The top 10 dance party promoters in Toronto
Dance party promoters in Toronto are the unsung heroes of the electronic scene. The DJs and producers get the glory, but they need people to organize events, find venues, create that elusive vibe, book talent, and fill the dance floors with sweaty bodies. There may have been a time in the distant past when you could count on finding a great party any weekend at certain select clubs, but a better strategy is to familiarize yourself with the people throwing the events, and trust that the crooked alley they've directed you to will have a dark room full of bass.
Too often, promoters are seen by some dancers as greedy parasites leeching off the scene. In reality nothing would exist without crazy visionaries willing to gamble their savings on flying in a DJ, securing visas, renting warehouses, hiring security, investing in massive sound systems, decor, and lighting, and all the other unglamorous jobs that make a night on the dance floor memorable. In many cases these folks are balancing full time day jobs with their nightlife activities, so keep that in mind next time you're complaining about cover charge.
The mainstream EDM scene is so big now that even your grandmother probably knows about the giant corporate festivals thrown by promoters like Electronic Nation and Ink. If you're looking to go a bit deeper into the underground and want to check out the larger world of dance music, though, familiarize yourself with the people who help make Toronto's party scene so diverse and vibrant.
Mansion have come a long way since their early days throwing the Happy Endings parties at dim sum restaurants. They've grown to become Toronto's top party promoters by continuing to search out unconventional event spaces, booking cutting edge talent, putting a lot of work into visuals, and bringing together multiple generations of partiers by collaborating with other promoters through their Foundry series. Their impressively consistent events prove that high end production values can coexist with a DIY attitude.
Their weekly Sunday afternoon parties on Cherry Beach each summer have become a Toronto institution, and while veterans who've been going since they started 13 years ago might feel conflicted about EDM superstars like Skrillex unexpectedly playing guest sets, the fact that their events continue to grow after all this time tells you they're doing something right. They've also continued to throw sporadic warehouse parties throughout the colder months, and have become integral partners in the legendary annual Harvest Festival.
You could argue that Embrace are more concert bookers than party promoters, but no one else brings this sheer amount of quality electronic acts each week. They've also been smart to join forces with smaller promoters, as well as forge strong relationships with venues like Coda, the Danforth Music Hall, the Hoxton, Wrongbar, and other rooms, not to mention running events across North America. Embrace have also mastered the complicated art of throwing large scale outdoor events, and helped make the Electric Island series one of the highlights of the last two summers.
Breakandenter started throwing intimate loft parties back in 2007, and continue to specialize in finding venues off the beaten path. They draw inspiration from the old school of Toronto's underground, but attract techno and house fans of all ages. Like many of the promoters on this list, they've also seen the value of collaboration, especially when it comes to throwing larger events, but also make sure to regularly host intimate jams for the heads.
Box of Kittens
Box of Kittens started out throwing small invite-only warehouse parties, but it's been a long time since their events were that exclusive and private. Not only do they organize club and loft events in Toronto, but they've also expanded to regularly hosting parties in Berlin, where founding member DJ Hali has since relocated. Their Sunday Afternoon Social parties prove that daytime dancing doesn't have to feel like a sketchy afterhours.
There was once a time in Toronto when it seemed like you could find somewhere to dance to rare soul, Latin, jazz, and funk every night of the week, but these days if you're looking for classic organic dance music your best bet is Turning Point. Host and resident DJ A Man Called Warwick has created a very tight knit community vibe, and the monthly party at the Garrison always attract a crowd looking to dance to his trademark "tropical funk" sounds.
Every Thursday Archi-textures takes over Round, bringing together a colourful crowd of partiers reminiscent of the kinds of friendly hippy ravers you used to only see at Promise parties. They cater to an eclectic range of sounds, and also host the annual springtime festival Land-scapes at a remote site in Northern Ontario.
You'll see their name attached to many quality events at Coda these days, but Platform have long been involved in presenting house and techno events at clubs around town (not to mention events on boats and beaches), and are also partners in Electric Island. Like many on this list, much of their strength comes from their willingness to collaborate with others to put together bigger parties than they could on their own.
When the Hotnuts crew first started throwing parties at the Beaver, there was barely enough room for the elaborate psychedelic drag queen outfits, let alone space to dance. Now that they've moved to the Garrison their events are still always busy, and still as delightfully weird and defiantly queer as ever. A healthy reminder that house music is meant to be a bit transgressive.
Originally a collaboration between Dmoney, the Faktory, and 92BPM, the Galapagos series has evolved into its own identity, focusing on modern electronic sounds that don't always fall neatly into any one particular genre. They now work closely with Embrace, and can always be counted on to bring forward-thinking contemporary sounds to the dance floor.
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