BSMT 254

BSMT 254 is Toronto's newest live music jewel and it's literally underground

In a city where complaints equate live music with noise, highly amplified sound is hard to come by, and it's something Vas Cranis has long enjoyed both as a lover of reggae music and professionally as a DJ.

Formerly a manager at Lula Lounge for a dozen years, now he and business partner Alex Bordokas present BSMT 254 (pronounced 'Basement Two Five Four') at 254 Lansdowne Avenue near College.

The creation of this venue was almost serendipitous.

Cranis explains:

About a decade ago I became obsessed with reggae music. I had a crew of guys and we called ourselves Dub Connection. We started off throwing parties on other people's sound systems, and started buying a bit of gear here and there, throwing parties in Kensington Market.

As time went on, we built our system up and up and met a guy who knew how to build a speaker – but then we had to carry it with us everywhere. Then we had to pay to store it, and we were spending a lot of money. Then some of the guys retired and they passed the system down to us, and I was responsible for storing it.

For a while I stored it at Lula Lounge where I was the Manager, and I was there all the time. Then when we decided to open the second floor at Lula I had to start looking for spaces.

I always saw this basement place when I was running past it on my way to the track – I was always curious so finally I got the contact and the guy said, "I'm about to rent it to somebody else but I'd love to get some new blood in here, why don't you come look at it." 

When I saw it, I wanted it immediately. That being said, it had an old Portuguese bar tavern vibe to it, so it needed a lot of love.

My business partner Alex Bordokis and I were both working full time – I was still at Lula – so over time we put a coat of paint here, call an electrician there, threw a party, make some money, pay off some debts, and a year later we got our liquor license, which we got right before COVID.

Fast forward to right now, there's exciting new live music programming at BSMT 254 including monthly series of reggae, underground hip hop, contemporary jazz and singer-songwriters.

"Our tastes are so diverse that we don't want to have any boundaries about what to program in here," Cranis tells blogTO. "We are programming everything."

Cranis says the programming philosophy comes to him years of experience at Lula Lounge and other large venues where he constantly had to reject bands and ideas if he didn't think they could get 200 people out to the show.

He says it made it impossible to book young bands who were really talented but just didn't have a large following yet. 

BSMT 254 is different and will feature exactly those exciting young bands you won't find at other venues.

"This venue is a great opportunity to be able to do things we are passionate about," says Cranis.

While Cranis and his team will be responsible for a lot of the programming he also emphasized that it's an event space that they don't want to close off to anyone.

"There are a lot of underrepresented groups in this city," says Cranis. "All are welcome here."

Lead photo by

Ori Dagan of Vas Cranis at BSMT 254

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