The Best Time Out on a Tuesday Evening : Open Roof Festival

Nick and I went to the Open Roof Festival on Tuesday, and it was, in one word, great!

It’s a weekly event with a live musical performance followed by the screening of a recent independently produced film, accompanied by beer, snacks and a party atmosphere. As the name suggests, it takes place outdoors, on the grounds of a former glass factory at 99 Sudbury (near Queen West and Dovercourt), every Tuesday evening, until the end of August.

Tickets for these “mostly volunteer run” evenings are $15, with all profits supporting Canada’s independent film and music communities.

We arrived at the site with enough time to have a beer before the entertainment. There was also a food truck on site, but we’d already eaten. What I saw others having looked really good though.

↑ The locally made beer was supplied by Amsterdam Brewery. We had the 3-Speed Lager, which was light and refreshing. ↑

↑ Food was offered by Toben Food by Design. ↑

99 Sudbury is a very cool place. As mentioned, it was originally built as a glass factory but has been a nightclub and movie studio since then. Now it’s a venue for events, with a huge side yard, as well as a lovely big space inside, which is where they move the festival if it rains.

↑ Inside space, making this festival is “rain or shine”. ↑

The evening we attended (July 25) had a Mexican theme, featuring the band LOLAA and the documentary film Brimstone and Glory.

I picked that particular week because of the band that was going to perform — LOLAA is the current project of sisters Lex Valentine and Nadia King. Remember them from Magneta Lane?

That band was such a favourite of mine, (and of many people, based on all the buzz that surrounded them). When I saw them at The Horseshoe in March of 2006 — Nick had given me the tickets as a Valentine present — I recall watching in admiration, awed by the fact that those three ladies had written such excellent songs, which they were there, up on stage performing with such impressive skill and confidence.

I loved, and still do, the songs Constant Lover and Lady Bones. Lex has such a good voice.

What I didn’t know back in the early years of Magneta Lane was that they were, astoundingly, still in their teens — they now admit to fibbing about their age in order to be allowed to perform in bars. This explains why they’re still so youthful (and full on energy!) now, 11 years later.

To quote their bio on Facebook, “LOLAA in its current form takes inspiration from Latin American/80’s pop music/icons: Daniela Romo, Gloria Estefan, Kim Carnes, Laura Branigan, Debbie Harry, as well as the discotheque era: Donna Summer, Bianca Jagger, the lightness, the elegance, the dancing. Simply put – it’s POP Music.

King and Valentine are of Mexican descent and have always considered this to be an integral part of their identities as people. “The thing about Latin Americans is that our culture is so colourful. We are always smiling and laughing, we love to dance, we feel immensely – passion, sadness – we celebrate life. We wanted LOLAA to have these ideas at its core, no matter what shape the songs took,” Valentine explains.

Their extensive experience, combined with loads of talent, shone through at the Open Roof Festival on Tuesday, where they and a drummer performed their new material, while the sun set on what was a perfect summer evening.

After the show, I asked if I could get a picture with them. Nick and I had planned out beforehand how we’d do it really quickly so as not to be a nuisance, but there was absolutely no need to worry about being a bother to them. They are so friendly and nice. Meeting them was a thrill.

[I look forward to their next show in Toronto, where you’ll find us right up there on the dance floor. Before then though, they have shows coming up in Chicago, Philadelphia and New York in August. If you’d like to hear a sample of their sound, the song Always Been has been stuck in my head since Tuesday. All the LOLAA songs are good, though, so check them out here on Soundcloud.]

There was a break after their set and before the movie, so we got another beer and a bag of freshly made popcorn.

And we watched people play the giant Jenga game …

Then we found some seats and settled in for the film. I kid you not when I say that fireflies flickered charmingly overhead.

They began with a couple of trailers for upcoming films, Beatriz At Dinner, starring Salma Hayek, John Lithgow and Connie Britton is next week (August 1), and Kedi, a documentary about seven of the hundreds of thousands of cats who roam the streets of Istanbul, is the following week (August 8). Both look really good, but Kedi stood out as a “must-see” to cat-adoring me. The pages linked include those same trailers, if you’d like to see.

Note that pretty well every seat was taken when we were there, so while you can get tickets at the entrance, you might want to get them in advance.

Then “Brimstone and Glory” began. This is a documentary set in Tultepec, Mexico, about the extraordinary pyrotechnic festival that occurs there every year, in celebration of San Juan de Dios the patron saint of firework makers.

The film was well done and the subject fascinating, however the level of risk-taking and enthusiasm of the people depicted, baffled me. They practically get right inside the firework displays.

We had a laugh when Katy Perry’s “Firework” played over the speakers as everyone left.

In all, our experience at the Open Roof Festival was terrific. We had so much fun, especially for a Tuesday night, and were grateful for having been invited. It was a blast! ;)

Thanks for reading.
Wishing you a great weekend,
xo loulou