Guest Columnist Barry Teller – The New Elmo

Got this in my email yesterday and thought I’d share it with you. Exciting news about the new Elmo and what we can expect and when.

Barry writes for the new online magazine, Canadian Life. He covers the Canadian Entertainment Industry and has sent this pre-release to a few of us bloggers in advance of the Magazine’s launch next Friday. I’ve added some pictures to this.

Enjoy. – Bob

THE NEW ELMO

Entertainment Editor Barry Teller

Canadian Life

One of Canada’s most iconic music venues, dark for several years, will be re-opening on June 1st, 2019, after extensive upgrades have been completed in the now beautifully redesigned and re-purposed Toronto, Ontario landmark.

Judging by the video link in the press release I recieved, Toronto music fans are in for an amazing location full of more surprises than you can imagine, and a lineup of artists both old and new, announced for the first month of operation and into July.. There has literally never been anything like it.

Unfortunately, I cannot share the video link at this time, but I can tell you what I saw and print a few short paragraphs from the missive. If you love live music and would love to see and hear it in a perfect setting, this will be your destination for years to come.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Elmo, but are aware of the iconic venues in your part of the country, like the old venues in Gastown, Richard’s on Richards, and The Commodore in my hometown of Vancouver, the Esquire Show Bar, Your Father’s Mustache, and Rockheads in Montreal, and of course, The Misty Moon in Halifax, here’s a short history of the Legendary El Mocambo.

The History of The El Mocambo

The original building at 462 Spadina had been a music venue since 1850 and was first used as a haven for escaped slaves. The current building was built in 1910 and housed a dry goods store, a barbershop, and restaurants in its first three decades. With the passage of the Liquor Licence Act of 1946, which allowed the sale of liquor in taverns and restaurants in the province for the first time since World War I, restaurateurs Joseph Brown and John Lang decided to apply for one of Toronto’s first liquor licences and convert their property at 464 Spadina into one of the city’s first cocktail bars.

The establishment’s name and iconic neon palm sign was inspired by a San Francisco nightclub. In the club’s original incarnation, which officially opened in March 23, 1948, the main floor was converted into a dining hall with a dance floor on the second floor and featured Latin music. Live music was not permitted until July 1948 when the Liquor Licensing Board of Ontario reversed an earlier ban. In later configurations of the establishment musical acts appeared on separate stages located on the main and second floor of the building. By the 1960s, Adam Schuy owned the venue which, by then, featured music appealing to Toronto’s Hungarian, Irish, and Portuguese communities. A German dance club, Deutsches Tanz Lokal, frequently rented the second floor during this period. By the time Schuy died in 1971, striptease was being featured on the main floor.

The business and building were bought by Michael Baird and restaurateur and former Toronto Argonaut Tom Kristenbrun, who also owned the Jarvis House, in 1972. Under the pair’s ownership, the “El Mo” became a youth oriented blues and rock music venue and brought bands like Downchild Blues Band, which became the club’s house band, as well as Buddy Guy and Muddy Waters and many others “up the street” and paid them a regular fee to perform. During the early 1970s, the upstairs featured “retreads” and “has-been” acts mostly with the occasional group on the rise. Most of the time drink sales determined which bands would return. The bands would start out downstairs and if the revenue they generated increased, they would sometimes graduate on upstairs.[citation needed] Up and coming performers such as Tom Waits and U2 and Elvis Costello performed at the El Mo in the 1970s.

Located within walking distance of the University of Toronto, Ryerson University, and George Brown College (which was housed in Kensington Market at the time) the venue became a popular place for students living nearby. Throughout the 1970s the club was known as a bastion of the blues and rock and roll during a time better known for disco. It was considered “infamous” due to a 1977 surprise performance by the Rolling Stones after which Mick Jagger was rumoured to have had a backstage assignation with Margaret Trudeau, wife of then-Prime Minister of Canada Pierre Trudeau. The venue was featured on the Stones’ Love You Live concert album. In its heyday, the venue also hosted performances by Blondie, the Ramones, Devo and Joan Jett.

Changes in the record industry’s touring practices, a failure to update the venue, and a deal with Concert Productions International which prevented other promoters from booking the club, saw fewer international acts performing at the El Mo, which increasingly booked local acts instead. Baird and Kristenbrun sold the club in 1986, initiating a long period of frequent ownership changes and decline including it being padlocked twice in 1989 and brief closures in 1991 and 2001.

