Six Months

July 23rd marked my six months in Canada.

Six months.

That’s about that’s about 25 weeks, 181 days, 4,344 hours since I left my family and friends and chased a dream I’ve had since I was a kid. Six months isn’t that long in the grand scheme of things. It isn’t a serious relationship, or a baby growing into a toddler, or a successful marriage, or long-term job, but for me this is my first big milestone in my new life and I’ve never been happier.

In the past six months I’ve met some amazing new friends, I’ve seen some beautiful places, tried things I have always wanted to and learned a lot about self-acceptance along the way.

So, in saying that, I thought I’d compile a list of some of the biggest things to note about the first half of my year away from home:

 

1) It never gets easier to leave people behind, even if what you’re doing is something you really want. Having family close to you is always going to be a comfort, and while I am super close and very blessed to have my family in Canada who are a constant source of love and support, it is one of the hardest things in the world for me to be so far from my Mum and Dad. Not being able to call round and see them for a coffee whenever I feel like a chat is difficult to overcome, and lacking that is probably one of the things that makes my decision about staying here a little wobbly.

2) People always say it, for so many situations: you learn who your true friends are. When I was sick, I learned who my true friends were, when I moved away for university and had a shitty time, I learned who my true friends were. When my Grandma died, I learned who my true friends were. When my boyfriend hurt me, I learned who my true friends were. When I was lost and just needed someone to drink a bottle of wine with and vent, I learned who my true friends were. Moving to a new country is no different. We’re so lucky these days to have such fast and efficient communication routes, so that no matter where in the world we are, we can talk to our friends at the touch of a button. But even that ease isn’t enough for some people, and many instances where I felt I was keeping friendships afloat, have become more apparent than ever. That isn’t necessarily a negative thing though, all it has done is solidified those friendships that mean the most. Good friendships are sacred; look after ‘em.

 

3) While we’re on the subject of friendships, I’ve also realised that just because I haven’t known someone since my teen years, doesn’t mean that they aren’t or won’t become best friends. In my time here I’ve met lots of very cool people, and a good handful of very special people. Within that handful, I knew the minute I met some of them, that we were going to be good friends. This lot, they haven’t known me for that long, and there is still a lot about each other that we have to learn. But I can feel it, the universe; it’s pulled us together for a reason. They’ve been there for me already, and I will be there for them. The universe works in a mysterious, magical way like that. Sometimes you meet people and you just know, you know that there was always a plan for you guys to be best buds. It feels refreshing and wonderful to welcome new, positive energy into my circle.

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4) Trying new things is super cool. This year I finally got round to throwing away concerns about what everyone else thinks and picking up a skateboard. I haven’t looked back since. Man, not only is skating fun, but it’s improved my confidence and given me so many opportunities. It’s helped me meet some amazing people, some really great friends, travel to some wicked places and even gave me the chance to get some of my writing published in two super cool magazines. You can check the articles out at UK zine Hangup Online and at Canadian magazine KingShit.

 

5) I love peanut butter, ginger ale, iced coffee, ranch dressing and Triscuits.

 

6) Self-love it super important and super cool. I spent years surrounded by a toxic cloud of self-hatred. Being stuck in the same old place, doing the same thing every day gave me zero motivation to change my mind-set. I didn’t look after my mental health and didn’t even think it was possible to like myself. Instead I was sucked into the disgusting cycle of self-comparison: Instagram posts, before and after pics, diet tips, the social media lives we all paint for ourselves (me included) dulling my own perception of reality. Since I’ve been in a new place, I have gained a new sense of strength and recalibrated self-identity. I think it shows. I’m happier all of the time, and even on down days it’s not a struggle to pull myself out of it, and that rubs off on other people. I’ve never found it so easy to get on with people or to relate. Positivity comes from within; sometimes you just have to get a change of perspective to really see it.

 

7) If you’re English everyone’s going to ask if you’re from London, or about London, or something to do with London. Or they’ll ask you to talk like a roadman, or rap like Skepta, or about tea. I’m from the North East, which automatically lands me in the Scottish, Irish or Australian box. Occasionally Liverpool… Well, I guess that’s the right country at least (lol).

