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.