Notorious Clubs: HYPE, Brampton
Welcome to the Notorious Clubs series. This is where we look at clubs with some of the shadiest promoters, rudest staff, nastiest owners, worst sound systems, highest drink prices and loathsome activities in Toronto. Today we'll take a look at HYPE in Brampton: home of ACDC, GNR and Bon Jovi Tribute Bands, rude bouncers and cutthroat business practices.
The first thing that struck me about Hype was how it felt more like a teen center than a concert venue. With its pool table, small stage and sports figures on the walls, I wasn't too enthused... but then again, I've seen worse. The excruciatingly painful sound system is aimed at making your ears ring loudly to be sure your experience here sticks in your mind for days afterwards. While the lighting is OK and there are plenty of booths to sit down at, you will soon find that looks can be deceiving. "We feel honoured to play at the only club where you CAN'T drink at the bar," Latefallen declared onstage.
Yes people, it's true - you CANNOT drink at the bar here. As soon as you get a beer in your hand, a gruff, bald bouncer will be looming over your shoulder, instructing you to move to the back of the room where you will be quarantined like an animal. If you hesitate to get a shot or ask the bartender a question, the owner will be shaking his head, pointing to the corner. "You have to drink that over there!" he insists.
With an all-ages crowd, it's understandable that there needs to be a designated drinking area to keep under-aged kids from getting their eager hands on a pitcher; however, what ISN'T necessary is being insulted, chased from the bar and verbally reprimanded in such a condescending manner. Afterall, drink sales constitute a major portion of a club's profit. Bands didn't get any special treatment either. Though a few musicians furtively snuck beer onstage, they had been originally told there was to be NO drinking onstage unless it was bottled water.
The rude attitude didn't start there of course. It began as soon as we stepped inside. At 4:45pm, no one was working the door to inform us the club wasn't open yet. Moments after sauntering in, we were instructed to wait outside another fifteen minutes until 5pm. Twenty-five kids clamored in the freezing hallway until 5:45 when they were finally allowed inside.
Media guestlist and family member guestlist simply doesn't exist at Hype. "We only have guestlist on Saturdays when the tribute bands play," the owner told me. "Otherwise it's like you're stealing from the bands. Tell the bands to pay for you if they really want to treat you but they only get paid based on how many people come to see them." Standard procedure is to pay bands based on a percentage of the bar sales (for free shows with big numbers) or split the money from the door among the bands.
Let's do some crude math here. At Hype, patrons hand the door $7 - $5 for the club owner and $2 for whichever band they've come to see. If no one has ever heard your band before and you're the opener, you will go home with nothing, not even a free bottle of water or one drink ticket. If 50 people come to see you, your five band members will get $20 each. In this case, Seconds To Go (from London, Ontario) went home with a meager $9 total (not sure where that extra dollar came from - sympathy loonie?).
Expect to be yelled at for resting half a bum cheek on the unused pool table. You'll have bouncers shaking their heads at you if you take two steps past their idea of the drinkers' boundaries (which is only verbalized and not designated by any signs, by the way). If they feel you've dropped some trash in the hallway, expect to be bullied into picking it up, regardless of whether they have proof it was actually you littering. Also don't be surprised if the door is slammed behind you on your way out.
This tyrannical bouncer behavior may just be an unfortunate byproduct of the red Security shirt. The 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment found that ordinary Berkley students could be transformed into sadistic monsters just by playing a mock prison guard role. In less than a week, their voices had changed and they were punishing other students (arbitrarily labeled as "the prisoners") by tripping them, stripping them, locking them in closets, verbally humiliating them and taking away "privileges" like bathroom breaks. On a much smaller scale you can see this transformation of character in many bouncers. I'm sure he's a great brother, a great friend, maybe even a great coworker; but it's almost as if he ENJOYS over-policing patrons and treating you like "just another punk-ass kid". I remember dealing with disrespect as a teenager but I knew many of my peers instigated trouble just for fun and sort of understood why bouncers came down so hard on us. But for someone in their 20s who just wants to have one beer and watch some bands play, this goes beyond degradation.
On a positive note, the chicken wings WERE pretty tasty, the bartenders and runners were very sweet and the large $13 pitchers were an excellent value. If I were coming here for a pre-game meal, I would seat myself at a table near the TVs and have a perfectly fine time. But I find that the Hype "Indie Music Sundays" is a wolf in sheep's clothing. Don't fall for their trick. They don't care about Indie artists, they don't care about Indie music and they certainly don't care about YOU.