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6 things we loved and hated about Club Rockit, Toronto’s defunct east-end hole

May 26, 2014

Club Rockit recreated in Scott Pilgrim vs The World

The Rockit was an actual shithole. At 15, I watched the young punks in Protest the Hero and the Flatliners terrorize its small stage while enterprising skids in the crowd did their best to dodge a pile of actual human turds in the middle of the pit.I got a black eye, suffered through Closet Monster and watched as a 17-year-old Rody Walker sang “These Colours Don’t Run” on the shoulders of an audience.

The Rockit was a shithole, but I loved every minute of it

It’s that balance that endures: Sure, the Rockit was a shithole. But it was ourshithole, and for every manipulative pay-to-play Supernova show there was an intimate, unforgettable gig not far off on the horizon. For better or worse, it closed in 2005.

In 2014, the club is a faded memory—just try to Google it—but it’s one we’ll never forget. It’s a kinky adult nightclub now and, if you can believe it, it might actually be cleaner today.

Here’s what we loved, and hated, about the not-so-iconic Toronto shithole.

 

The intimacy…

Right before Miss Machine, Dillinger Escape Plan played two sold out shows at the Rockit with Planes Mistaken for Stars and The Bronx that were absolute insanity. The venue’s incredibly cramped pit meant new singer Greg Puciato could literally bounce off the walls, while guitarists Brian Benoit and Ben Weinman made immediate use of the second floor, swinging from the rafters and, after using their amps to climb up, jumping from them.

 

…But the intimacy

In the summer heat, going to the Rockit felt like you were hanging out in someone’s mouth, only it smelled much, much worse. With no windows, no vents and a crowd cloaked almost entirely in denim and patches, it was one of the more unforgiving sweatboxes in the city. Factor in the punk and metal scene’s general distrust towards proper hygiene and frequent trips outside weren’t just refreshing—they were borderline life saving.

 

The stairs…

As narrow as they were steep, trying to load in at the Rockit often felt like an exercise in futility. About as wide as Henry Rollins’ shoulders, the steady incline was made worse by the requisite human Tetris it took to get things as simple as an amplifier up to the stage. Getting down was even worse.

 

Pay-to-play

If you lived in the Greater Toronto Area in the early-noughts, you probably know exactly what we’re on about. Tickets, either blue or orange, peddled by your best friend for his big show at a hot-shot downtown club. The bands couldn’t play if they didn’t sell, and even when they did, it usually meant a 15-minute set in the middle of the afternoon wedged between seven ska bands and a hardcore outfit from Oakville whose sound seemed geared entirely around handclaps.

 

The crowd

Lots of shows at the Rockit prided themselves on a sense of community. You were a young punk, so you still pretended to believe in shit like “unity” and “dreadlocks.” But for every best friend you made in its dank halls, there was the 30-something rat goof ramming full speed at kids in the pit or the trash talking drunk on the upper balcony. Speaking of the balcony, it was as often a launching pad used to chuck shit at the bands as it was a calmer place to watch them perform.

 

The bands

Before they broke as Billy Talent, taking them to stages as big as Air Canada Centre’s, they played with mismatched sneakers to a baker’s dozen as Pez. Every Time I Die opened there on more than one occasion, and some of your favourite death metal, hardcore and punk bands all did their time touring through the Rockit.

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