The economy is in recession. Sound familiar? Now subtract 18 years. Then minus the World Wide Web – which was still years away from being a household name. Add the CD – which was now greater than vinyl as the medium for music. And don’t forget the remainder – the cassette tape – still king for music sharing. The computer had become an instrument – it made house music a constant a decade earlier. House was the root of “electronica,” a term which hadn’t even been formulated yet. There was another computer-generated sound in the equation – “techno” - sample-heavy like house but a much harder sound with multiplied beats.
In June 1991, techno raves had been surging in the United Kingdom for a few years, but here in Toronto they were non-existent. Finding a club or other venue that embraced techno would prove to be a mission that was next to impossible.
There were, however, a few British Embassies in Toronto that accepted rave refugees with open arms. The Artful Dodger pub (still located at Yonge and Isabella) and “Manchester Fridays” at Empire DanceBar located a few blocks down the street on Yonge. Both venues facilitated the formation of score-knowing punters who were like-minded in their search for the elusive rave. The leaders of the pack were mostly of UK descent, Scottish and English, so these venues were like home; familiar settings to mind their Ps and Qs and subsequently get mental at whichever club or warehouse party they could find.
The syndicate grew exponentially every weekend and was fast becoming infamous amongst the city’s warehouse and gay after-hours scenes. They would enter venues in mobs, decked out in Stussy hats, baggy Joe Bloggs jeans, Adidas Gazelles and loose-fitting tops; attire which provided the comfort necessary to dance to their own beat for hours on end.
The destination was usually an after-hours event where DJs showcased underground music, but it was obvious that this crew didn’t quite fit in. They were on a mission to bring a new culture to Canada and armed themselves with Fox 40 whistles to make sure their message was received loud and clear. As a result, they were increasingly being regarded as unwelcome.
A few variables were still missing in the calculation that would soon equal rave in Toronto.