This past weekend saw the closing of one of the most divisive music venues in all of Toronto. The Guvernment/KoolHaus was a venue you either love, hate or tolerated. Whatever your feelings about it were, there was only one thing clear – you couldn’t really avoid it. Since we are quite a reflective group, I asked various members of the Panic Manual to share their feelings about it.
Ricky I wasn’t in Toronto at the time it was known as the “Warehouse” but rather only after it rebranded itself as the “Kool Haus”. Right away, I knew it wasn’t that cool, because no truly cool places would call itself cool. Furthermore, no really cool places would call itself cool with a k. It’s not 1985.
Thierry I’ll always remember the general sense of dread I felt when an artist I wanted to see was scheduled at the Kool Haus/Guvenment—it was slightly smaller than the one I feel when a show is announced at Sound Academy, but only because at the Kool Haus there was a 10 sq. ft. space in front of the speakers where the sound was actually pretty good!
Melody- I’ve never hated the Kool Haus. Sure, I’ve had bad moments there, but I’m smart enough to know that it had nothing to do with the venue and more to do with my own dumb decisions: choosing bad shows (a free k-os show because why the fuck not), choosing to show up early like an idiot (any band I idolized as a teen) and getting shit-faced (that’s how I dealt with that k-os show, I have no recollection of how I got to/from the venue) were all things I did to myself. Poor Kool Haus just facilitated my madness. Kool Haus was so indicative of my *~youth~* (yes, I guess I’m still living out my youth), it was the place where I’d eagerly fork over my cash, line-up early for the chance of seeing an artist come out of their tour bus to greet fans and willingly listen to great music in a shitty venue. There’s a reason why I haven’t gone there in recent years and it’s because I want to believe I’m an adult now. Kool Haus was a fun teenage fling of sorts, but I’d rather spend my nights watching Netflix in a cool house. Okay, that was lame.
Brent: I can remember my first show at the Koolhaus (then the Warehouse). It was in 1997. A bunch of high school friends and I took the GO train from Port Credit to see Suede. We were a bunch of pretty excited teenagers but more of it had to do with being a suburban kid downtown on a school night. Badass.
The disappointment of the night was that they didn’t come out for an encore, however, I was able to grab a setlist from the stage.
Gary: Ahhh The Guvernment. Even though I had a single, all-too-fleeting encounter with the Guv, I’ll always remember it fondly as the only time in memory when I was checked for guns going to a concert in Toronto. A fitting act for the big-brother. Although why one would check for weapons at the XX’s concert full of moody instrumental indie gothipster is anyone’s guess.
Ricky While most people seem to dislike the KoolHaus, I thought it was okay. I’ll tell you why
1) Options – Kool Haus is a larger size venue. Up until the Danforth Music Hall opened, it was mainly the Kool Haus or the Sound Academy. I would rather stab you in the face then go to the Sound Academy.
2) Location – For most people, the Kool Haus was a trek. It is queen’s quay and in the middle of nowhere. Guess where I work? On Queen’s Quay. For me, a show at the Kool Haus just meant I go for drinks after work in the St. Lawrence area and then pop on by to the Kool Haus. Since I really liked C’est What, it was pretty easy for me to go to a Kool Haus show. Unless it was a weekend.
3) Sightlines – For most part, the stage at the Kool Haus was not high enough. However, there is a certain sneaky spot way on the other side of the stage that is almost always empty. If you look at all my Kool Haus pictures, you will see that I am always in that spot.
Melody: Best shows off the top of my mind: Broken Social Scene, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Foals, The Kills, Haim.
Jack: I realized a dream when I saw My Bloody Valentine there back in the fall of 2013. Truthfully, I did feel like I was walking into the Cantina at Mos Eisley, and found myself worried I’d get an arm chopped off by a laser weapon at any moment. The band was not on good form, the Canadian roadies not having learned how to deal with the maelstrom of Kevin Shields; the crowd was eerily quiet, with a lot of awkward silence between songs; and one loud fan redefined obnoxiousness by shouting out that MBV was “THE BEST BAND IN THE UNIVERSE!” at every possible chance. Apart from these things, the Kool Haus provided me with an opportunity I would not have otherwise had. The blissful incapacitating of my ear drums by set’s end was all I needed to look back now and realize I have a fond memory of the place.
Thierry: I did see three great shows at these venues: the Decemberists (2006) and Ben Folds Five (2012) at the Kool Haus, and Miguel (2012) at the Guvernment. That last one also featured a typically mystifying Toronto audience that started leaving in droves when Miguel kicked into his set closing “Adorn”, perhaps to be able to get out of the parking lot before daybreak.
Paul: Some friends and I drove all the way to the venue once to see some metal band (not sure who, no one that great) before finding out it was sold out and then hanging out in the parking lot for a bit while we decided what to do. I think we just went for coffee like a bunch of un-metal losers. Lesson learned. Then there was the time I went on a date to a Sonic Youth show in 2004. It didn’t really work out, perhaps foreshadowing what would happen with Kim and Thurston or maybe because life isn’t actually like the “Dirty Boots” video. Still, Hair Police and Sunburned Hand Of The Man opened that show and I remember thinking they were both pretty rad at the time.
Brent: My highlight though was seeing Pavement for the first time at the Guvernment. Otherwise, I hated that place. It was difficult to get to by public transit, there was always a line that was usually freezing, and when you got inside it was always moist and sweaty. Keep the condo-hipsters down by the lake where they belong is what I say!
Gary: My only regret is that the Guvernment didn’t live long enough to see Ricky cement its reputation in a venue review along with an Etch A Sketch worth remembering. Perhaps we could do that for an epitaph.
Ricky: Kool Haus was home to some ridiculously good shows – Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Doves, Kasabian, My Bloody Valentine and LCD Soundsystem all come to mind. I think I will end up missing the Kool Haus, because it now means I’ll have to go to the Sound Academy more often.
RIP Kool Haus, you were never that kool, but neither was I.