Placebo looks like the "children's discovery room" or whatever those kiddie zones are called at the museum. There are plush couches at one end of the room and seats made out of tree trunks, with plenty of space to stretch out on the clean white floor. You could easily envision a group of field trip kids spending the day there playing with antlers or passing around bits of snakeskin.
Or at least, that's what Placebo Space looks like on a normal afternoon, which is when presumably people come in to look at the art that's hanging on the wall. But Placebo is also a concert venue, and it's also someone's apartment, and when it's full of people on a Saturday night it looks considerably more rowdy than a field trip. There's a band playing in the corner on an impressive soundsystem, the lights are low and the strobes are flashing. Because it's someone's apartment, you have to take your shoes off at the door, and soon you're standing at the makeshift bar in the kitchen surrounded by strangers, drinking rum and coke in your socks. If you go to Placebo, be sure to wear nice socks.
The people who live at Placebo are Julioramon Serrano and Yunior Marino, two artists who also coordinate the concerts and parties at the space. Serrano came here two years ago from Cuba, where he was the dean of a university until, in his words, the government started "pushing me to do things I don't want to do." He's vague on the subject but I gather he was blackballed and couldn't find a job, and so when he got an invitation from the Jane Corkin Gallery to come to Toronto he jumped on it. His pencil drawings of ruined but still inhabited Cuban buildings were hanging on the wall the night I showed up, and they were the most eye-catching thing there. He's also an extremely nice guy, so don't mess up his bathroom or anything.
The venue's set-up for bands is simple but more than adequate. There's no stage, just a large carpet in the corner with plenty of room for a full band to play. No doubt the set-up is different for each of the eclectic of acts that come to Placebo. It looks like a pretty adaptable space, and Serrano says he plans to start screening movies there as well in the near future.
The space's adaptability is what makes Placebo so hard to review. It's an event-based venue and so obviously how much you enjoy whichever event is happening is going to go a long way to shaping your experience here. It also helps if you have no qualms about laying out a seven-dollar cover charge to stand in someone's multipurpose living room. At the moment the place's event calendar seems pretty sparse, but presumably they're going to start hosting parties with more regularity as the word gets out.
For what it's worth, when I was there a capable Latin band was playing, and the vibe was great. People were not shy and were dancing happily, in their socks of course.