The club was a mainstay of the 1990s underground music scene. Dan Burke became the club’s booker in 1998 and made it into a venue for garage rock acts and international bands such as White Stripes and Zoobombs.[2] A monthly queer rock ’n’ roll party called Vazaleen, organized by Will Munro, became a regular feature and helped launch Peaches on what became an international career.

Herbert Becker and John Paolucci owned and ran the club from 1986 until it closed in 1989. The two purchased the business, the name and logo from Michael Baird and Tom Kristenbrun.

In 2001, El Mocambo was bought by Abbas Jahangiri who renovated both floors and tried to turn the upstairs into a dance studio. The club was in this period venue to all genres of music from rock and roll and orchestra to heavy metal, reggae, hip hop and jazz.

Jahangiri has become a missionary, and used the club to host numerous charity events with fundraisers have been held for War Child, Amnesty International, Free the Children, World Vision, Blank-Fest and others. In 2012, he sold El Mocambo in order to focus on his missionary work. The new owners had difficulty booking for the venue and put it up for sale in the fall 2014. The club was expected to close after a last show on November 6, 2014, However, on the eve of its impending closure it was announced that the club had been purchased by entrepreneurs for $3.8 million, who intended to renovate it but maintain it as a live music venue.

Major Acts

Over the years other major music acts appeared at the venue, including Marilyn Monroe, internationally famous jazz performers, including Grover Washington, Jr., Charles Mingus, and Al Di Meola, and rock acts such as U2, Moxy, Elvis Costello, The Ramones, John Cougar Mellencamp, Duran Duran, Dream Theater, The Rolling Stones, Stevie Ray Vaughan, April Wine, Bo Diddley, Tom Cochrane and Red Rider, Blondie, The Cars, Meat Loaf, Jimi Hendrix, Queens of the Stone Age, Bon Jovi, Teenage Head, Shakin’ Natives, Etta Royal and Congress Court.

On March 4, 1977, looking for an unprepossessing venue to record in, The Rolling Stones played the first of two performances at the club, billing themselves pseudonymously as “The Cockroaches”. It was their first live club date in 14 years. Their opening act was Canadian rockers April Wine of Montreal. The Stones show was recorded and released as one side (Side 3) of the double album Love You Live, which reached #3 in the UK, #5 in the US. April Wine took advantage of the high-tech remote recording equipment brought by the Stones to record their own show for a live album as well.

On May 9, 2008 the acclaimed American hard-rock band Queens of the Stone Age had a surprise concert at El Mocambo as part of their Canadian tour.

How can the New Elmo even come close to regaining its glorious reputation, let alone surpass what has gone before?

Well, this is how.

The club has been almost doubled in size to accommodate all the features packed into the venue that put it at the forefront of music venues all over the world.

Chances are good that it will be a game changer and set a lot of wheels in motion to keep up, compete, and give music fans a unique and unforgettable night out in the years to come.

Editor’s Note – As previously stated, I am not able to print any screen captures from the short video of the new venue. The video was not included in Barry’s email. Sorry. – Bob

Outside

Located on the busiest streetcar intersection in this city of 6 and 1/2 million people, much work was done to insure a vibration and noise free environment for the recording and broadcast studio now contained in the upper floors, foot and transit traffic will be easy to handle, but the lack of parking in the area has led to a smart valet parking option for those who choose to drive downtown. Customers who eat at the venue can have their parking validated at no charge. There is also a program in place to have you and your vehicle driven home after a night of partying for a 20 dollar charge, plus a kilometer fee.

Three ticket and one “will call”  window will face the sidewalk to the right of the 2 (one for ticket/member holders, and one for the general public) and will lead to 2 different entry experiences.

The Entrance

By pausing the short video walk through, I was able to catch a glimpse of the General Public entry way, a curving hallway festooned with a beautifully sculpted frieze of some of the past performers who have graced the showroom stage. Among them, The Rolling Stones, Deborah Harry, Elvis Costello, Meatloaf, Bobby Blue Bland, and Canadian heroes, Donnie Walsh from the Downchild Blues Band, David Wilcox, Ronnie Hawkins, Burton Cummings, April Wine, and more.

At the end of the hallway, you can either go forward through swinging saloon doors into The Tavern, or to the right to the escalators to the main showroom, studio, private member’s club, and access to the rooftop BBQ resto, smoking bar, and outdoor garden and patio.

The Members Club and Rooftop amenities are available to Members Only, and comes with a hefty Initiation fee and yearly dues. You will be able to order from the BBQ upstairs in The Tavern, if you would like something more than the inexpensive University Menu will offer.

