My friends Matt, Sarah, and I headed to Toronto at the break of dawn this past Friday. The drive was easy, the border patrol was cool, and Canada was really amazing. My brother lives at the Lawrence station stop off of the Toronto subway, and a few of our days were spent just hopping into various parts of Toronto for food, records, and various entertainment. We hit a total of four record stores in the immediate Toronto area. One of these stores was called Kops Records. The store's prices were a bit high, but we soon recognized that this trend would continue throughout all the stores we would visit. Kops carried a large variety of soul, funk, and reggae 45s as well as a bunch of new punk and indie LPs. There was a section of "five for twenty dollars" records as well. This is where I spent most of my time. A few of the more notable records I took home were a 12" by a Canadian dark/synthwave band "Vital Sines", and an LP by "Dead Man's Shadow", an early 80's Canadian KBD-style punk group. The store carried a ton of 45s that were all indexed by artist's name and spanned the entire back wall of the store. I spent a few minutes going through the 45s and didn't find anything especially impressive.
We also hit up a strip off of the west side of Toronto. There were three stores in a row there. One of the stores was closed, but we were able to get in and check out the other two shops. The first place was run by a middle aged man with pretty terrible taste in music. The entire store (of, say 15,000 used records) was inventoried. The conditions of the records were pretty disappointing, and the selection was more of a selection I would expect from a one to three dollar bin at a store in the states. The owner insisted that I check out the crate of new arrivals he had behind the counter. He then attempted to push some medicore U.S psych rock on me. That's when I broke the news that I was from New Jersey and not exactly up here trying to buy things I can find, or already have back home. He gave me his card at that point and I told him I'd shoot him an e-mail if I needed anything.
The next store was incredibly similar. Another older man sitting alone in a giant room of mediocre records. The only difference was that if you dug in this spot you'd actually find something. The prices were mostly higher than I prefer to pay at a store, but again the selection (once you dug) was decent. Buried in the sea of common rock titles were new wave and punk records, some bootlegs, and a pretty decent selection of 12"s were situated on the floor as well. Another funny thing about this place was that the records were in absolute alphabetical order. They weren't just filed under letter cards, but rather each record was individually organized alphabetically. The owner yelled at me or Matt about putting them back exactly how we found them, to which we both ignored. My pet peeve is being in a record store that has low quality records and standards and having the owner tell me how to handle them. I was close to responding "I take better care of my records than you do", but I just decided to ignore him, finish up there and leave.
We found a music magazine on the subway, and as my brother was scanning the upcoming concerts I saw an ad that read "SHONEN KNIFE - JAPAN RAMONES". Not only did I not know that these ladies were still playing, but I was shocked to see that they would be at Toronto's Horseshoe Tavern the next night. We rolled up to the show when they were a few songs into their set and had a really great time.
Between their matching outfits, obsession with flying devil horns between each song, and their ability to rock as hard as they did twenty years ago, I was very entertained. They are coming back to NY (Brooklyn) in November so catch them if you can.
The next day my brother drove us a little over an hour (easily 100 KMs +!) to the town he lived in before he moved to Toronto. The place was Waterloo, and it was super nice as well. He somehow found out about a place called Orange Monkey - an upstairs record store off of a side street that carried mostly rock, new wave, and punk. The place was pretty awesome for a tight little record store. It was another one of those "too many file cards" shops though, and I am more of a fan of discovering records than being told exactly where each one was. I also didn't like that the vinyl was taped closed in a bag with the condition description on the outside of the bag. I asked the owner if I could open a record that I wanted to see if "his VG grading was similar to my VG". He seemed fairly unamused but went for it and I was surprised to find that he had heavily under graded his records. The record was more of a VG+ to EX if anything. Of the few records that I snagged, The Cure's Let's Go To Bed Canadian pressing (with a little maple leaf on back and weird variation to front cover) was the neatest thing. It was cheap, and now fits nicely between my stack of other versions of that record that I currently have.
We spent some time doing other things like visiting my brother's girlfriend and friends and even hit a skate park. We ate well, checked out the Kitchener Oktoberfest (2nd largest to the German original) and had a blast. On the way home from Toronto we hit the city of Niagara and viewed the falls from the Canadian side. That was pretty neat as well.
On the way back down we stopped in to a couple stores in Syracuse, NY. The first one was a hip hop shop that did not carry vinyl. After a few minutes of kick'n it with the owner, we made for Syracuse's The Sound Garden music store. We had all been to the Baltimore Sound Garden shop so we knew what to expect. Although it upsets me that they don't carry used vinyl, I must say that their new vinyl selection is pretty smart. We spent some time there and then headed straight home to hear our finds and relax. Thanks Greg for the great time!