Junction City Music Hall
Junction City Music Hall has been described as a place where you feel like you're part of a secret club that only the cool kids know about. This inconspicuous underground - literally - venue can be reached via a narrow hallway and a steep set of stairs on Dundas St. W. in the Junction .
Owners and brothers Ben and Jack Wilkinson (who took over Hole in the Wall down the street in 2012) have made the most of this rectangular subterranean space, outfitting it with a small performance area in the back, cozy wood booths, a bar with a reclaimed wood log as its base, vintage pinball and arcade games ( Comet ! Track & Field ! 1941 !) and quirky decor pieces that are constantly being tweaked.
Ornate-meets-log-cabin designed bathrooms (there's a wood bench inside the women's - wonder what's in the men's?) make this one of the few venues where I don't dread going to the loo.
So far, General Manager and Jill-of-all-trades Chrissy Radford has been bringing in local DJs and bands covering all genres, from punk and classic rock to psych and R&B/soul. "So far we want to keep it pretty Toronto," she says. "As we grow though I will definitely be bringing in acts from everywhere hopefully."
Currently they've got a few regular nights going: live band karaoke with Good Enough is (usually) every first Saturday of the month while every third Saturday R&B/soul revival band The Mercenaries have a residency. There are also rotating semi-regular nights that include Peeler's Playhouse Burlesque as well as an all-female DJ and live band night called Bad Girls Club (check the venue's FB page for more up-to-date details).
As for drinks, Radford comes up with creative on-tap cocktails tailored towards the theme of each night's event. For live band karaoke nights, they've had a Crooner's Cocktail, a whiskey and homemade ginger syrup concoction; on burlesque nights, there's Peeler's Punch, a mix of soda, vodka, grenadine and orange (basically an alcoholic Shirley Temple); during a hip hop night, there was gin and juice; and for a Sleazy Speakeasy weekend, an absinthe cocktail. All are priced to be easy on the wallet, and tend to go for under $10.
A 16-oz. pint of Beau's on tap is $6, and the plan is to stick with local breweries. Tall can offerings include Stiegl, Labatt 50, Coors Banquet, Lowenbrau, PBR, Conductor's Craft Ale, Guinness and Strongbow (each $6, except $7 each for the latter two). Bottles of Anchor Steam and Red Stripe go for $6, ditto regular well drinks (fancier stuff like Sailor Jerry goes for $8, as do glasses of wine).
This spot is definitely a welcome addition to the area, contributing to its burgeoning music scene . It's unclear if the venue will remain a secret for much longer, but it's clear it's gonna stay cool.
Photos by Jesse Milns