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The goth scene in Toronto

Posted by Guest Contributor / July 31, 2012

toronto goth sceneMy experience with the goth scene in Toronto began shortly after graduating from high school in 2005 when I started attending all-ages parties at the Vatikan at Queen and Brookfield. DJ nights were the norm although you did get fashion shows from time to time. Minx Clothing, a brand that sadly no longer exists, was a personal favourite. Goth fashion in general was a blend of many styles on the alternative spectrum, from new romantic and medieval, to heavily industrial. There was lots and lots of PVC.

In terms of live music, I would have been watching Trench Run, Nanochrist, Delica-m (under a slightly different name at the time), Anti-Hero and among others an inescapable band called Perdition which changed members a lot.

toronto gothThe scene mostly revolved around a handful of venues on Queen West. The main destination for me was a place called The Savage Garden. Paul Samuels, whose place it was and whom I interviewed once, wanted "a club that was run by alternatives, through Goths, by rivetheads for Goths and rivetheads."

The area around Queen and Bathurst was rich with goth activity at the time. You could head up to the Funhaus, or a few doors down to the Velvet Underground.

toronto goth sceneThen things changed. Savage ended its 15-year run, and the space transformed into Nocturne which catered to a different crowd. Funhaus closed (it's now the second floor of a Shopper's Drug Mart) as did The Big Bop/Reverb/Holy Joe's which often served as a venue for big shows like EBMFest. Velvet Underground is still around and does some goth events from time to time as does the Bovine Sex Club which is more eclectic but pretty great for live goth shows.

The transformation of Queen and Bathurst prompted the scene to shift to Neu+ral at the corner of College and Augusta in Kensington Market. Popular events here include Karaoke Kult on Tuesdays, Spike on Fridays and The Devil Made Me Do It which has been making a comeback lately.

Further west in the Junction, The Devil's Cellar is a relative newcomer that has managed to draw a loyal following. It sits in the basement of a building at 2872 Dundas Street West. Popular events here include Burning Chrome (experimental music, second Friday of every month) and Dracula's Daughter (old-school goth, third Saturday of every month).

Over the years, the number of actual goth clubs has dropped. This isn't because there's no longer any demand for goth events; there are plenty of those around. EBMFest still runs annually out of different venues, most recently the Mod Club. Fetish nights, closely interconnected with the scene, have found homes. Some goth events are perfectly okay with renting out another space and making it their own.

toronto gothAn example of this is the relationship between the premium show Salon Noir and the more salsa oriented Lula Lounge. To date, Salon Noir has brought Voltaire, The Deadfly Ensemble, David J, and The Living Jarboe to Toronto as headliners for gothic cabarets at Lula Lounge. Lula definitely isn't a goth club, but it doesn't have to be.

toronto goth eventsAs of September 1st, however, not all of the Salon Noir shows will have been cabarets. Ambrosia Hub will be the site of the fifth installment, which is more like a proper salon in concept: Q&A sessions, dance exhibitions, vendors and food and creative readings. In true nomadic fashion, Salon Noir must make a temporary home wherever it can. It's not much different than how goth bands don't need to play all their shows in goth bars. I have seen Amy's Arms play in lots of different places.

Things change, but thanks to a core group of dedicated planners and artists who are fundamentally interested in the scene, Toronto Goth is here to stay, and not only enjoyed, but enriched.

Writing and most photos by Dylan Madeley who, incidentally, will be giving a reading at the upcoming Salon Noir.



Craig / July 31, 2012 at 02:35 pm
Only a short mention for the Nocturne? It's got a monthly cyber-goth industrial party named Neurodance and often hosts Lazarus' DARKRAVE parties.
Laura / July 31, 2012 at 02:38 pm
Thank you for the plug! More info on Salon Noir can be found here:
Hamish Grant / July 31, 2012 at 02:38 pm
*cough* Death and the Underground *cough The Sanctuary *cough*
Dylan Madeley / July 31, 2012 at 02:44 pm
Thanks for the input Craig and Hamish, as for Nocturne I didn't think about it because I don't hit up that place often (I have been there for Delica-m performances so I'm dimly aware) and I missed several places due to the time I arrived, in addition to Death and the Underground and The Sanctuary, I also didn't get to see The Anarchist Cocktail (sp?) which people tell me about. This history of sorts was just a personal one, there was a ton more happening before I arrived, and I welcome everybody to comment about the things I missed.
Joel / July 31, 2012 at 02:53 pm
There was also Freak Show in the 90s. It was organized by Dj Michael X of CFNY fame. It got big when it was a 318 Richmond but eventually they got the boot and that place became the failed Joker Room.
Panic replying to a comment from Hamish Grant / July 31, 2012 at 02:59 pm
Did you miss the part where he graduated high-school in 2005? ;)
vampchick21 replying to a comment from Panic / July 31, 2012 at 03:06 pm
Which means he missed out on Sanctuary. Ah, Sanctuary, how I miss you! Now you're a Starbucks. Also, I remember when Funhaus was Zoo Bar. It felt very strange to be in that upper level of Shoppers, buying personal care items and realizing that my friend had projectile vomited where I was standing.

