By Kinza Zafar
At Toronto Metropolitan University’s (TMU)’s takeover of Lee’s Palace on Feb. 17, over 150 people got to mosh the night away at one of Toronto’s most historic venues.
TMU EngOut is an engineering group dedicated to the advocacy and inclusion of fellow 2SLGBTQIA+ students. Their first-ever live music event, Jam Out, attracted a turnout over three times their average attendance. EngOut hosts a variety of professional networking and social events geared to empower queer students and foster community on campus.
The Jam Out event’s $1000 profit will be donated to The Lambda Scholarship Foundation, a charity creating scholarships to advance the research of 2SLGBTQIA+ and queer, trans, Black, Indigenous, people of colour (QTBIPOC) studies nationwide, according to their website.
This event featured three Toronto-based genre-exceeding bands including CONNIE, The Howlin’ Gales and Berner Trail.
“Lee’s Palace was an exciting show for us, playing with two great bands at an iconic venue can’t be beat,” said Berner Trail in a statement to The Eyeopener. The band said performing for charity “made the night even more special.”
EngOut president and fifth-year biomedical engineering student Diana Temelkos said she fully devoted herself to Jam Out and planned meticulously for several months.
“The fact [Lee’s Palace] even responded and were so excited was mind blowing,” she said.
Temelkos did their best to spread word of the event, from asking friends with large social media followings to share the poster, to circulating promotions herself in random university subreddits and Facebook groups.
Lee’s Palace offers a discount on venue fees for charity events and non-profit organizations. “It all kind of fell into place,” said Temelkos.
CONNIE founders and third-year creative industries students Cameron Carolan and Church Reid played not only their first school-affiliated show at Jam Out but also their biggest show yet.
“Cameron and I were actually talking about our dream venues and our bucket list venues and Lee’s Palace was, between both of us, just the absolute number one,” said Reid.
The venue has famously hosted bands like Nirvana, Oasis and The Smashing Pumpkins.
Carolan said it was surreal watching people he could see on campus enjoying his music and that he was recognized at TMU the next day. “It was really nice seeing a whole bunch of just familiar faces get involved in the scene.”
Berner Trail emphasized the long history and strong prevalence of queer trailblazers in Toronto’s music scene, naming icons such as Jackie Shane, Beverly Glenn Copeland and Sara Ellen Dunlop.
“People need to be educated on all facets of our artistic history, especially the lesser told history of Toronto’s then-marginalized groups,” the band said in their email signed by Aaron Lusch, Spencer Desilva and Nate Murray.
Though the pandemic connected 2SLGBTQIA+ youth through expansive online spaces, many students are just now getting acquainted in real life. When lockdowns lifted and Toronto’s music scene began reviving, Reid said being able to “clock” others as queer brought them joy.
“To me, the queer youth has always been at the forefront of a lot of the music scenes,” said Reid.
Queer folks, especially those that are genderqueer, are often forced to conform to societal norms and thus, are involuntarily performing. “It’s super liberating to take that and be able to perform in a way that you do have control over,” said the musician.
Despite their success and growing team of over 150 members, EngOut does not have an office at TMU.
“We don’t have a safe space,” said Temelkos, who has also resorted to storing EngOut materials in “a trash bag in [their] closet.”
But they’re hoping to continue growing in the coming years. “This event went really well and we’re aiming to do even better every single year. We welcome everyone, not just queer students,” said Temelkos. “I can tell you right now, this is not the end of it.”