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The top 5 nightclubs for EDM in Toronto

Posted by Jesse Ship / October 4, 2013

EDM nightclubs TorontoAny talk about Toronto nightclubs for EDM must be prefaced by the admission that EDM is a terrible umbrella acronym that encapsulates 30-plus styles of music into a palatable and sugary cereal-like mush of uplifting beats. At least electronica was a better descriptor as the a suffix gives the impression of plural form. But for the sake of mainstream media categorizations, let's just play along for now.

Some of the more common genres that fall into the term include Dubstep, Complextro, Tech-House, and Trap music. Toronto has had a long history of electronic music as a rave mecca in the 90s (maybe thanks to our Commonwealth past) and onwards.

Here's a roundup of some of the top clubs in Toronto to get your underground groove on.

The Guvernment
The Guvernment boasts a constantly evolving 100,000 sq ft party space that consists of multiple themed rooms (Koolhaus, Chroma, Surface, Skybar upstairs patio, Haven), and a revolving list of international superclub DJs. Peak seasonal parties to check out are Labour of Love, Decadance and Freedom. The Asian guy that hangs out by the left speakers in the front of the main room is always good for a chat. The Guv, or Guvvy, as it is affectionately called by its patrons is rumoured to be moving further down into Portlands territory closer to its lonely cousin, Sound Academy.

Taking over from former tenants, The Devil's Martini, Uniun is the newest addition to the INK family to cater to neighboring condo-land. The multimillion-dollar interior overhaul features dangly electric blue LED lights that hang like tentacles, or post-modern Christmas lights.

The Hoxton
The property at 69 Bathurst St. has passed through many hands over the years but no owners have managed to capitalize on the largish whitespace quite like the current tenants, a coalition of some of Toronto's nightlife mavens (Embrace Entertainment), booking agents and entertainment personalities (Kenny Hotz). You never know when an impromptu Kenny Vs. Spenny challenge might go down!

The original Parkdale nightlife outpost, catering to the heavy demand in electro, rap and everything in between. It was also DJ "Nasty" Nav Sangha's first endeavor, who now owns a stake in The Great Hall, Samuel J. Moore restaurant below it, and the East End's Riverside Public House. The set up is fairly simple but there's enough raised seating and couches to keep you in check for a recharge if you need one. Has anyone figured out how to get that jukebox working?

The Drake Underground
There couldn't be a more fitting title to this venue as it is home to mostly underground music events, fitting of EDM and indie-electronic genres. The space has been hosting the riff-raff (and getting confused looks from the 905ers and hotel guests upstairs) since the hotel's beginnings, echoing the former bombed out party space that existed when the real estate was occupied by Galaxy Donuts.


Another old chestnut of the scene, Footy caters mostly to a European, and informed techno loving crowd bringing in talent that probably wont be heard on Z103.5. High pressure smoke is released at peak moments to get you hyped while the crowd claps along to asynchronous beats. Footwork has just announced that they will be shutting down after eight years but rumours have it that they have been actively looking at new locations, possibly even the Annex Wreckroom.

**Update: Footwork has closed, but CODA is more than making up for its absence in, as predicted, the 794 Bathurst St. street space.

Photo by Jesse Milns



McRib / October 4, 2013 at 04:12 pm
is that really what the crowd at the Hoxton looks like?

I just hope the kids are still doing it proper in warehouses and boozecans somewhere, because that looks bland and boring.

Leftfield / October 4, 2013 at 05:16 pm
The term EDM makes me cringe! Unsurprisingly, it's usually referencing really weak electronic music. You don't seem to like it either, so why roll with it?!
nardl blarn / October 4, 2013 at 05:43 pm
Parkdale existed before wrongbar. Just so you know.
nardl blarn / October 4, 2013 at 05:49 pm
also anyone who thinks toronto was a rave mecca in the 90's has obviously never been to a real rave.
hater101 / October 4, 2013 at 06:58 pm
EDM is fucking garbage!
stone replying to a comment from Lexus P / October 4, 2013 at 08:57 pm
....... You don't understand good music.
Easy / October 4, 2013 at 10:28 pm

The Rob Ford of music.
Laffalot replying to a comment from nardl blarn / October 4, 2013 at 11:11 pm
No, nardl, no one in Toronto- except you, of course- has ever been to a "real" rave, or knows what a "real" rave is. You do, of course, because you went on a reeeelly exciting 2 week vacation after graduation in 1990. Whatever rave/raves you went to were, of course, "real" raves (and I'll bet you still bore friends to death at parties about it).

