Browsing Tag

Roxy Blu

2000s, 2010s, After-hours, Breaks, Electronic, House, Techno

Then & Now: Footwork

December 9, 2014

Click through the photo gallery for a look at some of the many DJs who graced Footwork’s booth.


Article originally published February 11, 2014 by The Grid online (

In the face of King West’s rampant condo-ization and nightclub-ificaiton, this beloved, recently shuttered basement venue held it down for underground sounds—and continues to do so at a newly opened space in the Annex.


Club: Footwork, 425 Adelaide W.

Years in operation: 2005-2013

History: The story of one of this city’s most beloved, internationally recognized house and techno clubs begins with the unlikely pairing of two men raised on rock.

Hamilton native Joel Smye was a long-haired fan of bands like Pearl Jam and Rage Against the Machine until his parents sent him to Switzerland to complete high school. While there, he also got an education in rave. By 1997, he hit up massive Toronto parties each weekend, and taught himself to DJ. As Baby Joel, he would become known for his love of funky Chicago house.

Originally from Ottawa, Stephan Philion moved to Toronto 11 years ago, already experienced in the hospitality industry, and in throwing house parties, which were largely a means to accumulate sound and lighting gear. He had a lean toward Britpop and grunge until party promoter and friend Gairy Brown took Philion to Fly Nightclub, where he fell for dance music.

Smye and Philion met in the early 2000s, while waiters at Brassai. The two talked music. Philion got to hear Smye DJ, loved his take on house, and invited the DJ to check a club sound system that was just gathering dust at the time.

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2000s, Breaks, Electronic, Hip-Hop, House, Rave, Techno

Then & Now: Element Bar

September 24, 2014
Ann as DJ Valentines

AnnMarie McCullough a.k.a. DJ Amtrak at Element. Photo courtesy of her.


Article originally published April 26, 2012 by The Grid online (

As Clubland boomed at the turn of the millennium, this beloved Queen West space provided a big-room experience in an intimate, underground atmosphere—but it ultimately became a victim of its own success.


Club: Element Bar, 553 Queen W.

Years in operation: 1999-2004

History: In the late 1990s, Toronto’s rave and house music scenes were booming. Raves attracted audiences of multiple thousands while even licensed clubs catering to underground tastes tended to hold at least 800. The Entertainment District was littered with venues—most of them commercial and unadventurous—while the College and Ossington strips had not yet developed into hotspots for small to mid-sized venues.

In this environment, a group of friends rented a decidedly intimate space on Queen, between Spadina and Bathurst, that had been home to popular pool hall Behind the Eight Ball and, briefly, 24/7 Billiards. The address was also known for after-hours parties on its top floor, dubbed Zodiac.

Tony Mutch, Marcus Boekelman, and their silent partner Patrik Xuereb all met in high school. By their late 20s, Boekelman and Mutch had both produced parties, with Boekelman having experienced Ibiza and London and promoted events in Toronto featuring electronic dance-music stars like Paul Oakenfold.

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1990s, Funk, Hip-Hop, House, Soul, Spoken Word

Then & Now: 52 inc.

September 21, 2014
Co-founders Amy Katz (middle left) and Kate Cassidy (middle right), with 52 inc. staffer/collaborators Elliot George and Wudasie Efrem, on the bar's final day. Photo courtesy of Kate Cassidy.

Co-founders Amy Katz (middle left) and Kate Cassidy (middle right), with 52 inc. staffer/collaborators Elliot George and Wudasie Efrem on the bar’s final day. Photo courtesy of Kate Cassidy.

Article originally published January 4, 2012 by The Grid online (

In the latest instalment of her nightlife-history series, Denise Benson takes us back to College Street in the mid-90s, when a female-friendly hotbed for arts and culture opened up just as Little Italy was beginning to explode.


Club: 52 inc., 394 College Street

Years in operation: 1995 — 2000

52 inc. logo

History: On August 2nd 1995, two 23-year-old friends—Kate Cassidy and Amy Katz—opened a community-minded café, bar and boutique just one block away from their shared rental apartment at College and Borden. 52 inc., named as a nod to women forming fifty-two percent of the global population, was a complementary addition to a neighbourhood filled with diverse independent businesses.

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1990s, 2000s, Funk, Hip-Hop, House, Soul

Then & Now: Roxy Blu

September 15, 2014
Dance crew DFC at a Movement party.

Photo of DFC dance crew at Movement by Rob Ben (courtesy of John Kong).


Article originally published September 21, 2011 by The Grid online ( This piece marked the debut of Then & Now, originally envisioned as a series of brief articles. Given that Then & Now articles grew in length and number of participants, Roxy Blu will be revisited in far more detail for the T&N book.

Introducing Then & Now, a new feature by Denise Benson where she takes a look at what’s become of Toronto’s legendary, but now defunct, dance clubs. In this inaugural edition, she revisits the much-missed Roxy Blu in advance of Friday’s reunion party at Revival.


Club: Roxy Blu

Location: 12 Brant

Years in operation: 1998-2005

Why it was important: From the spring of 1998—when owner Amar Singh opened Roxy Blu in a King West area not then known for clubs—this 10,000 square-foot venue of four rooms (Roxy upstairs, Foundation a.k.a. Surface downstairs) grew to become one of Toronto’s most beloved venues for house, dancefloor jazz, downtempo, hip-hop and emerging/underground electronic and dance music. Roxy’s size, friendly staff, comfortable décor and wooden dancefloors attracted innovative DJs and promoters who, in turn, drew audiences equally passionate about music and dancing. Parties and promoters—including Movement, Phatblackpussycat, Solid Garage, milk. and Hot Stepper’s Garage 416 and Bump N’ Hustle—flourished at Roxy, collectively creating a whole much larger than its parts.

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