The THUMP Guide to Clubbing: Toronto

In our first Canadian installment of the series, these five Toronto venues bring the heat all year long.

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Nov 21 2014, 1:00am

It should come as no surprise that nightlife in Canada's largest city is accessible, diverse, and living on the cutting edge. After hours techno night with pool tables? We've got that. Trap shows that explode into hardcore hip-hop at the end of the night? We've got that too. T-Dot's many neighbourhoods are a canvas painted by different venues, each carving out a cultural niche.

As the nation's cultural captial, Toronto has almost always been the landing point for hundreds of thousands of immigrants, each bringing with them a rich musical history. In 2014, it doesn't matter whether your affinity lies within techno, big room, or ghetto-seapunk, there's a place for you here (and enough cheap party favours to keep you going well into the morning).

Even the deepest of bass is no match for that lake-effect snow struggle, so for the half of each year when the warmth of your bed is most tempting, you need to know where you're going when you step out in your dancing shoes. On that note, we present to you, the THUMP Guide to Clubbing: Toronto.

CODA (The Annex)


794 Bathurst Street // codatoronto.com // Facebook, Twitter

Coda is the much-anticipated successor to Toronto's legendary-and beloved- after hours destination, Footwork.

It isn't quite Footwork, but on the bright side, you've got an expanded space with upgraded sound and visual aesthetic. The PK Sound and ceiling lighting installation? Sleek stuff. But while Footwork was Toronto's best kept secret, Coda has been on everybody's lips from day one. It gets busy fast, advance tickets are encouraged (or face a steep cover) and as many scenesters populate the joint as purist listeners.

Be it mainstream or underground, the unpredictable audience is something to expect in a market like Toronto's. But somewhere amidst the girls mispronouncing the headliner's last name and the pricey fees for last minute partiers, the spirit of Footwork lives on here.

Beware: Some clubs' lines are long, others are chaotic. CODA's falls into the second category.

Food & Drink:
Do: Stop by one of nearby Bloor Street's many late-night drunk food restaurants on the way home.
Don't: Pre-drink at a expensive bar before. There are dozens of amazing dives in walking distance, and you should save your money.

Fashion: CODA's dress code lies somewhere in-between Holt Renfrew and Forever 21.

The Guvernment (Harbourfront)


132 Queens Quay East // theguvernment.com // Facebook, Twitter

It's been used and abused, but Torontonians still return to it like the flaws aren't there. Beyond the sweat stains, The Guvernment a club that has put the city on the radar of DJs, promoters and partiers worldwide. If you've never been, now is the time, as The Guv will shut its doors forever in January 2015.

Many Canadian's first exposure to electronic music happened at this super club. Some of the biggest names in dance music have thrown down hard between those Red Bull and vodka-stained walls. Steve Angello and Markus Schulz are among the many kingpins who have been vocal about their #guvluv over the year -and that's got to count for something. So let the perspiring ceilings continue to rain down on your sweat-soaked hair, Toronto, and know that the doors to the legendary dungeon will be missed. Enjoy what remains of the beloved #guvlife and give your TRC feed a good scroll for all the captured moments of its last days.

Beware: Do not touch any surfaces in The Guv. The dirt and bacteria accumulated over the years are enough to knock out an RCMP horse.

Food & Drink:
Do: Sneak a cheeseburger into the club.
Don't: Get caught with said cheeseburger in the club.

Fashion: Grab a button-up from Armani Exchange and prepare yourself for the best that The Bay's perfume section has to offer.

Comfort Zone (Harbord Village)


480 Spadina Avenue // comfortzonetoronto.com

Comfort Zone holds the dubious honour of being Toronto's most notorious after hours club. To say that CZ is a unique urban adventure would be putting it mildly. The club is typically brewing with some of the city's weirdest, and it keeps a gangster or two tucked in the shadows among average people who simply desire a part deux to their night, with a side of good house music.

Don't be surprised to bump elbows with 50 year-old lawyers shuffling alongside 20 year-old club rats, unidentifiable dudes in full horsehead masks, and that middle-aged foreign couple who are overly choreographed on the dancefloor (and you could have sworn they were just at The Guvernment). Differences aside, everyone is going wild to the tech house grooves of Deko-ze, Quim, and Jay Force, to name a few. Much like the club itself, the music is dark, grimy, and unique. CZ certainly caters to an element of subculture hedonism, but it's also a reliable option for fans who are tired of the bottle-service racket. It may be an acquired taste, but you owe it to yourself to stay and catch the sunrise on a Sunday morning at least once. There's no place like Zone.

