El Mocambo

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El Mocambo
The El Mocambo
The Elmo at night.JPG
Toronto's El Mocambo Club at night
Address 464 Spadina Ave
Toronto ON M5T 2G8
Location Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Coordinates 43°39′27″N 79°24′01″W / 43.657487°N 79.400177°W / 43.657487; -79.400177Coordinates: 43°39′27″N 79°24′01″W / 43.657487°N 79.400177°W / 43.657487; -79.400177
Type Nightclub
Built 1850

The El Mocambo (aka "The El Mo") is a live music and entertainment venue in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Located on Spadina Avenue, just south of College Street, the bar played an important role in the development of popular music in Toronto since the 19th century. It is best known for the 1977 surprise show by The Rolling Stones, which became nationally notorious for the presence of then Prime Minister Trudeau's wife, Margaret Trudeau (now Margaret Kemper), who was partying with the Stones.


The El Mocambo was opened as a music venue in 1850. The building was first used as a haven for escaped slaves. The name and famous El Mocambo palm tree sign were constructed in 1946. It was one of the first establishments in Toronto to obtain a liquor licence. Musical acts appeared on separate stages located on the main and second floor of the building.

The business and building were bought by Michael Baird and Tom Kristinbrun who also owned the Jarvis House in 1971. The previous owner, Mr. Schuy, rented the top floor space to any group. The German Club was a regular tenant. The El Mo brought bands like Downchild Blues Band and many others "up the street" and paid them a regular fee to perform. The bands would start out downstairs and if the revenue they generated increased, they would sometimes graduate on upstairs.[citation needed]

During the early 1970s, the upstairs featured "retreads" and "has-been" acts mostly with the occasional group on the rise. Most of the time drink sales determined which bands would return.

The iconic El Mocambo sign

Located within walking distance of the University of Toronto, Ryerson University, and George Brown College the venue became a popular place for students living nearby. Throughout the 1970s the club was known as a bastion of the blues and rock and roll during a time better known for disco.

In 2001, the El Mocambo was bought by Abbas Jahangiri who renovated both floors and now books a wide range of musical acts. He opened up the venue to all genres of music from rock and roll and orchestra to heavy metal, reggae, hip hop and jazz. As a consequence, the club's status as an important Toronto musical hotspot has been restored.[citation needed] Since Abbas Jahangiri has become a Missionary, the venue has become the #1 booker for charity events, fundraisers have been held for War Child, Amnesty International, Free the Children, World Vision, Blank-Fest and many more. Mr. Jahangiri is also founder of the non-profit charitable organization, Serving Charity and many other companies. The revenue, administration and operations of the El Mocambo fully support Serving Charity’s initiatives.

Major acts[edit]

Over the years other major music acts appeared at the venue, including Marilyn Monroe, internationally famous jazz performers, including Grover Washington, Jr., Charles Mingus, and Al Di Meola, and rock acts such as U2, Moxy, Elvis Costello, The Ramones, Dream Theater, The Rolling Stones, Stevie Ray Vaughan, April Wine, Tom Cochrane and Red Rider, Blondie, Meat Loaf, Jimi Hendrix, Queens of the Stone Age, District Down, Shakin' Natives, and Congress Court.[1]

On March 4, 1977, looking for an unprepossessing venue to record in, The Rolling Stones played the first of two performances at the club, billing themselves pseudonymously as "The Cockroaches". It was their first live club date in 14 years. Their opening act was Canadian rockers April Wine of Montreal. The Stones show was recorded and released as one side (Side 3) of the double album Love You Live, which reached #3 in the UK, #5 in the US. April Wine took advantage of the high-tech remote recording equipment brought by the Stones to record their own show for a live album as well.[2]

On May 9, 2008 the acclaimed American hard-rock band Queens of the Stone Age had a surprise concert at the El Mocambo as part of their Canadian tour.[3]

Live recordings[edit]

Other live recordings made by other bands/performers at the venue include:

Later years[edit]

By the 1990s the club was often shunned by local indie groups, who perceived it as an "industry club", where record companies showcased packaged new artists at the expense of local talent. At least among some, it gained a reputation as the place to play once a promising indie band had "sold out". [1] The relatively expensive drinks, and a fast-changing local music scene drove the mainstay student crowds to other clubs, notably the Beverly Tavern, DMZ, and Larry's Hideaway. Accordingly, throughout the 1990s, the club went through several periods of near-bankruptcy and near-closure.


  1. ^ "CBC News - Canada - Toronto's landmark El Mocambo closes". CBC.ca. November 5, 2001. Retrieved 2010-02-27. 
  2. ^ "The Rolling Stones - Canada gets Satisfaction - CBC Archives". Archives.CBC.ca. Retrieved 2010-02-27. 
  3. ^ "Queens of the Stone Age - Concert Review - El Mocambo, Toronto - May 9, 2008". Jam.Canoe.ca. Retrieved 2010-02-27. 

External links[edit]