or those who don’t reside in Toronto, the city is hardly known for its diverse nightlife. From King St. West barhoppers and Queen West club nights, there is a stereotype that doesn’t tell the real story of what goes on past 10 p.m.
Our nightlife is far from this stereotype. DJs being are at the forefront of Toronto nightlife, restaurants have become hybrid clubs, cafes host their set nights of Toronto-based soon-to-be legends, and bars hold event nights curating a range of electronic music from every end of the city.
This is where you’ll find Frequencies, showcasing ambient-like or deep techno-electronic live performances of eclectic artists and collectives. Every last Thursday of the month, Kensington Market’s Handlebar turns into a soundscape featuring an intricately curated lineup. Talent comes from across the city and beyond.
This comes from the mind of Ted Kennedy, an electronic DJ who started Frequencies in 2015. With artists such as No Tourist, Miasalav and Hyd, Frequencies has become a haven for presenting Toronto’s complex and diverse sounds.
“At its core, it’s live electronic music, that’s a preset term,” he said. “The main thing is that it’s performative and it’s live… at its heart, that’s what Frequencies is about. That’s any genre from techno to house, experimental electro. We like hip-hop, and we want to push the limits pretty far.”
Each night Frequencies is MC’d by Jack Moves. The team aims to not book just one genre of music. As Kennedy said, there’s a beginning, a middle and an end planned out to give the night a flow of different genres. “I try to push the limits of what the audience will expect in terms of different genres, it starts at one place and ends at another.”
Kennedy makes that happen. A night at Frequencies is about being taken on a genre exploring journey. In many ways, the event challenges audiences’ understanding of a night of live music. Frequencies curated shows in Guelph as well, which brought a different array of artists.
Back when Frequencies began, Kennedy started out performing at the bar trying to gain exposure for his own music.
“I connected with the then owners of Handlebar and organized a few shows for myself because no one was booking me,” he said. “They told me they really liked what I was doing and liked the audience I was bringing in and asked, ‘do you want to make this a regular night?’”
For the first five years, Frequencies took off. With locals and artists pulling through to the monthly event, a community started to build.
“At the level we’re operating at, especially if they’re artists, I’d like people to get a sense of community and be connected with other electronic artists who are doing live or performative music,” he said.
In 2020 the pandemic put nightlife on hold. But Kennedy didn’t believe Frequencies needed to be stopped entirely. While in-person events ceased momentarily, Frequencies made its way online to Twitch.
Live performances from artists' homes and studios took over, like Errunhrd’s electro-pop dream-pop-esque set, surrounded by their equipment on the carpeted floor. Mecha Maiko’s synth-pop sounds and psychedelic visuals accompanied the streamed set.
Aside from the occasional and expected technical glitches, the streams found success in doing what Frequencies was built for; showcasing undeniably intricate and eclectic sounds all in the name of experimentation and genre-bending.
Once the lockdowns ended and Frequencies events were able to continue in person, it was like nothing had changed.
“There’s just the personal and emotional side of that, I think we all felt just getting out of our quarantine bubbles was amazing,” said Kennedy. “Seeing people perform live again, in a live venue was just outstanding…everything’s been a little bit better with our shows and we are getting more people who show up earlier than they used to before the pandemic.”
Kennedy said he feels people are realizing what they were missing out on when it comes to nightlife and Frequencies itself. Even when Handlebar’s ownership switched during the pandemic, Frequencies was welcomed with open arms.
“The new owners did a really great job of continuing what Handlebar has built,” he said. “They kept the bar alive through one of the probably most challenging times in the history of bars and live music.”
For Frequencies' future, Kennedy said he hope to organize more Frequencies beyond Toronto. “Towns surrounding Toronto, or maybe even further afield in places like Montreal…and maybe bigger one-off events,” said Kennedy.
What’s most important for Frequencies is to expand and help the community that it’s worked alongside and made the Frequencies events what it is today. Frequencies continues its monthly events with its next event on March 30 with artist Cadence Weapon, Korea Town Acid, Chernilo and Myst Milano.