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7) Nature is magical. Even more than I ever realised. I always thought it was cool, but so far I’ve seen so much here. I’ve seen the land change from icing sugar white, piles of snow up to my knees and temperatures lower than I’ve ever imagined; to gorgeous sun kissed skin, dragonflies buzzing above the lake I stood on in winter and throwing myself from the pontoon boat into the gorgeous water below. I’ve seen the moon and sun collide at sunset, sending streaks of burning amber and cerise pink across the sky. I’ve seen the stars dancing on a black, velvet backdrop above the pine trees. I’ve smelled burning wood and cinnamon buns and rain in the forest and the smell of lakeshore.

 

8)Change is scary, but change is good.

 

Aimeexo

The Brick Wall of Fear (a First World problem)

Today I had my first bad day skateboarding.

What a first world problem.

Today was the first time I’ve ever had a fully bad day skating. By that I mean that from beginning to end I found it a real push just to enjoy myself because I just felt so bothered by the whole thing. And now it’s put me in a real funk.

Like anything though, when I need to let off some steam, I write about it… only this, I figured would make a great post.

A) Because maybe it may garner me some advice or motivation from the rest of the community.

B) Maybe it will help someone else out there going through the same thing.

Today though, it just felt like I was going nowhere. Like everything I tried didn’t succeed and that I just looked like a total fool even attempting anything. I kind of had a feeling it wasn’t going to go well before I even went out… maybe I just psyched myself out.

The thing is, I want to get it more than anything, and I just get so conscious- do I look like a poser? Hell, the last thing I want is to look like a poser. I want this so much that it makes my blood practically boil when I can’t get the hang of something.

Looking back, I know I’ve came a long way. Back in January I couldn’t even stand on a board….

A cold, January evening with my friend Ben literally holding my hands and wheeling me through a piss-scented car park.

And now I have the confidence to do so much more. To cruise round and round a patch of land, switch direction, tic-tac back and forth, round a soccer net, avoid a wall, skim a puddle; to push myself two blocks West over Toronto’s bumpy roads; to get back on my board and go, even when my wheels collide with a pebble that throws me into the gravel.

No matter how many times someone tells me to “bend your knees more” or “look ahead, not at your feet”, no matter how much technique is shared with me, or how many times someone holds my hands in a bid to lull me into a sense of security as a slide down a mini ramp- I just feel like my brain gets it and my body does the complete opposite.

I know it’s ‘the fear’: that nasty brick wall that seems to build itself up in every situation in life. And I understand it’s a pretty rational fear- you can get super fucked up skateboarding…. But not doing the stuff I want to do.

I just feel like my progression has hit a plateau and like I’m never going to get the hang of it.

Like maybe I’m too old for this.

Or too scared.

Or I’ve thrown myself in at the deep end.

Maybe I’m just not meant to skateboard.

And then I get so damn frustrated because I really, really want this bad.

Like I said, first world problems huh?

Image credit: Jase Daniels

Finding my voice

Blogging seemed like a great idea initially. I love writing; it gives me a release and lets me practise my chosen career path, plus is bulks up a portfolio and shows future employers that I’m always active. A win, win situation, right?

I’m not so sure. The thing is, with today’s online society, we are saturated with bloggers. Beauty bloggers, fashion bloggers, travel bloggers, music bloggers, movie bloggers, mummy bloggers, vegan bloggers, gluten-free bloggers. Hell, just pick a subject and I’ll guarantee there is a blog for that- probably even a YouTube channel to boot.

Now, I’m not a mother, and I ain’t planning on that for a long time, if I ever do plan on it. I literally can’t be bothered to cook enough to warrant writing about it. I love fashion and beauty but I’m not exactly a pro, no one wants my tips or play-by-play of me getting dressed each morning.

I feel like I’m losing sight of what exactly I should blog about. All I know everything about is me.

I was chatting with a fellow blogger and friend of mine, Clarisse (who runs an anonymous blog, so sadly I can’t link out to her), about this itch that I can’t quite scratch. And she told me how much she enjoyed my stories and anecdotes. My dating mishaps, my general life conundrums, and that’s when it hit me. Why can’t my topic just be what I know?

