The scene at System Soundbar, September 24, 2005. Photo by Ryan Parks.
Article originally published April 12, 2012 by The Grid online (TheGridTO.com).
In the latest edition of her nightlife-history series, Denise Benson revisits the Entertainment District institution that brought underground rave culture to Toronto’s mainstream club crowd at the dawn of the millennium.
BY: DENISE BENSON
Club: System Soundbar, 117 Peter
Years in operation: 1999-2005
History: System Soundbar was an unlikely home for electronic dance music with a decidedly underground bent. Opened smack dab in the middle of the commercial club district, System was owned by Zisi Konstantinou—former owner/operator of successful Adelaide Street spot Limelight—with his partners Spyros Theoharis and Boris Khaimovich. They hired former Limelight employee Orin Bristol as general manager, and the group worked to develop a plan.
“Zisi purchased the building as a property investment, and we were trying to figure out what to do with the basement as it was just being used as storage space,” shares Bristol. “We spoke about doing a nightclub, but thought it would be a hard sell for a mainstream crowd as it was in a basement.
“At the same time, the city was cracking down on raves and there were less and less spots to do parties in. Because of our Wednesday nights at Limelight [with EDM/rave DJs Craig Pettigrew and John E], we had come to know the guys from [promoters] Lifeforce Industries. Between Craig and them, we talked about doing rave-style events in the space.”
And so Bristol—a club manager with strong vision who now works for INK Entertainment—gained an EDM education. System Soundbar opened on March 18, 1999. Lifeforce Industries, the umbrella organization that produced massive raves under the Dose, Renegades, and Syrous banners, brought underground sounds to the fun-fur and fat-pants crowd on Fridays. Pettigrew and his Metro crew attracted maturing ravers on Saturdays. Other early System weeklies included FungleJunk Tuesdays and Breakfest Sundays. People flocked to the raw space.
“It was a dark, grungy basement nightclub originally,” says Bristol. “We spent very little to get it done because we just weren’t sure what we were going to get. Also, the crowd was coming from raving in warehouses and in fields so only the minimum was necessary.
“It was a huge success—people loved the underground feel and the late-night vibe. Our biggest issue in the first year was the sound. The system wasn’t good enough, and not coming from the genre, we didn’t understand that it was all about the music.”
Though System’s sound would be majorly upgraded over time, the club faced a bigger crisis soon after its first year. Some of the Lifeforce owners became partners in Turbo Nightclub (later known as Sound Emporium) and soon System Soundbar’s core group of weekend promoters all decamped, DJs in tow, to this club around the corner.
According to Bristol, “We mainstream nightclub guys were left to figure it out.“
Why it was important: System Soundbar operated during a pivotal time for electronic dance music in Toronto. Not only were our massive raves under heavy scrutiny from the law, City, and media, there were very few licensed nightclubs devoted to underground electronics. The Guvernment was the biggie, but its musical focus was limited. The house-heavy Industry Nightclub was waning, and would close in summer 2000.
“System was different because it was its own little animal,” says Deko-ze, a top Toronto DJ who would play at the Soundbar throughout most of its history. “It was a perfect mid-size club, unlike something like The Docks or Guvernment, so it didn’t need to prove something by being big. It was about top quality, forward-thinking vibes and attitudes. System was based around the music.”
With a legal capacity of 1,100, System Soundbar was an ideal size and fit for a spread of EDM sounds. System offered a new secure spot for aging ravers, and a comfortable entry point for new clubbers to experience underground EDM culture.
“System Soundbar started with the 19-plus old-school rave crowd as ravers started to grow up and turn into clubbers,” agrees Jesse Brown, who worked with the Lifeforce crew in promoting events like FungleJunk, and went on to produce events including the World Electronic Music Festival.
“Later, when almost all the raves had disappeared, System was the place you could still find just about all styles of EDM, and hear the same DJs we would experience in the big warehouses.”
After the departure of System’s first successful weekend nights, a variety of events were tested, but it was through Bristol’s meeting with Patrick Aranain, a.k.a. DJ Evil P, “that we found the guys who would be the foundation for everything that System Soundbar turned into.”
