March 19th @ Free Times Café

There was a period of time when Toronto was obsessed with being seen as a “world class” city, whatever that means. Fortunately, that almost pathological desire to be recognized by people outside of Canada’s borders (because within Canada’s borders hating Toronto is pretty much the order of the day) seems to have faded away. It does need to be acknowledged however, that there’s a lot about Toronto that has legitimately led to international recognition – if not notoriety. Two particular examples leap to mind.

First, are there the many outstanding musical venues in this city. There is, for example, the much venerated and newly renovated Massey Hall as well as the lovely Koerner Hall. The neon palms of the famous El Mocambo are lit up again and there are many smaller clubs and bars opening up regularly (also sadly closing regularly). One of the real jewels of the bar/club scene is the legendary Free Times Café (located on College just west of Spadina). The Free Times regularly hosts international, national, and local artists of great repute. But more about the Free Times later.

The other international claim to fame Toronto possesses is electing mayors who flame out in scandal. I could go back in history and set out all the various scandals that have beset the mayors of this city over the last 150 years, but that would require research and I’m too lazy to do that. So, let’s just look at the last two mayors the city has had shall we.

First there was Rob Ford. What can be said about Rob Ford that has not already been said or depicted in a really bad movie? A blustering, crack addicted alcoholic whose life always seemed on the verge of collapse and who lived in a state of denial. Ford’s antics or exploits or whatever term you want to use became regular fare on news shows across the globe. It got so bad that Toronto City Council had to essentially take away his mayoral duties.

And then, following Rob Ford, John Tory was elected mayor. Tory was often touted as the anti-Ford – his antithesis if you will. But John Tory and Rob Ford had an awful lot in common for two people who were considered opposites. They were both white men whose families had a long history with the Conservative Party and had also amassed significant amounts of wealth before they came on the scene. They also both had four letter last names. Sure, Tory is thin and Ford was rotund, but other than that they’re pretty similar. If you were asked to imagine the anti-Rob Ford, it probably wouldn’t be just a slightly taller white guy who is also a life-long Conservative and who too is heir to a family fortune.

The big contrast that was touted between Tory and Ford was, apparently, that Tory’s personal life was above reproach – he might be boring, he might be bland, but he wouldn’t get put the city in the spotlight in the same way the previous mayor did. Well guess what, after being elected to his third term as mayor just last year, Tory had to resign because of an affair he had with a junior staffer just before it was revealed in the press. So, as it turns out, that’s one more thing he had in common with his predecessor.

If we look at the Toronto ledger then, on the negative side we have recurring mayoralty scandals, on the plus side we have wonderful musical venues, so let’s focus on the positive shall we. And in particular, let’s look at the Free Times Café (I did say where it was located, didn’t I?).

I’m very pleased, indeed honoured, to let everyone know that on Sunday March 19th, Gordon’s Acoustic Living Room, the band that I am proud to be a small part of (I’m not being modest here, there are 10 people in the band so I’m just 1/10th of the whole) will be returning to the legendary Free Times Café to once again provide a wildly eclectic evening of songs in many genres delivered by musicians who would love nothing more than to play for you. Because we are so happy to be back at the Free Times after a couple months of being away, there will be no cover. The show starts at 8 and we hope to see you there.


PS. If you didn’t catch our virtual Robbie Burns show on January 25th, please go to our website – – and you can watch the whole thing. Just a warning, as if you didn’t expect it, there are a hell of a lot of bagpipes in that show. And as an additional warning, those same bagpipes – along with the person who plays them – will be at Sunday’s show as well.

March 19th Set List:
Set #1: Set #2:
Mist Covered Conundrum
Bad Hand
Navajo Rug
All My Tears
It’s A Sin
Faces In The Frames
Golden Ring
Big Rock Candy
I Don’t Look Good Naked
Barbara Ann
Glenora Ferry
Pretzel Logic
Better Be Home Soon
Sucks To Be Me
Where Does Love Go
Word For Sky
People Get Ready
I Feel Like Hank Williams Tonight
Golden Ring
Give Me Love
Bitter Green
Lay Down Sally
There Stands The Glass
Have I The Right
Midnight Choir

Robert Burns Night – Live on YouTube!

