Last week Friday, I finally had the chance to make it down to Toronto for NXNE. Having volunteered with them in the past, I feel it’s mandatory to re-immerse myself in this culture each year- if only for a night.
Heading to town without a plan is always the best way to tackle North By, but we figured heading to Young and Dundas Square for The National was a good place to start. The band put on a great show for the thousands of onlookers, but after spending enough time being suffocated, it was time for a more intimate setting.
Toronto is a large city. Getting places by car is mayhem and walking from place to place is just not happening. The NXNE app for iPhone was a phenomenal tool for this years festival, allowing me to check out the “map” and see which other venues were close by- which was not many. We decided to check out the venue C’est What? It was a 15 minute walk from the Square and was a venue that I had visited (drunkenly) in past years. It was also a venue featuring North By showcases, laid out nicely in the app, as ones that sounded like some music we would all dig.
C’est What? is a much larger place than I had remembered. A nice dining section for those who weren’t interested in the music, though they did have to deal with us hooligans walking past them to get to it. There was also lots of seating and stools right at the bar who like to enjoy music along with a few brews.
Although service was a bit slow and my friend started taking beer and food orders to the bar for us, both food and beer was excellent. Beers will run you $5-$7. Food was great with a bit of a variety. Appetizers were all about $8, while meals were more like $12-$18.
Online, the venue is listed as a basement capacity of 350, but the area in front of the stage is more like 100. Even so, we managed to get a great table with a view of the stage. The venues sound suited the showcase perfectly. All artists had a folky-singer-songwriter to an indie-rock vibe and it was the perfect home for them. Each band made an effort to extend thanks and give shout-outs to the in-house sound guy. A job well done.
After enjoying a few beers, finding washrooms is mandatory. C’est What made it simple. Men’s and women’s toilets are in the same place, on the same level as the venue and they were very clean. In fact, the whole venue is very clean, attributed I’m sure to the fact that it is also a restaurant, but this still counts for a lot. They provide a great atmosphere.
The venue is located on Front Street and is found easily by car (Bay St/York St exit toward Yonge St) or bus. We were able to park the car in a well let public parking structure for only $5! Unheard of in Toronto.
Overall, C’est What? is a fun little venue that has lots to offer. If you’re looking for a great selection of beers, some live music and happen to be in this end of town, it’s a worthwhile visit.