Posted: May 11th, 2009 by Jimmy J

Before we get started, let’s clearly define what the “golden age” is exactly.

The golden age of Toronto raves can be neatly packaged within the Captain B. Mental era. Lest we forget one of Toronto’s original ravers who was a driving force behind the inception of Toronto’s scene. In the September 1995 issue of The Communic8r, John Angus of Exodus Productions cited Captain as an influence while forming Toronto’s first raves. B. Mental was also the brainchild behind Pleasure Force, he owned and operated X-Static (“Toronto’s Rave HQ”) and financed numerous other rave companies. He earned the scene’s highest honors for being an integral part of its heritage and growth. And yet it was the Captain’s integrity that would eventually be questioned under court martial.

In mid-1995 he went AWOL from the scene after purchasing a one way ticket out of Canada. Numerous extra-curricular activities had caught up to Alan Stephenson (the not-so-secret identity of B. Mental). Rumors swirled that he was spotted in Mexico, then Russia, and later confirmed that he was back in Britain. His departure triggered a series of unfortunate events where truth became stranger than even Lemony Snickett’s fiction. With no Captain left to pilot the ship and tragedy surrounding Stephenson’s replacement, Toronto was in uncharted territory.

Regardless, by the time 1996 rolled around, the scene had evolved so prematurely there was no more room for innovation. This status was the result of  the city’s pioneering promoters who were aware of  the scene’s potential and overzealous to synchronize it with the UK. Our events were laced with top live acts, amazing attractions and massive productions which always outdid the last. The city’s earliest ravers were spoiled at the expense of the promoters, their staff or the service providers they couldn’t afford to pay. Barring Britain, our scene couldn’t be topped, even literally, given one event would land on the then highest free-standing structure in the world: the CN Tower.

The only thing left to achieve was to grow the scene which contradicts the clandestine concept of raving; nevertheless by the late 1990s Toronto raving became so mainstream it rivaled the popularity of clubbing in the entertainment district. The term “rave” which once represented a surreptitious society no longer needed to be explained to joe public thanks to  negative media coverage. This prompted heavy involvement from the police department followed by a city hall agenda of anti-rave resolutions for the new millennium.

Having said all that, I feel the period spanning 1991-1995 defines the golden age of raving in Toronto.

Relax, I’m not saying there were no good raves in ’96 and beyond; I know there were plenty. Although I do firmly believe Toronto’s first five years were its best. Whether you agree with me or not, surely you must agree that the latter part of the scene left everyone with mixed emotions on the movement. Unfortunately the worst parts of it were strung together and immortalized in a 1999 book titled, Rave America: New School Dancescapes.

Upon publication, it was clear those who offered their words weren’t prepared for the author’s intent to throw them under the bus with her sensationalized portrayal. Claims of misquoting and misinformation appeared online and eventually author Mireille Silcott surfaced, stood by her work and fired back. I’ve reviewed the material several times and am surprised by the amount of incorrect information it contains. There’s an obvious lack of thorough fact checking. Yet sadly way too much is accurate.  So, the rest of the scene, now guilty by association, jumped in the shower to get rid of that not-so-fresh feeling the book left behind.

Let’s start from scratch and remind ourselves there’s a hell of a lot Toronto did right. Toronto’s rave pioneers paved the way for the massive EDM scene that now flourishes in this city two decades later.




32 Responses to “What is the “Golden Age” of Raving in Toronto?”

  1. Glenn May Says:

    My first rave was in 1991 in toronto at Nitrous 012 with 2unlimited and was raving right through 96 does that make me a geezer?

  2. Jimmy J Says:

    We hereby declare you a certified geezer. (P.S. 2 Unlimited played Nitrous 013 in 1992, we’re still stuck in 1991.)

  3. Robert Tunney Says:

    summer 92 glenn, I took you there and you never left for 10 years… haha, and your still kicking, bro..

  4. Marnie Says:

    Our circle of friends had a huge following many weekends to Better Days, Pleasure Force Parties and danced and talked about dj dan, jeremy heally, terry mullin./……they were great times. We were truly spoiled. It isnt and hasnt been the same in years and now we all have marriages, children, professions and responsibilties but more than the memories, the ability to still tap into and feel the genuintiy of others and love felt at that time, can be fun to reminisce, but depressing, knowing it will never be repeated. Were the feelings real? Some of us made life altering decisions during this period and now, nothing measures up. There is a feeling of hopelessness in our now, marriages, relationships, etc….and we question the reality of the past. Was it a sham? Were we all tricked? Because now, it is not so easy to feel the love and connect with others anymore.. Especially those who we once connected with.

