A Clubbing Experiment

Jun 25, 2013 by

          Confession: On Friday night, for the first time in nearly five years, I went to a Toronto club on my own accord. I went without a friend’s birthday to attend, a special occasion to celebrate, or alcohol to get me through the night (DD is my life baby!). In defense of my pride, it was an experiment in happiness. (I love that I can nonchalantly brush off the shock factor of almost anything that I do on the grounds of happiness experimentation.) When I was 18, I lived for club culture. Though clubs aren’t my scene anymore, I felt that I owed it to 18-year-old me to give one a chance this summer.

          Between the fall of 2008 and the winter of 2013, I lost interest in nearly everything that I used to love. Lately, having experienced sensations of interest for the first time in years – interest in new activities, new people, and new places – I thought it time to pursue a past interest. I wanted to determine whether my eventual disinterest in clubbing was the result of genuine apathy or a consequence of depression. I reasoned that maybe I would like clubbing now that I’m no longer the embodiment of pessimism. More likely, depression was not to blame and I really did just outgrow my clubbing days, but I would never know for sure if I didn’t conduct a test. Eighteen-year-old Maria was a pretty cool chick. This was for her.

          I wanted to be cautious with my choice of club. Truth be told, I’ve been debating about going clubbing downtown since May. I’ve procrastinated on making it happen because I wasn’t sure if I was confident enough to immerse myself in the shallow, judgmental air and emerge with my self-esteem intact. I’ve also been out of the know regarding clubs for so long that I had no idea which one would offer the vibe that I was looking for: a small venue, a preferably older crowd (but at least my age would do), well dressed guys and respectfully dressed girls, good music, and friendly people (a precious rarity in the club scene). I was aware that I was searching for a diamond that I doubted I’d dig out of the rough, so I did what any person in search of insight would do: I Googled reviews. I went through a daunting list of clubs, and I read mostly negative or contradictory comments. The same club would yield reviews like “Amazing crowd!” and “The crowd was typical of that found in the douche district.” This was one of the rare times that Google could not be trusted. Unsurprisingly, nothing peaked my interest.

          That is, until I met the guys behind Press Play Pro a few weeks ago. They came into contact with me through work by complete fluke. They had emailed my former co-worker. Because she is no longer with my company, her emails were being forwarded to my Outlook, which is how I received their correspondence. This resulted in them coming in for a face to face meeting with me.

          Before I step foot into a corporate meeting, I do my research. My philosophy is that if people make an effort to provide me with information, it’s only fair that I take the time to review it. From what they had provided, I learned that they owned Press Play Pro. I hadn’t heard of Press Play Pro before, so I checked out their website. It’s a club promotions business that was launched in 2007. I was surprised that I hadn’t heard of it (I wasn’t one to like to mix and mingle with promoters though). Regardless, these guys had me at their blog. It expresses views on clubbing that I agree with, and demonstrates a passion for bringing something unique to Toronto nightlife because downtown clubs suck.

          When I met them in person, we chatted about their experience in nightlife promotions. Our perspectives on Toronto clubbing seemed to match, so I trusted their expertise. I thought it may be worth checking out one of their events. They mentioned that they’d be hosting Friday nights at The Thompson Hotel this summer, and noted that there’s a lounge above the club. Sold. Lounges are more my thing. I could start my night there and ease my way downstairs.

          A few Fridays later (a.k.a. last Friday), I made my way to The Thompson at Bathurst and Wellington. I begrudgingly parked on King W (ick!) for the nightly free parking and walked over. I arrived just before midnight, which is insanely early to start clubbing, but I’m apparently a nonna now that I’m in my twenties and didn’t want to be out too late (I was going to Buffalo early the next morning). When I got there, I flashed my license, had my hand stamped, and walked right in. That’s how it’s done people: no cover. I judge clubs that charge cover for their pretentiousness. I understand the need for a cover charge at all ages events; not for 19+. Club patrons are already buying drinks (admittedly, I am not usually one of those drink buyers, but still); they should not have to pay an entry fee. (I almost threw up in my mouth when I paid $20 to get into Dragonfly in Niagara. That would not have gone down if it wasn’t for a birthday.) These guys are doing things right! I checked off complimentary entry on my imaginary club standards checklist.

          I entered the beautiful lounge. It was filled with classily dressed people who appeared to range in age from early twenties to early thirties. Not bad, I thought. I sat at the bar. Olivia ordered our fav: amaretto sour, Mexican style (orange). I eyed her drink in envy as I sipped my water (which successfully fools bystanders every time). I began to mentally prepare myself to walk down to the club exhaling the music that taunted me from below. Nerves were taking me over. To calm myself down, I engaged Olivia in one of my favourite people watching games: analyzing guy-girl pairs and guessing their stories (ex. first date, just friends, stage five stalker situation, marital affair, etc). The targets of our game that night were a guy who was definitely about to luck out with the chick he was buying a drink for and a couple who were no doubt in a heated argument (I felt really bad for the guy half of this duo, whose girlfriend was making him so apparently uncomfortable with her persistent angry undertones that I felt awkward for him). As we were dissecting couples around the bar, the bartender topped off my water. Oops, I thought, I guess I’ll have to wait to go down to the club a little longer. Oh well.

          After two waters and the bill, my procrastination had clearly had its run. It was time to move downstairs. I inhaled deeply to brace myself for the slut show. To my astonishment, it never came. I slowly descended the stairs. I watched the floor as one black heel gracefully progressed downward in front of the other. When I hit ground, I looked up to find guys in dress shirts surrounding the bar and girls with stylish dresses dancing the floor. I grabbed more water at the bar. I needed something to clutch for comfort. With my glass in hand, I made my way to the dance floor. I smiled to myself as I was reminded of elementary school: girls on one side of the room (the floor) and guys on the other (the bar). I began to relax.

          Trying to get into the music (my taste is more new rock than EDM), I took in my surroundings. It met most of my must-haves: intimate setting, twenty-something crowd (with the exception of a handful of newly legals and woo girls, but that’s inevitable), and appropriately dressed club goers. In all fairness, I couldn’t judge the music, because I have no clue what good EDM sounds like. As for crowd friendliness, it was still TBD, but so far so good. I gave this club a rating of “okay” at this point.

          While dancing, I saw one of the Press Play Pro guys that I had met a couple of weeks prior. When I stopped him for a quick hug hello, he invited Olivia and I over to his booth for a drink and to say hello to his business partner, who I also previously met. They totally won me over for an exceptional rating of crowd friendliness. These two are the most genuinely nice, laid back, and grounded club promoters that I’ve ever encountered. Olivia and I chatted with them and were introduced to their girlfriends in between dancing. (The music had mixed into songs that I actually knew by this point, like Daft Punk’s Get Lucky, my designated song of the summer.) We immediately hit it off with one of the girls, gushing over Italy and what was quite possibly the most romantic real life relationship story that I’ve ever heard! We ended up spending the majority of the night sharing travel stories with her. Sociability review for The Thompson: fabulous!

          Compiling the results of my clubbing experiment, The Thompson Hotel makes for a pretty good night out! Eighteen-year-old Maria would have been proud. If you live near Toronto and you’re looking for a nightlife experience with more depth than the superficial establishments that define downtown, I would recommend a Friday night at 1812 inside The Thompson Hotel. It’s a gem brought to life by two great guys who know how to deliver something different.

          Boys, from a girl with high standards who had previously boycotted Toronto clubbing, I’m impressed! Thanks for a great night!

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