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
Opened 1946

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 (which was housed in Kensington Market at the time) 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. It became infamous due to a 1977 surprise performance by the Rolling Stones after which Mick Jagger was rumoured to have had a backstage assignation with Margaret Trudeau, wife of then-Prime Minister of Canada Pierre Trudeau.[1] The venue was featured on the cover of the Stones' Love You Live concert album. In its heyday, the venue also hosted performances by Blondie, the Ramones, Devo and Joan Jett.[1]

Later years[edit]

In the club was a mainstay of the 1990s underground music scene.[1] Dan Burke became the club's booker in 1998 and made it into a venue for garage rock acts. and international bands such as White Stripes and the Zoobombs.[1] A monthly a monthly queer rock ’n’ roll party called Vazaleen became a regular feature and helped launch Peaches on what became an international career.[1]

In 2001, the El Mocambo was bought by Abbas Jahangiri who renovated both floors and tried to turn the upstairs into a dance studio. The club was in this period venue to all genres of music from rock and roll and orchestra to heavy metal, reggae, hip hop and jazz.

Jahangiri has become a missionary, and used the club to host numerous charity events with fundraisers have been held for War Child, Amnesty International, Free the Children, World Vision, Blank-Fest and others. In 2012, he sold the El Mocambo in order to foucs on his missionary work. The new owners had difficulty booking for the venue and sold it in the fall 2014. The club is expected to close after a last show on November 6, 2014.[2]

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, Bo Diddley, Tom Cochrane and Red Rider, Blondie, Meat Loaf, Jimi Hendrix, Queens of the Stone Age, District Down, Shakin' Natives, and Congress Court.[3]

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.[4]

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.[5]

Live recordings[edit]

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


  1. ^ a b c d e "RIP El Mocambo (1946-2014)". NOW. September 24, 2014. Retrieved September 24, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Toronto’s El Mocambo conditionally sold, last show could be played in November at legendary venue". September 17, 2014. Retrieved September 24, 2014. 
  3. ^ "CBC News - Canada - Toronto's landmark El Mocambo closes". CBC.ca. November 5, 2001. Retrieved 2010-02-27. 
  4. ^ "The Rolling Stones - Canada gets Satisfaction - CBC Archives". Archives.CBC.ca. Retrieved 2010-02-27. 
  5. ^ "Queens of the Stone Age - Concert Review - El Mocambo, Toronto - May 9, 2008". Jam.Canoe.ca. Retrieved 2010-02-27. 

External links[edit]