My Reflections of Toronto: The Club District in the 2000’s

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Back in my younger days in Toronto, pretty much every weekend that I was free was spent down in the club district. Whether it was on Adelaide, Richmond, Peter, Duncan or Pearl there would always be some excuse to head downtown to party and jam. It could be for someone you know like a friend or family member, or friend of a friend celebrating a birthday or graduation or some other milestone, or some guy/girl you met once at Markham Station while getting some late night eats. And didn’t everyone have a friend or family member that was a club/event promoter?

For me, my downtown clubbing heyday probably was around 2004-2010 so I can only speak on what I recall. The old glory days, which are but a distant and sometimes drunken memory. When I was wandering around downtown a few weeks back I wondered what happened to these spots if they are still around or demolished because for anyone who walks around downtown Toronto these days all you see are condos for the most part. Keep in mind I am not saying these were the best clubs in Toronto but these were places that I recall frequenting in my younger days.

Inside

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I remember when Inside was the place to be not only because it was popping but, former Raptor, Vince Carter was an owner of it! There was like 3 floors and each floor had a different vibe to it. One floor was a glass room where I think the dancefloor was glass and there were glass windows, booths and such that usually was the club anthems floor. The next level up had a wooden floor and we would usually hear Reggaeton and dance music on this floor. One time, we saw Daddy Yankee who was in town promoting a new project performing so that was pretty cool for our 5 dollar guest list cover charge.

However, for me and the crew back in like 2005 it was all about the basement! Or as we called it, the SOCA FLOOR! When we came here on Fridays you would hear Soca Sweetness and/or Dr. Jay De Soca Prince and back in those days it was RARE to hear reggae and soca music inside of a downtown club. So it was important to come and support the cause because if we didn’t show up it would no longer exist and many of us didn’t want to take it for granted. Countless, birthdays were celebrated here I think I celebrated my birthday here two times. The vibes were just toooooo nice week in and week out. It was almost like a weekly reunion with people.

It is now a resto called Ja Bistro. RIP Inside!

 

Seven

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And right next door to Inside was Seven and Runway 224. I only went here a few times. It had an upscale urban music kinda vibe. I could be wrong because again I only been here a few times. One time I celebrated my birthday here and there was a snowstorm so the place was virtually empty. On the top floor, where we stayed at it felt more like a private party since it was literally only the people who came for my birthday that were in the room. It was kinda awesome just like 12 of us liming and wilding out. Oddly enough, one person I met there for the 1st time has become a good friend of mine since then. I respect Seven for that.

Now it is called La Vie Complex one of the few places from back in my day that is still a club!

 

G-Spot

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So this place has been through quite a few name changes over the years but, I remember it as G-Spot. Usually, after a shooting would occur at a club the management would change the name to refresh the place and give it facelift. If I’m mistaken I remember it once being called Metro and its last incarnation was Gravity not sure if it has a tenant anymore. If you wanted ratchet well G-Spot was the place for you!

I think we took my cousin here after he turned 19 and it was probably a mistake but, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Can’t front though the convenience was great because I could watch a movie across the street at Paramount (now known as Scotiabank Theatre) then pop over to G-Spot shortly after. Then again, shots might pop off in the club as well.

I also remember getting into an argument with a friend of mine over something which to this day I don’t understand and she was mad at me for a while. Oh the memories!

 

Lot 332

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Lot 332 used to be poppinnnnn! Once upon a time, I came here back in like 2006-2007 a few times. I came here with some friends to celebrate a birthday and this was like back when SexyBack and anything Justin Timberlake was all the rage! And now, it’s a City of Toronto building.

It had cushy couches and upscale lounge décor. It really had the loft kinda vibe down cold. The crowd would be a mix of bag of people from new clubbers to older ones. The most vivid memory I have is listening Jr. Flo just juggling beats and killing it! The problem was most of the crowd weren’t really into that stuff so they didn’t get it at first but just some of the mixes and live remixes he did were awesome. One of the best things about the line up at Lot 332 was that it was directly across the street from a hot dog stand so if the line was long you could grab eats without losing your place in line.

 

Afterlife

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Personally, Afterlife was legendary to me. To the older club goers its legendary status comes from when it was called Limelight when I was younger I would hear older family members raving about it. I first set foot into Afterlife probably in 2005. Now if you love Soca and Reggae on a Saturday there was NO OTHER PLACE but Afterlife. Friday was Inside with Dr. Jay and Saturday was Afterlife, 3rd floor, the Paradise Room with Jump Up Kingz and Loudmout Chiney.

