Legends Never Die: The El Mocambo

May 15, 2017 by  
Filed under CitySocial, Event Venues, Ontario

Try as fate might, the El Mocambo is here to stay. The building that houses the legendary El Mocambo has had live music played in it since the original building was erected in 1850. Over the years it has hosted music for Toronto’s Hungarian, Irish and Portuguese communities. Had a Latin club on the top level,  a German dance club and even a striptease show at one point in 1971.

In 1972 it was rebranded to appeal to youthful blues and rock fans, bringing in the likes of Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Tom Waits, U2, and Elvis Costello.  Its infamy exploded in 1977 with a surprise performance by the Rolling Stones (where they also recorded the Love You Live album). They booked massive acts like Blondie, the Ramones, Devo and Joan Jett. Basically, it was the place to go for live music in Toronto.

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The Rolling Stones play El Mocambo under the alias ‘The Cockroaches’ March 1977. Photo courtesy of Toronto Star.

Changes in the music industry’s touring practices meant a decline in business for the El Mocambo, unable to book big names, they resorted to small local acts. The club was sold in 1986 and suffered many changes of hand and closures over the years.

But like a classic rock band, the El Mocambo resurrected in the 90’s as an underground and garage music venue hosting the likes of White Stripes and Zoobombs and helping in the launch of Peaches, Toronto’s breakout electronic musician and performance artist.

El Mo changed hands and was reinvented once again in 2001 to feature music from every genre and a particular focus on charity events, hosting fundraisers for War Child, Amnesty International, Free the Children, World Vision and Blanket-Fest.

 

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The famous neon palm tree El Mocambo sign will continue to hang out front after more than 65 years. Photo from INK Entertainment’s Instagram.

November 6th, 2014 was to be the final swan song for the venue that could. At the last minute, the venue was bought by Dragon’s Den outspoken Michael Wekerle. But it has been closed since then, but for good reason, it’s been under renovations for yet another reincarnation.

This time around the El Mocambo will be home to a recording and production studio, designed my the same people that did Jimi Hendricks studio in NYC, as well as host live music events. The new El Mo will be managed by INK Entertainment, the same company behind REBEL, UNIUN, and Batch.  The remarketing and lead up is quickly gaining momentum on social media for the summer 2017 reopen. In the meantime, you can buy swag from their pop-up shop (when it’s not sold out of branded classic logo shirts and hats), Prohibition at 66 Kensington.

Keep an eye on our blog if this excites you as much as it does us. We’ll be sure to keep you updated

– Paula McDines

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