We local-yokel hicks kneel in awe at your feet, oh mighty RaveMaster(tm).
nardl blarn replying to a comment from Laffalot / October 5, 2013 at 01:27 am
Just think that mecca is a very strong word. Of course there were raves in Toronto and i'm sure people had a nice time, but it wasn't a mecca. I know it may be a throwaway comment but this is how mistruths emerge.
JS replying to a comment from nardl blarn / October 5, 2013 at 09:20 am
hey nardlblarg, I think that a city that attracted thousands of people to parties on a weekly basis, even from across the border, can safely be called a mecca. Venues like the Better Living Center had their ecosystems for chrissake. You didnt experience a rave until you looked up to see a massive cloud in the building and were rained on by your own filth.

Yoyo / October 5, 2013 at 10:11 am
Love that this article basically tells you were to get drugs at the guvernment. Racist AND promoting drug use!
Better Days replying to a comment from nardl blarn / October 5, 2013 at 12:05 pm
Jackass. For a few years in the 90s, Toronto had one of the best scenes on the planet, and I have been to "real" raves. I don't know what it is about some insecure Torontonians who feel that bashing their hometown somehow gives them more credibility.

And can we please retire the term "EDM"? It's as maddening as "Electronica" was in the late 90s.
Just aka dj bootycall aka dj frenzy / October 5, 2013 at 12:36 pm
I have been to several " raves" and now there called party's so i taught edm is a stupid name for labeling the electronic music scene, that is all,? wtf does edm even stand for i have been djing at some of these party's also and there not like they used to be meh, but there still fun as hell
Just aka dj bootycall aka dj frenzy / October 5, 2013 at 12:40 pm
and mcrib yes the kids are still doing the warehouse partys :) just not as frequent:( and the booze cans :)
Just aka dj bootycall aka dj frenzy / October 5, 2013 at 12:42 pm
im djing at guvy for diablo halloween party its going to be proper hit me up for tix 6477077833
Mar / October 5, 2013 at 01:05 pm
Everything better days said!

Also This list easily doubles as the five worst clubs. Wrongbar was once alright but is now in appropriate company with this list
nardl blarn replying to a comment from Better Days / October 5, 2013 at 02:04 pm
Woah, you are obviously very sensitive about this. I'm not saying your youthful years were worthless- I'm sure you had a nice time at these toronto raves. Just like people had a nice time at raves in other small cities and towns all over the world in the 90's. But you are seriously misguided if you think that toronto was ever a rave mecca.
FinS / October 6, 2013 at 11:31 am
The only place on here that comes close to a good environment for dancing to electronic music (good sound, good bookings, good vibe) is the bonus, Footwork! The rest are all seriously lacking in one way or another. Especially The Hoxton, which is literally one of the worst place I've ever experienced dance music. It's an embarrassment.

I'm gonna suggest that Jesse Ship travel more and see how electronic music is done right at some of the great clubs of the world. We have a wonderful scene here, but we *need* to demand better from our venues. . .
j-rock replying to a comment from FinS / October 6, 2013 at 12:49 pm

Although I don't mind Revival and a few other spots for one-off events, for a city of its size, there's a lack of good medium-to-large sized clubs in Toronto. Sonic was fun while it lasted, and I don't know what's going to happen now that Footwork is wrapping up.

And the Hoxton is pretty terrible.
baconCult replying to a comment from nardl blarn / October 6, 2013 at 06:25 pm
Re: Rave Mecca in the mid 90's

No doubt about it. Ask any of the Heads (Mark Oliver, Don Berns, Richie Hawtin, Derrick Carter, or any of the UK Don's). We had it all here. Artist NA tour's ran through Toronto. It was huge.

Respect to Nitrous, Chemistry, Pleasure Force/Syrous/Better Days UK, Transcendance, Dose, Destiny...
Mike G / October 7, 2013 at 10:00 am
people need to get over the "OMG DON'T CALL IT EDM". You all listen to some form of it and is just a generalized classification. If you listened to some kind of underground tech-house, guess what? it's a form of EDM.

It does not mean you endourse mainstream-neon-kid-ravers who don't really know shit about the music.

Ev / October 7, 2013 at 10:50 am
My god I hate the term EDM!

Electronic Dance Music? What exactly is that? That term could literally be applied to a multitude of genre's from Trance, to Hip Hop, to Salsa, to RnB, to Techno, to Miami Bass, to Polka.

