Having a residency in Toronto as a deejay at any venue is no easy task. Now and then you’re left dealing with unresponsive crowds (regardless of what you throw at them), and other times you’re stuck in the middle of industry politics, with owners asking themselves how they can squeeze the most out of you to increase their profit margins. Maybe that statement is a bit harsh, but over the last two decades, the concept of nightclub residency has been one riddled with greed and indifference on the part of entertainment-company giants. Sure, it provided the deejay with consistent pay and the reassurances of having gigs lined up over long periods of time, but the contracts always came with a price.

Once you signed along the dotted line, you were given a stage to master your craft and learn the intricacies associated with feeding off and compelling the crowd – you were given an environment where developing showmanship was encouraged. However, the contract could also be restrictive and rather overwhelming in nature, preventing true artistry and expressiveness within each sampling. Industry professionals watched your every move like metaphoric hawks in Armani suits (It’s like Animal Farm meets the clubbing district… or not at all… I never finished reading that book to be honest). If they felt the crowd would respond better to top 40 tracks, then guess what… Top 40 was being played that night, regardless of how it made you feel inside as a musician.

The reality is, after years of gaining credibility and acceptance as the next logical stage of modern musicality – that of the turntable as instrument with digitized sounds the message – clubs found a way to make even something so pure and unintentional an attractive commodity. The resident deejay was no longer his or her own person, they were just a simple and naïve pawn in a game marked with dollar signs and tacky promotional nightclub flyers (I’m talking about the ones you still find on your car windshield after running into Yorkdale for 10 minutes… Seriously, how sneaky are those all-ages assholes!) But, as I was saying (seriously, a flyer on my windshield? You think I’m actually showing up to your event now? Get out of here) the position of resident deejay slowly degenerated into the same category as wedding singer or even sweet sixteen banquet hall emcee… It was just a job that paid the bills, but didn’t quench the thirst of the artisan’s soul.

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Luckily, that phase is behind us (along with my over dramatics), and the movement towards a much more artistic and professional understanding between deejay and venue only continues to improve. Finally, clubs are beginning to realize that taking the intelligence of their audiences and entertainers for granted is no way to sell a brand, or even more simply, provide Toronto with weekly events that actually inspire, not brainwash.  This crusade towards re-establishing real content within nightclub venues, steering away from the commodification trends of misguided business folk, is being spearheaded by some of the world’s most talented musicians, forcing the suits to back off for once and let the music do the talking, not the cash flow.

At the end of the day, I’m just glad to see the role of the resident return to its original prominence. It’s about time we hear music that actually express the inner-workings of the artist and not some z103.5 remix the club owner heard on his way to work that night – yeah, really getting tired of Z103.5 (no, you do not play today’s hit music…).
But that discussion is for another time.

Spaces have layers of lives. We like the feeling that there’s multiple layers underneath of what’s there right now, and you’re part of a long continuity of activity – David Byrne

The nightclub. A misinterpreted entity. A concept that has lost the unique intangibles that made it so much more of an impactful cultural phenomenon all those years ago – cue the mainstream.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you I know exactly what’s been missing, or pretend that what I look for in a space is shared by everyone, but what I can express are the features that still exist – the ones that lay dormant, subliminally pulling me in as oppose to discouraging me from taking part.

The first thing that should be understood is this: the essence of the nightclub goes beyond its modern function as a capitalist venture – the notion of profiting from the general public’s innate need for a weekly escape from reality.  The club, at its fundamental core, is not meant to be a money-making, trend-setting machine (the economics are only but an unintended byproduct). To consider it that is like assuming hospitals are built to pay doctor’s salaries, rather than to treat patients.

You have to shift focus – change your perspective from one of pessimism and jadedness, to optimism and hopefulness.  You have to realize that clubs do not exist to benefit those at the top of the proverbial entertainment industry food-chain.

Maybe I should be less philosophical. How about this: the origins of the nightclub – and I’m talking about the New York and Los Angeles movements, the underground, the hidden gems of inner-city bureaus – the counter-culture, if you will. The origins of the club run parallel with the mindset of an entire population – a population that had grown tired of conforming to mainstream society.  It beat to a new rhythm, one that society couldn’t keep up with.

Club goers included the artists, the fashionistas, and the aspiring musicians – the outsiders.  Although it would slowly grow to attract social rather than cultural elites, one feature consistently remained, igniting a more personal type of gratification.  Individuality during these times was not only encouraged, but demanded. A certain type of inclusiveness was established, calling for creativity and non-conformance.

