Volatile rapper Wale ignites the mic with his mighty lexicon and pulsating rhythms as he spearheads a strident launch party for Toronto record label Blocktrade Music. A prized representative of Rick Ross’s Maybach Music empire, Wale’s knack for infectious tracks and snappy syntax has led to mix-tape mingling with Mark Ronson and Lady Gaga, BET's Best Club Banger Hip Hop Award for the collaboration “No Hands,” and the single-parturient LP Attention Deficit. Making a stop on his Ambition Canada tour to promote his latest endeavour, Ambition, the Washington D.C. rhyme wizard raises the roof and wrings tears from its architect as his dense linguistics shimmer across disco-ball beats. A quartet of hip-hop arbiters, including Harvey Stripes, S. Dizzy, and Ronny Orleans start the celebration with verbose verses, rhyme schemes, and anti-prose suitable for audiences age 19 and up.
The producers at Comedy Bar populate their main stage and cabaret space with local and nationally touring acts that have helped earn accolades such as Best Comedy Club from the readers of NowToronto. On February 4, Toronto native Noam "Moe" Rosen does a whistle stop on the main stage to spin an absurdist yarn about how his nickname became his real name, and CBC veterans Dave Shumka and Graham Clark grace the cabaret stage on March 3 to silently fence with TV antennas. The club also lassos laughs with an assortment of comedic collectives, with Theatresports improv battles on Saturday nights in the cabaret space, and mock-soap-opera sketch The Soaps on Thursday evenings on the main stage.
As one of the founding members of Wu-Tang Clan, GZA, or the Genius, has roused hip-hop fans for the past two decades with a steady flow of raw, straight-from-the-street wisdom laced with soul music samples and vivid kung fu imagery. Recognized by Allmusic as one of the best lyricists to emerge during the 1990s, the veteran wordsmith unpacks his panoply of rhymes across such hits as "Shadowboxin'," "Cold World," and "Liquid Swords," the standout track from his gold-selling classic album of the same name. Fellow Wu-Tang confidant Masta Killa, whose résumé includes collaborations alongside Public Enemy and Jamaican DJ Bounty Killer, makes his first concert appearance in Toronto and infuses the evening with a smooth, low register and lyrical prowess that bends words until they rhyme or scream "uncle!"
The storied performers of Journey delight fans with powerful guitar, catchy hooks, and virtuosic singing. Lead singer Arnel Pineda's octave-smashing range combines with guitarist Neal Schon's monumental chords and the musical teamwork of Ross Valory's bass, Jonathan Cain's keyboard, and Deen Castronovo's drums, creating tuneful tapestries that inspire ears like a stirring soliloquy from a bald eagle. Touring in support of its new album, Eclipse, the band is able to draw upon an aural arsenal that includes hits such as "Don’t Stop Believin'," "Any Way You Want It," and "Faithfully." The power balladeers of Night Ranger supplement the sonic revelry with their own swelling melodies and dueling guitars.
The team at Player's Athletic Lager takes UFC seriously. During every event, they switch all 20 of their TVs to the fight and turn the sound on loud so that any punches can be heard in unison. That number of screens isn't overkill—the sports bar's high-top tables and open booths are often filled to capacity with fans, who sneak sips of beer and bites of ribs between each exchange of blows.
One look at Player's Athletic Lager's walls, however, and it becomes clear that this place isn't just about mixed martial arts. It celebrates all sorts of sports. Hockey memorabilia fills the space above diners' heads. The TVs might just as easily be tuned to international soccer or stock car racing. Pool tables and darts let customers partake in their own friendly competitions, provided they bring along their own personal anthropomorphic-chicken mascot.
Of course, all that cheering requires fuel—which, luckily, the kitchen provides in the form of classic pub-style fare made from scratch. Burgers are cooked fresh from never-frozen burgers, for example, and 12-inch pizzas can arrive laden with a variety of savory toppings. Player's Athletic Lager also fries up an impressive amount of finger food for Wing Monday, when saucy wings are piled onto plates at 45 cents apiece.
Located inside a 100-year-old home, the dining room of Rino's Kitchen is packed with country-style chairs surrounded by dark wood trim and whitewashed wainscoting. Chef Rino Bortolin serves up large and small plates as rustic as the décor, made using local ingredients from local growers whenever possible. The menu changes seasonally based on what's available, incorporating meats such as pulled pork and rabbit. Out back, diners can eat al fresco while enjoying live music or watching cooking demonstrations by local vendors and farmers.