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El Mocambo

After Years Of Rebuilding, Toronto’s Legendary El Mocambo To Reopen To The Public In September

The El Mocambo Vlad Podvorny / CC BY
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TORONTO (CelebrityAccess) — El Mocambo Productions along with new owner Michael Wekerle, announced that the legendary Toronto music venue El Mocambo will officially re-open to the public on September 10th.

The reopening will feature a live concert headlined by the rock band Big Wreck, sponsored by whiskey maker Jim Beam in association with Wahlburgers, Nobis, and powered by Mogo.

“During these unprecedented times we need to unite together to support everyone in our communities,” shares Michael Wekerle. “Music is a thread that unites us all and we are working closely with artists and their team members to bring new and meaningful experiences to music lovers, in new ways – safely. Myself, and my team are encouraged to continue to innovate, and work to create solutions that work to support artists, fans, communities and the entertainment industry at large. I am hopeful that with continued collaboration we can all work to sustain a healthy and thriving entertainment sector, and to ultimately keep live alive.”

The newly expanded venue has been completely refurbished with new, state-of-the-art light and sound systems and has been expanded to include three independent performance spaces – the Starlight Room, Under the Neon Palms and the VIP Balcony.

New additions to the El Mo include a third-story mezzanine, a retail space, and a broadcast facility that is among the largest in a concert venue on the East Coast.

“We are now a broadcast facility with three isolated performance areas, state of the art audio and video equipment and the ability to capture, record and stream high resolution content to a global audience,” shared Jamie Howieson, Production Manager & Executive Designer. “We have a central control room with a video control room, an audio control room and a vocal isolation booth, which allows us to pull audio and video from three separate performance spaces in the venue while simultaneously editing, mixing and delivering content via streaming platforms, or recording and capturing for future use.”

Long a fixture of Toronto’s live music scene, the El Mocambo first opened its doors in 1948 when restaurateurs Joseph Brown and John Lang applied for one of Toronto’s first liquor licenses.

In its original configuration, the club featured a restaurant on the first floor and a second-floor dance hall but live music didn’t arrive until two years later when the Liquor License Board of Ontario reconsidered an earlier ban.

Through its long life, the El Mo served as a everything from a German dance hall, a striptease joint and a concert hall featuring music that appealed to local ethnic communities in Toronto.

In 1972, the El Mo was acquired by Tom Kristenbrun and Michael Baird who began bringing rock and blues acts to the venue.

Under their ownership, the club became one of the most important venues on the East Coast, providing a stage for the likes of Buddy Guy, Elvis Costello, U2 and famously, in 1977, a surprise show by the Rolling Stones, who were billed as The Cockroaches for the show.

However, changes in the concert industry, the increasingly poor condition of the club and an exclusive booking deal with Concert Productions International, saw the El Mocambo begin a steady decline.

In 1998, Dan Burke took over booking the El Mo, and helped to revive its prospects, bringing in acts such The White Stripes, The Sadies, Deadly Snakes, Zoobombs, and Sum 41 to the venue.

The revival proved ephemeral though and by 2014, a lack of investment and innovation in the club rendered it bankrupt and facing closure. Enter Michael Wekerle, Founder and Chairman of merchant bank Difference Capital Financial Inc., former Dragon on CBC’s Dragons’ Den, and also a self-described rabid music fan. Hearing of the club’s plight, he acquired the beleaguered building and brand and set about to reviving the El Mocambo.

In 2015, Wekerle and his team began extensive renovations to repair the aging building and create fully modernized performance and event spaces.

The club’s original ground-floor stage and the second-floor mainstage remain in the same locations, but both have been refurbished to now offer improved sightlines along with upgraded  lighting, video and acoustics.

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