By the time the last day of the Toronto Streetcar Sessions rolled around, word had spread. All the tickets were snapped up within 24 hours. The turnout for the first two events had been great; for the third, people packed the streetcar solidly from one end to the other. It was hard to find a place to stand. It's a scene we're all familiar with from nightmare rush hour commutes. Except this time, all the faces were smiling. There was sound equipment. And, of course, there was a band playing in the back.
"Okay, we're going to have a little dance party in here," Erik Mut, frontman for The Worldly Savages, declared as the gypsy punks launched into their first song. Later he'd add, "[This streetcar is] never going to be the same after this party... People will be seeing the marks of this years after." And for the next hour, the band set about doing just that—transforming what's usually a dreary, mundane space with something more than an ordinary concert.
"We really wanted it to be a 'happening', not just a performance," Milan Schramek, the creator of the sessions, explains, "because a performance is just people standing in front of a stationary stage and listening to the music. This is about atmosphere, it’s about community, it’s about people coming together."
Those aren't exactly the kind of terms people normally use in reference to the TTC, but Schramek made sure to keep them of the centre of the project. It began with his choice of bands. He knew almost all of them personally; some of them already knew each other as well. And it helped that the popularity of the events was mostly due to word of mouth; many in the audience were already familiar with the bands or the organizers. But that sense of community—usually so foreign to the TTC—quickly engulfed the entire streetcar.
"One thing about Toronto is that people on public transit don’t talk to each other," Schramek agrees, "they barely make eye contact in fact. And that’s kind of a stigma that we have about this town: that people don’t like to talk to people that they don’t know... The difference with the streetcar sessions is that anybody who was on that streetcar, I felt, could turn to anybody next to them even if they didn’t know them and could say 'Hey, how’s it going, look at this awesome thing that we’re experiencing.'"
They not only could, they did. And never more so than while The Worldly Savages were playing. The raucous gypsy punks turned the entire vehicle into a traveling party. They threw themselves into the performance with abandon, shouting and screaming, climbing up on the seats, diving into the crowd. The audience responded in kind. They cheered. Sang along at the top of their lungs. Danced. With strangers. On the TTC.
"I see people trapped within cultures," The Worldly Savages sang, their lyrics oddly appropriate for the occasion. "Oh come on everybody, insanity can be so fun! So let's have a display! Of the savagery of everyone! Oh come on everybody, let your manners be undone!"
Part Six: Dr. Draw is here.
Below you'll find a download of the live EP from The World Savages, along with videos and photos of the set. This is the fifth of a six part series. We've already posted Part One: The Grim Preachers, Part Two: Donlands And Mortimer, Part Three: Ivy Mairi and Part Four: Parks & Rec. 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 by Carmen Cheung. Text by Adam Bunch.
Adam Bunch is the Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.