All photos courtesy of Tim Mcready
Tim is a simple man. His true passion lies within music and everything that comes with it, which is what led to the creation of 159 Manning and its legendary parties. Working with what he had in front of him, Tim Mcready throws some of Toronto’s most eclectic DIY parties in the comfort of his own home and backyard, turning his personal space into a venue, and creating some unforgettable experiences in the process.
I lived on Manning Street about five years ago, and one afternoon on a hot summer day I awoke to the sound of a very loud psych rock band blasting the whole neighbourhood. I followed the sound up the street and found myself in a line up of concert goers waiting to get inside of this unassuming house. I kindly walked up asked the security to just “check out the party” and since I was a neighbour, I was ushered into an\ backyard, welcomed by the smell of BBQ meat, cheap drinks and a handful of friends.
Since my first experience, McCready has garnered a consistent following, hosting events ranging from choir performances, to NXNE barbecues, to live karaoke jams. His concept is old school, yet there’s still so much to see and hear. Say what you want about this place, but it’s the only house I know of in Toronto making a difference in the local music scene.
Heading into its ninth year of mayhem, I sat down with McCready to talk about what’s next on Manning St. and more importantly to get insight into his passion for music, Toronto, and the DIY scene.
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Noisey: Your love for the arts must be pretty strong Tim, so much so that you throw a majority of your events inside of your own house. It’s a rare thing in Toronto. Tell us how this all came about.
Tim Mcready: It’s all a bit of an accident. I’ve been living at 159 Manning for just over 11 years now, and what started with throwing a NYE party for 20 friends 10 years ago has turned into a much bigger thing. My two major events are 6 months apart from each other: New Year's Eve, and a BBQ during NXNE in June. I have lots of time to think about the details and try and piece things together to make each event special. I’ve tried my hand at many different creative endeavours over the years, and for some reason the parties I throw at my house are the most successful thing I do.
159 Manning is the only house I’ve lived in here in Toronto. It was sort of a normal house when I moved in, but a couple of months after living here a couple of the longer term tenants moved out, so I suggested to my roommate who I’d known since high school, that instead of having 2 roommates, we get 4 roommates, make our rent really low, and turn the house into a party house. Because I didn’t have a lot of resources or connections yet, I saw it as an opportunity to meet people, make friends, try and make a name for ourselves. We were young and full of energy, ideas and curiosity. I was idealistic and I was willing to work hard and suffer. I just wanted to make things happen.
The first NYE party I threw here was NYE 2007. I figured NYE generally sucks, so if we got 20 friends to kick in $15 each we could buy a keg, change all the lightbulbs in the house, make some food, and do everything we could to throw a better party than anything else we might go to. The next year we got 2 kegs and it was 40 or 50 people. The next year we had the 3 bands associated with the house at the time play; Teenanger, Songs From A Room, and the Bang Bangs, and we had 150 people show up. Each party I threw I’d get more ideas, “next year, I’m going to rent a giant tent!” and each year it kept getting bigger and bigger. Now, the last 2 years in a row I’ve ended up being interviewed on the 5 o’clock News on NYE, and hundreds of people I’ve never seen before have shown up.
You’ve built something that's entirely your own and while staying true to the DIY format, there has always been more of a “legit” feel to your parties and the way they operate. There’s a sense of comfort and they tend to run very smoothly. Tell us what DIY means to you and why you think it’s important.
I owe a lot to the staff who work my parties, like Andrew McColl who I’ve had work security and door for all my parties the past 3 or 4 years. He’s a licensed Security Guard, and he knows the vibe I want at my parties: Keep it friendly, and be nice to my neighbours. I’ve had Paul Mack and Jason Wydra do sound for my bigger events the past 2 years. They run another DIY home/venue called Soybomb so they’re the perfect people to have on board to run my parties with me. My father started coming up to my parties from Windsor since around 2011 when the parties became too big for me to handle on my own. He usually comes up from Windsor a week before the party and will spend the week helping prep the house; fixing plumbing, rebuilding the stage, clearing out furniture, clearing out garbage and yard waste from my backyard.
I think the term “DIY” indicates that the job is being done by a non-professional or someone who’s self taught. I’m inspired by the process of using limited resources and using them to their full potential, of taking nothing and turning it into something. That said, I don’t like to work on no-budget projects anymore, but I’ve certainly had years of working that way, and it was a great training ground for me.
DIY and its relationship to the punk aesthetic is something I was drawn to when I was still a pre-teen. I can very clearly remember hearing Joy Division for the first time in eighth grade, and thinking how shitty it sounded. I hated it on first listen, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it over the next few days, and then kept going back listening to it over and over. That’s one small influence of many that turned me onto the idea of taking limited talent and resources and sculpting it into something unique and beautiful in it’s own way.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing shows in your house as opposed to doing it in a venue?
My parties at 159 Manning are very site specific in the way I plan them. The amount of time I have to put things in place, prep, or even the amount of time I have to clean up afterwards really gives me freedom.
I’ve always been surprised at how respectful the strangers who attend my parties are of the house. I think people can tell a lot of work goes into the event. They can tell it’s a home, not just a party shit-hole, and they respect that somebody is crazy enough to invite the city of Toronto into their home.
A limitation, I don’t see this as an advantage or disadvantage, is that I can’t do my parties very often. I have a stage built in my backyard that literally gets used 1 day a year. I think it’s very gracious of my neighbours to allow me to have a BBQ 1 day a year that I can have bands playing in my backyard all afternoon, but that’s all I get.
A disadvantage of living in a house that’s famous for throwing parties is that I’ve found it attracts roommates who want to party all the time. I’ve figured out the solution to that is; don’t have roommates.
What gives you the drive to maintain as a staple in the Toronto music community by throwing events?
I get a lot of satisfaction from getting an idea and then executing it. Just having an idea and saying it out loud isn’t enough for me. I want to actualize it, and document it. I consider my creative ideas to have a limited shelf life, so it’s important to act, then move on to the next idea before it expires or someone else does it first. The more things I do, the more ideas I get.
I grew up in a really religious home where rock and roll, going to the movies and school dances, and stuff like wearing jeans was off limits to me. When I saw Footloose for the first time in my early 20s I was like “holy shit, that was my life!” I was able to sneak around those rules a bit when I was growing up, but I think being in that situation as a kid created a deep obsession within me for arts and culture and entertainment that’s carried over into my adult life. While I’d like to consider myself non-religious these days, maybe the outreach and community-building aspect of growing up in a church environment has stuck with me?
For a number of years, starting around 2006 until around 2011, I was very captivated by the idea of building a story, documenting, taking pictures, and blogging about creative and interesting friends and acquaintances from my life. I tried to limit the content exclusively to featuring people that I knew or met on a first-person basis. My aim was to capture the progression of a scene and period in my own life, with the intent of focusing on the present and to be mentally involved with the situations and people who were right in front of me. I was documenting a loosely defined but fair sized group of people, but my focus was still on the people in that group as individuals.
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EVJ is a musician living in Toronto.