The pinnacle of Toronto’s rave scene both on the underground and commercial side took place during the 90’s. With crews like Sykosis, Nitrous, Syrous throwing raves with over thousands of people in attendance. In venues that would seem near impossible to throw raves at today, such as the Ontario Science Centre, The CN Tower, Parking Garages, and others. In the era of the early raves they existed in the depths of Toronto’s budding infrastructure. There were also key music venues such as 23 Hop that contributed to the rave sound growing in Toronto. The 90’s set the standard for raves and live electronic music experiences in North America. These organizers and crews were responsible for curating and creating experiences that are often sought after even to this day. Many still try to capture the energy, essence, and ethos these events were notorious for.
In the 90’s, these flyers featured important instructions that would allow you to attend the party. Some would require you to meet at a designated location like; Union Station, where you would then board a blacked out bus and set on the voyage to the Rave. Experiences like these create a thrill unmatched compared with some of the methods of event attending today. In the era of no phones, moments command more attention and more energy is devoted to the performance, which makes for a more immersed audience as a whole. The lack of internet prominence made the fascination and mystery of these events and culture more illusive.
Music stores like Play De Record who are still known distributors for the jungle, techno, and hardcore sound that took over the raves. X-Static stood as a one-stop rave store for the people of Toronto at the location of 162 John Street. The store held the latest rave tickets, rave gear, and mixtapes from the hottest Toronto DJs. It was created by Alan Stephenson and Ben Ferguson, but now the location has closed for good. (https://www.thecommunic8r.com/x-static) At a Hullabaloo Rave in 1999, there was an unfortunate death of a raver named Allan Ho which sparked the outrage of many citizens of Toronto that pushed the city to ban Raves. This exact event is what made throwing events in the city more difficult for all promotion companies and would change the course of Toronto Rave History forever.
The beginning of the 2000’s started with the infamous iDance Rally, which was in response to the death of Allan Ho. A large smear campaign was launched that targeted raves and highlighted the worst events that have occurred and called them hazardous environments for youth. Politicians got involved Toronto imposed a city-wide ban on all electronic music events after 3 a.m. which left a fast growing community scene (with nothing to look forward to? They could rave just up to 3 tho). Rave promotion crews and harm reduction organizations teamed up to fight for the right to rave. The Toronto Dance Safety Committee ran by Olivia Chow took it among themselves to coordinate the way that they would reply to the authority. Their response was to protest the ban outside at City Hall at Nathan Phillips Square and the iDance Rally was scheduled for August 1, 2000. Thousands of ravers from around North America came to the event to revolt against the ban on raves. The mission of this was to show the council and the citizens of Toronto that Raving does not just include drug usage, create public disturbances, and to break the perpetuating stereotype around the Rave culture. The event not only featured DJs but keynote speakers, former mayors like John Sewell and Barbara Hall who were in favour of the Anti-ban. After the demonstration, the feedback from the media campaign was received well as the ban was retracted and the council won by a vote of 50-4 the very next day. The iconic footage of tons of ravers running through the fountain at the iDance Rally is below! To this day the iDance Rally of 2000’ is notable as one of the largest protests ever at city hall.
The Rise of Electronic Music in Toronto became very popular with iconic venues like The Guvernment and Comfort Zone being staple locations for Ravers to experience the genre for a number of years. The Guvernment venue owned by Charles Khabouth was shut down on January 25th, 2015 and was revamped in the club we now know as Rebel Nightclub.
Toronto electronic music artist Deadmau5 largely helped popularize the “Electronic Dance Music” genre as a whole, as well as in the city of Toronto. Festivals like Digital Dreams, VELD, and many more served as massive raves that held DJs from all sub-genres of the Electronic Music Genre in Toronto. The 2000’s had an era where many people discovered the genre due to the term “EDM or Dubstep” being thrown into the mainstream and attracted many new people to these environments. Thus creating new avid listeners and future-DJs from every single event. The saturation of certain genres causes a creative output of music that bleeds into things we can call new genres for Electronic Music every year.
With the popularization of certain genres, other genres that were once popular in Toronto begin to fade from the spotlight. In recent times there has been a revival of Drum and Bass in Toronto; led by Toronto DnB. A movement curated by electronic music artist ACE that shines a light on the underground DnB and all-ages Drum & Bass orientated rave events in the city of Toronto. A 74-page magazine was created by the artist which featured never before seen pictures from the underground Toronto DnB raves, as well interviews from Toronto Drum & Bass acts like Marcus Visionary, Lush, Tantrik, Hydee and more.
Other genres that have faded in Toronto’s history like hardcore are finding their way back to listeners in raves in the underground and in the clubs. Genres like Techno, House and Dubstep have championed the nightclubs in the entertainment district for years as the most popular acts come and stop for their annual Canadian stop.
Many new rave crews in youth and adult age have emerged from the COVID-19 quarantine. There was undoubtedly a surge of underground raves from many different crews in the Toronto Dance Community. These raves were all around Toronto, every single weekend of the summer, with some instances of up to 2-3 underground raves a night in close proximity to each other. Not sure if the city has ever seen as much underground activity in the dance music scene as it is now. Walking around Toronto during the night, you can almost guarantee that you will hear a party going off in the distance. With the city going in and out of lock-downs for the better part of two years the people are ready to get together to enjoy their favorite slice of electronic music, and dance among their communities once again.
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The Toronto Rave