Bread and Circus

"Bread and circuses" is an expression meaning to keep people distracted from what's really going on, and Kensington Market's Bread and Circus Theatre Bar, serving up entertainment with its drinks, is a cheerful place indeed to forget what ails you.

In the harsh light of day, Bread & Circus' facade still carries some of the rough esthetic of the space's old incarnation as a skate shop. Heading there at night to see some live music, I envisioned a darkly-lit mob of aggro rockers that I am not cool enough to hang out with, but found that Bread and Circus was a warm, inviting glow in the quiet dark of Augusta Ave at night.

Inside, the front room is as peaceful as a coffee shop while the show's in full swing back in the theatre. In fact, a latte would've been nice. As it is, anyway, the bar doesn't get too fancy in the drinks department. There are no beers on tap - only by the bottle - and cocktails are of the simple, mixed-drink variety. This is not a bar that operates independently of its performance space and thus feels more like a true theatre lobby than other similar venues, like The Horseshoe .

Between acts, the room fills as patrons come out for more drinks or to nip outside for a smoke. There's no menu, but convenience-store snack food like chocolate bars, chips and snack-size cereal boxes are available for crashing blood-sugar levels.

The theatre room itself is tiny and cozily delightful. Rows of banquet chairs climb what was once an indoor skateboard ramp to make a perfect amphitheatre. Spirited crowds can engage in friendly banter with performers due to the intimacy of the setting.

Bread and Circus isn't only host to musical acts, either. The space is available for any kind of performance, such as comedy acts and readings, and has a reputation for being a reliable source for up-and-coming talent, probably because of its fairly indiscriminate availability for booking. The band we saw, a soul/funk group comprised of several very leggy ladies and one Miss Saidah Baba Talibah, blew me away and was worth more than the pay-what-you-can dollars I dropped in the jar on the way in.

The crowd changes according to what's playing, but expect scenesters and folks who are familiar with Kensington, mixed in with fans and friends of the performers. Be sure to check out the website before you go to make sure there's something going on that night, at . And don't worry if you've never heard of the performers - just leave your troubles at the door and get diverted by something new... and possibly wonderful.

Writing by Jessica McGann

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