Local talent was placed front and centre as Aranain introduced Bristol to DJs and promoters who launched the weeklies that most clubbers still associate with System Soundbar: d&b and breaks night BodyRoc Tuesdays (later Loose Wednesdays), pioneering progressive-house event Breathe Fridays, and heavy house hitter Bang Saturdays.
“Patrick was a good DJ, a great booker, and an excellent friend,” says Bristol of the DJ who would rule Bang’s booth for its multi-year run, but who passed away in late 2009. “He taught me what I needed to know about this scene to succeed in the following years.”
Bang was a unique house night in that it ran from deep and soulful to funky, tribal, and dark. Frequent guests included Roy Davis Jr., Derrick Carter, and MC Flipside, with Evil P’s co-residents including Dino & Terry, Deep Groove, Lady Linzee, and, in the lounge, Michael Drury.
“Soulful house was making a bit of a resurgence at the time, with songs like “Finally” by KOT bridging a few different scenes,” recalls Dino Demopoulos, who, with brother Terry, was known for deep-house productions and DJ sets in more intimate clubs, like The Living Room, Element, and 5ive.
“It was seen to be a nice complement to the harder stuff that Patrick played, which is why they booked us initially. System was a big club, with a great sound system, and was always pumping with energy so it was a great challenge [for us]. There was a huge range of guest DJs booked to play, from Louie Vega to Bad Boy Bill. Bang was a very consistent night.”
Patrick Aranain also introduced Bristol to promoters Mike Grecco and Jose Rodriguez who, along with DJs Mark Scaife, Deko-ze and, soon after, Luke Fair, and Matt Coleridge, would be responsible for making Breathe Fridays arguably the most influential progressive house weekly in North America.
“The Guvernment was trance, while Industry was house and techno; progressive was an emerging market,” says Bristol. “No one in the city was doing two back-to-back house nights at the time, but we all made it work.”
“The sound had matured from progressive trance into progressive house with darker, more tribal undertones, and it needed a home,” explains Coleridge, a professional DJ since 1998 who caught his break as part of Breathe. “Much like the way Industry had sought to bring a stable weekly club venue for house music, Breathe looked to accomplish that for progressive house.”
They did so, attracting 800 to 1,000 people each week, with Breathe’s core residents as the main draw.
“If you were there for a full night, you heard a lot of tech house and techno integrated with the progressive, alongside a few big riffs and the more melodic progressive,” details Mark Scaife, a seasoned DJ who held it down during Breathe’s entire four-year run.
“As we built Breathe, it got more structured towards that techy progressive sound, a little more edgy. For a while there, we went pretty dark, just seeing how far we could take it. We had a lot of leeway; people were up for a different sound. Breathe was an experiment that worked really well.”
Breathe worked so well that its resident DJs gained international tour dates and notoriety as influential publications like Mixmag and DJ Magazine wrote about the night. Other Toronto dance clubs also took note and booked more progressive house DJs. Big artists like Deep Dish, Hybrid, and Infusion all graced the Breathe roster, but other guests weren’t so established at the time.
“Steve Lawler, Danny Howells, and Lee Burridge all got their Toronto start at Breathe,” points out Coleridge. “System brought many, many international DJs to Toronto for the first time, DJs who are still regulars in this city. It was also home to a huge number of DJs who, like me, really got their start playing in this city.”
This is something that Orin Bristol remains very proud of.
“Basically, all of us were the little guys,” he states. “We were the mainstream club guys who didn’t initially know anything about the electronic scene, and the smaller DJs and promoters who had never been given an opportunity to be on the front lines. We gathered them all up, put them under one roof, and they flourished.”
Who else played/worked there: During its near-seven-year-stint, System Soundbar was also a constant home to drum ‘n’ bass. The sound was huge in Toronto, but rarely were d&b DJs given weekly clubs nights, especially in sizable venues. Soon after FungleJunk’s demise, drum ‘n’ bass DJ and Empire Productions promoter Ryan Smith, a.k.a. Ryan Ruckus, came on board. In June of 2001, all-ages drum ‘n’ bass and breaks night BodyRoc was born.
“Aside from making a point to highlight the abundance of amazing talent from right here in Toronto, we brought in big international d&b talent such as Nicky Blackmarket, Teebee, Mickey Finn, Marley Marl, and others,” says Smith. “But it was our first sold-out event with Shy FX and MC Skibadee that had us settle into System nicely. [Listen to a recording here.] I remember a lot of the staff poking fun at the music we played at first but, in little time, we made believers out of most of them.”