Fast forward thirty years and what can be seen is nothing short of disappointing.  Very few venues maintain this illusive quality.  Although Toronto nightlife, specifically, has its fair share of trendy, underground, and creativity-spawning venues, it’s apparent that the independent vision of preserving distinctness has been degraded – influenced by increasing profit margins and the allure of financial gain.

Clubs no longer allow for individual expression, and can at times pressure the average citizen to be someone they are not – shying away from uniqueness.  It must never be forgotten that the club itself should only serve as an outlet, not as a mechanism for setting and maintaining commercialized trends.  It is the people, without fear of their own identities that provide the venue with its feel.  It’s the people, in their collective spirit, that establish what the nightclub represents.

The location and the design of the venue will always be an important factor, as any environment (artistically speaking) can and should have an effect, but there’s more to it.  The customized environment, with themed booths and reprinted post-modern art on the walls, in many cases, has provided gimmicky cover-ups for spaces that have lost that deeper meaning.

What keeps me coming back to Toronto’s nightlife scene each week is the idea that as long as we continue to come together, the potential for reversing the direction of the nightclub back to its original purity and simplicity, will always exist.  The Nightclub is only a reflection – one in which we define. Maybe it’s time the mainstream was left behind.

Yes, it sure has been a while.
For a second there I’m sure we all believed we had swam past those rough waters towards a much calmer part of the sea.
Clearly, we were wrong, for being awkward is not just an adolescent phase, nor is it a one-time occurring phenomenon.
It is a psychological ailment, infecting the masses like a plague among plagues.

Maybe I’m just speaking for myself when I say this, but for reasons unknown, being awkward within Toronto nightlife has become more of a way of life than anything – a weekly certainty I cannot escape.

So sit back and relax as we venture back into the land of the awkward, just like old times.

Awkward Club Occurrences

The Staircase Tumble 

Clubs, and staircases – a combination we have all at one time or another considered lethal. It makes sense. I mean, gravity is pretty much a staple to our physical realities. When you bounce a ball, for instance, the ball seems to travel towards the Earth. Without getting too scientific (the mathematics are rather complicated), for some reason, objects tend to… fall.

With the science out of the way, we can get straight to the awkward part. Now, when you mix alcohol with clubs, and specifically clubs with staircases, a strange pattern emerges – a pattern I experience first hand on a weekly basis. However, it’s not as simple as it seems, because while gravity apparently causes objects to fall, staircases in venues across the city present an anomaly to the grandest of principles.

Falling down the stairs while intoxicated would be awkward enough, but it’s when you fall, up, the stairs, that you really begin to question your sanity.

Maybe it’s the excitement that gets me – knowing you’re a few steps away from a smoking patio, or from seeing an old friend just beyond the staircase’s constructed horizon… Maybe it’s an inner ear drum thing – a loss of balance caused by the underground sounds echoing through club speakers. It could be a combination of all those things, but nonetheless, for on-lookers, your head first dive off the last step, crashing helplessly into the arms of a 300 pound doorman makes you look a little… suspicious.

Einstein himself would be completely, and utterly baffled. A variable no physicist could predict A, for awkward.

It’s everywhere and nowhere, the missing link to the most famous equations. The results are always the same, the situations always slightly different. No matter how you shake it, the gravity-defying, upward staircase tumble becomes your one-way ticket to the curb, where all those too drunk to stand end their nights.

Hello to all.

Please take a journey with me as we travel through the land of the awkward. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does… LOOK OUT! Evaporating self-esteems worldwide…  Today’s awkward story is as follows;

It’s just one of those nights – the booth and bottle, get bat-shit crazy kind of night. You walked in the club, seemingly in slow-motion, with your oversized crew of Reservoir Dog dressing accomplices – escorted by the pretty hostess who subtly loves your money much, much more than you do.  She actually seems a little unimpressed to be honest, having to slow down her pace as she tries to accommodate that constructed slow-motion entrance of yours. You look foolish, but that’s not the awkward part…DSC_0991

How can a night, brimming with Hollywood-style-swag and filled with Quentin Tarantino directed gimmicks, turn out so outrageously terrible? Let me tell you what happens next… You get your booth, you get your bottle, and then you lose your mind. With the Grey Goose lifted above your head in excitement – as if you had just won hockey’s Holy Grail – the most ridiculous thing since pulp-free orange juice occurs…

With hundreds of paparazzi circling the booth, pushing and shoving for position in anticipation of that million dollar shot of you being the life of the party (Okay, there are no paparazzi, but when you’re at a Press Play event, our photographer sure makes you feel that way) you’re suddenly blinded by the light, revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night.

Can’t take bottle shots when you’re blinded like a deer in the headlights… even if the flash came from an iPhone and not a photographer’s camera…  So obviously, in an extreme moment of confusion, you casually drop the bottle, emptying a gross amount of vodka on the floor, and all over the hostess’s pretty dress.