YouTube Link:

Note: In the event of a stream interruption, please check back here for updates!

We are doing Burns again this year, and again it will be remote– but with a twist. Instead of all the performers linking in virtually with all the risks of dropped connections (sigh), the performers are all joining Rory and Mary at their house for a more fulsome and enjoyable experience.  

The show starts at 8 pm. Come back here before then for the link to the live broadcast!

We will have:

  • A Highland Dancer from Highland-in-6 Dancers
  • Bagpipes
  • 8 musicians with Scottish themed tunes or other tunes including pipes.
  • Poetry by Julian Goss
  • The address to the Haggis with neeps and tatties
  • Singer Heather Morgan to close off the night with Auld Lang Syne. 

There will be a live comments function so tell us what you think and where you are on the planet!

Looking forward!

Rory And Mary 

January 15th @ Free Times Café

You’re invited to attend a musical performance featuring a diverse group of musicians!

Come and experience the unique sounds of bagpipes alongside a variety of other instruments and styles. The performance will take place Sunday @ 8pm at the Free Times Café. Don’t miss this opportunity to hear the fusion of different cultures and traditions in one concert.

And remember, if you’re feeling down, just remember the bagpipe player’s motto: “You may not be able to play well, but you can always play loud!”

We look forward to seeing you there!

The above was written by ChatGPT with this prompt: Write an invitation to a musical performance that features a very diverse group of musicians, including bagpipes, and finish with a joke about the bagpipe player.

December 18th @ Free Times Café

Have you ever thought about how one little letter can change so much? Take for example the three letters “est.” On their own, when capitalized, EST can stand for Eastern Standard Time, the time those of us living in Ontario use during the fall and winter (other than folks in Kenora and west who are in a different time zone, but you knew that). EST can also stand for Erhard Seminar Training, a cult like program that was popular (among some folks) in the 1970s and 80s (and if you want to go down that particular rabbit hole that’s up to you).

But I’m talking about the letters “est” which can be a suffix (for you grammar fans – and you know who you are) but can also just be the last three letters of lots of words. Just one small letter in front of “est” can give us a fest or a vest. And if I say we’re going to have a rest that’s very different than if I say we’re going to have a test. And you’d feel even better if I said you were the best – which you are for reading this far.

And while we’re on this road, let’s think about “quest.’ Adding the “qu” to the “est” sets up an adventure and challenge. And then if we put “re” in front, it becomes a request and if we put “be” in there, then it’s a bequest. And those are very different things. I mean, you ask for something when you make a request and you get something when you receive a bequest.

Now lest (there’s another one) you think this is just idle musing, I’m now going to knit this altogether by tying it to the next show from your faves – Gordon’s Acoustic Living Room.

On December 18th, the 10 or so members of Gordon’s Acoustic Living Room (maybe 10, could be nine, possibly eight, we’ll see, there are a lot of moving parts these days and your mileage may vary) will once again be gathered at the Free Times Café (College, just west of Spadina) to resume what has been a much anticipated but pandemic-delayed holiday themed event – our famous December all request show. Yes, the all request show – where you make the requests and we respond to your requests by bequesting you the songs that you’ve requested.

You might be wondering how we compile the requests for this wonderful show and that’s a very good question. One option, of course, is to have people at the show shout out their requests. But we are now living in a time when we are still concerned and careful about the spreading of germs (but not so concerned and careful that we’re bottling ourselves back up at home), so we don’t want to encourage people to shout things out, other than of course “encore,” or spontaneous shouts of joy and/or incredulity during our performance. The other difficulty with people shouting out requests during the show is maybe they’ll shout out something that we don’t really know very well, or something we do know but we just don’t want to play.

And then of course there’s the thorny issue of privilege. If we only allow requests at the show, then that privileges those who are able to attend, and while we love the people who are able to attend, and in fact couldn’t really do a show without the people who attend, we don’t want to unduly privilege those people beyond giving them the privilege of hearing us play, which frankly and modestly I would have to say is a pretty big privilege. And we need to keep in mind that some people who might like to make requests live some distance from Toronto and we don’t want to leave them out. So, we are extending the ability to request songs to everyone who receives this e-mail or more specifically the link that appears in the next paragraph that will take you to our all request webpage.

