Posted: November 9th, 2009 by Alx of London

Alx and mum18 years ago to the day, November 9th ’91, I left London, England for Toronto. I’d never been to Canada before and knew very little about the country I was visiting. My entire cultural awareness consisted of Degrassi, The New Music, and Kids in the Hall.

I was going to Toronto ostensibly for a vacation, but sub-consciously I was ready for an adventure. I’d met a Canadian woman a year earlier at a club in London and the way I’d met her was profound. On the night I met her I couldn’t decide whether to go out or not. It was the first time I’d had the thought… ‘I’ll never know what might happen or who I might meet if I don’t go out’. That decision would, without exaggeration, completely change my life.

I was 20 years old, ambitious, and up for something new. I’d already experienced a lot in my teen years…. At 16 I was working for the most successful underground club promoter in London. Philip Sallon ran The Mud Club which was the Studio 54 of England. Every famous artist of the time used to come down – George Michael, Duran Duran, Bananarama, Grace Jones, Boy George, a very young Kylie Minogue, the guest list was a who’s who of 80’s pop culture. I worked for Philip for 5 years, learning everything about club life. It was a crazy education, just like the decade. I remember one night walking around a club with Boy George and Philip Sallon holding the equivalent of $100,000 in a plastic bag. It was the takings from the Mud Club and we’d gone out after hours without taking the money home.

619a CollegeWhen I touched down in Toronto, a cold November Saturday afternoon, I was keen to explore the nightlife of my new city. I nearly flew home again when my friend’s room-mates took me to a country and western bar. Fortunately that was the first and last Country and Western gig I ever attended.

It didn’t take me long to discover the underground party scene. The first clubs I went to were Bar One at Yonge/Isabella, Cameron House Wednesday and RPM (now Guvernment). The second record I heard in Canada (at Bar One) was Spice by my very close friend EON, who recently, and very sadly passed away. I made friends with Jennstar who was working the cash desk at RPM, and Yvonne who was working the door at Cameron House. Within a week I’d found my first Warehouse party and this was a scene that would totally blow my mind.

I’d never seen anything like the Toronto warehouse scene before, and the music (Chicago House/Garage) was simply incredible. I was used to some pretty high production values in England, but finding myself in a simple warehouse, with one revolving light in the corner, and 500 styled up fashionistas and drag queens, all dancing the Bus Stop to Aly-Us Follow Me, was unfucking believable. That night I fell in love with Toronto.

EON and Mr C from the ShamenBack in England I’d been fortunate to go to some of the earliest raves, before they were even called that. ‘Clink Street‘ was run by my friend Mr C, and was a legendary multi-storey warehouse party in South London. Boy George threw a ‘rave’ for his birthday party with a smiley shirt as the invite. Others fade into the haze of memory.Β  Acid House was the music and from those early events in 87/88 and the club nights that surrounded them, the first true raves like Sunrise and Biology emerged, attracting thousands, and eventually tens of thousands of people.

While I was finding myself infatuated with Toronto’s four-to-the-floor house, I was still curious as to whether there was any kind of a rave scene in the city. Everyone told me they didn’t exist. Toronto was “too uptight”, they would “never be allowed”, if anywhere “they would be in Montreal”.

While it was clear that what I call a rave (thousands of people, a one-off, usually secret location, major production values) clearly did not exist in Toronto, one of the DJs from Peter, Tyrone and Shams told me about a regular Saturday night at 318 Richmond called Exodus. They told me it was the only night in the city playing Techno, and it was run by some Scottish guys. I couldn’t wait to check it out.

I remember walking into 23 Hop that weekend and being greeted by… FOG, pounding techno and a very bright strobe light. I don’t like strobe lights when they are used continuously without other lighting, and alongside the intense smoke it makes navigating the dancefloor a challenge. I could see shadowy figures through the haze and the music was pounding and echoey. I figured maybe there was a couple of hundred people there but it was hard to be sure. Thankfully I found my way to the back corridor which led to the DJ booth. What struck me was how much fun everyone was having. Much of the fun was eminating from the DJ box.

