Hard Luck, found near Bathurst and Dundas West, brings a new dimension to Toronto's music scene by billing itself as a hard rock venue. Reminiscent of The Horseshoe or even, to a certain extent, Grossman's , Hard Luck has a bare bones feel about it. No fussy decorating touches hang from the ceilings or walls. The plain wooden tables are scattered about the space and easily moved to accommodate different sized groups, or off to the side for dancing crowds. And yet it's not unappealling.
The look is very effortlessly rock 'n' roll. The space has that empty feeling music venues often do, to accommodate crowds, but even half full it manages to capture a romanticized idea of what rock venues should be like instead of being depressing. Everything is well laid-out and the bar has a certain welcoming ambiance. The bartender was happy to banter with me from behind the simple but well-lit bar, that comes equipped with six drafts on tap and all your basic spirits. The Hard Luck isn't the kind of place where you'd order a mojito, but there are ample reserves of JD and Canadian Club.
The clientele seems to be made up of a well-rounded sampling of all your basic music fan subtypes: an affectionate couple at the bar looked like they'd been making Toronto's rock scene since The Horseshoe opened in the '60s. A couple of girls shyly tucking their wavy locks behind their ears looked like they'd probably spent the afternoon listening to Pavement and CBC radio. A group of younger guys at a table, that ducked out regularly for cigarettes, looked pretty hard, the sort you might cross the street to avoid, while the one older man among them was an inscrutable rock mystery, with long, shaggy black hair under a 12-gallon cowboy hat, and a face that had seen a lot of living. A girl ordering a drink chatted easily with me, her wholesome aesthetic screaming "country music fan". All in all, a bit of a mixed crowd.
The bar hosts live music on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays (as well as comedy on Sundays), and while I didn't recognize the heavy riffs they spun between acts, much of what I saw was softer than I expected. In fact, the bartender tells me, although they play primarily pretty heavy music, the bar showcases a wide spectrum of acts, including rockabilly and country, as well as punk, metal and electronica. The two-storey space is also available to rent out for events.
The stage is small but perfectly intimate. Things can get downright hectic at the Hard Luck depending on the night and who's playing, so fortunately there's an upstairs, too. The flexibility of the space means that they can pack a bunch of shows in, too. They're hosting a bash on New Year's Eve as well as a whole slew of bands on New Year's Day. "Tuff Luck Tuesdays" has no cover, and the venue books primarily independent bands. A great place to discover new music, plus a nice new venue for other uses, like Sunday night comedy, the Hard Luck looks poised to work its way into Toronto's list of long-standing local music halls.
Writing by Jessica McGann