A year later, Smith and Empire switched it up and launched the 19-plus Loose Wednesdays, a weekly that Bristol describes as “The reason why I’ve done d&b events in every club I’ve run since then.”
With rotating resident DJs including Ruckus, Diligence, Mystical Influence, Marcus Visionary, Lush, and Everfresh, and a hip-hop room led by DJ Tasc, Loose was a mid-week hit.
“The enthusiasm and support poured from the top down,” says Destiny Event’s Jesse Brown, who also guested at Loose under the DJ name of originalVIBE. “Orin Bristol loved drum ‘n’ bass and was committed to showing the city how successful this music would become.”
As evidence, System Soundbar and Ryan Ruckus also hosted Loaded Saturdays through all of 2005. It was Toronto’s first-ever drum ‘n’ bass Saturday held in a large main room.
It’s impossible to list all of the local and international DJs who played at System over the years, but promoters including Fukhouse (techno and tech house) and Activate (breaks) certainly produced many other standout events.
Additionally, hip-hop, R&B, and old-school event Superfunk Thursdays—promoted by a crew including Down With Webster’s Dave Ferris and DJed by resident John J—attracted consistently huge crowds for five full years. Top 40 and club anthems were relegated to Monday nights in the warmer half of the year, when System would be filled with foam and hot tubs.
More mainstream crowds were drawn to System by these two nights in particular, causing heated discussion on EDM message boards, as did the flashy renovations put into place in 2004. System fans debated the “mainstreaming” of the club, but there’s no denying that the hundreds of additional people who began attending System after bar hours on weekend nights added to the energy.
Everyone I spoke to for this article has stories of nights they hold especially dear, with multiple mentions of guest DJs including Richie Hawtin, Barry Weaver, Ed Rush & Optical (hear their FungleJunk set here), A-Trak, and the personable Donald Glaude, who was even game to kill the music one night while a guest proposed to his girlfriend on the dancefloor.
“The whole place erupted with cheers, and then Donald rocked it,” recalls Bristol.
Bristol cites the night when an appearance by Mauro Picotto made him realize “DJs were like rock stars. When he started to DJ, we had to call two security guards to the front of the booth because people were trying to climb up to touch him. People were crying—men and women, it was insane. I’d never heard of this guy before I signed off on the booking the month before.”
Deko-ze, who warmed up for Picotto that night, describes another Breathe special that touched him.
“Sister Bliss, of Faithless, was guesting,” he begins, “She cued up a record and said to me, ‘You might like this next one.’ For the next seven-and-a-half-minutes, the floor was annihilated. It was the new Faithless single, ‘We Come One.’ An hour later, she puts on a record that took the crowd through an intense emotional rollercoaster, brought several people to tears, and made me close my eyes, dance like I was weightless, and shout ‘Yes!’ aloud twice. It was her own demo of ‘Deliver Me.’”
Finally, there is the legendary night when Mark Farina was booked, and a water main in 117 Peter burst. Bristol recounts that 800 people were inside the club, with 300 more in line. Refunds were offered, but Farina would still play. Few people left.
“We did well over 1,400 people,” says Bristol. “The water was to the middle of the dancefloor by the time Rotor Rooter came and shut it off, but people rolled up their pants and danced in it. That was one of our best nights ever.”
This also speaks to the “friends and family vibe” that many use to describe System Soundbar.
“It was a space where you were just accepted—young, white, transgendered, rich, women, black, gay, tall, Asian, old, men, poor, straight, everyone,” Bristol emphasizes. “I have never worked in any environment before where the customers, staff, promoters and DJs were so connected.”
What happened to it: By 2005, Jesse Brown recalls, “Most nightclubs and bars played Top 40; EDM was on the way down, and hip-hop and R&B were on the way up. System resisted until the end.”
By later 2005, weekend nights were attracting crowds of less than 500.
“Zisi decided at that time it made more sense to be a landlord than the owner of a six-year-old club,” shares Bristol. “He knew development was coming, and all he had to do was hold on and he would make a mint.”