And what I know is being a 23-year-old female, British living in Toronto. I like a lot of things, and I’ll write about all of these things.

I’m good at being trained in journalism- at sticking to linguistic rules and style guides and the voice of my publisher.

But this time, the publisher, I guess, is me….

Welcome to voice of the author, 2.0. I hope I can get out of my funk and enjoy writing this blog again. I hope I can write some words that make you laugh and cry and relate.

 

Aiméexo

10 things to do this summer in Toronto

Now that the heat has finally hit it’s time to get prepared for those long, sunny days. Granted, I still have a lot of the city and its outskirts to experience, but summer is where I am most knowledgeable when it comes to The 6ix, and so I thought I would share some of my personal favourite summer activities.

In no particular order:

  1. The Toronto Island

The fact that this appears fist on my list is kind of a bummer this year, the island is remaining closed until it is marked safe for visitors, due to flooding from record-breakingly high water levels- a result of abnormally heavy rainfall over the spring months. Word on the street is that it won’t reopen until the beginning of August, which sucks.

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But, I digress, for when August rolls around this is a great way to spend a hot, sunny day. Just a short ferry ride from the downtown core, the Toronto Island is a great escape from the city that doesn’t cost too much and offers something for everyone. As a child, my parents would take my cousins and I to the island to enjoy the Franklin Children’s Garden and mini fairground.

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As a young adult, my cousin and I loved taking the ferry over to wards island and enjoying the beautiful blue flag beaches. The water is even good enough to paddle in- or swim if you’re brave enough.

Alternatively, head to the opposite side of the island and check out Hanlan’s Point, but be warned: this beach is clothing optional!

Pack a picnic and some sunblock, climb aboard the ferry, take in the breath-taking views of Lake Ontario and the city skyline, before having a well deserved lazy day on the sand.

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  1. Beach days

Following swiftly onward from the Island are the other beaches that the city has to offer. Of course, Toronto is not near the ocean, but Lake Ontario’s blue waters disuses itself as a gorgeous sea year round.

Head East to Woodbine beach, which offers a fun atmosphere to relaxing to hang out with friends and family, as well as convenience stands and even a skate park at Woodbine. With blue-flag water and some of the best sand’s that the city has to offer, woodbine is your most genuine “beach day”.

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Just a short walk from the Port Lands, navigate your way to Cherry beach, which boasts a far more relaxed vibe. I’ve even been told that you can often find beach-goers setting up their own campfires on the shore as the night draws in.

If you’re in the downtown core, and just fancy a quick beach break, without the hassle of getting wet and covered in soggy sand, why not check out Sugar Beach Park? You’ll spot it on the dockside, an array of little pink deckchairs and parasols all set up on a man-made beach area- soft, golden sands included. Granted, you can’t swim in the water here, but Sugar Beach is great if you want to take a break from a busy day of walking, checking out tourist spots, or even on your lunch-break. Plus, it’s an awesome spot for a photo shoot (just think of the Instagram likes!)

  1. Exploring Scarborough Bluffs
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The Bluffs are a tranquil stretch of 11 parks across 15km and not too far from the main city, however if you’re going to commit to visiting the area, I’d fully recommend taking a car, or finding someone who is willing to drive.

The Bluffs are ideal for an early evening walk, picnic with stunning views of both the Bluffs and a great place to swim. Head to Bluffers Park for a full view of the Bluffs, or take a left and venture to the beach and marina. For a more in detail summary of the Bluffs check out my post from a couple of years ago here.

  1. Picnic in Trinity Bellwoods

Being close to my neighbourhood, and the perfect in-between for my friends and I, Trinty Bellwoods feels like my most frequent stomping ground as soon as the sun comes out. Pack up some snacks and a blanket and head to the park to meet friends, or take a book and have some “me time”.

The park is full of all kinds of interesting people, from super active workout bunnies and dog walkers, to people nerve-rackingly slack lining and even some interesting looking performance artists.

Not too far from the park you can find Bellwood’s Brewery, an LCBO and a Beer Store- all great for some refreshments. While drinking in parks is not legal in Toronto (as of right now) I won’t tell if you don’t. Plus, there are some lovely can collectors walking the length and breadth of the park who will take your cans for you- they make some money recycling them and your ass is saved from those pesky bike cops-win, win.

