Lula Lounge, photo by Jesse Milns.

This month, a rosy cherub will emerge from the snow, cock its heart-shaped bow and let loose its velvet arrows somewhere in our general direction. Not everyone enjoys Valentine’s Day, of course. For those not in relationships, it can be a grim reminder – at such a cold time of the year – of the bleak overwhelm of enduring solitude (this writer’s advice: the Internet is vast). For those whose love boat is floundering on stormy seas, February 14 can be a tricky obstacle to navigate. (Helpful hint: it is probably not, as one might assume, a propitious time to send one’s partner that article about trying an open relationship.) For the lucky number of you, however, who are looking to hit the town and celebrate your love by listening to some live music, possibilities abound.

Read more: February 14 - it’s Clubs and Hearts

Queer Songbook Orchestra. Photo by Roya Delsol.In case you’ve forgotten, at the beginning of December of last year, as a tumultuous 2021 came to a close, the season was looking tentatively merry and bright: indoor gatherings were once again possible, venues seemed to have definitively reopened, and life was returning to, dare we say it, some semblance of normalcy. And then, of course, we were back in lockdown, first in the ten-people-or-fewer, please-don’t-sneeze-on-Santa version of mid-to-late December, and then, come January, in the full dress-shirt-and-sweatpants version.

Read more: A Toast to Amnesia as the Music Goes Live (Again)!

Koerner Hall is, most assuredly, not a club. Completed in 2009 as the centrepiece of the Royal Conservatory’s massive mid-2000s renovation, the venue’s plush seating, acoustic clarity and ligneous splendour have made it a major destination for all manner of art music. Unlike the venues normally covered in this column, typical club activities – hooting at the stage, drinking in one’s seat, posting shaky Instagram clips of instrumental solos with fire emojis in the middle of a song – are frowned upon, though still possible (other than drinking in one’s seat), with a little determination and disregard for concert-hall decorum.

Read more: Decorum Be Damned! Jazz in the Concert Hall

Adisa Glasgow. Photo HECTOR VASQUEZ/BLOGTOOf the many experiences that point to our collective hunger for dependable post-lockdown life, none has hit quite so close to home for me as seeing post-secondary students get back to classes. Sure, it still feels like a novelty to watch maskless people thunking melons in the grocery store, restaurant patrons trying each other’s drinks, or a trumpet player mercilessly spraying the floor of a venue with spit-valve effluvia. But – as I experienced on an unexpectedly brisk morning in early September, walking across the University of Toronto campus for coffee with a friend – nothing quite says “we’re back” like overhearing two new roommates arguing about whether hanging a Quentin Tarantino poster would be “edgy and transgressive” or “you know, uh, maybe a bit much, like… politically?”

During COVID, we witnessed seismic changes on the club scene: closures, pivots, renovations, and rebrandings. For some organizations, the enforced and recurring lockdowns meant the end: time ran out. For others the lockdowns bought time for necessary rethinking and new developments. 

Read more: Hugh’s and Poetry on the Move

One of Stratford Summer Music's venues, Revival House, features concerts July 22, 29, August 5 and 12.Live music, it seems, is finally, reliably, and consistently back. Barring some unexpected, novel calamity (imminent asteroid impact? Lake Ontario bursting into flames?), this will likely be the last time that I begin my column with the obligatory nod to the pandemic that seemed so necessary throughout the last 28 months. To those who continue to read my pieces: thank you. There was a point, early in the pandemic, when I thought I was going to have to do something truly depraved, like going to law school and getting a real job; thankfully, that grim reality has not come to pass. 

So, to the music.

Revival House

On July 22, keyboardist Aaron Davis plays at Revival House in Stratford, as part of the Stratford Summer Music Festival. For those who may be unfamiliar, Davis has been a longtime fixture on the Canadian music scene, as a performer (with the likes of the Holly Cole Trio, Measha Brueggergosman and the band Manteca), an arranger (for the likes of Alison Krauss, Natalie McMaster and Eliana Cuevas), and a film composer with over 100 titles to his name. A newish resident of Stratford, Davis has assembled a compelling roster of musicians, including Ben Wittman on drums, Dylan Bell on bass, John Johnson on woodwinds, Lori Cullen on voice, Suba Sankaran on voice and keyboards, and Maryem Hassan Tollar on voice and shakers. With Davis’ deft touch on the piano and his penchant for nuanced, interesting orchestration, expect a compelling evening of music that evokes the best from his highly capable collaborators.

Read more: Musical Revival
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