ST. PARTICK’S SHENANIGANS - March 17, 2012Threshold Recording Studio 110 Catharine Street North
Yet another occasion popped up during the course of the Tour to get festive - St. Patrick’s Day! Although I am a festive person, I can’t say I’ve ever really celebrated the green-hued, alcohol-fueled holiday. The grand opening of Threshold Recording Studio definitely set the bar for future St. Patty’s celebrations (perhaps becoming an annual tradition?) It was a rager! Avishka and I met musician and producer Michael Keire back at the Tom Waits Tribute at Casbah and learned that he would be hosting a party to launch his new studio. We knew we had to be there!
After previously working at Catherine North Studio and having built and produced out of Vibewrangler Studio, Michael Keire decided move onto a new project with Threshold. He has been working with artists Dark Mean, City and the Sea, New Hands, The Dirty Nil, Matt Paxton, Wildlife, and more. He describes the studio as a “workshop,” and emphasizes a D.I.Y. approach, while at the same time providing the skills and professionalism you want in a studio. There was so much going on at the party; hopefully we’ll get the chance to check in with Michael again and see what he’s working on.
The building looked unassuming enough from the front (the Threshold School of Building – 1922 was carved into the corner stone, we noted), and when we first got there, Avi and I looked up to see a splash of green and some people firing up the BBQ a few floors up. We decided that was our cue to mount the steps at the side of the building and join in the fun. Fashionably early, as we tend to be, we had time to walk around and take in the space, going up and down the stairs to look around on each floor.
On one floor is the main studio space, which we loved right away. With the brick and wood-panelled walls, different textures and patterns of fabric on the floor, walls and ceiling, and paintings displayed on the walls, the room has a warm, log cabin type of feel to it. We could definitely see getting down to business and making some musical magic happen in that space. As we looked about, we spotted a 2011 Hamilton Music Award for Dark Mean’s Alternative/Indie Rock Recording of the Year. We also eyed the box of percussion (marked “Perc,” which we enjoyed) that we were tempted to play with. Another specific detail we liked was a Jack playing card by the doorway. We couldn’t get over the sign, since the name Jack has particular significance to the four of us Tourists, as we’ve said. It wasn’t until later that I realized it was a Twin Peaks reference (my Christmas holiday consisted of me watching the entire series in 6 days; I have not been the same since), but I took this as a further sign that we were clicking with Threshold.
Michael poured us some beer (sponsored by Canada’s Steam Whistle) and with green solo cups in hand, Avi and I explored the building some more. As we moseyed about, the second floor is a band rehearsal space, with wood floors and even more artwork on display. This is where the live music scored the party, as Adam Bentley of The Rest, Dark Mean, Terra Lightfoot, Katie Bulley of The Barettas, Dawn and Marra, and Mike Trebilcock, among other local artists, played throughout the day and night. As time went on, the place filled in and was packed - it was like being at someone’s house party and we wandered about, always running into new people. One of those people we were happy to run into was Kirby, whom we hadn’t seen in a while, and had just made plans with to interview him as part of our first Rendezvous (stay tuned for that!) We also ran into our friend Max Wray, and later on I was pleased to see friends Matt Montour and Ben Somer from Boxcar Sound.
Of course, we had to take some pictures with the St. Patrick’s Day decorations that were sprinkled throughout the building. We also enjoyed the spread of food – with the typical party fare of chips and pizza, there were some other goodies and a good selection of candy. Avi and I grabbed some licorice, Sour Patch Kids, Hot Lips, a Green Thumb, and some Fuzzy Peach to give us a little sugar kick with our beer. Ok, that sounds like a lot; we just got excited at the prospect of candy.
Dark Mean’s set really got us into the St. Patty’s Day spirit. Although the band has garnered a lot of acclaim worldwide, their music was new to Avi and I, and we were happy to discover it. The usual trio were a four-piece this time, being joined by a violin player. Or was it a fiddle? Whichever it was, it really had us feeling like we had the luck o’ the Irish. The audience was stomping their feet so much, you could feel the floor shake. Avi and I looked at each other excitedly when partway through the set, a guitar was switched for a banjo. It was a beautifully sunny afternoon, and with the door to the second floor being wide open behind the band, you could look out to see people out and about on the street. I was imagining their reactions as they heard some banjo sounds drifting down to their ears.
Dark Mean have such a polished sound, yet make it seem so effortless. They also seem seasoned beyond their years as a band, with their strong melodies and intricate instrumentation. Their self-titled debut album was completed last summer after beginning production in 2007. Produced by Michael Keire, you can tell the time and care that went into it, and it was all the more fitting to be introduced to the band at Threshold. A standout song for me was “Happy Banjo,” and “Lullaby,” with its group vocals, was a complete showstopper, leaving the crowd riveted. No easy feat, when your audience has been drinking since noon. I hope to catch these guys play again; they were fantastic.
Avi had to get going and I hung around for a while longer. The party raged on into the night, and I was pleased to run into my friends Dan and Ben, which then led to meeting some members of Dinner Belles. I caught some of Terra Lightfoot’s set earlier in the day, and she is always a such a joy to listen to. Dinner Belles are a band that have been on my radar and I have wanted to learn more about them; I look forward to seeing them play this year.
All in all, it was a much longer day of St. Patrick’s festivities than I expected to have, but it was a blast! Given the shoes I was wearing, I reckon I held up pretty well (especially since by the end of the night it turned into a Kanye West dance party!) Days like that are always fun, when you don’t know what to expect and you just go with the flow. We’ll definitely be keeping an eye, er, ear out for what’s to come next from Threshold.
Cheers! Or should I say… Sláinte!