And that that link is:

When you click on that link you will see almost 400 songs that the fine folks of Gordon’s Acoustic Living Room are willing to play for you on December 18th. Now of course, while we’d love to, we can’t play all 400 songs because if the average song is three minutes that’s 1,200 minutes of music (not counting the time between songs for jolly banter) which divided by 60 turns into 20 hours, and while we have a great deal of stamina and would love nothing better than to play for 20 hours straight, the folks at the Free Times Café, as wonderful as they are, won’t allow it. What we do instead is we choose among the most requested songs for each musician to make up our set list. And on top of that, we will also be sprinkling in a few holiday themed tunes.

I hope you can join us at the aforementioned Free Times Café on the aforementioned date of December 18th at the heretofore unmentioned time of eight PM and watch as we bequest you with your requested songs. And while enjoying the performance you are encouraged to ingest (we’re almost done with these) some fine food and drink. And did I mention that in the holiday spirit there is no cover charge.

Hope to see you there (and even if you can’t make it, make a request, it’ll be like you are there).


P.S. You should be aware that making an appearance at the all request show will almost certainly be bagpipes who I think are best classified as a musical pest and unwanted guest.

December 18th Set List:
Set #1: Set #2:
Christmas Carol Medley
I Believe In Father Christmas
500 Miles
Everybody Knows
Wichita Lineman
Rocket Man
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow
If I Had A Hammer
Lay Down Sally
Bang Bang
Glenora Ferry
Santa Claus Is Dead
Lost On The Bayou
House Of The Rising Sun
Song For A Winter’s Night
Ashokan Farewell
What Was I Thinking
Harvest Moon
The Wanderer
Breathe In, Breathe Out
I Shall Be Released
Unchained Melody
Galway Girl

November 20th @ Free Times Café

Hello all Roomers, and Rumours of Roomers!

Come to the Free Times Café this coming Sunday for good music starting at 8pm. But don’t miss the good food either! You can make a reservation by calling 416-967-1078 and have some of Judy’s fabulous food.

See you there!

Rory Gus

PS Jonathan is in Vancouver this weekend so no ranty blurb this month.

November 20th Set List:
Set #1: Set #2:
Old Rustic Bridge / Drunken Piper
3 Downs To Heaven
5 Days In May
Breakin’ Up Is Hard To Do
And It Stoned Me
The Air That I Breathe
Bartender Blues
What Was I Thinking?
Between Lust and Watching TV
Cats In The Cradle
Close To Carolina
Ruby Tuesday
Baby You’re A Rich Man
Get Us A Billion
Tonight I’ll Be Staying With You
I Only Wanna Be With You
Wish You Were Here
Wild World
Gringo In Belize
When The Tingle Becomes A Chill
Linda Keep The Coffee On
Pretzel Logic

October 16th @ Free Times Café

The past few years has seen an explosion in true crime stories. Whether it be podcasts, TV shows, movies or books – or sometimes a TV show based on a podcast from a movie that started out as a book – there’s a lot to choose from and we can’t seem to get enough of them. And I confess (or was this a false confession), I too enjoy a good true crime saga – but I never thought I would actually be in one (cue ominous music).

This is a true story (I mean most of what I write in these blurbs is true – or largely true or substantially based on truey type things – but this one really is really truly true).

It started innocently enough, but then it always does start innocently, doesn’t it? We put out our two garbage bins one evening, but in the morning, after the collection, one was gone (cue trashy music). No big deal, we thought mistakenly, and so we called the city to ask for a new bin. And that’s when things started to get strange (ominous music again please).

The person on the phone asked us for the serial number of our garbage bin. Serial number? On a garbage bin? Since when did garbage bins have serial numbers? Quite a while apparently – and if you live in Toronto and you don’t believe me go check your bins yourself – you’ll see the numbers on the front of the bin right by the bar code (yes, there’s a bar code too). So, we got the serial number and called the city back and got the shock of our lives (OK, I might be exaggerating here just a bit, it wasn’t the shock of our lives, but it was very surprising – and deserves some shock music).

