrons and each section all the more. A lively swing band up front and a quartet playing mellow folk music at the back. The most notable difference was between those wanting to dance, and those content on sitting and sipping. I fell into the latter category, but appreciated the art and music of both, sharing my time back and forth between the two rooms.
And like the music and patrons the front and back room differentiated in look. The front of house was more decorative, it had more going on with colours and prints, fibres and textures. Like their spotted tile floor, and a forest of foliage and LED lights surrounding the alcove of the bar.
The ceiling was most notable for its Renaissance type art. Angels in cloth and cloud, and winged horses. It’s embellishments continued on to the ceiling’s moulding. It gave the feeling of history and the imagining of what was in this space before.
This contrasted the Mexican themed murals of skeletons dressed in traditional garments flanking both the right and left wall. They wore black or red suits with tassels, ribbons around their neck, patterns down each sleeve and pant leg, and a sombrero to top it all off. They looked jovial playing their musical instrument of choice: guitar, drum, trumpet, and flaming maraca. They seemed to performing for their idol: a women with black flowing hair and a rose tucked behind her left ear, with her face painted, nursing two red ants. This part sort of matched their exterior’s ant theme, if that can be considered a theme.
I entered without the need to pay cover or have my hand stamped, they didn’t even check for ID. I walked in to the live music, and after a pint from their tap, I decided to join right in with everyone else dancing in the centre of the room. With red velvet drapes and a red patterned rug, the stage was towards the back and cramped with musical equipment. The band was mid set and visible in the dark of the bar thanks to several strategically placed spot lights.
The music they played and the crowd they attracted were both positive. It was swing beats and rockabilly classics. The kind of songs you actually known the words too, but don’t know why. Everyone was moving their bodies without judgment, they danced for themselves and because the music compelled it. But sadly the band would end shortly for a break and they weren’t able to get the energy back up again when they return.
During their intermission I visited the back bar. This is also where their washroom was located. The facilities were a cramped hole of a space graffitied with sharpie and ball point. This seems to be a common trend in most public bar/lounge spaces in Toronto. It looked messy to me, but considering the city’s strong need to tag walls and leave marks and art, this trend made sense.
Back here they had their own smaller bar. It was to the point, less on tap and less on the walls. This made sense given how textured the walls were. It was like someone churned layers of paint on each surface and never bother to smooth it out. Some parts were pointy some were jagged. And with its dark brown colouring, it felt like we were in a cave or a hollowed out tree trunk. Overall the space was dark and more simple, like the music, which had a melancholy ballad sound to it. The mood was mellow, and the patrons were lower in energy, with majority of them in chairs.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Admittedly the night life in Toronto is better. More people are out and there are more options. You can actually pub or bar hop. There are plenty of spots, and not all just for teenagers to drink and have an excuse to make passes at one another. There was a night scene for adults that aren’t just dingy pubs. Here, at the “Cameron” they had great live music across two rooms and plenty of beer on tap. They made a nice late night drink and dance spot, for a more mature audience. Those wanting to avoid the bump and grind crowd with some dancing of their own, or some equally acceptable standing still and sitting down. I have never been to a place like this before or even seen anything like it in Vancouver’s abundant club scene. Something of a marvel.