  1. Visiting Harbourfront
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Quite possibly one of the most “touristy” things on this list, but enjoyable none the less. Harbourfront is another one of those things that you can do when you’re hanging with your mum, your kids, your gran or your friends, because everyone can find something to enjoy. Head to the Amsterdam Brewery where you can sample some in-house brewed beers while enjoying some almost “guilt-free” aperitifs including Crispy Brussels Sprouts and Mexican Sweet Corn from the comfort of one of their traditional red Muskoka chairs facing the beautiful Lake Ontario.

Or take a stroll along the boardwalk, eye-up some yachts you probably can’t afford (or at least I can’t) and finally hit up the Steam Whistle Brewery, original railway turntable included, for a boozy history lesson.

  1. Visit a park

Okay, so I kinda covered this one already, but Toronto has so many other parks to offer- both city and national parks. And whether you have money to spare or want to have a great day on a budget, a park is your go to.

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For me, I like approximately a six-minute walk from the famous Christie Pits, which in summer offers free viewing of baseball, including the Toronto Maple Leafs, as well as a swimming pool and an outdoor cinema at night.

Or head West on the subway to High Park where you can experience beautiful views of the water, the city, and even spend time in the park’s own mini-zoo.

The city is awash with parks, a perfect escape from metropolitan life, no matter which neighbourhood you live in. Take some snacks and a book and enjoy that warm summer breeze.

 

  1. A rooftop pool
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I only discovered rooftop pools that are open to the public were a thing back in the summer of 2015 but lemme tell ya, that nugget of summer joy changed my life. Yeah, you have to pay some money to have access to these pools- mostly situated in hotel complexes, but they are worth it if it’s a sweltering day and you have a few friends together looking to enjoy the heat.

The first pool I visited was with my cousins- after we concluded that Cabana Pool Bar (while I’m sure super cool, with great views and lots of hot people flocking to it) but kinda out of our price range- was the pool atop the roof of the Hyatt Residency on King. A gorgeous pool with a breath-taking view of the city and a staffed bar, this place is ideal to pretend you’re an extra on ‘The Real Housewives of –insert your favourite franchise here-“.

  1. Brunch, lunch or drinks on a patio

The great thing about summer is the ability to finally be able to sit on a patio. I feel like I spent the entire winter longing for that moment when I could sit, free of a jacket, on a patio and enjoy the hyped-up atmosphere that is the summer.

IMG_0986There are a billion amazing brunch and lunch places in the city, and it’s impossible to even begin to list them all. The same goes for bars. There is something for everyone in this diverse city, so no matter if you want a quiet beer with your pals, or to sit on a rooftop patio with some fancy cocktails while gazing at the city skyline, you have your pick.

In my own neighbourhood, I’d like to give a special mention to Pourboy, which offers tasty food and great drinks- including a mean sangria- for a great price.

 

Or hit up Bellwoods Brewery for some in-house brewed beers and ciders, all set on an idyllic patio, complete with white picnic benches. You can read more about the Brewery here on my review.

  1. Explore Kensington Market

Kensington can be a bit of a tourist trap, but it is also home to an array of amazing creatives, the streets filled with some of my favourite people in the city. A great place to scope out some delicious vegan and vegetarian food, some one-of-a-kind vintage fashion items, or some hand-made jewellery you won’t find anywhere else. Even if you’re on a budget, the market is just as cool to walk around, camera in hand, and take in the sights.

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  1. Watch a movie under the stars

It’s not often you can actually hang out in the great outdoors and watch a movie at the same time.

A number of parks in the city offer public evening screenings of some classic movies, including Christie Pits and Trinity Bellwoods, as well as viewings at Yonge-Dundas Square and the Harbourfront.

Take a blanket (and a date if you are so lucky) and enjoy summer right until bedtime.

I could go on and on, because when the weather is just right, I think Toronto excels in its nature of being the city that keeps on giving. If you’re new to the city, or just want to experience something you haven’t done before, I hope some of these points gave you that little sprinkling of inspiration you need to get out there and seize this summer day!

