Toronto’s refurbished El Mocambo: It’s real and it’s spectacular.

A few weeks back, I had a private tour of the new-look El Mocambo, which has been under renovation forever. With a total of $22 million sunk into it by Bay Street/Dragon’s Den music fan Michael Wekerle, music fans would be correct in expecting something truly specatular.

It is. Trust me.

This week there was a media walkthrough hosted by Weks himself. And now that the cat’s out of the bag, I can tell you what I saw for myself last month.

  • No expense has been spared when it comes to equipment, design, decor, and level of detail. I guarantee people will spend hours gazing at the wallpaper. And when you do get inside, pay close attention to the staircase railings. THAT’S attention to detail.
  • Construction dug down ten 10 feet (the basement now features luxurious washrooms and an industrial-sized kitchen) and built up another 20 to create a balcony overlooking the stage on the second floor.
  • Wait: Back up. The main floor has its own performance space with a capacity of 300 people. The stage is solid concrete and the house PA is state-of-the-art. There are video streams (capable of 20K–yes, that’s right–resolution) everywhere. Most everything can be controlled through an iPad.
  • The second floor has a capacity of about 400. The huge stage (solid concrete again) is flanked by the old ElMo sign that used to hang over the sidewalk. It was cut in half so it perfectly frames the stage. More video screens everywhere. A huge bar. A tiki bar is tucked away on the balcony.
  • The third floor also features a state-of-the-art recording facility with a 96-channel SSL board. Producers and engineers will be able to capture audio from anywhere in the building. Design was overseen by famed producer Eddie Kramer (Jimi Hendrix’s favourite producer) who was basically given a blank cheque.
  • Next door is a TV control room that controls the umpteen cameras throughout the venue.
  • Next to that is a voice booth for things like vocal recordings and radio broadcasts.
  • The building has an amazing amount of bandwidth available for streaming content to the world. And the electrical system indestructible. No one’s gonna blow a fuse in this place.
  • The whole place is designed for maximum selfies. You’ll see what I mean when you go inside. (I especially like the collection of custom-made interior neon signs, including two on the second floor.)
  • Everything is totally and utterly isolated from an acoustic point of view. A band will be able to blast at full volume from the basement and not be heard upstairs and vice-versa.
  • Artists and load-in will be at the back with ultra-wide doors. An elevator will whisk performers directly up to to a third-floor dressing room (which, by the way, will also be equipped for recording opportunities.)
  • In other words, the Elmo will not just be a music venue and event space. but a full-on content creation factory. There won’t be a better place to record a live album or a performance video. It can be rented as a rehearsal space for big-time tours. It’ll be suitable for shooting TV shows. Companies wanting to hold special events for employees/shareholders/investors will have all kinds of technology at their disposal.
  • It’s clean. Unbelievably clean. And slick. And cool.

Do not make the mistake in thinking that the new Elmo is just a refurbished music club featuring bands and serving beer. It is not.

There has never been anything like this anywhere in Canada, let alone Toronto. In fact, this may be the best-equipped music venue in all of North America if not the world.

When will it open? Bets say next month. There have been talks with many big acts, including Pearl Jam, The Who, The Rolling Stones, Billy Idol, and more.

Stand by by for more. Much more. Trust me on this.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

7 thoughts on “Toronto’s refurbished El Mocambo: It’s real and it’s spectacular.

  • March 4, 2020 at 11:42 am

    Can’t wait for the Elmo to re-open! Would love for the opener to be Pearl Jam (going to Toronto show March 18th) but man that would be a hard ticket to get I would imagine (up there with the SiriusXM Apollo show). Thanks for the guided tour Alan 🙂 Glad they are doing it right.

  • March 4, 2020 at 11:49 am

    This sounds gross, another sad and gaudy nail in the coffin of Toronto’s once-vibrant musical heart. I’d rather the Elmo had stayed dead than see it’s sad corpse covered in glitter and paraded around for bottle-set influencers to take selfies with. Fuck this garbage.

  • March 4, 2020 at 8:06 pm

    With ticket prices between $100 and $1000, no thanks. Wekerle, show some decency man.

  • March 5, 2020 at 12:20 am

    Glad that you enjoyed the details that we at CGA in Burlington put into the railings! All the rails were custom made with most CNC cutting all done in house. The wall mounts were a CGA idea and they came out absolutely stunning!!

  • March 5, 2020 at 11:25 am

    I remember playing the ElMo back in the 80s and thinking to myself “what a crap hole”. But there I was standing where Keif stood staring at the wall 15 feet in front of my face from the stage. I’m really glad that this is now going to be a true showpiece room and that the place will still hold the mystique and awe it had from the old days and will create a ton of new prestige moments for bands and fans in the future.

  • March 5, 2020 at 4:46 pm

    Someone mentioned that $1000 for Pearl Jam (or some large touring act) at the El Mocambo would sell out easily. That’s not the point. Regular people can no longer attend and local bands can no longer play there. This is a corporate slap in the face to a Toronto music community struggling to survive.

  • March 5, 2020 at 11:04 pm

    Excited to go. But really, they spent $30 million on a club that holds 700 people tops? Maybe in Vegas. But Id rather pay $500 to see the Chilli Peppers play at the Elmo then $150 to see them at Scotia. Ok Wek…go book the bands.


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