Apparently, the bin that we have been calling our own bin for years, the bin that we’ve treated as our own bin, the bin in which we have placed the intimate aspects of our lives that we can bear to part with and can’t be recycled, that bin isn’t ours!!!! A review of the serial number revealed that the bin belonged to someone else? But who? Did they steal our bin (I guess it isn’t really our bin, but it feels like a part of the family and I’ll always think of it that way) in order to rejoin its brother or sister bin? And if that isn’t our bin – and I guess it isn’t – then who has our bin (or bins because we had two and that’s what started this whole thing). We wanted answers and we wanted them now.

So we asked the person at the city, “Whose bin is this and where are our bins?” And while we wanted answers, we didn’t get them – instead we were told to wait until the investigation was complete. Yes, they said “the investigation.” The investigation!?!?! There’s going to be an investigation!!?!? Are we suspects? Do we need a lawyer? Does anyone know a good lawyer??? What have we started and where will this end????

And then, after we calmed down a bit (just a bit, our minds were still racing) we asked ourselves who would be doing this investigation? Who has the expertise and the knowledge to take on a task this daunting? Perhaps the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew, but they’re kinda old for these kind of things – racing around in back alleys trying to find runaway bins. Could be Scooby Doo and his pals, or maybe the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or the Paw Patrol?

I hate to leave you in suspense, but like any good true crime podcast or series, there is more to come – but you’ll have to wait – as we wait – for the next episode (cue theme music).

You know what’s no mystery, however: when Gordon’s Acoustic Living Room will be having its next show at the Free Times Café on College just west of Spadina (I love segues – and while I don’t like to brag – I think I’ve become pretty good at them). Because it’s gonna be Sunday, October 16. And, like always, the show will start at 8pm. And while the tunes we’re going to play are a mystery right now, all will be revealed on the night – no cliff-hangers. And there will also be lots to eat and drink, and in honour of the mystery of changing of the colours of the leaves, there will be no cover. Hope to see you there.


P.S. None of the imaginary music referenced above was, will be or an ever can be, played on the bagpipes.

September 18th @ Free Times Café

Has this ever happened to you? (Having asked this question, I’m now a bit worried, because what if what I’m about to tell you that has happened to me, and I think may have happened to you, hasn’t happened to you? Maybe an experience that I think is almost universal is really exclusive to me. Now, I’m starting to feel a bit vulnerable but I’m gonna move forward with the question – because, as Van Morrison memorably said: “It’s too late to stop now.” And just to be clear I’m referring here to the younger Van Morrison, not the COVID denying older curmudgeonly Van Morrison).

Where was I – oh yeah – has this ever happened to you? You wake up (so at this point I’m pretty confident that everyone is still with me because if you’re reading this, no matter what time of day or night, you must have woken up, so we’re all good).

And then, after you wake up, you brush your teeth (and while I might not have everyone with me, I’m pretty sure most people brush their teeth at some point after they wake up and so I’m still feeling pretty confident).

And then, after waking up and brushing your teeth, you drink some orange juice. And this is where I’m focusing – you wake up, you brush your teeth and then you drink orange juice. Because if this has happened to you, and it must have happened to more than a few of you, you know what happens next. And what happens next is this orange juice which you’ve always liked – this sweet bit of sunshiny goodness (you’re welcome for the plug Florida orange growers) tastes bitter, it tastes sour, it tastes so bad you never want to drink orange juice again.

So why is it that if you wake up, drink orange juice and then brush your teeth everything’s fine, but if you wake up, brush your teeth and then drink orange juice the experience is awful. What’s going on? As it turns out there is a scientific explanation for this phenomenon. You see, some of the ingredients in toothpaste coat your tongue and inhibit the receptors there that detect sweetness for a brief period of time and, as a result, if you drink orange juice after brushing your teeth, your tongue can’t taste any of that sweet goodness, you just taste the sour parts of the juice (and a shout out here to one of my favourite new podcasts, “No Such Thing as a Fish”, where I first learned the fascinating answer to this perplexing question).

The reason I’ve been pondering this question is because, as many of you know, Gordon’s Acoustic Living Room (the band I am honoured to be a small part of) has started up our monthly shows at the Free Times Café – College just west of Spadina – again. And this month, as with most months, we will be playing our gig on the third Sunday of month, which this month is September 18.