System Soundbar went out with two large events: a family affair featuring resident DJs from Bang and Breathe on December 23, 2005 and a final New Year’s Eve blowout with DJ Danny Howells.
Konstantinou first sold the club to people who opened short-lived Top 40 spot Embassy. The entire 117 Peter Street building was later sold to developers. It has been demolished to make way for the 36-storey Tableau Condominiums.
[…] corner across from where System Soundbar used to be has long been derelict and underutilized. It’s mostly seen action from an […]
[…] corner across from where System Soundbar used to be has long been derelict and underutilized. It’s mostly seen action from an event […]
I was living in Toronto at 2004 and soundsystembar was my first place where I never stop dancing all night long, I got a cd from a dj KAIZEN playing that night, I’d like to know if he still making. and I remember the red room what a crazy and amazing fast beat, I’ll
reinterpret the red room in México and Im sure it will be part of a good music moments in the Mexican underground nights.
[…] of different events that span from nightclubs to secret lofts to legendary Toronto venues such as System Sound Bar & […]
System was really the only club I could get into after the Industry days. It was there that I met some amazing people, that are still close friends to this day. It was one of the first clubs that I started playing at regularly…..with Fukhouse, and Bang Saturdays. I was a bit of a mainstay in the sideroom, before i got my first shot at the main room, with Jay Tripwire…then throwing Hustlin’s last party with The Lawnchair Generals there….
RIP Patryk…..thanks for everything you did for me back then.
Wow, just reading this flooded my brain with more memories then i can count. This place was the best place, it was a family affair every weekend for the regulars, and the talent that rolled through was just unsurpassed. I miss it so much, but thank you for the golden years of my clubbing and partying in the basement and backroom.. the evolution of that club was amazing, and the farewell party was bang on. I wish we had such a place to go to today but in reality, it would and never will be the same as systems.
All comments in the string below have been republished from their original appearance on The Grid website. We’re including the readers’ comments as they add to these Then & Now stories. We look forward to reading new comments here as well.
Great read, good times at System. And to think, we were in the lineup the night it flooded, decided to split (think we went to Guvernment?) and missed dancing in the water. 12:10 am on November 11, 2014
System Soundbar, I miss you so much!! My wife & I, and many of our friends, used to travel from London to Toronto almost every weekend to hit up Bang Saturdays. Thank you for the great article!! 2:41 pm on June 13, 2014
Lindsay (Lady Linzee)
Thank you to all the contributors to this article! What a great way to pay homage to System! As a resident at Bang Saturdays for over 2 years I wanted to give a shout out to all of the amazing Djs, promoters, door staff, bartenders, Orin and everyone in between for being a part of so many amazing memories. It was truly an honour to be part of the System Soundbar family. And family … it truly was! The Dj’s I played alongside were my dear friends and mentors and I was privileged to know them! Some of which are still a very important part of my life today! Sending mad luv out to the System crew! Those days are forever in my heart! 11:33 am on January 20, 2014
Where do I start; System Soundbar was the best atmosphere in Toronto for Dance music! Staff: Always friendly, never coked up bouncers, friendly bar-tenders with big smiles, one of the first places to serve thai-redbull! Soundsytem- Always amazing! I remember seeing some of the best djs in the world here and the music was always dark and dirty! Resident Djs – Respectfully I wish a lot of these guys had regular gigs and promoted alot of the djs that would come through the Breathe parties, sadly this dies when the club closed but the residents were always amazing! Best memories; I was 19, and this was my Friday night spot! I never made it out to Sister Bliss as she played a few months before my 19th Birthday, but I remember Danny Howelles, Hybrid, Mauro Picotto, Dave Seaman, Steve Lawler, and maybe Sander Kleinenburg, JohN Digweed, Jimmy Van M, I have a feeling Oakenfold might of played here once and I know I saw Max Graham. Favorite Party – TILT with Park and Wilson and John Graham and Nick Warren and John 00 Fleming 2014 – Props to the boys at Toika lounge for re-uniting this group, sadly many of the great djs in the world dont do small clubs anymore. 9:48 pm on January 19, 2014
Neil Mass Law Gardiner
Had some great times at System Soundbar. Still have a lot of memories of being there with a few people that are no longer with us. I had the chance to perform there over the years with the Empire crew and a few others. I remember how excited we would get when they would change something in the venue. Wether it was upgrading the sound system, moving the DJ booth from the entrance to the back or the installation of a window’d lounge that would be the location of some great convo’s, B-day parties and good times. Definitely played a big part on the timeline of Toronto’s Dance music industry. 10:50 am on January 17, 2014
