Toronto Just Banned Electronic Dance Music Concerts

on its Public Grounds (2014)
April 14, 2014 Ryan Krahn
Friday morning, Toronto (supposedly the world's 'most youthful city') banned electronic
dance music concerts from the Direct Energy and Better Living buildings on its public
grounds, Exhibition Place. Exhibition Place, also known as The Ex, is a publicly owned space
located by Toronto's western waterfront, far away from any residential housing, which hosts an
annual fair and often rents out their space for concerts of all genres. In the past, these events
have included some of the biggest names to ever hit the sync button: Tiësto, Avicii and Laidback
The shutdown comes at the behest of Zlatko Starkovski, owner of suburbanite DUI
destination, Muzik Nightclub. In the middle of January, Zlatko started worrying about the
kids, particularly, the ones dancing across the street from his club. After all, there's something
less impressive about a 3000-person mega club with its own free beauty salon when the seats
are empty because everyone's watching Avicii DJ hands-free over at the 10,000-seater next
door. So, Zlatko decided to write the city to tell on these kids. Well, first he donated a couple
thousand dollars to mayor Rob Ford's 2010 campaign. And he hired the powerful Sussex
lobbying firm too. And then he wrote the letter.
The letter starts off with the outright admission that "competing events in the Better Living
Centre and the Direct Energy Centre...has caused Muzik problems in booking the talent for our
own shows," before gears are switched and a moral argument is launched against these
"problem rave events," with their drugs and underage drinking.
While this complaint was sliding its way through the right channels, Zlatko, known to Ford
simply by the nickname 'Z,' invited the mayor to check out his club and the mayor obliged.
And eventually the letter slid right into the hands of Ford's sidekick, Councillor Mammoliti, who
introduced the motion to have electronic music banned from these venues.
Before the motion passed four to three, Z and his lobbyist wheeled out the usual rave bogeyman
tropes I remember seeing on daytime television in the late '90s: kids raiding their parents'
medicine cabinets for scripts to take at the show, pedophiles on the prowl, eight to nine year old
ravers (as if Toronto was actually Gabber Holland)! Mammo asked the committee to think of
the children "taking ecstasy on government lands owned by the taxpayers" and worried that it
was "wrong to be sending that message." (A refresher: moralist Mammo is the guy who
proposed a Red Light District on the Toronto Island and was the very last man defending the
mayor amidst his crack scandal). Of course, the irony of it all is that the reason Exhibition Place
started hosting dance music events in the first place was due to a Toronto Public Health
recommendation that suggested it was the safest, most regulated place to do so. (And by our
count, more people have died at Muzik than at any rave at Exhibition Place). Councillor Gord
Perks, who opposed the motion, remarked that such a move would mean the loss of a "safe, wellmonitored venue for young people and all-ages events and drive them back to the underground
where it is really dangerous." Mammo replied by calling him 'Councillor Perks-ocet.'

After all of this conflation between drugs, death, and dance music, Mammo finally got to the real
point: "If the private industry wants to have [EDM concerts] in a private location then so be it."
And these were the stakes, because the big twist is that Muzik plays (albeit currently to fewer
people) the same mainstream EDM that they sold to the committee as dangerous. So, the city
sold off its ostensibly bad investment right back to Muzik. As Z's letter admits,
"Muzik, currently operates with a liquor license that has a capacity of 8,755. This encompasses
5,674 people outside in addition to the 3,081-person capacity inside our venue. However, our
current lease has an exclusive use clause for events up to 2,999 people. By increasing this to
reflect our actual capacity that we are licensed for, it would provide the necessary protection for
these type of one off situations, and will give Muzik Clubs the protection it requires to ensure
that our business remains successful."
The TL;DR is that Muzik wanted to start a moral panic around dance music to shut down
concerts at Exhibition Place, so that it could start hosting its own 9000-person EDM concerts on
the same premises. That means their competitors, Live Nation or INK, will have to find other
places, but this isn't as much the issue as the fact thatapproximately one million dollars of lost
revenue per year will be moving from the public purse into private hands, and at the cost of
further vilifying the name of dance music.
Councillor Perks told THUMP that "Muzik, which is very politically connected, simply wants to
get exclusive control of music events on Exhibition Place grounds. So they pretended to be for
the welfare of young people, but instead, all they're interested in is their own bottom line. They
want to expand to have exclusive rights." The councillor emphasized that the board that made
the final decision "only exists because the city established it, so I need to figure out what tools
city council has to bring the board back into a more sound harm reduction approach... Several of
us on the council are just not going to let this go. We'll figure out a way."
Where that currently leaves The Ex in terms of music programming is another question. Is
EDM-influenced pop music like Rihanna still ok? Will Avicii only be allowed to play his country
tracks? Who will monitor the BPMs at the events? Will this mean a widespread youth exodus
back to the drug-free safe havens of all of the other genres? And what's the under-19 set
supposed to do now that they're not allowed to dance on public grounds? Well, I'm sure
Exhibition Place's chairman Mark Grimes (who supported Mammo's motion) would be happy to
invite them to an event he's hosting: MUSIC! Not Mischief, "a Toronto Police led youth
outreach program using rock 'n' roll guitar as a medium." That's happening later this month at
the Mod Club. Speaking of, remember when everyone was scared of mod teens listening to rock
'n' roll guitar music and getting high on dexys?