 

Aimee XO

 

 

Cherry Blossoms in High Park

This year has been my first ever experience of Toronto in spring. It is my first time seeing new life grow from the winter snow and feeling the excitement and anticipation of new beginnings spreading across the city.

One of the biggest markers of the season in ‘The 6ix’, is the blossoming of the beautiful cherry blossoms in the West End’s High Park. It wasn’t something that I was even aware of before I moved over here, but scrolling through social media one day, an article popped up about the infamous cherry blossoms, and I was hooked. There is something about the pastel petals swirling above my head on a sunny, blue-skied day, that begs for a camera to snap the moment into a memory. So, naturally, I grabbed my camera and set off on the subway towards High Park.

The trees reached their peak bloom in early May, and so I picked the ideal time to head down. It was fairly warm, and I had a good feeling about the way the day would pan out.

Swarms of families, tourists, couples and school field trips filled the park, but with my headphones blocking out the rest of the world, I happily meandered between the trees, camera in hand.

I’m not, by any means, a photographer, and I definitely don’t have photo editing down to a fine art, but I still think the pictures managed to capture some of the aesthetic of the day.

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It will be a shame to see the blossoms fall to the ground, but they will only make way for the bright green leaves of what will hopefully be a sunny and memorable summer.

 

Aimee xo

Sex and the Skatepark

Excuse the punny title, but I couldn’t help myself. Fortunately (or unfortunately…) this post isn’t about sex, at least not the kind you’re thinking of…

Today I want to talk all things gender. I’ve briefly skirted around this issue before, on my last post about why I decided to pursue skateboarding at 23, and as a girl.

For the most part, I’ve seen nothing but support, and the fact I am a ‘girl’ hasn’t really caused me too much animosity. But yesterday, I experienced my first taste of what it is like to have your gender spat in your face, and used as an insult against you, in a male dominated surrounding. It was only one person, out of like fifty, but it got my blood boiling. It’s super lame to let negative comments like that get to you, especially from a guy who is obviously narrow-minded, but it ruined my day and sent me home on slightly less of a high.

What was said isn’t really important, it’s the implications behind what was said- look at that girl even trying, how lame… Forgive me if I’m wrong, but I think if I was at the park, hanging out and flirting with guys and sat on my ass not trying, that would be lame. Instead I’m putting all of my effort into learning new things, I’m falling down and getting cuts and bruises and still giving it my all. If it was a guy doing that, it wouldn’t be lame, it would be encouraged.

I don’t think I’ll ever truly know how real oppression feels. But I know how it feels to be called out because of what’s between my legs, and the stereotypes that come with that.

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One of the things I’ve struggled with the most is the fact that I am extremely outwardly a girl. I love fashion and makeup and cute puppies and hot guys in boy-bands. I’m not in any way remotely a ‘tomboy’, so I guess that makes me a target. But so what if I was to wear a cute pair of pants and eye shadow… and then pick up a skateboard and try (and fail) to Ollie?

It’s almost like elementary school playground flirting: be mean to the girl and it’ll get her attention. Thing is though, that doesn’t work. It just makes me feel low.

It annoys me that I can let the stupid comment of one individual make me feel so down on myself, but I think these incidents are important to document. To show that whether you’re at the gym, or in a nightclub or just walking down the street- this stuff still happens.

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For the one guy who had to share his negativity with me, there were like 20 other guys who were being supportive and talking to me and teaching me new things. And that’s important too.

I think the take-away though is this: be proud of who you are and what you love. And this time, instead of feeling intimidated and sad about what happened, I’m going to feel even more determined to get better every single day.

xoAimee

Image courtesy of Blare Magazine http://blaremagazine.com/2017/04/04/photos-mac-demarco-at-house-of-vans-toronto/

Mac Demarco at House of Vans

This past weekend saw The House of Vans pop up at 99 Sudbury Street in Toronto’s Queen West neighbourhood. The event spanned three days offering a community market, art instillations, a rad indoor skate park and live performances including a special appearance from Canadian cutie Mac Demarco.

It was a pretty mundane Friday morning at work, a 7am start no less, when an email from House of Vans pinged up on my phone and turned my day around. I was stoked to have been placed on the guest list for the Saturday night party which would see Toronto’s own DJ Bambii, as well as singer RALPH, take to the stage, before an exclusive performance by Mr Demarco himself.