Love System. We were spoiled there. Orin was so professional and always treated us with great respect and we never had a problem being paid a generous wage. This was a place that so many DJ’s cut their teeth and hone their craft. Big thanks to Ruckus and Orin for including me in such a special time! If only club owners today had a similar vision! 11:33 pm on January 16, 2014
I read this again after seeing it linked about clubs going dark (forever) on an Internet forum and noticed a factual error. While Jesse Brown has been involved with Destiny since the late 1990s, he did not co-found it. That honour belongs to Eric Sands AKA Eryik S, who co-founded the seminal Canadian rave events company with Ryan ‘OS/2′ Kruger (now president of Electronic Nation Canada) back in the early 1990s. Eric was also a frequent reveller at the Breathe nights, as well as DJing quite a bit around the city. Breathe for me was my home away from home. It was the place I finally got to finally meet fellow DJ/producers I’d admired or networked with. It was the place that Mike Greco banned me from the DJ booth for doing so too! It was also the place that I knew, if for some reason I went with no friends and no money, that I would be amongst friends when I arrived and cover would be taken care of. It was the place where after dancing for 6 hours straight, I went home inspired to my studio and stayed up 24 hours and wrote my first ever vinyl release – which later got played in the club. It was the place where I lost my mind to people like Hybrid, Cass, Oliver Lieb, Noel Sanger, Chris Fortier, Mark Scaife playing one of my tunes, Danny Howells and many others. I miss it a great deal. Toronto hasn’t replaced it since and I don’t think it ever will. 1:17 pm on October 3, 2013
Hmmn, where do I start…? I was at UWO doing CompSci & got hired in TDot for a 16 month Internship around 1999. At the beginning, me & my roommie would do Gino/Top40/R&B clubs – eeew!! In 2000, by a stroke of LUCK, some girls (ok, I was trying to pick one of them up!) at a clothing shop by Yonge & Bloor invited me to Turbo, so I dragged my rommie along. Wow, I had never experienced the EDM scene up to that point. I was in Heaven. The sound, the peeps, the ‘underground’ club feel, & that all-important ‘vibe’ (I think you know what I mean!). It was all THERE! Simply perfect! Gino & Top40 clubs were history for me after awakening to the underground EDM scene. It was like night & day! After Turbo, I started going to Life (across from Money). That’s where I fell in love with DJ Myka & Kenny Glasgow’s incredible sound as well as Most Wanted Entertainment events! Those 2 DJs changed my life with their unique styles that could keep me dancing ALL NIGHT. Simply amazing! I then started club hopping, religiously, to System, Comfort Zone, Film Lounge, The Guv/Kool Haus (especially for big events like Labour of Love, etc.) & other EDM venues or special events. Those experiences transformed me. Why? Because I finally found the music that I’m still passionate about TODAY! Progressive House/Trance & Techno will ALWAYS be a part of my life until the day I depart Mother Earth into another existence — especially the dark stuff. I love that Dark Tribal Proggy sound! ￼ Whenever I made plans to go to System, I’d get excited in anticipation of what delicious new sounds I’m going to hear that night. I was thrilled knowing that the clubbers were there, first & foremost, for the MUSIC & to DANCE! Breathe nights at System were out of this world – a phenomenal success. If you got there too late, too bad – lineup! The DJs rocked my world. They always delivered the goods. And the staff were a delight: Friendly, laid back & professional. Reminds me a lot of Aria’s staff in Montreal, which also closed down. ￼ Anyhow, I just want to give a BIG shoutout to everyone who made System what it was. Reading this fabulous article by Denise only makes me realize what we’ve all LOST. I don’t know if I’ll feel that same vibe any where else. Clubs today play such CHEESY music & I just don’t see that PASSION in the clubbers. Perhaps I’m too spoiled after experiencing Toronto’s talented local DJs who played at System & other EDM venues around that time. One observation: I now realize that the people whom I ‘connect’ with the best also share a LOVE for Electronic Dance Music & the scene. They’ve consistently been my most cherished friends. The TDot EDM scene during System’s prime was, unquestionably, one of the BEST underground club scenes on the planet. I have no doubts about that! I’m also very thankful that I was able to experience the Montreal EDM scene for a bit, too (ie. Bal en Blanc, Swirl, Stereo, Aria, Beach Club, Sona…). As I travel around the world now, I’m fortunate to have lots of goood beats on my laptop from that magical era when I accidentally stumbled upon Toronto’s remarkable EDM scene. So long, System! I will NEVER forget you because you live inside of me now! 7:45 pm on July 1, 2013
Cool series and cool read on a great club. Those were some great days. But I would have liked to hear more about how these clubs got away with allowing rampant E to be run. Here you had a club where alcohol wasn’t the drink of choice. Rather it was water. I always remember being shocked at how mainstream the drugs were. What did these owners think of all that? 2:52 pm on December 28, 2012
