The final word on the Toronto Streetcar Sessions was left to Dr. Draw. The virtuosic violinist was the last artist to play the Sessions, taking the "stage" on the last day, right after the raucous gypsy punk of the Worldly Savages. After his closing song, a sprawling 12-minute improvisation, he made it clear just how much the experience meant to him.
"That was awesome," he said over the cheers of the crowd, "made us feel like kids again. It's nice to improvise in this type of setting. We're used to doing it in concert settings. But this is way cooler. I think someone's got to petition Toronto to have some sort of music series on streetcars regularly. And art series. And everything. Whatever. Satanic rituals on Fridays."
All joking aside, hosting regular events like the Toronto Streetcar Sessions seems like a no-brainer for the TTC. The Commission's public relations have been in a nose-dive for years and, after hitting a miserable low last Summer, the people in charge are finally starting to at least say they are taking the issue seriously. At a time when the TTC is hiring customer service consultants and re-thinking their lackluster marketing strategies, the Streetcar Sessions seem like godsend: a ready-made way for people to associate the transit system with a unique, positive experience, developing lasting memories to help off-set the inevitable misery of a rush-hour commute. Plus, for those who don't attend the Sessions in person, the events produce video recordings and MP3s of some of the best bands in the city — with the TTC brand all over the place. The viral marketing potential is enough to get any transit supporter excited. For his part, Milan Schramek, the organizer of the Sessions, is clear that he would love to see them become a regular event.
But as you probably already know, the people who run the TTC are crazy. Not only do they seem to be completely uninterested in making the Streetcar Sessions a recurring series, they made it hard to have any of them in first place. "They aren’t exactly the most neighbourhood-friendly TTC that they could be," Schramek admits. "They kind of gave us the runaround a bit... Really annoying."
Moving forward, the main hurdle is the cost of renting the streetcars. It's prohibitive: nearly $2000 for each three-hour trip. For students and musicians already volunteering their time and talents, that's just not a price they can afford on an ongoing basis. Crippled by bureaucracy and a lack of vision, the TTC is unwilling to help. "They made it very clear to us that they are a public company," Schramek explains, "and that’s why they cannot give us any kind of discount even though we’re students." And that was their attitude last Fall, back before the penny-pinching, streetcar-hating Rob Ford blundered his way into City Hall.
So for now at least, the Toronto Streetcar Sessions are just a pleasant memory for all of those who were lucky enough to attend — and an excellent series of recordings for everyone else. Here's hoping that someday soon, somehow, they'll be even more than that.
Below you'll find a download of the live EP from Dr. Draw, along with videos and photos of the set. This is the final post in a six part series. We've already posted Part One: The Grim Preachers, Part Two: Donlands And Mortimer, Part Three: Ivy Mairi, Part Four: Parks & Rec and Part Five: The Worldly Savages. 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.