I’m not sure how I finagled this invite. I think it was around 2000. I am usually pretty good about remembering dates and years, but you’ll have to forgive me if I’d had a bit to drink that night.
You see, I got an invite to the reopening of the Guvernment Entertainment Complex. It was funny because I knew they had the two clubs, The Guvernment (which I still called RPM at that time) and The Warehouse, which was the part next to it but still called The Guvernment. I had seen many cool concerts at The Warehouse in my day by this point. I’d seen Ministry, Skinny Puppy, KMFDM, and even David Bowie in the intimate venue of 3000. I had been there so often, I’d even had my favourite standing spot – no small feat when you’re 4’11” and going to industrial concerts where the average height of fans was 6’.
So when I got my invite to go, from a family friend who worked in PR, I had to see what had changed. Because it was history. Toronto history, sure. But my history. I’d matured as a concert goer there. I learned how to work the mosh pit and how to minimize bathroom time, and which bar was the fastest.
We walked in to what had been renamed “Kool Haus”. I remember saying “well, this is just the Warehouse with black curtains. Why rename it?”
And then we followed the path.
I’m sure if you’ve gone to the Guvernment recently, like in the past five years or so, you’re probably wondering what the fuck I’m talking about. You see, before Chroma and before Skybar and before Deadmau5 played his first gigs there, the Guvernment used to be connected to Kool Haus through an inside path system, located near where the washrooms are in Kool Haus now, and would exit where the Chillout Lounge in Guv is now.
That path was majestic and magical and full of class and big lights. Just from those early days, you could see the new owners had real plans. And we hoped that it would work, because, well, this was RPM. It was the club of our childhood. We would be listening to CFNY from the burbs and hearing about Chris Sheppard and all of these cool alternative bands (I won tickets to Jesus and Mary Chain at RPM but was grounded that night, so I gave my tickets to my friends who were witness to the mic stand assault), and we would be dying to go. Those who went to any of the nights, whether they snuck in with fake ID (a notorious problem for RPM and the Guv that lasted through to the very end) or whether you went for your legit 19th birthday, it was the place to go, to be seen.
The renovations to the Guvernment would bring that back and more. You could see it. And even though that path structure didn’t last (probably mostly to do with the deadly shooting than anything else), the multiple rooms remained. The size of the Guvernment and of Kool Haus remained the same. And the cool factor definitely remained the same.
Over my musical life, I can tell you I’ve seen Ministry three times, the comeback Nine Inch Nails
club tour, Iggy Pop and the Stooges, the last Sisters of Mercy gig in Toronto, Skinny Puppy four times, KMFDM, Bauhaus, and of course David Bowie. It’s the worst place to get to by TTC. It’s the worst place to be in the winter because the lineup goes down Queen's Quay where you get splashed by taxis zooming over melting snow.
And then there was this whole EDM thing. Or, as we called it back when it started, dance music. People just wanted to dance. They wanted to party. The Guvernment gave people a place to party that was away from the death of the downtown core – no traffic by the lake until the cabs all show up at 3am to take people home. That led me to a whole new set of music – Deadmau5, Kaskade, Calvin Harris, Mat Zo, Ferry Corsten, and the master, Eric Prydz.
The Guvernment complex has been hands down my favourite venue to see music in the city. Oh it’s an awful place. The people are terrible, the bouncers are mean, but the memories of who I’ve seen and when I’ve seen them and why I’ve seen them there are precious and irreplaceable.
I still go looking for that path between The Guvernment and Kool Haus. I know it’s behind the wall of Chroma. I know it’s past the washroom in Kool Haus. I know if you give me a hammer and chisel, I’ll chip away at that back wall Indiana Jones-style and find that hidden passage and the summer room with the bright pastel lights and the palm trees.
Goodbye, Guv. Goodbye, Kool Haus. There will never be another complex like you. And that truly is a shame. Lost shoes and all.