Preview: Lab Cab Festival: Parkdale

This is what I love about Toronto: I have been living here for over twenty years and I am still finding out about different arts festivals happening all the time! I hadn’t actually heard of the Lab Cab Festival when I was asked to do a preview of it, and I am glad to have gotten the assignment. I will give you the down low on this vibrant arts festival happening this Saturday and Sunday in the Parkdale neighborhood.

Back in 2001, The Lab Cab Festival started out as a monthly ‘laboratory cabaret’ held at the Factory Studio. Any artist from any discipline could share their experimental work in front of an audience and, besides a ten-minute time limit, there were no formal restrictions. It turned out that Toronto was hungry for more short format performance, and the hit cabaret night turned into the present day festival happening this weekend, now produced by Aviva Armour-Ostroff and Andre du Toit.

Even though its roots are in the cabaret, The Lab Cab Festival has expanded to include just about every form of art imaginable, including a free pancake breakfast served at noon in front of Hideaway Antiques on Queen Street! (I do consider fluffy pancakes an art.) The festival is two days, and it’s the same schedule on both Saturday and Sunday, which is great if a couple of shows on your list conflict.

The Lab Cab Festival will transform venues all along Queen Street West from Roncesvalles Avenue to Dufferin Street into vibrant art spaces showcasing anything from live theatre to music, film, kids events, and visual art installations.

There are a whole smack load of acts, probably over one hundred, and I just tried to highlight a few of those advertised that sound promising to me. But, please, I am sure I am missing something that you might like, so peruse the Lab Cab website and sift through the show listings yourself. There is something for everyone!

In the film category, the show The Haircut sounds intriguing, playing in the back room at the Rhino Restaurant and Bar. This 11-minute short tells the story of a young Muslim man getting his haircut and sharing his wedding day jitters with his hairdresser in Chinatown.

The musical acts that are piquing my interest are Karrnnel, a high-energy and established world-class fiddler playing at Gallery 1313, and an up-and-comer Kaia Kater, a young banjo player from Montreal who is said to have a ‘unique take on Old Time music.’ She will be playing at both Mother India and Capital Espresso.

And finally, for some live theatre, the show El Retorno/I Return is a show I’m definitely going to check out. Playing at Quinn West, this show is billed as a ‘documentary play.’ It uses verbatim conversations between a father and daughter, and childhood memory, as source material to tell the story of these two preparing to return to Chile as revolutionaries in the 1980s.

Well, I am sufficiently inspired by the sheer number of acts that will be playing this weekend, and by how many artistic disciplines are being represented at this year’s Lab Cab Festival. Get to their website for more details, and start stuffing your weekend with art!


  • The Lab Cab Festival: Parkdale runs from Saturday, July 27th, to Sunday July 28th, 12-6pm
  • The festival runs on Queen Street West from Lansdowne to Dufferin
  • All shows are free to the public.

Photo provided by the Festival