I will admit the décor and layout was very basic they didn’t appear to try hard on making Afterlife look good. Chipped paint on walls and faded dancefloor.

People had strategies as how to jump the line or claim they were on guest list. The thing was if you got there before 11:30pm you were good after that though, all bets were off because it would be jammed! It truly was a meeting place, the random girl you saw at STC a week ago was there, the dudes you were shooting pool with a month ago were there, that crew from your work would be there wilding out. The amount of times I had to MSN Messenger someone for guest list or send a message on like Black Planet or Desi Planet is countless. So many birthdays, so many reunions, so many passed out people that needed to be dragged down 3 flights of stairs and so many foolish fights over the bar, a girl or stepping on a man’s shoes.

And I cannot forget Afterlife Sundays! Why, because the whole bar was $2 a drink. Beer, mixed drinks, shots it was all a TOONIE!!! Most people could get lit on a $20. When I worked in retail if you had Monday morning off it was expected you would be there Sunday night. They would do limos there and back so it was no excuse not to have a few. I remember one time we had a work dance battle, I refused to dance to anything 50 Cent related which is still true today and one time the song ‘Girlfight’ by Brooke Valentine was playing and literally a girl fight started over wanting to be on top of the riser dancing.

Eventually, Afterlife lost its lustre and faded into obscurity but the good times were definitely lasting memories and now it is Rock N Horse Saloon.

 

 

Sometimes when I walk around downtown and reminisce I wonder about what happened. Toronto used to be so much fun and then suddenly we became the town from Footloose with a ban on dancing. The city opted that bringing the suburbs downtown made better sense it seems. The best cities in the world have a balance between residential living and providing nightlife and entertainment but, while Toronto is technically the 4th largest city in North America we still seem to have this small town sort of mentality. Sometimes that’s a good thing other times it’s a not so good thing of course it depends who you ask.

I am sure I will post more in the future because there is lots of history and stories that we all have about these places. Mine aren’t that wild and crazy… Well because I have a filter and somethings just should not be posted online =)

 

Walk it out people,

Waynie

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Video History of Toronto

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This short video created for TEDx Toronto Conference last fall is a brief history of the culmination of our city Toronto.

The video starts from its early days going to today. As a proud citizen, not just a taxpayer, of Toronto it is great to see our diversity celebrated even if it is just for 150 seconds. If you don’t know where you came from, you will not know where you are going.

Enjoy,

Waynie

A Farewell to Legendary Stores in Toronto: Sears / Eaton’s

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As this Sunday passes, we bid a fond farewell to fabled and perhaps locally famous store at Yonge and Edward…The World’s Biggest Bookstore! Not only have we seen this one time giant fall but also we said goodbye to Sears (formerly Eaton’s) and in the near future Honest Ed’s.

To be perfectly clear this post is not to point out the politics or hardships that have led to the demise of these stores. I am just simply a fan that would like to pay tribute by sharing memories of what these places meant to me as a kid growing up in Toronto.

It was sheer irony that the week Sears finally closed its doors at the Eaton Centre, in February, coincided with Yorkdale Shopping Centre began to celebrate its 50th anniversary. A few days after Sears officially closed I snapped this picture. Hard to believe such an iconic brand was leaving us.

Maybe I’m showing my age but, I recall when this was Eaton’s not Sears. As a kid growing up in Scarborough, coming downtown to Eaton Centre was like a wonderland for me. The draw of these big stores, so many escalators, usually fast paced all the time, the two food courts, two McDonalds (yes I was easily impressed back then) and of course Eaton’s. Why does Eaton’s hold a special place for me personally you may ask?

Well, I had a family member who worked there. Visiting them was my excuse to go downtown and just be a kid with my eyes opened wide, especially at Christmas time with that Christmas tree dangling from the mall ceiling and the Santa with sled and reindeer. You could even sit on Santa’s lap, yes that’s right no Skype appointments! Eaton’s was that go to store when you wanted to be in style and it had a floor strictly dedicated to TOYS! Yes, Floor 7 a.k.a Toyland I remember you. The first time I ever saw a Nintendo or Sega Master System was on that toys floor.

Tell me you remember that shopping bag? That’s actually my Eaton’s bag I found it while rummaging through that closet most people have filled with bags and boxes that you haven’t checked in over a decade. When Eaton’s transitioned into Sears in the mid 90’s my family member sadly was no longer working at Eaton Centre and I did kind of resent Sears for a bit because of that. It didn’t matter what new Kenmore appliances they had on display I probably did not set foot into that Sears for like 2 years. Eventually, I caved and did shopping here and there but as I grew up I discovered other stores and I kind of lost touch with Sears unless I was seeking a fragrance or a watch perhaps.