Congratulations, you pre-pubescent Bobby Orr.
Only awkward people fuck with the bottle (not to mention make an innocent hostess cry) – and tonight, that man is you.
The music stops and the club shuts down in an over dramatic attempt to prove a point… It doesn’t have to make sense, because you’re awkward, and no one likes you right now.

 

It’s the second week of February, so why is everyone’s panties in a bunch?
The awkward is always lurking around the corner, no matter where you go or what you do – but how awkward can a situation get while at a club?
Well… with no further ado, today’s Awkward Club Occurrence;

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Impressing the mysterious women at the bar…

“LAST CALL!” yells the bartender (even though I’ve personally never heard a bartender say that…you’re awkward remember, this is all in your head anyways). These words really get you motivated – you’ve been through so much tonight, and seeing those two lovely ladies at the bar has got you thinking that there’s nothing left to lose. (Assuming your dignity was thrown right out the window at the beginning of the night..)

You realize that with a green blazer on, you’re going to need to do something pretty impressive to win these gals over.
So, you do the most logical thing, order them both your favorite drink – a drink you never order at clubs because you’re usually a conformist and follow the crowd (you don’t even like rye and gingers, man).  Regardless, you say hello, and proceed with your plan.

Upon calling the bartender over to order the drinks (with that smug look on your face; as if you’ve got this one in the bag), you begin to hear laughing in the distance… The girls, the bartender.. I mean what’s going on?
It turns out a blue Gatorade and vodka on the rocks doesn’t exist, you only thought it did because you’ve been mixing it for so long in your mothers’ basement during your lonely pre-drink sessions…
The bartender looks over and shakes his head in disappointment.

The Ladies take one quick glance at you, turn and walk away.
Night over.
Now that’s what I call, awkward.

 

Ahhhh… such a weekend.
You deserved it.
It was a hard fought week but the weekend finally arrived and proved to be worth while.
But as you approached the club, you felt the awkward begin to settle in and you knew right then and there that you were in for something, but what?

The Bouncer still intimidates you…

Finally, its been a good battle and you’ve reached the front of the line.  You’re feeling pretty confident up to this point – even decided to pull out the emerald green blazer tonight, good for you.
You step forward, and although you’d be considered legal in every country (your patchy beard as your witness), panic sets in.
Awkwardception.

“Can I see your I.D please?” As you hand the bouncer your Driver’s License, you begin to stare off into the distance, no longer blinking and missing a breath here and there.
He’s examining that pretty intensely; you think to yourself.
For that split second, you’re eighteen again. Attempting to scheme your way into the club. Making matters worse: the untimely paleness in your face begins to make you look suspicious.  The bouncer notices this and the inspection becomes painfully thorough.

How long has it been?! Runs through your mind, you’re now just nervous as hell.
People are starring, trying to get a good view of the situation when he asks you,
“What’s your postal code, kid?
And that’s when the awkward reaches its climax.
Like a goddamn fool; you forget where you live, what your name is and start wondering why you ever thought wearing a green blazer was a good idea in the first place…
The awkward ruined another potentially good night, until a second bouncer comes over to allow you through.
You luckily made it through this one… until the next situation of course.

Going to a club can be an exciting time.
It’s usually a night filled with smiles and drunken laughter – a time to let loose and get rid of all those inhibitions society has unfairly imposed upon you.  However, every now and then, depending on how intense your level of social anxiety disorder is, the awkward happens…
So before heading out tonight, keep this tale in mind before you make any rash decisions.

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Running into an old friend?

You’re waiting in line, its cold outside, and the Jack Daniel’s you downed at the pre-drink is beginning to make its rounds through your blood stream.
You look up and out of nowhere, moving in slow motion to the angelic melodies of a harp and violin ensemble, is that old friend from elementary school – the one you lost touch with after the eighth grade.
Ah, the schoolyard memories.

You run towards them, arms wide open, and you engage in the infamous bro hug.
It’s been a long while coming so of course, a conversation ensues lasting five whole minutes;
You share a laugh, you ask how their sister’s doing, if they ever ended things with ‘what’s-her-face’ and that’s when it hits you.
In a moment of sheer devastation, as if Alfred Hitchcock himself was writing your life story, you take a step back and realize that this isn’t your good ol’ buddy from back in the day; you’ve never actually met this individual and the laughter you thought you were sharing together was actually just a modest cry for help…

The lesson of this story is; stop drinking so much, you’re teetering on the edge of alcoholism & being a drunk!
(We know, Alcoholics go to meetings, you.. you’re a drunk, you go to clubs. Still no excuse though.)

