Toronto is suffering a great loss and most don’t even know it.
One of our live music venues, The Big Bop (651 Queen St. W.) is slated to close to this Sunday and turned into a retail furniture store.
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Yes, clubs shutter all the time. However, The Bop was the last survivor in a long line of independent Mom and Pop music halls dedicated to entertaining our city’s youth via non-licensed concerts. After 15 years of hosting all-ages shows and becoming renowned with bands, parents and kids across the GTA, its demise marks the end of any concert hall of this sort downtown; one less reason for youth to bring their disposable income to the city’s core.
“There aren’t enough good all-ages venues in Toronto,” notes Logan Broger, an uptown youth frustrated at a childhood of underage music fandom with few avenues to pursue it. “I’ve missed out on all my favourite bands in the past few years because they can only find 19-plus clubs (to play).”
Sure it sounds melodramatic but it’s true. The all-ages concert venue is crucial to urban infrastructure, offering youth the opportunity to forge friendships with like-minded individuals, a space to escape familial trappings, spend some money and spread fledgling wings with a sense of independence, even if mom and dad are waiting in the car. That is, unless they’re in on the fun, enthusiastically introducing offspring to their own musical addictions.
In essence, all-ages venues let a kid be a kid but test the waters of adult autonomy. With The Bop closing, not only is Hogtown losing a vital piece of its musical heritage but one of its most enduring, respectable and trustworthy babysitters. Not to mention a cornerstone of our local and international music scene.
“The bands you see coming from Toronto, they all passed through my doors as kids. That’s where they learned about music,” notes Big Bop owner Domenic Tassielli, offering first-hand knowledge and yet another viewpoint on the influence all-ages venues hold.
“Alexisonfire, Billy Talent, Cancer Bats ... this is where they saw bands in their youth and decided to dedicate themselves to music. I didn’t realize the impact of it until The Bop was forced to close. Then I had people of all ages telling me how it played a vital role in forming their lives; that if they didn’t come here and get into music, they might have gotten into drugs or trouble or whatever.”
Hammering the point home, Tassielli adds in that when all ages are involved, a venue and its past quickly becomes a bridge in otherwise insurmountable generational gaps, an experience no longer available in this city.
“I’ll be out with my family and other parents get excited to tell me about going to The Bop when they were young. And then their kids say how they come here now. It’s multiple ages. How do you get that without an all-ages venue?”
Other all-ages venues that didn't survive:
- The 360
Correction - January 29, 2010, 10:12 a.m. EST: In the print version of this story that ran in Metro Toronto on January 29, 2010, we incorrectly spelled the name of the all-ages venue Siesta Nouveaux, and mistakenly identified it as a venue that has closed. In fact, it is still operating.