Long Winter I Great Hall, Toronto ON, November 8

Long Winter I Great Hall, Toronto ON, November 8
Toronto owes Josh Zucker and Mike Haliechuck a warm, genuine "thank you" for providing yet another respite from the piercing cold, and an opportunity for some of the city's more diverse musicians, artists and chefs to showcase their talents. And perhaps most importantly, a "thank you" for reminding the people of Toronto that, after this last week, there is more to discuss in the city than our ego maniac of a mayor.

Josh Zucker and Mike Haliechuk of Fucked Up organized the second Long Winter series, a collection of local music, art, dance and food and essentially turned the Great Hall into a mini-festival with revolving doors of aural and visual highlights. Walking from one of the four different rooms to the next, it was impossible for the uninitiated to know what would come next.

In the smaller "Conversation Room," Abyss drowned out any chance of having a conversation with a deafening but enthusiastic set. Lead singer Dave Kristiansen implored the stand-offish crowd to move closer, only before beginning to swing his microphone like Roger Daltrey on steroids. Their raging death metal could've sustained itself over a much longer set, yet there was more to see. I passed by old-school video games set up on Macbooks that seemed to have garnered quite the crowd.

Downstairs in the Blk Box, Exclaim! contributor Vish Khanna lead a growing crowd through Long Night with Vish Khanna, a late-night style talk show. His quick-witted delivery fared better than the pre-written jokes, but with Exclaim! Editor in Chief James Keast acting as his Andy Richter, an engaging rapport was eventually developed. Lou Barlow was a comically aloof guest, recalling a recent run-in with overtly friendly Canadian cops before having to run off down Queen Street to perform that evening with Sebadoh. Edward Keenan, Senior Editor of The Grid and author of Some Great Idea: Good Neighbourhoods, Crazy Politics and The Invention of Toronto spoke at length about the Mayor and his "textured" week. While his insights were thought-provoking, it was the kind of real-life buzzkill that many in attendance were looking to avoid.

From death metal and comedy, Long Winter shifted to '90s jazz-laden rock, when six-piece King Cobb Steelie took the main stage. Looking more like they were preparing for a weekend at the cottage compared to the confident hipster types that mostly formed the crowd, these vets showed their chops with a confident, rhythm-heavy set. Quickly, Long Winter has developed a reputation for being wildly unpredictable.

Back in the Conversation Room, spaced-out garage act Ketamines successfully tightened up a modest crowd. Lead singer Paul Lawton worked a somewhat cocky charisma and it amplified their incredibly entertaining and, for the most part, focused set. I can't understand why this band aren't bigger than they are.

One of Toronto's most potent acts as of late, Ell V Gore (pictured) ripped the stage apart with their powerful brand of goth, rock and garage. Singer Elliott Jones appeared frustrated at the large space between the band and the crowd, yet with a fitting, chaotic light/screen show, the three-piece rose to the challenge.

Perhaps given the convivial nature of the night and the ample opportunity to roam between rooms, the lack of dedicated attention from the crowds towards the bands was one of the pitfalls of the evening. Yet perhaps that was Zucker and Haliechuk's motive: to provide a space where the people of Toronto can, for a few hours, do whatever the hell they want.