Every City Needs a Book Like 'Any Night of the Week: A DIY History of Toronto Music, 1957–2001' By Jonny Dovercourt
Published Apr 16, 2020There are plenty of city-specific music books and plenty of books about DIY music, but Any Night of the Week might be the first about a city-specific DIY scene. That's no small task, yet Jonny Dovercourt, best known as co-founder of long-running Toronto concert series Wavelength, deftly weaves a narrative across genres and decades, illuminating how Toronto arrived at a point where our music is now the city's (and maybe the country's) greatest cultural export.
Dovercourt takes readers back the beginning of the rock'n roll era when every part of the Toronto (and Canadian) music scene was DIY. From "Toronto the Good," Yonge Street, Yorkville and Queen West through the birth of CanCon, punk, indie rock, alt-rock and the blooming of "Torontopia," he charts a creative community in constant expansion and contraction. It turns out that, though accelerated in the 20th century, creeping gentrification and closing venues are not a modern phenomenon, rather something that the arts scene has always had to contend with.
While the focus is squarely on the music, equal air time is given to the bookers, promoters, producers, record labels, publications (Exclaim! included) and prominent scene facilitators, putting the spotlight on many behind-the-scenes figures who've helped keep artists in front of audiences over the decades.
Overall, Dovercourt makes space for all comers — Caribbean and experimental music have long and rich histories in Toronto and clearly illustrates a hip-hop continuum that goes beyond Maestro and Drake. As he notes right off the top, each scene is deserving of its own book.
If the book has a fault, it's Dovercourt's deep involvement with the scene he chronicles. In later chapters, the book reads less like an objective narrative than a personal memoir, born out by a stronger focus on Toronto's more recent punk and indie scenes. Yet that same experience gives Dovercourt the perspective and access to the many players who have sacrificed their time and energy to shape the Toronto sound with few expectations of personal gain. Every city needs their own version of this book. (Coach House)