Joan's flatThat night I met a lot of people who would ultimately become key figures in the early Toronto rave scene – Dr No, Malik X, Danny Henry, Mark Oliver, Sean L, Terence Leung and Anthony and John who ran the night. I spent the rest of the night partying in the DJ booth and occasionally venturing out into the fog. I was blown away by Malik X and Dr No’s MC skills and general deck-mastery, and I realized this was an incredible night for all those involved.

The following day I made up my mind. I’d witnessed two amazing scenes in Toronto in less than a week – the Warehouse Scene and Exodus at 23 Hop. The common factor was a complete lack of production values, made up for by an intense passion among those who attended. The numbers were very small – maybe a thousand people between both scenes. But that didn’t bother me. The question that was running threw my mind was… “What would these enthusiastic, fun, cool party goers do if they experienced some top notch production values?”.

I decided to throw Toronto’s first rave. I picked a Friday so as not to disrespect the other promoters, and Toronto’s first rave ‘experiment’ was dialed in for Friday December 13th 1991… Chemistry was about to be in session.




12 Responses to “The Science of Raving”

  1. Toxic Says:

    Wow. Thank you for sharing. Great post.

  2. Real Deal Says:

    Cheers to Chemistry for their achievements but I can tell by your writing, name-dropping, and obsession with money/fashion that Alx is still the same arrogant (obviously british) prick that may have been there first but never managed to get his heart in the right place for this great party scene.

  3. NeilDarKLanD Says:

    Awesome!
    Fond memories…
    Loved that dark throbbing music hole!

  4. eddie Says:

    loved the test tube.. Great flyer

  5. Alx of London Says:

    @toxic neildarkland eddie – thank you. Am digging out some old test tubes for the next post!

    @Real Deal – nice rave spirit you got there! Would you like some sour grapes to go with your mean spiritedness, cowardliness and general grumpkiness? You obviously don’t know me very well.

  6. Jimmy J Says:

    One thing is for sure, the rave business was the wrong one to be in if you were obsessed with money. I think we all lost a small fortune.

    Happy B-Day Alx.

  7. Alx of London Says:

    Thanks Jimmy – Precisely.

  8. 318 Says:

    Yeah, the warehouse scene was amazing. At the time, on Saturdays, we would listen to Malik’s program on CKLN, then went to this bar called Messiah on Queen street. I think it was run by the guy who owned Uncle Otis then. There we would get all the fylers for the warehouse parties for that night.

  9. Shawn Rice Says:

    Hey, Real Deal (If that is your real name). Don’t pick on Alx or any other party goer from back in the day !! If it wasn’t for Alx and others like him, the scene may not have been there as it was for me to discover and enjoy.
    Respect to all the greats who helped make the scene what it was, we just need to bring it back !!

  10. lil d Says:

    thanx yo. Chemistry Rave New World was the 1st party i attended. i was 15 yr old at the time (still just a boy)and th party blew me away. Never before had i heard underground music and after that night my luv for the undagound sound was born and began to flurish. I’d dropped acid many times before that but to be tripping and hear that style o’music being mad pumped-up on cerwin-vega bass bins and see the trippy lighting brought my luv for LSD to a whole new level. it was at this party where i heard NRG’s ‘need ur luvin’ for the 1st time. my girlfriend got sick(took2many white +’s πŸ™‚ so spent most that night in the double chill out rooms; th one with the pillows, the other piled up w/ tires.., the colored oil bubble light effect projected around the walls and to hear ambient-dub music for the 1st time was absolutely mind-blowin. i remember promoters goin round tossing free 3-packs of Agis condoms, also comin round giving away bananas&oranges, not too mention when one of you guys came into the chill area and spun-up what looked to be at least a qp of hash; made mini bat outta it, passed it roung the room while hollerin ‘you see mates, this is how when party in England yeah…’ venue 31 commish: a top party spot for some time. attended the Chemistry Nye at the same venue party just 2 weeks l8r (another great night!) shout out nuf respect & thanx for some o’the fondest of my teenage memories & and for throwing such a great party that it turned me into a junglist/houser/partier/raver 4ever!!! Peace out yo! 1-luv 4ever

  11. almightyshux Says:

    alx,

    why no mention of Nav?

  12. Alx of London Says:

    Hadn’t met Nav at that point but Nav was certainly a huge part of Chemistry from Chemistry 4 on.

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