All good things… 9:04 pm on December 5, 2012
Why did they leave the hot water running in the bathrooms non stop? 10:15 am on April 19, 2012
So you would buy the cold bottled water. After 2am, other than door entry the club cant sell booze, and make money, so they sell bottled water at a premium. The Guvernment does that too. Lots of clubs used to do that. System was the first club I ever went too and it totally changed my world, my life. Amazing article Denise, well done. 6:56 pm on July 13, 2012
back when DJ’s played records and not shitty dubstep remixes off their laptops or cheesy rihanni house remixes or dj’s with mouse heads 9:20 am on April 19, 2012
Great article, its nice reading about System and having a little blast to the past….. There was a vibe about that place that always made you feel like you were home, the people felt like family and the DJs ALWAYS seemed to crush the place week after week. Every Friday night you knew there was a place to go where it was a guaranteed good time, I met my boyfriend there, Ive met life long friends there and had experiences that i will never forget. System Sound Bar had its own sound that always had the dance floor bouncing, i find myself still saying to this day “this track reminds me of system”. There was a genuine feel there that you could feel from EVERY body who walked through the door, they were all there for the music. There wasn’t any thing fancy or gimmicky about the place it was just comfortable, and home for a lot people. The day that place closed its doors was the day the scene in Toronto changed forever…. 2:31 pm on April 17, 2012
What she said. 12:37 am on December 19, 2012
Great article Denise, you really managed to capture the spirit of what System was. Thank you for letting me be part of it. It was a magical time in my life that was over too quickly. I miss the club immensely. I also want to echo the sentiment of how important the staff were to System. From Orin on down everyone was wonderful. Management, security, bar tenders and bus staff … you were all more important than any DJ or promoter. Thank you. Farewell 117 Peter 10:59 pm on April 16, 2012
Well Said Matt, well said. System would have been nothing without the great staff we had there. Too many to mention but one that can not be forgotten is Huey, another special person from the System family who is no longer with us. So I want to thank him, the Djs, the bussers, bookers, bartenders, security, coat check, sound guys, techs everyone. As you can see from this article and the responses you have made a huge difference not only in my life but in the lives of very many people. 3:01 am on April 17, 2012
To Orin and Matt, Im honoured and privileged to be there during that scene with you guys and the other great people who were there too. Thank you. You both did a great job there. I accidentally went there one night in 1999 because I was kind of feeling down and was looking for a bar that was open late. I saw people lining up on peter street and asked what it was because it wasnt obvious that it was a bar or anything. So I lined up and am I ever glad I did. The music was and still is the best I have ever experienced. I went there regularly every weekend and lost myself in the music and it helped me. I also met some great people. The bouncers were nice guys…. my sad condolences about Huey. To you guys and all the great people I met there….Thanks 12:45 pm on December 4, 2013
Thank you for article, Denise. Thanks for running such a great crew and place, Orin! System changed my life and shaped my ongoing love affair with electronic music. I had some of the best times, quirkiest friends, biggest laughs and longest dances of my life in that joint. A friend who was writing a story for the New York Times on club deaths in 2001 asked me once why clubbers put up with packed, sweaty rooms and pricey drinks, and I replied, “I don’t go to church – I go to my (favourite) club. It’s my community.” System Breathe Fridays was my community. I met a number of the close friends I still have to this day there, on the dancefloor. There has never been a club like it for me anywhere in any of the cities I’ve lived in, even now in Chicago. I miss it like my misspent youth. 5:41 pm on April 16, 2012
I was in the house the night of the flood. Crazy good times! 3:26 pm on April 16, 2012
My friends and I used to drive 90 minutes down the QEW from St. Catharines just to go to System. It was totally worth it every time. 2:44 pm on April 15, 2012
Thank-you Denise for writing about such a monumental time in our musical lives. It was filled with truth. (Sorry just had to add this folks, didn`t mean to post twice to make anyone mad). 1:26 am on April 15, 2012
System is where my life changed. One day I simply emailed the club and asked that since I finished work at 2am may I be put on a late night list if available. It was available to me for two years. I never met Orin until about a year an half into my late night visits to System. He always put me oh his list without meeting me. I later on my show “electronica“on bpm:tv publicly thanked him, and have did so when I finally met him in-person.
