There’s nothing particularly wrong with the music documentary The Scene: An Exploration of Music in Toronto, but it’s doubtful that anyone outside of the bands being profiled and their friends and followers will get too excited by the prospect of rushing out to see it. While it’s decidedly hermetic at times to the Toronto experience of playing numerous shows a month for little money and little pay off, there are actually some larger, more interesting themes being explored in Josh Jensen’s film that could serve as a helpful primer for anyone looking to start a band.
Focusing primarily on three Toronto area acts – indie rockers The Ruby Spirit, former cover band and elder statesmen The Alter Kakers, and bluesy rap rockers Committed to Rhyme – Jensen and his subjects find a lot to praise about the titular scene on a microcosmic level. Everyone seems to be really happy about living in a vibrant city for the arts with a lot of helpful and supportive kindred spirits around to back them up. What could have become a good hearted infomercial for the bands being profiled thankfully never devolves to that level, and at 78 minutes it never outwears its welcome when it comes to doting on the hometown-y vibe being given off.
Extending his reach to some true OGs of the scene and record label runners, Jensen finds his best moments when the bands and interview subjects let their frustrations show. There are only so many times you can play in the city to the same number of people every time before crowds will get sick of the act, so it strikes a blow against Toronto being a comfortable city to work in. That opens up discussions about whether or not to hire a band manager, leaving the city for greener pastures, paying dues, juggling day jobs, and struggling to get on the radio. These are themes that aren’t endemic to just Toronto, but everywhere. And since that’s the best part of an already fairly likeable little documentary, it’s a shame the focus couldn’t have been broadened just slightly beyond the city’s borders.
The Alter Kakers and The Nursery will be performing at a special screening of The Scene: An Exploration of Music in Toronto at 6:15pm at Carlton Cinemas this Saturday.