What a broad and stupid f-cking name to give something.
X / October 7, 2013 at 11:13 pm
The term EDM has been around at least 8 years... it slowly gained popularity because people love acronyms and 'electronica' was getting stale. At the very least, it's better than just calling everything 'techno' music. Can we agree on that?
Stilez / October 8, 2013 at 12:51 pm
I'm not sure why the author failed to mention/exclude the most popular genres that fall under the term EDM? The list he provided sure fall under it, but aside from Dubstep and maybe tech-house, the others are sub-genres that are nowhere near the popularity of say: Electro or Dirty Dutch. I'd consider these two genres the cause of the term EDM to become so popular in the past few years. Also, regarding Rave Mecca. Nardl Blarn seems like he's trying really hard to impress, but Toronto WAS a Mecca and a leader in the rave scene at an international level, especially in North America.
CL / October 8, 2013 at 12:54 pm
This list is a complete joke. Wrongbar and the Hoxton have literally two of the worst sound systems I've ever heard in my life. I will never even consider going back to either of them. How about Maison? Funktion One sound system and they are consistently bringing in top techno & deep house talents such as Danny Tenaglia next month.
Josh / October 8, 2013 at 06:14 pm
No mention of Fly Nightclub which has been open almost as long as Guvernment and has hosted some of the best gay DJs/producers in the world- also has won Best Dance Club in Toronto award. In a Toronto so diverse as Toronto - looks like who ever judged this forgot to include the LGBT scene - much thanks to the gays who were a huge part of the development of house music in the first place!
jpe / October 8, 2013 at 07:55 pm
FYI: The GTA is not actually off the grid. So people from there have the ability to be interested in a wide variety of cultural output - such as the so called "confusing" space and music of the Drake Underground. Surprisingly enough, some "905ers" actually PREFER it to the Drake's other spaces! Insane, right? As somebody who was Toronto-born but grew up in the GTA, I can't help but resent anything and anyone that insinuates that "905ers" are some homogenous group of country bumpkins. I know this piece didn't say any of that, but it is just an insulting generalization that no one from the GTA would even know of the Drake Underground. That notion aside, there are better venues in Toronto for electronic music of all kinds... this article does not do its job at all.
K / October 8, 2013 at 08:12 pm
The BLK BOX has the other Funktion One and was fairly recently redone. It's pretty fun as well.
Mike / October 8, 2013 at 08:45 pm
For hookups and guestlist to these venues check out
Tammy / October 8, 2013 at 08:55 pm
Your clubbing days may have peaked in the 90's there daddy dearest which is why it was your time, and why it was so important and memorable to you.

Unfortunatly I was not old enough to play along at the time.
This is now my time, let me enjoy it, let me discover it and enjoy.

X replying to a comment from Mike / October 9, 2013 at 05:50 am
Stop spamming your garbage.
JS / October 16, 2013 at 10:02 am
Hey commenters,

I actually wanted to include BLK BX Theatre for the list but they lost their permit and nobody knows when they'll be open next. Sad days. I also wanted to include Moskito but they're under new management as well so it's hard to get a good impression. Fly is deserving of a mention, sorry that didn't make it in.

Hoxton and Wrongbar, despite what you think of their sound, book 80% of the emerging acts in the city. Not sure how you would want to get around not including them.

Oh, and sorry I hit a sore point jpe, but the upstairs and 3 hour wait patio is an entirely different vibe from the underground. They don't focus on music and this is a music related article.
Boom / October 18, 2013 at 10:06 am
user-pic find more infor on night clubs. We have plenty of them to choose from.
Boom / October 18, 2013 at 10:07 am
user-pic find more info on night clubs. night clubs. We have plenty of night clubs listed to choose from.
Cathy J / October 18, 2013 at 10:11 am
user-pic find info on night clubs. We have plenty of

night clubs listed to choose from.
xs / October 20, 2013 at 09:43 pm
The author also forgot to mention at Guv in the smoking area there are a lot of white guy always good for a chat.
JD / February 20, 2015 at 11:57 am
I think it's time for an update here in regards to Footwork. It is now Coda and located at Bloor and Bathurst where the old Annex Wreckroom was above the Pizza Pizza. The room has been completely redone with a superior sound and a wide open dance floor with comfortable leather booths, bottle service and world renowned DJ's. Coda has been open for one year now and it just keeps getting better. People who frequent this club are there to dance their asses off and not just sit around looking cool....after all a dance club should be about the music, right?
Nick / December 2, 2015 at 04:56 am
Li'ly lounge I think is a great mention. A unique 2 floor 2 sounds venue located in little italy (college st), impressive sound and lighting, and quite impressive resident DJ's include: Jungle Funk - De-koze, Jerome Robins, Ticky Ty, Hydee, jose cons ad more. they been around for an impressive 14 years. They have great deep house, tech house and drum n bass, deff something to check out!
narin / February 6, 2016 at 05:36 pm
there is a dj call RAIN he would blow away those night club dj by miles look out for his pod cast the name DJRAIN
Mel replying to a comment from Mike G / March 3, 2016 at 11:31 pm
exactly!! Even the Yardbirds released an album in the 60s called 'Having a Rave Up' I know people get attached to their own scenes and the energy feels unique, and maybe it is in that moment, but to argue over authenticity seems ridiculous. When I went to the Guv for year 2000 New Years..I had a blast, my Brit boyfriend however thought raves were so 1980s he pouted a in the moment enjoy your scene while it lasts :)
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