Backyard concert host takes Doors Open literally
Manning Ave. resident’s house a part of official event, drawing hundreds for free music, barbecue
Toronto musician Tim McCready regularly opens the doors to strangers at the two-storey house he rents in Little Portugal, but this year it became official.
McCready’s home was one of the latest additions to Doors Open Toronto, a free annual event held over the weekend that gives the public the rare chance to tour buildings across the city that have historical, cultural or social significance.
The Manning Ave. house resembles most others on the street, so it’s not an architectural marvel like the Aga Khan Museum or St. Michael’s Cathedral, or a heritage site like John McKenzie House in Willowdale.
But this year, the city of Toronto approached the open-hearted 39-year-old McCready — who has invited many local acts and music lovers into his home over the past decade for concerts in his living room and backyard — to add a cultural twist to the popular Doors Open program.
“I’ve always been obsessed with music, and people appreciate it, which makes it special,” he explained.
His kindly father, Ray, flipped garden burgers and handed them to visitors free of charge all day Saturday and Sunday while bands such as Crazy Bones, Hot Garbage and the Fuzzy Undertones took to both the makeshift backyard stage and the cosy living room.
“We just came from the (U of T’s) Daniels Building, and we thought this was certainly unusual, so we wanted to see what it was about,” said one woman in a stylish black leather jacket, sitting with her husband under the trees as singer Allie Sunshine belted out some tunes and played the keyboard.
Hundreds of visitors came by and were welcome to use the washroom, check out local artwork during the friendly backyard barbecue, and even peruse McCready’s extensive library of books in the front room. It all had a small-town, folksy feel, which the McCreadys said is pretty much the point.
The family hails from Windsor, Ont., where Tim started a punk band in his teens “and I was his roadie,” joked his father, a retired pastor who recorded a vinyl gospel album in 1970.
When Tim started working in Toronto 12 years ago, he tried to find a way to connect to the big city through his passion for music. He plays keyboards, drums and guitar, and launched Good Enough Live Karaoke, in which his four-piece band backs up karaoke singers at bars with a 300-song catalogue of popular tunes.
With an ever-shrinking pool of music venues in Toronto for musicians to find an audience — the Silver Dollar and Harlem are the latest to shut their doors — the simple performance space is at least an alternative for many local acts.
He regularly holds one big concert in summer and on New Year’s Eve.
One time, 2,000 people showed up, “so I kept the last one on the down low and we had 200 people over,” Tim said, noting even Buck 65 and Sloan have performed at his pad.
Surprisingly the landlord, who lives down the street, is fine with it and of course has an open invite, McCready says.
Doors Open 2017 was the 18th edition since the festival began, and coincided this year with TO Canada With Love, Toronto’s yearlong program of events and celebrations in honour of Canada’s 150th birthday.
This year, 150 buildings were open to the public with the theme “Fifteen Decades: Canadian Architecture.”
Attendees also got a sneak peek at two new subway stations for the soon-to-open Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension. Downsview Park station, at 1245 Sheppard Ave. W., features a green roof and public art.
York University station is deep in the York University campus, at 4700 Keele St., and boasts the bold design of a boomerang shape, with north and south entrances under the wing of each end.
Both stations were open on Saturday only.
Tim McCready has hosted backyard concerts for the past 10 years, for acts such as Sloan and Buck 65.
On Saturday, Doors Open attendees got a sneak peek at the new Downsview Park subway station.