And if you’ve been to one of our gigs (and if you have, I hope you come back to see us soon, and if you haven’t, I still hope you come to see us soon) you will know that bagpipes are played – pretty much always at the start of the show. And I have always wondered why, after our bagpipe tune, the next song we play sometimes sounds a bit off to me (not that the audience notices because I think they’re just relieved that the bagpipes are finished – at least for a while). And now I know the answer, because bagpipes are the toothpaste of musical instruments.

Some of you might think comparing bagpipes to toothpaste is unfair – although whether to bagpipes or toothpaste I’m not sure – while for others it may explain a musical conundrum. Why don’t you determine this for yourself. Come see us at the Free Times on September 18. The show starts at 8 pm and there is lots of good food and interesting drinks. And in honour of the coming of fall there will be no cover.

Hope to see you there.


P.S. I’m not sure what happens if you brush your teeth and then play the bagpipes, but thanks for asking.

September 18th Set List:
Set #1: Set #2:
Mist Covered Mountains
Where Does Love Go
Cry If You Want To
The Wanderer
Mad Mission
Nigel’s Love Song
You Win Again
Country Squall
Every Time You Go Away
Rank Stranger
What’s Going On
Dead Skunk
Kilworth Hills
Choo Choo
One Of Us Cannot
Meaghan’s Short Story
Crazy Love
Tramp On The Street
Chemical Workers Song
Drifting Away
Together Again
Stuck In The Airport

August 21st @ Free Times Café

A few weeks ago, a band called Blue Coupe, came through town. One thing that distinguishes Blue Coupe from a lot of other bands is their musical pedigree. The members of the group include folks who played with Alice Cooper and Blue Öyster Cult (note the correct placement of the umlaut – and I know that there is no umlaut on oyster when referring to the bivalve mollusk but here I’m talking about Öyster the proto metal band where there is unquestionably an umlaut). Not only did these guys play in those bands – because over the years a lot of people have played in those bands – but played in their original and best incarnations.

When they were interviewed, they were asked about the audience that was coming to see them. This is the de rigeur question of any band that has older musicians – whether the band is one that hasn’t stopped touring since the 60s, or a band that has been rediscovered after 50 years of obscurity, or, like Blue Coupe, a combination of musicians from bands from an earlier time when dinosaurs ruled the earth.

And there is only one right answer that older musicians can give to the question of who is your audience these days? The answer is (with some slight variations but only very slight) “Obviously there are a lot of people our age who come to see us, but we’re really gratified that they’re bringing their kids and even their grandkids and their kids and grandkids are bringing their friends. And what’s really cool is that everyone knows the words to all the songs and they sing along – even to the new tunes.” 

You rarely see a band of 20 year olds being asked about their audience and, if they are asked, they never say “Yeah, we get a lot of people our age to the gigs but what’s really cool is that people are bringing their parents and their grandparents and their parents and their grandparents are bringing their friends – and everyone knows the words to our songs.”

This then, inevitably, brings me to Gordon’s Acoustic Living Room, the band I remain immensely proud to be a part of. It is fair to say that the age of the band members tends to skew older – not Mick Jagger (79) or Keith Richards (78) older – but older nonetheless.

For those of you have never seen us live, you may be wondering, as would any lazy journalist, what kind of audience comes to see us. I think the best way I can answer that question is to say “Obviously there are a lot of people our age who come to see us, but we’re really gratified that they’re bringing their kids and even their grandkids and their kids and grandkids are bringing their friends. And what’s really cool is that everyone knows the words to all the songs and they sing along – even to the new tunes” 

If you doubt the veracity of my perspective, please feel free (and I do mean free) to come out to our next gig at the Free Times Café (on College west of Spadina) on Sunday August 21st.  The show starts at 8 pm and we will be playing our usual wildly eclectic mix of music from all genres and all eras (although I don’t think we’ll be doing Alice’s hit “I’m 18” but who knows). There will also be good food and lots to drink. If you happen to be older, bring your kids or your grandkids and you can all sing along together. And to celebrate the summer there’s no cover charge.

Hope to see you there.


P.S. And keep in mind that nothing binds generations of music lovers together than cowering in fear at the sound of the bagpipes – and there will be bagpipes.

