Here’s the excellent JC…I landed in Toronto on Thursday 28 June 2007. The travel plans were changed very late on and involved me going out a day earlier and taking off from Manchester instead of Glasgow. If the original plans had been stuck to, I’d have very likely been caught up in the shambolic terrorist attack on Glasgow airport two days later on the Saturday
The reason I had gone out early was that the Chief Executive of the organisation who had head-hunted me to lead on a five-month project, during which period in which I would live in Toronto and spend time travelling to many parts of Ontario, wanted me to get over any jetlag and come to a social gathering on Canada Day, which was Sunday 1 July. It was at this event that I met many people who remain close and very dear friends to this day.
There were a lot of sports fans at the piss-up, and some of them seemed bemused that I had a great love for American sports, particularly the NFL. I said that one of the things I most wanted to do while in the city was take in a baseball game involving the Toronto Blue Jays.
Little did I know that one of the folk I was talking to had, via his accountancy business, a pair of season tickets for Rogers Centre, the corporate name for the Skydome, and the home of the Blue Jay and within a matter of days was with him at a game. The seats were among the best in the house, right behind home plate. The Jays beat the Cleveland Indians (now known as Cleveland Guardians) in a close game and I was mesmerised by the way the home pitcher went about his business. His name was Roy ‘Doc’ Halladay, widely accepted as one of the greatest baseball pitchers of the 21st century.
I was hooked, and I found myself at the ballpark probably twenty or so times over the next three months before the season ended. The Blue Jays were an okay team in 2007, winning just over half of their games and so I probably saw nearly as many losses as I did wins, But I didn’t care – it was just a fantastic way to spend a few hours taking in a sport that has so much going for it.
Until COVID, I’ve gone back to Toronto every year since 2007, and I’ve always taken in a baseball game. In 2013, a part of my many celebrations of turning 50, my Canadian friends arranged for tickets in seats adjacent to the dugouts, and where all the food and drink comes free. It was a memorable night. On the downside, my visit in May 2019 saw them lose 19-4 to San Diego Padres, one of their biggest ever home defeats….it was a Saturday afternoon and not too many of us were still there at the end. Thanks to COVID, I haven’t seen a game since.
The Blue Jays aren’t one of the great historical teams in baseball, having only come into being in 1977 when the league expanded. They won the World Series back-to-back in 1992 and 1993, but its been quite barren since then, with only one Divisional title in 2015. Having said all that, they do play in a division alongside two of the biggest and most monied-teams in the sport, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, so it’s never easy.
But I should shut up as I guess you’re here for the music.
SWC asked that I come up with five songs, one with the word Toronto in the title, with the others being by acts from the city, with at least one being a new singer or band.
I’m going to cheat a bit by combining two of these in one song, thus leaving me space to offer up something by the first band I caught live during my stay in 2007.
One of the biggest stars in the musical world today was born in Toronto in October 1986. He’s a big sports fan, but is mainly associated with Toronto Raptors, the city’s basketball team. Indeed, he wrote two songs in 2019 to commemorate the Raptors winning the overall NBA Championship for the first ever time.
This isn’t one of them, but instead dates to 2013, when it was released as a stand-alone song on Soundcloud. It was given an official release on the 2019 compilation, Care Package.
Having got that out of the way, here’s something by the headliner of the first show I went to in Toronto back in 2007.
I’ve looked it up to get the exact date – 20 July 2007. The venue was the 400-capacity Horseshoe Tavern, and it was just ten days after the release of the debut album, Marry Me, from which this is taken. The venue was far from full, but it was a great show, to the extent I bought a t-shirt from the merch stall. I just wish I had asked Annie Clark to pose for a photo, given how much of a star she would later become.
In which two crazy, flamboyant and occasionally controversial artistes got together for a single back in 2004. Peaches was born as Merrill Nisker in Toronto in 1966. It’s hard to imagine, but she began her musical career in the early 90s as a member of a folk-based trio, Mermaid Cafe, before developing her new persona and style.
The sort of band I try and feature on TVV (and will do on the back of this piece) given it is rather splendid jangly, indie-pop, reminiscent in place of Go-Betweens. This is the title track of the debut EP, originally released in 2019 when they were known as Ducks Unlimited, and re-released in 2021 when they changed to their name to Ducks Ltd.
How could I ignore the band described by SWC as the greatest hardcore punk band of the last 20 years? Fucked Up were the subject of an ICA by him back in September 2019, and while this one wasn’t included on the ICA, it seems an appropriate song title for a piece about baseball.
And……returning to the subject matter in hand, the baseball team from Toronto are tipped by many to get to the play-offs again in 2022, but its been something of a stop-start season so far, with many of their big name players not quite getting their act together. Having said that, if the season was to end as I’m typing this up, they would be in there – and if it stays that way, I’ll certainly be looking to book my flight and tickets. Let’s go Blue Jays.