Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Mod On The Road: The Genesis of a Mod - Back To Toronto

When DJ Nico invited me to DJ her With It night in Toronto, I don't think she had any idea what this invitation meant to me. That city is where it all started for me. My love affair with all things Mod took it's roots when my father, working for IBM, was transferred from Montreal to Toronto for a couple of years.

Picture an impressionable French speaking teenager, still trying to master a second language, being exposed for the first time to this British subculture. I don't think I would have foreseen that 30 years later, I would not only still be speaking about it but I would do it with such passion and fervor. There's no way I could have predicted that Mod culture would still be an integral part of my life.

Back in 1987, social media was non-existant and you learnt about a subculture through your friends, the occasional newspaper article and by disecting album covers. The fact that I attended the only French public high school in Toronto didn't help either. I was the only Mod in the whole school. I remember buying my first M-51 parka from a classmate that had moved on to something else. I have a vague recollection of doing the transaction in the hallway between two classes.

When I attended the dances in the school cafeteria, I was the only one wearing a suit. I'm surprised I wasn't picked on. I had great group of friends.

So here I am, 47 years old, back in my old stomping grounds. Things have changed but it still feels the same to me except maybe for the fact that I'm not being chased down Younge Street by Skinheads wanting to rip the Dr Martens off my feet. I was invited to DJ last year by my mate Gavin but it was a smaller, more intimate affair where I played mainly French Psych. It was a short in and out trip.

This time, it was more than just another DJ gig. It felt like my love affair with all things Mod had come full circle. I might sound overly emotional but things tend to be put into perspective when you hear of the death of a friend. My first night in Toronto, I learnt that Fraser Loveman, frontman for the sixties group The Modbeats, had unsuspectedly passed away. I first became friends with Fraser in 2010 when I interviewed him for this very blog. It's worth revisiting it here.

My hotel couldn't have been more centrally located. Aside from having a cool name, the Bond Place Hotel was situated just accross the street from a record shop. I think that was a very good sign. Unfortunatly, the dig didn't unearthed any gems. If you're into LPs, a quick stop might be worth your while.

My wife and I arrived a day early so we could have time to enjoy the city and maybe have time to dig for records. Just around the corner from our hotel is The Senator, the oldest running restaurant in the city. Established in 1929, it hasn't lost its charm and it's the perfect place to start off your day.

The ingredients are fresh, organic and that is reflected in the taste of their brunch menu. The light fixtures date back from the time the restaurant opened. As an added bonus, you have a very suave jazz club right next door.

When you live in a city like Montreal, it's easy to dismiss a large expensive city like Toronto. Ever since I lived here in the late 80s, I've always defended it's cold, corporate, more conservative reputation when compared to Montreal, Canada's party capital.

In case you're wondering, I didn't photoshop the pigeon afterwards.

I still love this place and it has continued to grow in the shinning multicultural metropolis that it is today. Speaking of Metropolis, did you know that the Man of Steel's  co-creator and original artist, Joe Shuster, based Superman's  home on Toronto?

The "mod" lines of the Toronto Public Library
Just before my DJ duties on Saturday night, I met up with some of the finest members of the Toronto Vintage Scooter Club for some plentiful victuals at The Tennesse Tavern on Queen Street West. A menu of Eastern Europeen delights like smoked fish, pierogies, schnitzel, smoked ham, sausages, warm pretzels and everything that you can pickle under the sun was served family style.

A ten minute walk down the street was one of the coolest and authentic tiki bars I've visited in a while. The Shameful Tiki Room is the real deal. David, president and founder of the Toronto Vintage Scooter Club, was two for two in his suggestions for the best places to hang out.

I went straight for their "four barrell" Puka Puka cocktail, one of the strongest drinks on the menu. I was so impressed by the place that I asked if I could have it served in one of their signature mugs. The limited edition 2-year anniversary Frankenstein Tiki caught my eye and out of the blue, Ace Face Ian put it on his tab. Didn't I say that these guys were the best?

That was the perfect warm-up for the night's festivities. The Piston was our last stop and DJ Nico had everything set-up when we arrived. All I had to do is drop the needle on my first 45.

Although we had both agreed that we would promote the night as an epic DJ battle between the two best cities in the country (sorry Vancouver) and that I planned my selection to inflict maximum pain, my no-holds-barred, take no prisonners, unadulterated, no joke, unrestricted, head-to-head fight to the death, bloody musical slugfest ended up being more of a love fest than a violent confrontation.

I'm calling reinforcements afraid I might be losing the battle.
All week I had taunted my mighty opponent on social media, throwing her musical challenges one after the other. It looked like I might have had the upper hand until her warm welcome and undenialble charm knocked me right out. The sweaty dancers were unanimous. It was a draw.

I really have to praise all the hard work that DJ Nico has put into this night because she really made it special. By 10:30, there was a line-up outside and the dance floor was already going strong. The best part was that it kept going until the last rotation of the very last 45.

If you want more behind the scenes stories about the night, I invite you to listen to episode 18 of the Addicted to the Needle Podcast. You can listen to it on Mixcloud, PodOmatic or download it on Apple Podcast. For more photos, check out DJ Nico's Instagram @djnicotoronto .