The Garrison opened this fall to a lot of hype from the city's indie music fans, many of whom will be loyally following former Sneaky Dee's booker, Shaun Bowring, to his new business venture - debating amongst themselves all the while about whether the indie music scene in Toronto is now officially moving west or not .
Bowring brings long-running Toronto music series, Wavelength , to The Garrison with him, where the series will play out the remaining months to its 500-show commitment, ten years in the running this February. Monthly series Trampoline Hall , where non-experts speak on things they're, um, not experts on, also moves from Sneaky Dee's to The Garrison, and word is that Sneak's is going back to its punk and metal roots.
Zeitgeist? Cultural shift? Paradigm something-or-other? I don't know. What I can tell you is that The Garrison brings a garage-y, back-room, it's-all-about-the-music feel to the west end that feels more decidedly "music venue" than the area's pre-existing and slightly more polished stages, such as Lula Lounge and Dakota Tavern .
In fact, the back room at The Garrison is so devoid of frills that I found myself wishing for a larger crowd to fill it up. With only a handful of deliberately scruffy music fans, standing immobile in front of the stage during one of Wavelength's weekly Sunday shows, the atmosphere was just the tiniest bit... dreary. Nonetheless, the place is bound to start filling up like a kid at a Taco Bell soda fountain once music buffs and local scenesters get tipped off to The Garrison's full roster of entertainment. The room has a larger capacity than Sneaky Dee's and a wide layout, which makes it feel extra empty on quiet nights, but means there'll be plenty of room for mussed-up hair and winter coats on busier ones.
In the front room, carefully neutral greys and respectable matching table sets are neatly complemented by framed black-and-white photographs showing the history of Garrison creek, the waterway that runs underneath Toronto's streets and gives the bar its name. Candlelight makes the front room feel more intimate than the back, but in fact there's more than enough room to take in everyone who couldn't find a seat at Crooked Star or Communist's Daughter .
For information on shows or bookings, visit The Garrison's website . For nights out, think cardigan sweaters, running shoes, and careful dishevelment.
Writing by Jessica McGann