- I took a cab and entered System by myself knowing I’d meet my friends there to dance the night away.
- I later would host my first Mayhem with Deko-ze and the PPM crew there.
- Then I put on my first JaXx HouZe – Enchanted Tribal Platoon event there with no one there to manage the club but me and floor manager who stayed in his office all night. Orin and Jose had faith in me that I could handle a night running it myself and that I did.
- It was a place where I was told in the DJ booth by a girl whose brother who was a cameraman for bpm:tv to watch my my back cuz when bpm:tv is done with me they will toss me out the door with no regard.
- It was the place I first heard Donald Glaude and Mauro Picotto.
- It was also the first place I dropped “e” by seeking it out in the washroom for my friend and I.
- My hairdresser (at the time) was Huey`s (head bouncer at System) wife and she would tell me how he would come home and be all chatty cathy while she was still tired and wanted to sleep.
- System was my everything musical. It helped me launch into my career. I miss it. R.I.P. 1:22 am on April 15, 2012
Normally I don’t ever comment on blogs and news and all that, just because I’m paranoid about privacy. But System was a special phenomenon. It came about at a perfect time in my life, as I’m sure it did for all of you. Thanks for giving us the story on System. The history, all the diversity of people and music, and the beautiful tales about great human beings who went out and had a hella lot a fun. Remember the blackout of the summer 2003? System was one of the few places who stayed open. Who recovered fast. We were ragged desperate and bleak that Friday night. But they took it on. We danced beside portable power generators, the humming throbbed in tune with the tunes. The night was booked, and great DJs were scheduled. Our group of friends had been looking forward to it. And it happened anyway, in the midst of an enormous North American power crisis. God Bless You, System Soundbar. 5:48 pm on April 14, 2012
Sensational series, this, Denise! May I add that Then & Now will not be complete without including in its oeuvre The Subway Room at the Spadina Hotel, Catch 22, Stilife, 318, and The Wabash. Thanks for the memories. 3:01 pm on April 13, 2012
Denise – you are awesome! Your articles are always bang on. What a great place System was – I had many a fun time there with all of the crew – especially with Patrick-Evil P (RIP), the Snowmen, Mark & Joanne, Petta, Stretch & Hooker and of course Orin. Who can ever forget about Orin – a true player from the start – who fully supported all genres of EDM. I loved System! P.S. Happy Birthday! 9:24 am on April 13, 2012
What a great article, Denice. System was one of my favourite places to go to. As a somewhat obvious gay guy it was a safe place to be at that wasn’t in the village that played music that wasn’t tribal divas wailing away to the latest Rauhoffer remix that sounded like the last one (not that there’s anything wrong with that). There are few nights out that I really can say I remember from beginning to end but that Picotto night is one of them. I still talk about it to friends who weren’t around to be there. It was truly epic and off the hook and one of the best rave-club nights this town had ever seen. 8:16 am on April 13, 2012
Some of the best memories of my youth were had at System… The friends, music and memories were unforgettable… A girl and II started frequenting anything and everything System 8 years ago … that girl is now my fiance, soon to be wife and we still recall nights at system like they were yesterday… Unless you were a system head this must sound crazy…but for those that were, you know your still lifting up your arms and waiting for the base to drop To go somewhere and know you were surrounded by people just like you , who came for the love of the music like you did made it a place like non-other… The night Congo-Natty rocked out until 8am for their last time ever at System on that loaded Saturday is still playing in my head years later.. Thanks for giving us back System, for at least a minute, while reading your article…. Man I miss it 1:37 am on April 13, 2012