August 21st Set List:
Set #1: Set #2:
Setting Course
Arms of Mary
Mary Said…
Coast of California
Black Orpheus
Someone I Used to Know
Country Squall
Sucks To Be Me
A Summer Song
Meeting Across the Waters
Take Me Back
Put Your Hand
3 Doors to Heaven
People Are Crazy
Hanging ‘Round the House
Losing You
Danny’s Song
What the Hell I Got
Keep the Customer Satisfied
Brown-Eyed Girl

July 17th @ Free Times Café

I don’t know if we’re in the 9th wave and I’m eligible for my 4th shot or if I’m eligible for my 12th shot as we enter the 6th wave, and I don’t know that it matters anymore. At the same time however, like it or not, the world is opening up and we are starting to move around as we have not been doing for a long time. And that means cars and trains and boats and planes.

Over the past few months I’ve had the opportunity – I certainly wouldn’t say the joy – of taking a few trips on planes. I know there’s been a lot written about how horrible the whole airline experience is and I am certainly not going to suggest otherwise. On a good day your flight or flights may only be delayed an hour or two or three. Still, we really don’t have much choice when we want to get from point A to point B and then from point B back to point A.

Speaking of ABBA (and while I don’t want to call attention to myself, I think that was probably the best segue I’ve ever written) that incredibly (and to me inexplicably) successful band from Sweden, they have adopted a new way of touring and reaching out to those many people who still want to see them without actually having to leave their homes, wherever their homes are located.

The folks in ABBA have created a set of virtual avatars of the four of them that go from city to city (however it is that avatars travel) and perform their hits with a live band in front of a live audience. That’s right, the fans are in person, the other musicians are in person, but the members of ABBA – the reason people are coming to the shows – are present only as avatars (and in the interests of accuracy, because I would hate to be inaccurate, these avatars are referred to as, wait for it, ABBAtars or as I think spellcheck more accurately put it – abattoirs).

I want to assure all of our fans, which represents .000000001% of those who have ever bought an ABBA album or single, we will never resort to any sort of virtual trickery for our live performances (and more about our next live performance very shortly in this missive). There are a number of reasons why we have taken this incredibly principled stand; first, of course, is our deep respect for those people who come to see the 10 or maybe 9 or sometimes 8 or occasionally 7 and very rarely 6 of us, live and in person. And that’s really the only reason that matters – our profound gratitude to those who want to see our shows.

In the interest of completeness however, I should probably acknowledge a couple other reasons why we have not gone the virtual route. One of those reasons is that most of us actually live in Toronto so it’s not really a big deal for us to rouse ourselves, put on some clothes, get our instruments and head out the Free Times Café (at College just west of Spadina) where we have our monthly gigs. The other reason is that, apparently, this whole virtual avatar/ABBAtar/abattoir thing costs massive amounts of money, and we just don’t have massive amounts of money. And given the fact that we don’t charge anything for our shows we aren’t likely to gather any massive amounts of money in the near future or frankly in any future one might imagine.

All of this is to say when you come to our show, which this month will be Sunday July 17th at aforementioned Free Times Café, we will all be there, in the flesh, on the stage and spilling off the stage. The show starts at 8pm but come early and have some of the food and drink that the Free Times is known for. And in honour of the creation of the International Criminal Court, which happened on July 17, 1998, there will be no cover.

Hope to see you there.


P.S. ABBA did do a song called “The Piper” which did not include bagpipes so one point (and it’s the only point I’ll give them) to ABBA.

July 17th Set List:
Set #1: Set #2:
Lonely Loch nan Euan
Wagon Wheel
A Summer Song
Them Dance Hall Girls
Sucks To Be Me
Try A Little Tenderness
Please Don’t Bury Me
Ruby Tuesday
The Wanderer
Butterfly Blues
One After 909
Lucky Enough
Home For A Rest
Glenora Ferry
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow
Stronger Beer
New Joan Of Arc
Man Of Constant Sorrow
Invitation To The Blues
Drifting Away
Book Of Love
Wild And Blue
Bull Mountain Bridge
Two Of Us
New Speedway Boogie
That’ll Be The Day
Bang Bang