  5. URBAN J Says:

    WOW sooooo many memories

  6. J dubbz Says:

    Wow tru memories brought back.. i remember the pleasure force days better days i was at destiny 1!! those were the yrs but the scene has grown from that n is now worldwide we started a pheneomenal thing which tdot has carried into the now.. jungle dnb scene is huge but again the pioneers mystical marcus every1 cap j ravin will always be a place to come 2gether in peace love n music one luv

  7. RemnantS Says:

    Yes!!! I can officially say I was there for the “good old days” :^) The Golden Age mark is very fitting for the era; i believe that those who witnessed it can say that there was something extraordinary about the time, the city and the people that provided a context for the phenomenon we experienced. I feel very privileged to have been among the ranks of those who saw the light.

  8. Adrian Says:

    i just listened to the ruffneck from Delirium meeting of minds! 1994! my first rave i still remember walking out of the concert hall, up yonge street, dazed and tripping on acid! going back to Cj’s place,, he had a set of RCMP roof lights hanging off his ceiling! i still think, what did i discover? this new jungle music? everyones having a blast! and nice weed everywhere! and no cops! this is awesome!
    16yrs later, i still get out!

  9. Bruce Says:

    Lots of truth Marnie. Things don’t seem as good now as they did back then.
    It’s a bittersweet feeling reading these, those were good times.

  10. Urban G Says:

    The good thing about memories is that we can make new ones as we please. Yes, ‘back in the day’ things were better and more exciting in the scene but we still have some excellent parties! Cherry Beach Sundays courtesy of Promise; Harvest Festival, etc. Get out there and make new memories!

  11. kristen Says:

    I agree with Marnie – I used to come to toronto every weekend from the states and I would do anything to be able to feel that type of connection and acceptance and just pure happiness again. It felt so exciting and amazing to be a part of the birth of a scene unlike anything ever before. Most of my tapes from that era got played so much that they are worn thru and I didn’t have a way to convert them so if anyone knows any sites that have old sets for download please let me know – I would also be dying for any video footage because as we all know this scene was before everyone had a cell phone let alone video recorders. I miss those days so much and still get butterflies in my stomach when I hear tracks from that time

  12. j blaze Says:

    ood n them nights r gone 4eva. I had the time of my life. bac then

  13. j blaze Says:

    Does any1 recall the party building blocks n 96 wow marnie u couldn’t of said. It betta

  14. pej Says:

    I remember Buliding blocks, the party got shut down. Remember the huge alien faces with light and lasers coming out of them?

  15. pej Says:

    oh and Jhon Acuaviva was playing when it got shut down.

  16. Derek Carter Says:

    Well, I may not have been around during the Golden Age for raves in this great city we call Toronto but I love reading the history, however I have been raving in/around Toronto since 2001. 10 years this Jan!@ Been to over 300 events, all over Canada/US and loved it. Still remember my first one, an Ascension boat Cruise. A21 in August ’01 by Destiny Productions!

    Anyways… enough about me. I am going to post the event info for REUNITED on Dec. 26th 2010 for you over at http://www.torontoraves.com

    PLUR!

    Derek

  17. Ondine Hayes Says:

    I have to say that after reading all the messages to your site, I feel like I really was a late bloomer. However, my rave experience started in 1996 and it was fantastic. I, not only participated, but shot and interviewed people from 1996 til 2001 thinking I was in the thick of things. Now that my film RAVE SEEN is coming out this fall, I can truly say that I was not there for the rising or even the climax…but I was there before it fell. I stand by that and hope that others do also. The rave culture changed my life and I made a film because of that. As corny as it may be: PLUR(‘rave seen trailer’ on you tube and ‘rave seen’fb pg) YOU ROCK JAMES!!!!!!! XO Ondine

  18. Jake Says:

    Where the hell is Alan Stephenson? I love that guy! The love of my life!!!