I’ve always wanted to see Mac live, there’s just something about his cheeky charm and melodic sounds that I can’t get enough of, but sadly a less than full UK tour line-up, coupled with his popularity across the pond, has meant that I had never had the opportunity. That was until now.

Now, if you know me you’ll know I have a tiny bit of an obsession with Vans (a very healthy one!) and so to be able to get along to this exclusive evening event at the House of Vans no less was just the pièce de résistance.

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I decided to grant my friend Grace (actually an old friend of my cousins, but I like to think my friend these days) the privilege of my +1, mostly ‘cause she’s a laugh and a half and we always have fun together. That and the fact she likes Mac Demarco too so it made sense.

We decided to head down to the venue 40 minutes early, thinking we could check out the community market and would be there with plenty of time as the House of Vans recommended this to guarantee entry.

All I can say is that we were lucky the weather had suddenly decided to become a little milder and raise a couple degrees from the -7 we have become accustomed to these last few months. We waited outside of the venue until 9:10pm, which was wild considering we were told the show started at 9:00pm!

It was worth the wait once we managed to flood into the venue. In true Vans style they had remodelled the indoor skate park into a super cool venue, with giant, glowing lanterns overhead illuminating patches of the vast room in shads of red and blue. People were mingling all around, drinking beers and chatting. There were fridges stocked with free Vitamin Waters (I’m assuming this was down to some sponsorship). Two bars aligned each side of the room, offering beer, wine and a variety of spirits. And then, I’ll be honest, there were also a lot of hotties (overwhelmingly so) which might have added to the atmosphere…

Armed with drinks in hand we perched ourselves atop a ledge, expecting the crowd to fill up drastically, and thinking we were pretty damn clever for securing such a great spot to see the show. Turns out, it was actually not quite the crowd we expected.

Looking back it makes a lot of sense. There were a tonne of VIP guests, skaters from within the city and further afield who had travelled in for the weekend, vendors who had been working on stalls all day, artists who had been exhibiting… this wasn’t a ‘show’ necessarily. This was a private party at which the musicians just happened to be playing.

RALPH opened up with some blissful melodies. I hadn’t heard her play before but after such an amazing opening I’ll for sure be checking her out again. I recommend you do too.

Following on Toronto-based DJ Bambii (aka Kristen Azan) blew the crowd away with some sick, dancey mixes, including a funky remix of Outcasts ‘Roses’ which really saw the crowd come into its own.

Now, if you ask me, I reckon House of Vans did a little bit of a fuck up on the set list. People danced their asses off and drank twice as much as before during Bambii’s party playlist- and a part of me wonders if this may have been suited for after Demarco’s set. Would it have been better to listen to his acoustic tunes and laugh and his humorous remarks, and then afterwards get wasted and dance? I think so… The other way around made it kind of hard to concentrate.17499488_10210415668400371_8297017472644885599_n

Don’t get me wrong, Mac was epic and I was so stoked to finally be able to see him live…and in such a good venue… and from such a cool spot. I just wish the majority crowd had been a little more into it.

Illuminated beneath a the hanging ‘House of Vans’ sign, he opened up with his classic ‘Salad Days’ before playing a couple of new songs from his up coming album ‘This Old Dog’. The show itself felt pretty casual, with DeMarco stopping between tracks to chat with the audience, relay anecdotes ad even ask: “hey, can you guys hear me?” The band changed it up from their usual show set list and provided something fresh for the event, including a cameo from a crowd member who played Mac’s guitar herself whilst he sang.

From stage diving into the throng of fans, skaters and party-goers in front of him, to letting as many people as possible flood onto the stage to enjoy the show from a different perspective, Mac certainly lived up to his fun-loving persona.

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I reckon if I was to pick an event to see one of my favourite artists play at, this was it. The mellow vibes and cool atmosphere, teamed with two rad supporting artists, made this the party of the month and a super cool experience to kick off my first spring in the 6ix.

Aimeexo

 

Check out Blare Magazines website for some more sick photographs of the event: http://blaremagazine.com/2017/04/04/photos-mac-demarco-at-house-of-vans-toronto/