Mod: Your Dependable Musical Comfort Food
I remember a time when Mod meant something. I remember when Mod music was the lone adversary of the electronic El Guapo that pillaged the ears and senses of Clubland. I remember when Modster revivalists were the only alternative to the Top Forty/House-sucking skanksters of Little Italy. I remember when Mod, rising to the Boromir-esque bullhorn calls of the rapidly maturing Ecstasy-weary twenty-somethings of the downtown core, became a mid-week staple in the hearts and minds of musically displaced youth.
I remember dancing in the smoke-sealed Lava Lounge until our bangs shellacked our foreheads and our vintage chinos clung to our thighs even tighter than our Kensington-clad daydreams hoped. I remember Mark Holmes lifting himself from the then shameful ashes of Platinum Blonde to, once more, show us his definition of atmosphere and fun.
But things have changed...
Clublands self recycling/saturating DJs have given way to the John Peel-ish sets of clever, obsessive stylings of more than a dozen local Jockeys. Billboard is reluctantly recognizing the sales of Funk, New Wave, and pure pop inspired acts of serious respectability. And everyone seems to have remembered Gang of Four all at once. Toronto's local music scene is arguably the best it has ever been. And its indie movement promises to produce Canada's hippest international exports to date. Man, for the first time ever, we don't even need the goddamn U.K.
Point is, Mod Night isn't even just a relic from the 60s that has had a good Lemon Pledging. But it's a 2002 relic that has been over-waxed. It's Art Deco. It's Faux-hawks. It's your old power-shirt that you wore too many times.
At least this is what I am thinking as I make my return to Toronto's longest running Mod Night. In its new digs, none-the-less. No longer held in the smartly arranged Lava Lounge, the Scooter Scouts now congregate every Wednesday in Kensington's Supermarket. Still manning the R&B meters is DJ Mark Holmes, owner and performer at the Mod Club Theater.
Supermarket certainly doesn't look as retrofitted as the old haunt. It seems to be a slightly more functional bar, with more tenders but, less table service. Supermarket's gravest layout discrepancy seems to be its unlicensed patio. Anyone wishing for some fresher air has to leave their drink on one of the rails near the door, all males risking theft and girls risking roofying. Not that the patio is half the attraction that the old Lave one was. In fact it seems to only serve to allow smokers a chance to douse the fire in their lungs.
The crowds still turn out. Line-ups are frequent is you don't know any staff or bouncers. The set is exactly the same. James Brown, the Who, some Rolling Stones, a bunch of songs that you thought were originals that turned out to be covers (this week's was "1,2,3 Red Light"), then "Shout and Shimmy" as the near closer.
The drinks are priced to the Toronto-standard, $6 a move basically. The girls are still strangely upper crust. Several 6 footed amazonas stalk the imaginary runway from patio to dance floor. The guys have a disappointing frat quality to them, compromising what used to make Lava's Wednesdays an official "scene": the clothes. The vibe? Well, it's still pretty good.
The bar follows that natural progression: the more drunk people are, the more are on the dance floor. The DJs compliment this sequence by saving their more recognizable material for after Midnight. At this point, even the most skeptic will have taken off most of their edge and settled into secretly hoping for "She's A Rainbow" (which I know isn't really Mod.)
But, with Mod Nights running their course throughout the city, and an entire venue dedicated to this music and its theatrics (the Mod Club Theatre), does anyone really need to go to Mod Night at Supermarket? Yes. I mean, sure, the whole experience has lost most of its cool to trade up and get some gloss. But remember when they were the only guys out there? They've earned a bit of loyalty. I'm not saying go weekly. Just keep them in mind. Like your old best friend from highschool, give him a call (he might be committing suicide...then how are you going to feel?)
DJ Mark Holmes hosts Mod Night every Wednesday at Supermarket, 268 Augusta. I'm sorry, but it's still fun.
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