The time was the stroke of midnight. The place was the Toronto home of George Stroumboulopoulos.
It was a warm, perfect Sunday eve in September, which just so happened to align with the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). The Canadian sweetheart known simply as “Strombo” opened his home to host the Midnight Salon edition of House of Strombo, his concert series that can be heard on Apple Music, which sees performers and music lovers come into his home to play and enjoy. The show then airs on CBC radio on Sunday evenings.
The recent event served as an unofficial after-party for Artists for Peace and Justice (APJ), a non-profit that encourages peace and social justice and addresses issues of poverty around the world. An impressive $1.1 million was raised at the annual APJ Festival Gala last month, held at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). Co-chaired by Natasha Koifman and Suzanne Boyd, the event was co-hosted by an influential team, including APJ founder Paul Haggis, Cuba Gooding Jr., Ben Stiller, and Stroumboulopoulos.
A personal welcome
Landing downtown along Richmond Street West near Bathurst, I walked past an already bustling patio space to get to Strombo’s door. Clad in a well-fitted skinny suit designed by Garrison Bespoke, the homeowner himself greeted me and shook the hand of the guest I arrived with, offering us a personal welcome.
The main room was filled with notable names, instruments were strung out around the main floor for guests to pick up, and a full bar was filled with wine c/o Palatine Hills Estate Winery, Flow water, and cocktails made with Tromba Tequila.
As I made my way to the bar, I ran into my friends from Keswick-based band The Elwins, gave a brief head nod to the bearded boys from The Sheepdogs and BROS, and passed a man-bun donning Cuba Gooding Jr. chatting up a colleague in the corner.
The vibe was chill and casual, just like Strombo’s Venice-style home, tucked among cool trees and situated in the heart of Toronto, though you’d never know it. There was a bohemian vibe around the property that night, which bustled with a mix of Toronto society, and players from the music and film industries, including many involved with TIFF.
Performers and guests included Jackson Browne, Brendan Canning of Broken Social Scene, Terra Lightfoot, Paul Beaubrun, Paul Haggis and more. With guitars and other instruments available, guests who were musically inclined (and with a bit of Dutch courage) could join the musicians, creating spontaneous jam sessions.
Strombo is used to hosting the crowds. Previous House of Strombo acts include The Arkells, A Tribe Called Red, Diana Krall and more, with a recent set by Toronto singer Jessie Reyez, who’s hot right now with her song Figures.
It was fascinating that this event — especially in the throes of TIFF — felt so intimate and inclusive. This time of year finds familiar faces flocking to various venues across the city, which, though beautiful and intimate in numbers, lack having a chill “at home” vibe. Strombo’s Midnight Salon shape-shifted the usual TIFF vibe, which tends to be rushed and somewhat cold, and instead he set the scene by making it inviting and relaxing.
Strombo did not bother to lock away any of his possessions and maintained pretty much an open-door policy to his home, which had an equally fascinating history, being an eco-friendly playground built from an old lumberyard company office.
His home is certainly the place where parties are made. Strombo was on his motorbike one day and saw the For Sale sign at his now-home. He immediately got off his bike, asked to have a walk-through and decided he wanted the house on the spot. He moved in in 2006, but it wasn’t until about three years ago he started having guests come over to do concerts, the first being none other than Mix Master Mike of the Beastie Boys, who helped inspire the idea for the show.
The house, designed by David Fujiwara Architects, was built with eco in mind, an intentional build for a better ecological footprint. The firm’s website details the home’s design, mentioning “All materials are re-used, salvaged or recyclable.”
The deep front-yard garden acted as an outdoor bar, which became heavily populated at 2 a.m. when guests moved the party there, drinks in hand, mingling well into dawn. Respective cabs and Ubers pulled up and collected revellers, and it was a wrap for another exciting edition of the House of Strombo.