  19. D rave Says:

    check this out..bring back some memories!
    http://torontoravemixtapearchive.com/index.html

  20. Frankenräver Says:

    Hi guys!
    I’m new to this forum but not new to the scene A little about myself: I’m an ol skool raver from the 90’s. In my opinion, Toronto doesn’t get the recognition it deserves as a major contributor to rave culture on the global scene. This became painfully obvious during my sojourn in England & I made a solemn vow to change all that…

    To that end, I wrote a book on Toronto’s 90’s rave scene which will be available on Amazon next week. Yayyyy! I’m so excited!!! If you love DJ Hype, Marcus, Roni Size, LTJ Bukem, MC Fats & Rage ur gonna love this.

    Check out a sneak preview & other rave related articles on my blog:
    http://www.frankenraver.wordpress.com

    *I’ve also got a vintage rave flyer gallery for your viewing pleasure in the November archives.

    Peace out,
    Frankenräver

  21. Frankie Diamond Says:

    It’s official! “Tuned In, Mashed Out: Confessions of a Rave Junkie” by Frankie Diamond is available for sale on Amazon. Mark my words: this book will have people talking. Love, sex, drugs, electronica – this stuff ain’t boring! It’s high time Toronto’s rave scene gets the recognition it deserves. We had a wicked crazy AMAZING movement that should be celebrated for what it was; an epoch in dance culture history that can never be repeated. The 90′s was a special time for us indeed. Who knows what the Future of Rave might hold….but for now, a nostalgic joyride thru tha good ol’ daze should do ya…

    Get ready for a rip-roaring mindtrip into one of the most colourful, fantastic worlds you will ever encounter:

    http://www.amazon.com/Tuned-Mashed-Out-Confessions-ebook/dp/B0070O8OES/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1328541121&sr=8-1

    For those of you whose devices don’t support Kindle, an ePub version will be available on my website soon.

    To all the bloggers n surfers out there: thanks for your support! I sincerely hope you enjoy Tuned In, Mashed Out. Feel free to leave comments on Amazon and on this blog too.

    Peace out,
    Frankenräver

  22. Frankenraver Says:

    Ol skool raver Buddy Holly waxes sentimental on Kenny Ken, Roni Size and those Jennstar boat cruises:

    http://wp.me/p1YST7-9S

  23. phil Says:

    Is it possible that everyone who lays claim to Toronto’s best “rave days” being the early 90s just got too old to keep in touch with the scene?

    I’m not saying Toronto’s scene is better now…but I highly doubt anyone with a marriage and kids is going to be “raving” like they were in their early 20s.

  24. Jimmy J Says:

    Nope. It’s more about how quickly the scene progressed – many people retired two years in – still barely in to their 20s. It’s also a pretty intense lifestyle and ravers tended to burn themselves out or feel distanced from it because of how fast it changed.

    There’s no denying there’s still a great niche contemporary scene – and maybe since it’s remained small it’s still pure and golden-era-esque.

  25. Alien Says:

    Can’t remember the first one i was at, but i started in 92 and partied till i left for Van in late 96. Vancouver’s scene couldnt match T.O. in any way, well except when some t.O. djs flew out to play 😀 i do remember the first DJ i heard, DJ Dominik. I fell in love with Gabber/Rotterdam then and still listen to Dom now thnx to Toronto Mixtape Archive

  26. DJ Pauze Says:

    I’ve been raving since the early 90’s. My first party was at an old parking garage at Dundas West and Bloor. I believe it was a Blue Event.

    This was also where I saw Dominik play for the first time. I fell in love with the scene that night and havent stopped since.

    It’s been about 17 years now for me spinning records, cds. Wouldn’t take it back for the world.

    And to answer everyone’s question. The 90’s were the best era of dance music for me, hands down. Parties in old warehouses. Multiple rooms with different sounds. Amazing lighting systems. Tons of amazing international talent: sometimes 8-10 internationals in a night. What made it different were the unique venues, I think. Every weekend it was like a new world.

    Anyhow, we have our first big festival this summer, so we are on the verge of hopefully bringing back the amazing rave vibe, Toronto once had.

