Sounds from our opening: Off the International Radar

Posted by Drake, February 10, 2014
Image courtesy of Hand Drawn Dracula

Image courtesy of Hand Drawn Dracula

Think back, all the way to the cradle. Or to Drake's cradle, at any rate.

You may not remember it too well, but February, 2004—the month that we threw open our doors to Queen West for the first time—was about as cold as this one ten years later. It was that brutally Toronto-in-February kind of cold, teasing the so-close-but-so-far-away approach of spring. Clear, sunny, the air burning the sensation right out of your face, it was an especially good time to heat things up—which is exactly what we planned to do at 1150 Queen West.

"When I arrive," wrote June Morrow, recalling opening night in the March, 2004 edition of the Liberty Gleaner, "the refurbished flophouse is at capacity, and I'm directed outside to the back of a line 20-people deep." The scene was a mix of old and new at the time, with the style that would become Drake hovering in the lobby, for example, near that blackboard strewn with math equations. But there was also that unmistakably Parkdale flavour of edginess and grit, something many didn't expect would gel so well with 1150 Queen West's transformation.

But wow, did it ever. The atmosphere was a mix of bourbon and beats, the vibe that of a place at the crossroads of Toronto, welcoming a cross-section of communities. And if we do say so ourselves, the vibrant, art-house edginess of who we became was pretty well expressed in the music of that night, headlined by Toronto's own Off the International Radar. "Gradually, the room fills with art students," Morrow recalled, "and, two hours later as Off the International Radar plays spacey ambient harmonies to pixellated visuals behind them, the room takes on a quiet campfire-like atmosphere." Almost like a harbinger of things to come, the feel was as much a busy, high-end bar as a chilled-out, inspiring coffee house scene. And if you know Off the International Radar, you know that their sound can best be described the same way.

Rich Aucoin, in our chat back in December, remembers opening for these guys during his first Toronto show in 2008. Since they graced our own first show with their sound, we've been honoured to welcome these hometown sonic explorers back a few times. It's a career arc that launched them on a trajectory toward being headliners themselves, and the years since 2004 have been no less good to them.

Watch this video of theirs from 2009, for the single "A Cold Mirror." The animation and that frenetic edge to their sound—even at a high tempo, there's an inwardly-focused, ethereal vibe to it—are signatures of their style, something we've found fascinating since day one.

Ten years later, it's inspiring to no end to see these guys still going strong.

The Drake Hotel, pre-Drake. You've come a long way, baby.

The Drake Hotel, pre-Drake. You've come a long way, baby.

Off the International Radar

OtIR's music has been described as "hypnogogic; it exists in that brief space of semi-cognizance between sleep and wakefulness." (Image from Hand Drawn Dracula)

Posted in: Music

Tags: drake hotel  music  musicmonday  off the international radar  vintage