In recent times, Toronto has gained more notoriety for its scandal plagued mayor than its colourful nightlife (are we really supposed to believe that alleged crack video somehow disappeared down some random dude’s a-hole?).To those of us who still love to go out and shake a leg to some quality music (and by quality, I don’t mean Top 40 commercial cheese), this is a disturbing development. Just like those hideous condos that keep popping up like a plague all over the goddamn city. Toronto is in the midst of an identity crisis that it must come to terms with, if it is to remain on par with other world class cities. A healthy nightlife scene is the definitive barometer by which a thriving metropolis, such as T-Dot aspires to be, is measured. Lately though, the pulse rate appears to be seriously flagging. Just ask Shawn Micallef, Toronto Star journalist who wrote an eye opener titled, “With Clubs Disappearing, where will Toronto Dance?” last April (I had saved the original, but it’s MIA and presumably got tossed out with the spring cleaning).
In said article, Shawn sounds the alarm for Toronto’s rapidly shrinking dance music scene, bemoaning the loss of nightlife heavyweights such as Industry, which has been replaced by – Gasp! Horror! – Shopper’s Drugmart. Like we really need another one of these…
“Stand on the corner of Richmond and Peter Streets, the former epicenter of Clubland. Once there were clubs on all four corners, now there are none. Other big club spaces around town are giving way to residences. The huge Guvernment (formerly RPM) site at Queens Quay and Jarvis was recently sold to a developer and Fly, the last remaining big gay club in the Gaybourhood, may be going condo soon too. Do we need to start worrying about where people can dance to loud music?”
And now, legendary afterhours dive Comfort Zone is under threat of extinction by real estate developers, who’ve decided to erect a tower block for college students (aptly, if unimaginatively named “The College”) at the corner of College and Spadina. I guess they decided it would be a perfect complement to the spanking new brand of banal, Rexall Drugstore, across the way. (now where the hell are all those souped up students supposed to get their afterhours fix, huh?). The majority of the party populace won’t miss The Waverley Hotel, which is a different shade of sketch altogether. There’s even talk of preserving the Silver Dollar sign, another landmark spot on the same spot. However, the loss of Comfort Zone would spell the end of a major era in Toronto’s nightlife. Apart from bloated electronic music festivals sponsored by companies that wouldn’t have been caught dead near a candykid in the 90’s and other shallow pretenders to the throne, what remains to fill the void? More condos? I bet the movers and shakers behind these deals and the sheeple that buy into them have never seen Cloverfield. I know where I want to be if alien baddies invade the city with intergalactic fleas and it won’t be in one of those overpriced deathtraps.
As Micallef eloquently puts it, “A city where you can’t dance is a city not worth living in.” One might argue there are still bars / clubs where you can get your groove on in the T-Dot and they would be right. However, when it comes to getting down to some filthy underground music that demands total dancefloor honesty, there are less venues to facilitate this gritty in-yo-face experience. Which begs the question: where do we go from here? Honestly, I don’t think anyone from the 90’s expects those dizzy days to make a comeback anytime soon. What’s disturbing though, is the lack of vision inherent in city planning, mainly by developers and politicians who seem far too motivated by profit margins than preserving any portion of Toronto’s flavourful character. A healthy dose of underground with a dash of semi-grimy underbelly is necessary to keep any First World city’s economy going; a gross oversight on the part of money hungry investors. These aspects spell trouble for any hopes of Toronto becoming a major hotspot for underground talent to flourish. As local Toronto DJ, Denise Benson states, “Clubs are another artist space when done right. Toronto is crawling with DJs and performers who travel around the world but have no place to play here.”
So does that mean the T-Dot is doomed to become an infinitesimal blip on the nightlife radar map? That likelihood is highly probable. Yes, there are still quality internationals that breeze by on occasion, but that pales in comparison to the mecca Toronto was for DJ megastars touching down every weekend during the rave era. At that time, the “Clubland Stretch” was in full effect, with places like Turbo and System Soundbar pumping hardcore tunes. There were more warehouses instead of condos and you could get sketched out at Industry while listening to the likes of Armand Van Helden or Lil Louis Vega. Now, “Clubland” is virtually non-existent, replaced by a sterile wasteland of glass and steel aka “Condoland”…and more Shoppers Drugmarts. WTF >>>
What’s left for Toronto’s nightlife future? Well, life is cyclical and what we’re seeing is simply the end of a cycle. In other words, Toronto’s glory days as an underground dance magnet is finished. Once Comfort Zone closes, it will be the official nail in the coffin. Sad but not surprising. I tend to agree with Micallef in the sense that a “Revenge of The ‘Burbs” scenario might play out, where something new and exciting might spring forth from an unlikely candidate for supercool, like Scarborough. Maybe even Kitchener, though I doubt peeps might want to drive that far. In my opinion, only one hope currently remains for salvaging what’s left of Toronto’s underground reputation. But I’m saving that for another article 😉
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