Some city ditties

Toronto-based multi-instrumental group Entire Cities brings fresh live music to The Toucan

The Toucan. Certain things come to mind: dim lighting, limestone, a totally unique odor and carpets that over the years have evolved to share more characteristics with moss than most indoor floor coverings should. It’s a place full of sunny afternoons on the patio followed by somewhat blurry nights and the inevitably painful mornings to follow.

Needless to say, I’m somewhat fond of the place.

Music is an essential part of the experience and The Toucan never disappoints, generally offering an eclectic array of genres that will get your foot tapping regardless of whether or not you’re familiar with the tune.

But live music?

Aside from the occasional special event, and the venerable virtuosos of Ghetto Express rocking their always entertaining Monday nights—I’ve never really considered it a venue. Music nights tend to be far apart, and the advertising is generally low key.

Last Saturday night has me thinking that I may have been mistaken.

Upon walking into The Toucan I noticed a group standing on the stage but thought little of it, likely the result of a mixture of tequila and nearsightedness. Imagine my surprise when the bartender stops his CD, cutting off Iggy Pop mid-sentence and from the stage erupts a rich, joyous melody that immediately has me snared.

The group is known as Entire Cities and they’re going places. They’re a large band, barely managing to squeeze their seven members onto the tiny stage. At first glance, the singer and rhythm guitarist resembles the love-child of Elvis Costello and Ron Burgundy rocking one hell of a mustache along with his tie and brown suit. Their music is difficult to pin to a particular genre. Their poster touts them as “a blend of The Pogues and Arcade Fire,” which, though seemingly fantastical, is not far off the mark.

Their real beauty lies in their diversity. They play with a full-time steel guitarist, saxophone and the finest flute-playing I’ve heard in a rock band since Ian Anderson’s work with Jethro Tull. The sound is infectious, and has the entire audience—seated or otherwise—moving. The sound patrons and staff is something of a warm hug and smiles abound.

One moment the staccato blast of the saxophone has me thrust into the midst of the bustling nightlife of downtown New York, the next has me floating along a quiet avenue in Paris on the trills of the flute. The effect is profound.

The evening leaves me with a grin on my face, the truly satisfying feeling of night well spent. The music is exultant, and one can’t help but be drawn into the pure joy of it when watching the bass player do his thing with a noticeable sway, and the drummer do his with the manic grin of a man completely at home at his stool.

Even the inevitable fellow dancing awkwardly, yet enthusiastically, alone in the front row, seems great. He seems right where he should be, and hell, I can’t help but give him credit, he gives it his all for the entire show.

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