  27. bew Says:

    the early 90’s were a great time … the first rave i went to was 014 … got the card, cd and t-shirt … they gave you stuff back then :)and you would wear them around your neck like medals of survival … hangout at the Factory on Mercer w/ Skot / Shep / Junior and whoever else i can’t remember … i left the scene December 93 after the drugs took their toll or my FILA’s just quit on me … came back as the freezie guy around 96 as bartholomew beatilblocher handing out $2 freezies YIKES !!! Fighter Pilot / Sherlock Holmes i made quite a few friends of the next generation of party goers … worked that scene 96-2000 usually 2 raves a month until Lastman put us out of business moving parties into clubs … i had alot of blurry fun right up til the end … now i make electronic music as the melody man of bossFYTE … so i guess i’m still in the scene 20 years later … i wouldn’t change anything and it’s nice to still be apart of the electronic / rave scene after all these years … GRATEFUL !!! !!! !!! b

  28. brent belanger aka BERNIE Says:

    Bernie from BetterDays some great articles , great comments the beginning was going fast and furious Toronro at the time was one of the top cities and scenes going in North America for asure top Dj from all over the world came and blesses us with there craft and I am sure Toronto still stands I have long been out of scene in 97 I eas kicked out forced out of BetterDays but that is another story, my one point to makje that I am curious for feedback THE RAVE SCENCE SRATED GOING TO THE DARKERSIDE AS THE DRUGS TOTALLY CHANGED CRYSTAL METH WAS A MAIN CAUSE ,GHB YOU COULD HARDLY EVER FIND A REAL PILL BECAUSE TO BIG TO QUICK BUSINESS OF DRUGS TOOK OVER MAKING CHEAPER MORE DANGEROUS MORE ADDICTIVE PILLS AND POWDERS follow the change in drugs I mean for example the crystal Es people were looking for all those people doing what they thought were X but was everything but

  29. filthman Says:

    Ah yes, the memories are strong. Good times and free times. Life is very complicated now but hope is not lost when you see new generations getting on at things like Tomorrowland etc. It continues..

  30. Phantom on The Dance Floor: How one After Hours Club Transformed a City Forever. | Says:

    […] had a profound effect for both of them. I have a friend, James Applegath who coined the phrase the Golden Era of Raving in Toronto was 93-95. If that’s true, then the places the Assoons were frequenting in the late […]

  31. Steve Says:

    BOTH Toronto AND Vancouver dont get the major credit they both truly deserve for being original members of the “Back in the day” club which only original partiers can claim. Yes jolly ol England is known for their edm history, BUT Toronto, Vancouver, Chicago, San Fran, gave birth to the original underground “Rave Scene” and up here in Canada we should be a little more persistent in claiming not only the credit we Earned and deserve, but also the glory which every original member of any club gets forever.
    1990-1995,
    ( actually 1987-1995 in Vancouver) were days that sadly are gone forever BUT are not lost, ignored, or forgotten and the many websites that exist prove that. One such website is the ” TORONTO RAVE MIXTAPE ARCHIVE ” which I must say almost made me burtst out in tears when I first explored it. The amount of OLD RAVE MIXES available ( AND YES THEY ARE FULLY DOWNLOADABLE !!!!! AND FREE !!!!! )
    is simply INCREDIBLE, AMAZING AND FRIGGIN AWSOME !!!!
    The work done by Wayne is astonishing, the amount of old party mixes that yes WE ALL WENT TO AND REMEMBER, ( Well sortve !! Lol ), is MINDBLOWING !!!
    So IF youre looking for that music that blew your mind that night from DJ DAN, or that amazing party called LIFEFORCE you danced your ass off at, or that kickass rave at the TO DOCKS then CHECK OUT ** TORONTO RAVE MIXTAPE ARCHIVE ** !!! Theres so much awsome, OLD, 1990-1995, AND TONS + TONS MORE, you will be in heaven, literally.
    I GUARANTEE you will be textin ur friends with a giant shiteatin grin and running to pound some old mixes while ” Back in the Day ” Memories flow back thru you like the bass did almost 3 decades ago !!! ( damn time flies eh, eeek)
    And IF you start rippin away downloading mixes, PLEASE SEND WAYNE A BIG GIANT THANK YOU for all his crazy awsome years of hard work……hes the man.
    And KRISTEN, ( posted July 21st 2010 12:04pm THERES TONS FOR YOU MY DEAR !!! ✌
    And IF youve stopped playin the beats everyday, wakeup and hit play again….asap, that feeling will be back in seconds like it never left…..

  32. Grant G Ill Says:

    I always say I was down since day 1…1991 and I continue to rave till he grave!

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