The Tavern

This was a huge surprise, and, having spent time at Ryerson in the 1970s, was almost like stepping back in time. What a shock and a thrill, because this has not been mentioned in any previous press releases.

I spent a lot of time in this room over the 4 years I went to school up the street, as did many of the almost 40,000 students within walking distance of the club.

It is an exact duplicate of the room as it was in 1977. At least, it looks like that, but on closer inspection, you see the quality of the dark rug and old tables and chairs are much improved, but capture the era perfectly.

Elmo memorabilia and signed artist photos line the walls, as well as new merchandise for the club, duplicates of which can be ordered from the staff throughout the venue, from a Merchandise Menu on each table.

Your purchases will be held for you until you leave and you can pick them up at the exits on your way out.

The Tavern will be open 7 days a week from 11am until 4 am to serve food and drink.

In a lovely consideration of all the students in the area, you can look forward to competitive prices due to the availability of so many Fast Food franchises and Asian eateries within walking distance of the club. If you have your student ID with you, you can enjoy a 5 dollar ‘Cheeseburger and Fries’, made with either Beyond Meat or Ground Beef, Grilled Cheese sandwiches, a simple julienne salad, and 5 dollar pints of locally crafted beer. Three, Four, and Five Pint Pitchers will also be available.

This space should be packed with students every day.

And like this space did in the past, local bands can audition for week long residencies that pay scale and may lead to opening slots in the main showroom.

Nothing like a venue that supports and nourishes new talent.

The Showroom

It’s huge! Double the size of the old one, and has its own balcony. Tables and chairs, a VIP section, and 2 bars satisfy your comfort and refreshment need, though no food will be served here.

The sound system is hidden in the walls and stage and will produce the cleanest, distortion free sound of any venue of its size. Multiple drop screens will provide close ups of the artists from automated, remote controlled cameras on gimbals and an intricate  track system in the ceiling. All of this run by a crew in a control room hidden away from the audience.

Another nice touch, 25 members of the audience will be randomly selected to attend the Membership Meet and Greet with artists in the private area located at the top of the building.

The Technology

Visiting bands can have their entire shows recorded for audio releases, but the real exciting news is this:

Eventually, The Elmo will partner with IMAX theatres around the world to broadcast selected shows LIVE for around 100 dollars a seat, with the performances archived to be shown in theatres on a subscription basis for the cost of a regular IMAX feature to the viewer.

The cameras are 3D already, and can be projected in IMAX theatres to depict the band life size, with virtual drop screens for close ups, or make the band 20 feet tall across the front of the theatre.

Plans are already afoot to upgrade to holographic cameras in the future.

The artists, of course, will receive rights and use of their recordings, both audio and visual.

We can’t tell you too much about who will be playing there just yet, but opening night, Saturday, June 1st, 2019, will be preceded by 2 nights (Thursday and Friday) for the press and invited guests, and will feature a major act from both the present and the past, who you will be able to see on Saturday.

Due to the possible unavailability Rolling Stones, originally set to kick off the festivities, rumour has it that the first 3 nights will be played by local wunderkind Donna Grantis, and, are you ready …The Kinks.

Other acts rumoured to be performing over the summer are Rival Sons, Drake, Bonnie Raitt and Samantha Fish, a reunited Max Webster, Burton Cummings, Randy Bachman, Harry Styles, Ian Hunter and Mott the Hoople, Post Modern Jukebox, a night with Jeff Beck and  Jimmy Page, and Robert Plant’s new band.

Wow.

Just Wow.

=0=

Segarini’s regular columns will be back on Friday. APRIL FOOLS!

dbawis-button7giphyBob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now publishes, edits, and writes for DBAWIS, continues to write music, make music, and record.

3 Responses to “Guest Columnist Barry Teller – The New Elmo”

  1. Goofy McDoofus Says:

    Totally bought it…What kind of fool am I?

  2. Herbert Becker Says:

    Well done!

    Herbert Becker

    • This whole fiction was just my wish list for the venue, which, I’m afraid, will be expensive and aimed at people devoted to classic rock and nostalgia on one hand, and cherry picking local, inexpensive bands that the bookers or their friends are aware of.
      Still hoping for the best, but sad that the iconic bar on the main floor was destroyed rather than restored, and that a “Hard Rock” style menu will probably replace the affordable, student-friendly vibe and fun of the original downstairs, and Residencies for local bands replaced with 2 or 3 different young bands every night who will be charged to draw their friends and fan base as opposed to build one with the venue.
      Who knows?
      My sincere best wishes the the club to survive and flourish, and serve the local musicians and audiences with respect.

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