Monday, November 15, 2010

Goodbye, Old Friend


This past Saturday saw the final Saddle Up! party take place at the Canadian Corps Hall
on Niagara Street in downtown Toronto. The 'Legion', as it has been known by its base of young-ish fans in the city first came on to my radar when my friend Andrew Ennals began promoting Saddle Up! there in early 2007. The parties were an instant success, with the combination of music and environment providing a truly unique experience.

Without a doubt, part of the appeal was the Legion's completely reasonable, if not even bargain basement alcohol prices...for Toronto. One can't deny the additional charm in the form of the Legion's longtime booker/administrator/bartenders George & Charlene, wizened veterans completely unafraid to cut off intoxicated patrons, or provide commentary on whatever musical happenings might be occurring onstage (country was always in favour of virtually any other genre).

From an event promoter's standpoint, the Legion was also a bargain. Being able to secure a venue that can hold 150 people for the low, low price of $200/night ($400 for New Year's) AND no restrictions on A/V or catering? Total deal! I assisted two pairs of friends who had their wedding receptions there-one even had their actual ceremony right in the main room as well-both times the events ideally suited what they were looking for. I also did a Halloween Party (the 2nd incarnation of Thriller Nights) and two Winnipeg Socials, but the weddings stand out as the most special for me.

Special was also likely an adjective used by others to describe the Legion, notably The Great Lake Swimmers who in 2009 recorded The Legion Sessions there to great fanfare. Scott Cudmore thankfully filmed the sessions, one of which I've posted below.

The most common comment I heard from visitors to the Legion was along the lines of "this is just like the one near where I grew up". It's no secret that Toronto is loaded with out-of-towners, especially young expat Canadians from places much smaller than The Big Smoke. Legions in a lot of communities serve as the de-facto Wedding/Banquet/Entertainment venue, and for whatever reasons the wood panelling, bowling trophies, and pictures of The Queen seem to bind most of our memories together.

December 15th 2010 is the last available date for events at the Canadian Corps Hall, and while I know for sure of at least one or two more events to go, I wonder if I should leave my goodbye from this past Saturday as it is. With 'Happy Trails' filtering through the speakers and plaid & cowboy hat-sporting 20-somethings finding their way out the door, it might just have been the finest farewell the old hall could have. I'll miss it.