The Silver Dollar Room closes after epic final show
On a rainy sunday night at the dead end of April, the Silver Dollar Room at the corner of Spadina and College in Toronto held its last ever show. It was a night of beers, cheers, a few tears, and of course, lots and lots of moshing, especially during the headlining Metz set.
The show had been announced relatively quietly, an event ending weeks of activity that included CMW, most notably a three-day block of shows at the Dollar all featuring American band Japanese Breakfast from the 20th - 22nd. Zoobombs also headlined a show that week.
The consensus seemed to be that the show on the Dollar’s last ever Friday, also featuring a local Juno-nominated act, Dilly Dally, along with Darlene Shrugg and Frigs, was the one to be at. The Facebook event for Sunday’s last ever show simply described it with the words “The final show of The Silver Dollar Room…”
The event page was soon plagued with requests for “1 ticket. I'll give you whatever you want.” An additional block of tickets went on sale around 5:30 p.m. the night of the show with a two-ticket limit per buyer for desperate latecomers.
Tickets cost around $25, and I heard the whole range of opinions on this from that being so cheap for the last show at a legendary fifty-year-old club to that being too expensive to even attend. Whatever the thoughts of those in the crowd that night, by around 9 p.m. the place was already packed.
The trend of the past weeks was followed with a night of local acts, starting with New Fries, a band I named a breakout act for 2017, their erratic sound and yelling vocals setting the mood. They were followed by Fake Palms off popular local label Buzz Records.
Between Japanese Breakfast, Dilly Dally, New Fries and Fake Palms, there was one optimistic trend amidst this relative tragedy: the gender balance was much more equal than many shows I’ve been to, and I applaud longtime iconic booker Dan Burke for that.
Because of this, when all-male three-piece Metz took the stage, it felt almost like going back in time in many ways.
The last time I had seen them was at a loft party on Sterling Road over five years ago. They shut off every light in the bar, making me feel like I was going down a rabbit hole back to that time, when the Dollar closing seemed preposterous.
As other lights came up, the band was lit eerily from underneath rather than washed out in the usual hot pink and bright teal the stage is always bathed in. A mosh pit immediately formed, and I and many others were soon ousted from hard-won spots in the name of rock.
Crowd surfing also started almost instantly, and I definitely tasted shoe that last night as fans went sailing over the audience. At one point, the lead singer took the iconic circular Silver Dollar sign down from behind the stage and passed it to the crowd, and hands clamoured for just a touch, our own personal holy relic.
Dan Burke was urged onto the stage by the band, asked to say a few words, and all they could get out of the infamously mumbly firecracker of a booker was that it wasn’t about him, it was about the bands.
And then, he got on the Silver Dollar sign and surfed it on wave after wave of willing hands for minutes on end, and although we heard what he said, it was clear he also always has been and always will be a true rock star.
It’s hard not to get emotional as I write this. There’s something that clicks when you realize that the place where so many of us have had so many life-changing, once-in-a-blue-moon experiences is somewhere you’ll never return to, and that the proprietor you so admire is someone you may never work with or even see again.
It's especially saddening that this closure seems to be the cherry on top of a spate of recent venue losses, including The Hoxton, Soybomb. Like Hugh's Room it may reopen, but most bet it will become some sort of abominable student pub.
At the end of the show, my ears ringing, deafened as if they’d been stuffed with cotton, waiting for a friend outside the bathroom that was by now beyond disrepair, I chatted with a young girl attending to her bloody nose but grinning from ear to ear.
The Silver Dollar Room always destroyed us and was destroyed in the most beautiful, nitty gritty, truly Torontonian way. As it crumbles into entropy like so much in this city, we know the place will always stay that way in our hearts no matter what replaces it.
According to one Facebook commenter on the event the next day, her final night here was the best she'd ever had.
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