In short...I am old. Thank you.
Laura / July 31, 2012 at 03:19 pm
These were fun days. I saw my first concert at the Funhaus when I was 15! I've grown out of the scene but I still have fun memories of shows at The Vatikan and The Funhaus and The Reverb.
TH'Elf / July 31, 2012 at 03:22 pm
The shift north towards Neu+ral was slowly happening before the clubs along Queen West had all closed. As the clubs along Queen closed, one by one, the focus headed north more and more until it became centered in Kensington Market, as it mostly is now.
There's also another old school goth night that goes on monthly... but darned if I remember the name of the event or the club.
r / July 31, 2012 at 04:24 pm
i don't like how rave-y the scene became. it was really lame. no offence to anyone intended. if i want to hear techno i'll go to a techno club, sheesh!
Lex / July 31, 2012 at 05:01 pm
I met my (now) husband for the first time at Anarchist Cocktail 11 years ago. *sniff* the nostalgia!
steve / July 31, 2012 at 06:09 pm
Reading this post is like reading about the 67' Hippie Revolution from the point of view of someone in 1990. The Silver Crown, Club Domino were pre-MTV goth. Santuary, that place under The Paddock and the general scene on Queen had basically fizzled by 1997. In My Old and Crappy Opinion
Sean / July 31, 2012 at 07:14 pm
Catch22 was also fun on some nights.
Hamish replying to a comment from Panic / July 31, 2012 at 09:54 pm
Sure, but any description of Toronto's goth scene should at the very least mention the clubs that established the scene in the first place.
Japhet / July 31, 2012 at 10:13 pm
Personal or not, Vatikan should definitely have been mentioned.
Dave / July 31, 2012 at 10:48 pm
Things that white people do.
Missy Pants replying to a comment from Hamish / August 1, 2012 at 11:17 am
But then it should mention The Empire (Yonge north of Wellesley), Catch-22, Nuts and Bolts, the Lizard Lounge, The Night Gallery (above Gas Works owned by Mike Meyers, yes, that Mike) and I'll give you a dollar if you can remember what Velvet Underground was before it became Velvet.

Skantuary and Death came along well after the above clubs "established the scene", sorry.
Hamish Grant replying to a comment from Missy Pants / August 1, 2012 at 11:47 am
Sanctuary and Death matured the scene - obv. you are right to mention the clubs you did, none of which were mentioned in the article, either.

A much better article is this one from the GRID:

And Velvet was Club Noir. But wasn't there some cheesy top-40 dance club in there in the early-mid 1980's...
stef replying to a comment from Sean / August 1, 2012 at 12:32 pm
yes it sure was,great times
andrew / August 1, 2012 at 01:14 pm
it's a shame we've lost so many great places to go. things just ain't what they used to be.

(Trench Run)
Haha / August 1, 2012 at 02:00 pm
Scenesters, cute.
Karen replying to a comment from Japhet / August 1, 2012 at 10:47 pm
but he DID mention the Vatikan! At the beginning of the article!

