Monday, April 24, 2006

toronto hot spots, 1985

Time for another trip in the local wayback machine, to live music venues and clubs from twenty years ago. Descriptions are taken from the "Hot Spots" section of the Dec/85 issue of Toronto Life, written by Melanie Reffes and Susan O'Connor.
First off, spots that still exist, if in name only. Venues names are the ones listed in the magazine (i.e. Cameron Hotel instead of Cameron House), links are from the current incarnations.

ALBERT'S HALL - An upstairs tavern that happens to feature the best blues and R&B acts from in and out of town (Etta James led off Dec/85). Downstairs is the Brunswick House (no official website found for current incarnation), a beer barn covered floor-to-ceiling in mucky pop art. The walls boast photos of wet T-shirt contestants. The draft is cheap. Carla and Irene do requests such as Is That All There Is? on the mournful old piano.

THE CAMERON HOTEL - A sign in front reads "This is Paradise". Here is where Queen Street's poorest residents drink (they include many of Toronto's artists) and watch sports on the TV in the back room. Home of Handsome Ned and other Queen Street luminaries, the club has a stage one foot high and furniture that's battered to death. Audience yelling and dancing is often unfettered.

HORSESHOE - The Last Pogo happened here, just before the punks were driven out. A brief country and western theme ensued. Now it's back in the hands of the local bands, though the scene is not half as rough as it once was. The young folks just play shuffleboard these days.

RIVOLI - An important club with a testy, demanding art school crowd. The best of the local new wave create their followings here. the graffiti in the toilets at the rear ranks among the city's best, and the art on the walls of the restaurant up front is frequently interesting.


Next, tidbits from defunct venues...

CLUB Z (11A St. Joseph) - The walls of this multilevel warehouse space feature ancient Egyptian-style characters toting ghetto-blasters in phosphorescent paint. The radioactive, post-apocalyptic sensation is heightened by ruby lasers and music at terrific volumes. Events occur unannounced: fire-eaters, tigers, snakes, female impersonators.

GASWORKS (585 Yonge) - Once upon a time this was the home of the glam-rock set, subsequently something closer to a biker bar, and now a hard rock-heavy metal club on one of the meaner stretches of the Yonge Street strip. Curiously, kids with studded jackets are barred (Gasworks receives a passing mention in the September 2005 minutes of the Ontario Standing Committee on Justice Policy - the bouncers sound like they were something else).

LARRY'S HIDEAWAY (121 Carlton) - If Canadians weren't so self-effacing, this place would be as internationally known as CBGBs or the Marquee. Home of promoters the Garys, every important new band - local and important - must try its mettle here first. The lights and the sounds are raunchy and good. The club is filthy as hell. No such animal here as a regular night; acts run the gamut from reggae to thrash (a history of Larry's, later razed for an expansion of Allan Gardens). - JB

Additional Info from the Comments Section:
An attempt to turn the Gasworks into a pseudo-Hard Rock Cafe not long after the first incarnation closed, just a year after the Wayne's World movie, might've been well-intentioned, but a hopeless case in that neighbourhood ... wonder if the dollar store that recently replaced the Musclemag store will last ... - Marc Weisblott

Club Z is now 5ive, a big gay club. And I think Larry's burnt down, rather than being razed (or was razed after it burnt). The first [murmur] story we recorded was about the night Larry's Hideaway burnt down (but we have never put up the sign). If you're just east of the Church that sits at Carlton and Jarvis, you can still see the ghost of Larry's in the trees that surrounded the lot. - Shawn Micallef

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