The Toronto Streetcar Sessions, Part 3: Ivy Mairi

"I will never look at a streetcar the same way again, that's for sure," admits Milan Schramek, the organizer of the Toronto Streetcar Sessions. "They definitely have this aura about them now. Every time I walk on a streetcar, my mind starts thinking about all the things we had to do to put this together.

"And thinking about the space. Sometimes I’ll go onto the same kind of streetcar that we rented...  I like the back of part of the streetcar... that’s where we had all of the bands. And I just sit at the back and kind of think of that space as if it’s a stage."

And Schramek's not the only one looking at streetcars in a new way. It's an effect the Sessions can't help but have on pretty much anyone who's exposed to them: the artists who played, the audience, listeners and viewers of the recordings that are now being released online, even the people on the street who watched, confused or amused, as the streetcar passed. Torontonians are used to the TTC playing host to life's most mundane and, at times, frustrating moments. Grumpy morning commutes. Endless late night trips home. Seeing a band playing in that space, turning it an artistic venue, you can't help but think of it in a new way: as a place where you can have fun. And so, the Toronto Streetcar Sessions are more than just a series of concerts and recordings, but an urban art piece, provoking the same kind of self-reflective reactions as the best street art, or happenings like the annual No Pants! Subway Ride.

And that effect isn't limited to the streetcars themselves; it ends up bleeding into the city as a whole. That's something Toronto singer-songwriter Ivy Mairi, raised on the Island, reflected on during her Session (which is posted below). "It's so funny. I grew up in Toronto," she says. "I live down Queen Street and I ride the streetcar every day, but for some reason playing music in the back of it makes you really nostalgic for all these neighbourhoods. Like when we passed the former Big Bop back there I was just thinking, 'Oh wow, going to all-ages shows at the Reverb in Grade Nine, you know? ... It's really funny. It makes you think about your city in a different way, I guess."

Exactly what those thoughts are, of course, will vary from one person to the next. But that very act of thinking is valuable. For some, the Sessions will simply be a pleasant memory that crops up from time to time during an otherwise boring commute and makes them just a little bit happier to be living here. For others, it will be a spark, something that prompts them to put on their own events, or to engage with the city in some new way, spreading civic pride and a determination to make Toronto a better, happier, more interesting city to live in.

It may sound silly or naive or even unimportant to some, but it's undoubtedly true: events like the Toronto Streetcar Sessions make better citizens. And that's something our city could sure use more of right now.

Part Four: Parks & Rec is here

Below you'll find a download of the live EP from Ivy Mairi, along with videos and photos of the set. This is the third of a six part series. We've already posted Part One: The Grim Preachers. and Part Two: Donlands And Mortimer. If you want to download all of the MP3s for all of the sessions right away, you can head straight to the Toronto Streetcar Sessions website.

Photos courtesy Milan Schramek. Text by Adam Bunch.

Adam Bunch is the Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project. He's been on the Polaris Prize jury, lectured at Trampoline Hall and written for PopMatters, Crawdaddy!, 24 Hours and a whole bunch of other places. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at


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