The goth scene in Toronto
My 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.
The 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.
Then 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.
An 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.
As 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.
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