Great article, the memories are now flooding me; the ones that stick out the loudest are James Holden, whose stock was just rising due to his highly acclaimed Balance compilation ; a different night featuring Desyn Masiello, who was riding high on a recent WMC-special Essential Mix feature ; and a Fukhouse event where Tiga absolutely stole the show from headliner Dan Bell by delighting the crowd with a mash-up set ranging from electro-pop through rock mash-ups (Tiga had recently released his DJ Kicks compilation entry, again, to much acclaim ). These extremely timely and globally-relevant bookings were game-changing nights for me, and I’m sure many others. And of course, Breathe Fridays. I firmly believe that during its peak, it was the best party in the city. 12:16 am on April 13, 2012
Cat in the Hat
Such fond memories of this magical place.. sad to see it reduced to rubble. The golden era will be forever etched in the memories of the ones who “got it” and are hopefully still “getting it!” Dance like your vagina is on fire bitches! 7:56 pm on April 12, 2012
I remember it was December 1999, we went to see a film at Paramount and it was sold out, so we accidentally ventured into System and we were like WTF is this madness. Then it became my favorite club, still remember that awesome lounge area that had beautiful textiles hanging from the ceiling, saw the best DJs at one of TOs best clubs. RIP System Soundbar. 7:50 pm on April 12, 2012
Missing from the article was the long running techno night Blue Thursdays put on by the guys behind Speed records and Blue recordings which continued later at Turbo. 5:52 pm on April 12, 2012
Great article Denise. This is the first article I’ve read on System that truly captured System and all its facets. Thank you. 3:43 pm on April 12, 2012
Also an important part of the System experience were the staff… be they bouncers, hosts, bartenders, or management. The whole establishment had a family feel to it that i really appreciated. 3:53 pm on April 12, 2012
I will n ever forget System and all of the thiungs I did to msyelf down there. PLUR! 2:52 pm on April 12, 2012
Great article Denise! Big thanks to Orin, Ryan, Jesse and all of the Dj’s who played at System on the regular. We were truly spoiled. This club was so instrumental in keeping Jungle, Drum and Bass alive in Toronto as we moved into the 2000′s. Salute 2:51 pm on April 12, 2012
Nice article. I was sad to see the building in the midst of being demolished a little while back when I happened to walk past. I’m also glad to see that you got a chance to speak with Mark Scaife, Matt Coleridge and Deko-ze about Breathe. I enjoyed having the opportunity to work with each of them. That goes for Orin Bristol, as well. Without the freedom he gave me in terms of who I booked, and how I chose to promote the night, Breathe could never have been as successful as it was. He basically put the full power of the venue in my hands and that lead to so many DJs playing their first-ever Toronto gigs at Breathe. Finally, I’d like to say a special thanks to everyone who ever spent an evening with us at Breathe. And even more, there’s a core group of people who came out when Breathe was brand new and not-popular (when other promoters in the city were laughing at the idea of a strict prog-house music policy) and who kept coming back. And bringing their friends. The real ‘heads’. That was the Breathe Family. They were the people I booked DJs for. Those were the people that made Breathe. So, farewell System Soundbar. I hope the people living on that corner wake up in the middle of the night to faint echoes of bass rumbling up from the cellar. I hope your ghost haunts the fuck right out of the condos built where you stood. 2:14 pm on April 12, 2012
I have so many memories of System – especially from it’s Hip-Hop nights on Thursdays. It was a great place to hear the latest & greatest House out. I miss this place almost as much as I miss Roxy Blu. Thanks Denise ! 1:41 pm on April 12, 2012
I was at the Mauro Piccotto show. It was life changing. I miss System. Memories of this place are cached away in the “best times” section of my soul and mind. 10:41 pm on April 12, 2012
This man knows, System, Roxy along with the short lived but classic Aria on Richmond are the places I miss, a time of friendliness and open mindedness in the T-dot club scene that may never be seen again…and I love that she mentioned the Mark Farina/pipe burst event, my favourite of so many great nights at “Systems” ￼ 9:30 am on April 13, 2012