410 Sherbourne St
Toronto ON M4X 1K2
There are a few mid-tier (1000ish people) concert venues in Toronto and the Phoenix Theatre is one of them. Located just north of the notorious Regent Park, the Phoenix has been a consistent home for concerts from bands just on the cusp of stardom (or just on the cusp of irrelevancy as the mainstream media would have it).
Essentially, the Phoenix is a large divey looking night club turned into a concert hall. The main area is a giant rectangular room that has a balcony at the far end and multple spots for bars. Concerts that happen on Friday or Saturday at the Phoenix usually start at 8pm and end at 10 so that the club crowd can still get their dance on. The bathrooms are not the cleanest, but they aren’t Sneaky Dee hazard zones either. A few years ago, I would say the Phoenix had a really muddled sound system. I have since see that improve recently so I can say the sound is now acceptable. The Phoenix seemed to have upgraded their light system a few years ago as well, the only thing left to upgrade is the location. That’s probably impossible. One of the most amusing things I find about the Phoenix is that they switch the main bathrooms according their perceived demographic of the show. There’s a large bathroom and a small bathroom, both have stalls and both have urinals. So depending on the band, they make one male and make the other female. It’s always a curiosity to see which one is which at any concert.
As with any venue that is considered mid size or larger, your quality of sight is directly correlated with how far you are from the stage. In terms of the Phoenix, the view quickly deteriorates once you starting going back further then halfway. This is mostly due to the relatively low stage. There is a balcony from which you can comfortably sit and watch but you might as well stay at home and turn up the record really loud on shuffle if you are seeing a show from up there. If you refer to my map, you will see there is a pretty good spot on the far left of the stage near the speakers and rails. It is hard to get to, but that is probably also the reason why it’s not very crowded in that area.
Since its in a shady neighborhood , the security does do a pat down upon entry but it’s not of the hand rape variety, instead it’s just a gentle pat down, like how you would touch a senior citizen or something. The security is rather strict with the pot smokers so do be careful if you wish to blaze. Despite all that, they are generally nice.
Maybe it’s just the location. Maybe it’s the demographic that the club gets on the weekend but the beer selection at the Phoenix is absolute crap. Worse, they only have bottles and pour it into those plastic cups. I’m not at a keg party yo, put those cups away. Having said all that, there are at least five bars to serve your need and after a few beers you don’t really care what you are drinking anyway.
While I am not in love with the Phoenix, I have accepted the fact that it is a venue I must visit often as they have a tendency to book really solid acts. In fact, it’s probably housed a few of my favorite concerts ever (notably, Manic Street Preachers and James) When it’s not packed, the Phoenix is actually a pretty comfortable concert venue. When it’s packed, it highly diminishes the quality of the venue since there are not that many good sight lines to be had. It will be interesting to see how the Phoenix steps up their game now that the Danforth Music Hall has announced itself to be a player in the concert game.
Manic Street Preachers