Beware: Keep an eye on your friends lest they fall victim to someone who isn't there for the music.

Food & Drink:
Do: Grab a bottle of water from Rexall beforehand.
Don't: Bother eating. If you're at Comfort Zone, you most likely have no appetite.

Fashion: Ke$ha would be overdressed for this party.

Toika (Queen West)


471 Richmond Street // toikalounge.com // Facebook, Twitter

Since an overhaul, Toika has been proudly flaunting its face lift in Toronto's nightclub scene. A considerable number of its bookings are trance DJs and its operating ethos is rooted in the familial community vibes of the genre itself. Spearheading the club's revival is Ozmozis Productions, a local events company that has made it possible for the city's devoted fans to see some of trance and progressive music's biggest names in an intimate setting, including Max Graham, Giuseppe Ottaviani and Bryan Kearney. The operative word at Toika is intimate. In close quarters, the most epic of trance and progressive nights can hit you harder in the feels than you're prepared for, so plan not to ugly cry in the bathroom queue. If you are feeling blue, it would be hard to leave this place on any given weekend without getting a hug from a stranger and subsequently, a new friend.

Food & Drink:
Do: $4 Jager shots.
Don't: Be an asshole, or expect the same kind of treatment back.

Fashion: They have a shirts-on policy, so bros-beware.

The Hoxton (King West Village)


69 Bathurst Street // thehoxton.ca // Facebook, Twitter

Way out in the left field of Toronto club life is The Hoxton. If you're there on any night in which the DJ even slightly resembles Carnage, DVBBS or someone who uses the word "bangers" in a sentence, prepare for the worst. Sweaty is an understatement, and bro culture spreads like foot-and-mouth disease on a hot night in the Prairies. There are probably 30 promoters listed for most parties; getting thrown on one of their guest lists isn't hard at all even if it usually means absolutely zero once you're at the door ("I told you to come before 10:30, bro!!").

The trick here is to pick your nights wisely. More recently, Friday have been stacked at the closet-club, thanks to a great initiative called Focus Fridays. Credible artists like Kaytranada, Ryan Hemsworth, J.Phlip and Moon Boots have all pegged a date there. Still, think of this place as a house party in a club, even though the upgraded sound system is a huge improvement from what it once was. Despite its flaws, you could do a lot-and we do mean a lot-worse than The Hoxton.

Beware: The Hoxton's crowd is young, so prepare yourself for people who don't know concepts like "wait in line" or "personal space."

Food & Drink:
Do: Go to the McDonald's on the opposite corner and get your late night McNuggets on.
Don't: Trash the McDonald's. Damn it! We specifically told you not to!

Fashion: If you wear a beanie to The Hoxton, the rest of your outfit is irrelevant as you will fit in.

Honourable Mentions:

RYZE (Little Italy)


423 College Street // ryzeoncollege.com // Facebook, Twitter

Ryze is a place that consistently reinvents and sometimes renames itself, but as under previous monikers, the second-story dance hall sees nothing but huge techno artists grace its stage. From Steve Lawler, Danny Tenaglia and Sharam, Ryze has no shortage of bragging rights and the repertoire to back it up. The club is slightly larger than other places we'd recommend, but it's never without a snaking line and pricey cover. If you must, get there early!

UNIUN Nightclub (Queen West)


473 Adelaide St // uniun.com // Facebook, Twitter

UNIUN is Toronto's smorgasbord nightclub and one of the many children of the INK Entertainment powerhouse. They book a wide repertoire of artists that range from techno dons like Pete Tong to progressive favourites like Grum and Fehrplay, not to mention that big room stuff your kid brother listens to by the likes of Martin Garrix. It's the classiest looking dungeon in the city, with lavish velvet curtains, phoney chandeliers and a LED icicle-covered ceiling that can make your Instagram posts highly liked. Toronto favourites DJs Manzone & Strong hold a residency on Factory Fridays which itself is as good a reason as any to go.

Check out our interactive map:

Read other THUMP Guides to Clubbing: New York City // Los Angeles

Photo credits: THESUPERMANIAK, Visualbass Photography, Kovacevic Photography

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