Don’t let the awkward happen!

Getting yourself into the awkward, is an easy task.
Getting yourself out of the awkward, is a whole different sotory.

We continue our weekly segment of Awkward Club Occurrences and remind you once again – don’t let the awkward happen to you!

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Journey to the bathroom

Just when you thought you were in the clear, feeling as flexible as a gymnast and lighter than an empty water balloon, a man dressed in black begins to stare at you. My God, you’re literally two feet away from leaving this awkward bathroom of hell and yet another obstacle presents itself.

You’re confused at first, scared even.
Why is this man doing this?

As if pouring soap onto your hands and throwing you a towel wasn’t weird enough (might as well have slapped your ass while he was at it). You handle this situation the only way you know how – the only way an awkward man would – you give him a high five and tell him you had your wallet stolen by a friendly group of gypsies (entertainment for the smoking patio).

Seems reasonable, I guess…

Starting today and continuing every Monday after, we will be re posting our ‘Awkward Club Occurrences’ segment.
We’ve all been in those awkward situations before.
From running into an old friend, bouncers intimidating you, impressing a guy/girl or just simply going to the bathroom; there’s an awkward moment in every scenario and yes, you have been caught in at least one of them.

Today we will be looking over that awkward journey to the bathroom and how daring of a task it stands to be on any given night when you just can’t hold it in anymore.
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Journey to the bathroom – Assuming you actually got into a club…

It’s that time of the night – you tried avoiding it, but when nature calls
You’re in the booth overlooking the crowd when you realize that making it to the bathroom is now your main objective – the health of your internal organs depends on it.  You devise a strategic game plan, all the while observing the crowded dance floor that stands in your way.  If you had a piece of paper on hand, you’d probably be drawing a crude map at this point, just in case things went haywire along the way (you can never be too prepared).

It’s taken you 8 minutes to get organized. Why? Because you’re an intoxicated mess!
You were hoping to find someone attempting to make the same journey; hop behind them and let them do all the dirty work through the mob of people, but you didn’t, and your body has had just about enough of ‘holding it in till the feeling goes away.’
Finally, enough is enough and you set off on the journey alone; the awkward bathroom journey.

The bathroom, it’s here! In visual distance! It only took fourteen spilled drinks, a couple jabs, one of the biggest flips anyones ever taken at a club and three angry boyfriends looking to go all Jersey Shore on your ass (Please, no Jersey Shore, ever).

Relief.
Well sort of, once you’ve released the main drain, a completely new awkward situation has arised, this time with Mr. Bathroom Attendant…

Blazer pressed, three potential ties placed strategically on the bed, and a pair of dress shoes polished to a mirror finish – a scene resembling the off-camera happenings of a republican presidential candidate before a big debate.  It’s also a scene many of us replicate in our pre-nightlife rituals; a symbolic, and spiritual journey, prepping ourselves for the imminent battle that awaits us with the likes of excessive alcohol and body piercing bass drops.

Now imagine this epic and personal moment tarnished by one devastating fact… The battle that awaits you and your adventurous party, leaves you solely watching from the sidelines – as if you weren’t so much a soldier in the trenches, but a medic waiting for deployment.  You my friend are the designated driver tonight.

I know, it sounds terrible and the entire war-like picture I illustrated cannot even come close to being considered a gross over exaggeration. Okay, maybe just a little, but for that night, you might as well have been sent to a far away land to do nothing but make awkward small talk with locals you could never imagine understanding.

We have all been there – we have all been forced to take part in this more than unwelcomed practice.  Slightly communist in nature (or something like it), a designated driver is an individual forced to “take it for the team”, as your already intoxicated friend shouts out from the backseat, half way through the intersection of Dufferin and King. Your other friend, the one who somehow managed to call shot gun in his incoherent tongue, seems to have gone tone deaf during the pre-drink – He’s turning the volume knob up to maximum for the chorus of Taylor Swift’s hit single, “Never, ever, getting back together”.

The point is, nothing seems to make sense anymore. You begin to realize that you’re probably in this one alone tonight, with the brainwaves of your passengers beginning to resemble the complexity of an over-ripened tomato, throwing reason and rationale out the window.

So before I continue with more “World War II” charged metaphors and comparisons to vegetables, I will quickly give my advice to the poor soul reeling with the responsibilities of sobriety in a drunken environment… Suck it up!

For a successful campaign, everyone has to do his or her part – just as a medic sits idly by, waiting for the next time their expertise will be needed in the trenches.

And honestly, it shouldn’t take this blog post, full of inappropriate political undertones, to convince you that no one likes a Debby Downer..

Don’t Drink & Drive!