When I heard Sears was closing its doors, my first reaction was ‘Hmmm will the Jays Store have awesome deals?” followed by the thought of that another piece of my childhood swept away. So for the last few months, while cutting through Sears, to either get to the rest of the mall or get to Yonge Street, I would kind of wander around and reminisce of those days but sadly I was blinded by the discount wholesaler vibe I was getting where literally everything was on sale even the fixtures and storage cases.

So I have lived through Eaton’s to Sears to now Nordstrom in 2016 wow where does the time go? While the ending for Eaton’s and Sears was kind of ugly to me I will hold on to that memory of the grade school version of me endlessly playing with the new toys in Toyland. Sometimes the simplest memories are the best ones.

Regards,

Waynie

Being ‘Happy’ in Toronto on a Cold Winter Day!

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A friend of mine sent me a link to this video a few days ago and I gotta admit it is pretty infectious! The video was done by Flip TFO

They made -17C look somewhat enjoyable, once you keep an open mind. Dancing throughout the streets of Toronto to Pharrell Williams’ smash hit ‘ Happy’. Sadly, no one was wearing his infamous ‘Arby’s’ style hat in the video.

Really cool to see this group get everyday citizens of Toronto in on the fun too.

Sidenote, don’t forget to check out ‘This Is Not A Toy’ exhibit at the Design Exchange guest curated by the one and only Pharrell Williams going on until May 19th.
http://www.dx.org/index.cfm?pagepath=exhibitions/current_exhibitions&id=47464

Enjoy,

Waynie

Soca on Ice Takes Over Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre

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It’s never too cold for SOCA MUSIC! Last month was proof of that as hundreds of people braved the frigid weather to take part in the 4th edition of ‘Soca on Ice’.

Since it’s inception in 2011, as a part of Harbourfront Centre’s DJ Skate Nights, this event has been a complete success bringing together people of all ages and backgrounds who want to feel the Power of Soca delivered by Dr. Jay, ‘De Soca Prince’ who has been a groundbreaking ambassador for soca music not only in Canada but worldwide.

It was a night to enjoy some nice island vibes, take a dance on the ice and come alive as people wave their rags and flags and show their national colours!

In case you weren’t able to attend or if you did attend and want to relive it here are a few video recaps of the night when Soca ‘Tun Ova’ the Waterfront!

The Official Dr. Jay Recap:

Humber News (Trevon Marsh):

Remember When It Was the Paramount Theatre in Toronto?!?!

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Yesterday, while wandering around in the frigid weather I stopped at Scotiabank Theatre to catch a movie. Once the movie ended and I bundled back up to tackle the cold I began to reminisce on when this was the Paramount Theatre and it was the perhaps centrepiece of the Entertainment District when it was completed back in 1999. It was a part of Festival Hall which is now known as Rio Can Hall.

I remember watching Citytv News hyping up the opening of this theatre because its opening was coinciding with the release with Star Wars Episode 1: Phantom Menace. They interviewed fans who were lined up for days to watch this new generation of Star Wars films and I’ll be honest I thought those people were crazy however, I respected their dedication. I believe the theatre had screenings of Phantom Menace from midnight straight until the next night!

I finally watched a movie there for the first time about a month after Paramount opened and it really was a wonderland especially being a teenager before smartphones ruled our worlds. The fun just didn’t stop there though because right next door, where Marshalls now stands, was Playdium Toronto! 3 floors of games of all sorts it was heavenly. You would charge your card on the ground floor and just go nuts after that. Sadly, the fun and games didn’t last and Playdium was vacated maybe a couple of years after it opened. But good times were had!

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Photo from http://www.sceno-plus.com/_files/projects/larges/31_86_playdium_toronto_04.jpg

I recall Playdium then transforming into a club called Lucid which was the place to be for a few years before its doors closed and morphed into the megaclub Circa, a playground for electronic music fans. Although it shut down its website is still active http://www.circatoronto.com/default.html if you wish to relive those days go right ahead.  Skip ahead to today and it is now a Marshalls location. Man where does all the time go.

To this day I still call it Paramount Theatre (just like it will forever be the SKYDOME to me not the Rogers Centre) and I’ll pass by Marshalls and just call it Playdium or Lucid like it was yesterday. It is mind-blowing how this May marks 15 years since Paramount’s inception.

It is pretty clear I am just a sucker for fond memories. Those were good times when the Entertainment District or Clubbing District in Toronto actually was that rather than just more and more condos/lofts with some bars/clubs scattered around.

Like the Bunkers would say….’Those Were the Days!’

Waynie