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Why We Love The Phoenix

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Phoenix Concert Theatre
410 Sherbourne St, Toronto

Phoenix Concert Theatre

You want to go out on Saturday night — where should you go? What should you do?

Sometimes you want to get dressed up in your newest gear, polish off your fancy shoes and head downtown to the latest, greatest clubs — listen to music you’ve never heard of, mingle with impossibly gorgeous and scantily-clad drunken women or tall, dark, rippling men who look like they’ve consumed two pounds of whey-protein supplements that day — and wake up Sunday afternoon with five new numbers in your phone and a ringing in your ears that doesn’t go away until Wednesday.

But sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you want your Saturday nights to be not so harried, not so stressful, not so coutured, and you want to hear music you already know and love. That’s when you go to the Phoenix.

000-351-008.jpgThe Phoenix is the Cheers of the Toronto club scene; it’s the comfy old sweater you can never throw away. Residing in a nondescript building on the edge of downtown nowhere near Clubland, the Phoenix definitely seems strangely placed at first glance; but, of course, that’s part of its charm.

The biggest part of its charm, however, is its history. Now, it’s very hard to get historical information about nightclubs, so I’m mostly working from memory here (if anyone could fill in the gaps or correct me if need be I’d be grateful). I’m not sure exactly when it opened — it would have been late ’80’s or early ’90’s. However, in 1990 or ’91 came the revolutionary idea that put the Phoenix on the map. Toronto radio station CFNY (now known as 102.1 The Edge) began simulcasting Saturday nights — all the music being played at the club, commercial free, with an on-air host. Seems like a strange idea if you think about it, but it caught on and has been going strong ever since — the format has even been expanded to include four other simulcasts from different clubs Thurs – Sun nights.

As a marketing move, it’s pure genius; it fashions the club as something more than just a club — it makes it an institution. The Edge’s listenership ranges anywhere in age from 12 – 45 — the new generation brought up on a steady diet of Simple Plan and Billy Talent mixed in with the people who were kids in the ’80’s, tuning in for their fix of Depeche Mode and The Smiths. Host Martin Streek is a household name for many in Southern Ontario — he’s been doing the simulcasts for years and years. I used to listen most Saturday nights when I was younger, around 16; driving back home from a night of playing pool or hanging out in Oshawa, my radio would always be cranked to Club 102. What inevitably happens is that all these kids who grow up listening every week suddenly turn 19 and move to Toronto for school and what do they want to? They have to go to the Phoenix, of course. They have to finally see the place they’ve been hearing about for years. It’s already familiar to them — they’ve already got that warm sweater feeling.

Aside from all that though, the place itself is just plain cool. The Main Room is huge, containing one of the largest dance floors in the city (and, apparently, one of the largest mirror balls in Canada). There are three bars in this room alone, six total throughout the complex. The Main Room is the home of the Club 102 simulcast — a steady offering of new, heavy alt-rock faves mixed in with some staples of days past (My Chemical Romance leads into Rage Against the Machine leads into The Killers leads into Tool etc). This room gets packed by 11:30 and you don’t come up for air until 3. There’s also ‘Le Loft,’ a balcony overlooking the Main Room with its own bar and a plethora of couches if you need to take a break, and The Parlour, which houses the retro music party and a couple of pool tables. This room is nice because it’s good dancing (as opposed to head-banging) music, and it’s not as painful as the Main Room — but you do have the choice, which is nice.

And don’t worry if you don’t feel like wearing heels or tons of make-up or your patent-leather loafers — there’s no dress code. It’s as casual as you want it to be (you’ll be able to spot at least one fifty year-old dude in a Leafs jersey every time you go, I promise).

But don’t worry — they still have the impossibly gorgeous scantily-clad women too (sorry, no pics available). 03971semaj

29 Comments leave one →
  1. Wednesday, August 16, 2006 10:42 am

    I can’t verify the quality of The Phoenix in club-mode, nor would I want to (booze and background music, no thanks; milk and foreground music, dial me in), but I can say that as a live venue, it’s one of the best in Toronto. I’ve only seen two shows there, Matthew Sweet and Aimee Mann (those names should indicate just how long ago it was), and they were both great. The acoustics there are better than anywhere else I’ve been in Toronto, and the capacity for a show is just about perfect: you’ll never be too far away from the stage, you’ll never be too cramped (actually, I believe they had chairs out for both of the shows), and the sound will always be clear and buzz-free.

    The problem will probably be finding a show there: I don’t recall them booking that many acts. They should get more. It’s a good size, somewhere between Lee’s Palace and The Guvernment, I’d estimate. There’ve gotta be some good bands that fit in there. Hey, I’ve been away for a while, maybe I’m wrong and they’ve stepped it up in their live music offerings.

  2. Wednesday, August 16, 2006 11:20 am

    Yes, you’re correct. The Rolling Stones have played there, among others.

    I saw controller.controller and Esthero there last year, although the sound was bad due to the technician running it, not the venue.

