An Ode to Lee’s Palace

This past school year, I lived in a creaky, vintage (old) house comprised of both students and young professionals. Inside, examples of some common occurrences were: uncomfortable heating spikes, cleaning up other peoples’ messes so I could cook dinner, and, my personal favourite, forgetting to bring some toilet paper rolls from my room to the bathroom only to realize the terrible mistake I made later on in the day.

Naturally, I had to leave the house to recover from these traumatizing events. Unfortunately, my immediate surrounding area was Fratcentral, which meant dodging red plastic cups and every so often avoiding puddles of regret in the form of the previous night. This story, though tragic so far, has a bright side.  You see, I lived in the Annex – a lively, vibrant neighbourhood – filled with restaurants, bars, and the esteemed Lee’s Palace. Lee’s Palace had garnered a kind of royal reputation, an allure for me that had been building up from first year.

ALT="Pink skies over the Annex"
The Annex gorgeously framed under a pink sky.

I fell in love with the concert venue the very first show I saw there in October – and here’s why.

First, the setting. Lee’s is dark, but illuminated with colourful glowing lanterns and soft incandescent light bulbs from the bar. The room smells like sweat, anticipation, and spilt beer. Little stools are scattered on the border of the dance floor with narrow ledges acting as makeshift bars. The stage glistens under the spotlight. The environment encourages you to move, and laugh, and feel like you’re at a decked out backyard party that’s indoors.

ALT="the opener band at Lee's Palace for this show I saw back in May."
An opener band I’d seen at the Palace. My view: right at the front.

Second, the people. The bouncers are friendly (if you’re of age, that is) and young. There is a thrum of contagious energy and excitement in the air, and everyone is smiling. Lee’s Palace is filled with those who bought tickets in advance to their favourite bands, or those who decided last minute to see a Toronto concert. Everyone is looking to have a good time, not trying to force their way to the front and barge by anyone.

Which brings me to my third point: the music. From the 11 shows I’ve seen so far at the venue, the lineups at Lee’s Palace have continuously surprised me. From hard rock to pop punk to indie to alternative, music is so incredibly diverse there. They also feature a lot of local Toronto or GTA bands. And when the band gets on stage, mere inches away from the dancefloor, the music commands the audience. You enter a sort of hive mentality because of how close and intimate the show becomes; people chant together and they shuffle together, perhaps unknowingly. I recently saw The Staves just last week, and their angelic harmonies resonated throughout the room, silencing and encouraging cheers throughout the night.

ALT="Me at Lee's Palace totally feeling the vibes."
Me at Lee’s Palace totally feeling the vibes.

I highly recommend you check out a show at the Palace this summer. The best part? Tickets are relatively inexpensive (around $15-$40, usually). You can expect to see groups like Catfish & The Bottlemen, Wild Child, and Black Mountain in the next few weeks.

While I reminisce over my favourite concert experience there, I’ll leave you all with a joke. What if a hippopotamus isn’t really an opotamus, but just a really cool opotamus?

Questions about my life in the Annex? Did I convince you to check out a show at the Palace? Are you recovering from how good (bad) my joke was? Let me know in the comments!


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