And also, this seems to be the author's CURRENT personal experience. I don't think it was supposed to be a history lesson about all the goth clubs that were. All of you who haven't been out in a while should join us on an evening at the PRESENT clubs! I'm in my 40's, married with a kid and I enjoy the occasional night at the local goth hang out. I swear it's not scary!
LITHA / August 2, 2012 at 03:32 am
im happy to see an article about this topic, it gives a good summery of whats going on with the scene currently in the city. It would be hard for someone new to the city to find out where events are, since they seem to occur inconsistantly and in varied locations. And there no longer seems to be a site listing events. I agree with the comments of the scene being rave-y now, this is true, with agrrotech,being more popular to dance to in clubs, the classic tunes of meloncholy goth, are reserved for a small group with a distinct taste for the music. 'classic goth' seems to be almost devoid and underappreciated in north america, however, there are places in europe with a remaining appreciation for this. In north america, 'cyber goth' seems to be more popular, and that is what the scene predominantly caters too, with the current exceptions of salon noir, and draculas daughter. I hope there is a bit more exposure to scene events, and the right people find their way to them, and they continue to thrive.
shane / August 2, 2012 at 04:43 am
This article is cursory at best and somewhat inaccurate. Queen & Bathurst declined because clubs opened elsewhere in the city such as Neutral in Kensington, splitting the already marginalized scene and forcing larger venues to close (not the other way around). Queen & Bathurst isn't what it used to be, but we are lucky that Velvet, Bovine, and Nocturne (formerly Savage) have held the scene together for two decades. Not sure why the writer gave more props to Bovine than to Nocturne, though, which does a variety of events but still hosts the majority of staple parties in the scene. I'm looking forward to the Voltaire & Squid Lid show at Nocturne later this month during Fan Expo.
Teekki / August 2, 2012 at 10:49 pm
Sanctuary, Death In The Underground, Velvet Thursdays for many moons, Catch 22, Xit II Eden (for a short time after), Anarchist Cocktail, Lizard Lounge are all important 'goth bars' or had goth nights that built up the scene for years before the current 'scene' which is lacking (unless you're cyber goth).. Just sayin.
AcidDealer / October 24, 2012 at 07:01 pm
lol graduated highschool in 2005? The goth scene died while you probably in grade 6 elementary school newb.
Recoil / January 30, 2013 at 06:53 am
We hit up Nocturne for the first time last weekend and had a hard time connecting it with the description on their website .... it sounded pretty cool as far as atmosphere goes with "outside inside decor etc. Looks aside, they had some decent DJs with a few brilliant moments. We're reeeeallly old so not up on the latest, but the sound seemed to bounce around randomly just when they hit a killer industrial groove it would jump to high pitched vocal "happy/night core" ?? which was kind of a bummer.

Anyone have suggestions for a spot in TO or Montreal that still feeels a bit more like old days...maybe where older fans from the mid 80's coming back to the scene might hang out once in a while?

Would be interesting if some old timers opened an authentic nostalgia bar.
christopher replying to a comment from Craig / March 25, 2013 at 08:03 pm
hey guys wow ive been here for 6 years now and i cant find a desent goth bar everything is run down and smelly lol anyone got a classy joint with good industral music you know black roses and clean tables....
Ivan Palmer / April 18, 2013 at 05:10 pm
Hi Christopher, if that helps, I am organizing A Batcave Party 4 times a years,
I originally started and hosted the Batcave Parties in the early 80's in Toronto,
I was force to retired after having all my music collection stollen twice in the 90's
I have since recovered and enjoying revisiting the scene that I witness being created before it was called Goth, when possible.
So to all old Batcaver's / Goth's Fiends This one is for you :)

Visit my Group page for updates and dates

next one is on April 27th here is the event page
Annabella / July 3, 2013 at 11:10 am
Wow those days were the best...partying at the Twilight Zone..The Bat Cave. .and of course Catch 22...twenty years later I'm still goth with a goth child ....and still a Vamp .....children of the night ..what sweet music they make...Vamps and Lycans make eternal friendships.
paul / November 3, 2013 at 12:10 pm
Steve is totally right. The goth scene that came on strong in the mid to later 90's was totally garbage and happened because of rave scene and shitty grunge.The real goths were from the 80's where it was just part of the punk scene. Where as the 1990's was just fashion goths who all looked liked clones of each other.

You knew it wasn't a real scene and was just about fashion when they went to siren to buy clothes instead of going to a vintage 2nd hand or goodwill. I have a friend that still makes fun of goths from the 1990's

"Reading this post is like reading about the 67' Hippie Revolution from the point of view of someone in 1990. The Silver Crown, Club Domino were pre-MTV goth. Santuary, that place under The Paddock and the general scene on Queen had basically fizzled by 1997. In My Old and Crappy Opinion"
Ashley / July 27, 2014 at 09:51 am
I am looking to move to toronto within the next year and want to look for an apartment closest to the area where is the most goth clubs and similar things like that to do. I've been told to look for something in the downtown area but would like a little bit more information? Can anyone point me I the right direction?
Gordon / October 18, 2014 at 10:38 pm
I would join the Toronto goth Facebook page and also follow/ add/ stay up to date with The known deejays in the city. Dj Lazarus is one of the most well known and still active long time deejays who still cares about the scene. Just about all the current and upcoming events hosted or run by all those in Toronto get posted on the Toronto goth fb page. You should find more advice and suggestions there as well. As mentioned before, still various nights throughout the year at Nocturne, Velvet Underground and wherever else. Hope this helps. .......
Gordon / October 18, 2014 at 10:45 pm
Streetcars, subway, cabs, bike or on foot- Queen and Spadina is the central area. Some affordable rental units in beaches area. (East of business district best bet).
vlad replying to a comment from Teekki / April 4, 2015 at 12:20 am
mid 90s where the days. SANCTURY, DEATH UNDERGROUNG, EXIT TO EDEN, SAVAGE , VELVET..... the vamps, the capes, the top was much more sexier back then. Miss those day....
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