    The recent Wolf Parade show was apparently decent too.

  3. Wednesday, August 16, 2006 11:23 am

    Surely they can rise to the occasion.

    Sorry, don’t have anything else to add but bad puns..

    I’ll just stop writing…now.

  4. Wednesday, August 16, 2006 11:28 am

    graeme has officially stopped making sense.

  5. Wednesday, August 16, 2006 12:54 pm

    Rise as the mythical firey bird is said to do from the ashes? For that I offer a “toast” to graeme! And for that, one to me also!

  6. Wednesday, August 16, 2006 1:00 pm

    I say ‘rise’ should have been italicized. Yup.

  7. Wednesday, August 16, 2006 1:07 pm

    Oh I get it now – rise – as in phoenix.

    I’m so good.

  8. Wednesday, August 16, 2006 1:24 pm

    Still think he deserves that toast?

  9. Wednesday, August 16, 2006 1:54 pm

    Dude, please.

    I deserve two toasts now. One, for making a pun that you didn’t get but Mr. Beal did, and two, for making you think that I didn’t know I was making a pun until Mr. Beal pointed it out, when in reality I did know I was making a pun, and a lame one at that.

    I’m still so good.

  10. Wednesday, August 16, 2006 8:59 pm

    Just verifying: you both got my pun, right?

  11. Thursday, August 17, 2006 8:08 am

    Of course…your pun….”toast”…’s obvious……


  12. Thursday, August 17, 2006 11:29 am

    I don’t like my toast all ashy. If that happens I either scrape the char off into the sink, or throw it out and make some more.

  13. Thursday, August 17, 2006 11:53 am

    I don’t like toast.

    More of a cereal man myself, either that or good ol’ fashioned untoasted bread, or bread as I like to call it.

  14. Thursday, August 17, 2006 12:06 pm

    There are children starving in South Africa who pray to their equivalent of Jesus everyday for a meal as luxurious as your callously discarded ashy toast. So next time that happens, you should send it to them.

    As for you, graeme: cereal and toast are not mutually exclusive.  Though I suppose bread and toast are, at least on the same slice.  Unless you hold it from above, half-in the toaster.

  15. Thursday, August 17, 2006 12:29 pm

    I think most kids in South Africa pray to the actual Jesus, in that 68% of S. Africans are Christians.

  16. Thursday, August 17, 2006 4:10 pm

    Holy crap that’s a lot of Christians!

    But do they all eat toast?

  17. Thursday, August 17, 2006 11:08 pm

    I’m sure they all eat bread. You know — special bread.

  18. Friday, August 18, 2006 5:51 am

    How dare they?!? Jesus is OUR saviour!! No wonder people think they’re all criminals, stealing our saviour and all…

  19. Friday, August 18, 2006 8:47 am

    I thought Superman was our saviour. Superman could take Jesus any day.

  20. Friday, August 18, 2006 9:12 am

    Superman’s not real, graeme. He’s just a guy in a book. I mean, come on, all that crazy shit they say Superman did — none of that’s possible. Flying? Pff, right. Coming back from the dead the way he did after he fought Doomsday? No fucking way. Now, walking on water and coming back after a solid crucifying, that’s the kind of believability you can base societies upon.

  21. Friday, August 18, 2006 9:43 am

    I always liked the way Superman would go around, turning water into wine, giving mounted sermons, telling the Pharisees where they could shove it, and riding into Metropolis on a mule or donkey, or whatever it was.

    I mean, no wonder there’s a whole bunch of comics, and 5 movies and various television shows about him. What does Jesus have? The Bi-bull. Psshhh, like anyone reads that.

  22. Matthew permalink
    Friday, August 18, 2006 10:27 am

    Jesus this and Superman that …. I say, all hail the new saviour – the Playstation 3!

  23. Friday, August 18, 2006 11:24 am

    Tell me more about these ‘mounted sermons.’ Sounds interesting . . .

  24. Friday, August 18, 2006 11:51 am

    You’d have to be Catholic to understand…

  25. Friday, August 18, 2006 12:17 pm

    You too can be saved for only a grand. Sounds more like Scientology.

  26. Wednesday, July 28, 2010 2:27 am

    R.I.P. Martin Streek. He sadly committed suicide back in July 2009. The end of an era in my life, for sure. I’m going to definitely have to find my way to the Phoenix whenever I’m back in Toronto and dedicate my first beer of the evening to one of the voices who helped raised me on rock and roll.

    • Wednesday, July 28, 2010 8:08 am

      Had no love for the man. You must receive your news via carrier pigeon. Did the news of Geoff Lloyd (late January, this year) make its way to you?

      • Wednesday, July 28, 2010 8:15 am

        *Geoff Lloyd’s demise

        • Wednesday, July 28, 2010 11:22 am

          No. No it did not.

          But I will always remember and cherish him as the ‘do-do-di-do’ at the beginning of Indestructible.

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