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The Loss of a Beloved Live Music Venue in Toronto

The Phoenix Concert Theatre. Photo Credit: Keith Ibbitson

By: Jay Broderick

Toronto, Canada - On June 6, 2024, The Phoenix Concert Theatre announced that after 33 years, they will be closing their doors at 410 Sherbourne Street in Toronto. Immediately, memories started flooded back, and the news hit me. I felt a sort of longing, and certainly sadness. You see, of all the venues of this size in this great city, The Phoenix has been my favourite. As a photographer, the lighting here has always been amazing. It makes our lives so much easier. As a music fan, the sound here is next to none.

The Phoenix Concert Theatre first opened its doors in 1991. Having taken over from what was previously The Diamond Club, The Phoenix quickly became a landmark for music, both live and as a dance club. In 1991, I turned 20 years old, so was in my prime (so to speak). As my musical tastes started to lean more towards the alternative rock scene that was taking place during that time, local radio station CFNY (102.1 The Edge) would have live-to-air with Martin Streak and other weekend dance parties at the venue, and it became a hotspot in the city.

It was the concerts that really became the attraction for myself. Some of the best bands of our generation have graced the stage at 410 Sherbourne, including Rage Against the Machine, Metallica, Foo Fighters, The Tragically Hip and Rush. While some of these shows would have been impossible to get tickets to, the mere fact that these musicians stood on that stage and played to a crowd of 1400 people is astonishing to me.

John 5 performs live at The Phoenix Concert Theatre. Photo Credit: Jay Broderick

Despite my memories of the Phoenix over the past 30 plus years, it was really only over the past 2+ years that my eyes were really opened to how great this venue is. Once I started photographing concerts, a whole new world was revealed. The first concert I shot here was John 5, exactly 2 years ago today. I covered the show for Digital Beat Magazine, and it remains my favourite experience as a concert photographer. The lighting was simply superb. Even when compared to larger arena type venues, this night was just amazing! Watching John 5 shred The Phoenix is the initial high that every other will always be compared to.

Another highlight for me from The Phoenix was later in 2022 when I headed downtown to cover intergalactic maniacs GWAR! Again, I was on assignment for Digital Beat Magazine, and once I entered the venue, it was literally covered, wall to wall to ceiling, with black plastic, to protect the theatre from the blood and ooze that was about to soak the crowd. With a show like this, you have to be on guard at all times, for fear of equipment getting damaged in some form or fashion. But no other venue would be suited for us photographers, as The Phoenix has an accessible area at stage right. While the willing Bohabs in this section still got drenched in blood, there is a slight wall towards the front that your friendly neighbourhood concert photographer can hide behind until the blood stops flowing... well, at least for a second!

Bohabs from the GWAR show at The Phoenix. Photo Credit: Jay Broderick

For LoudTO specifically, we have graciously covered shows for Obituary, and most recently Death to All, and through the past couple years, The Phoenix Concert Theatre had risen to the top as my favourite venue to cover shows from. So no doubt, I have a bit of a heavy heart as I write this. Not only for my own selfish reasons though. For the fans, cuz it's such a great venue to catch shows at.

Not all will be lost in January 2025 however, when the doors close to make way for more downtown condos (which, to be fair, are desperately needed). The Phoenix Concert Theatre has asked fans to stay tuned for news on their new location. This is fantastic news for sure! We've seen some amazing transformations with The Axis Club, and The El Mocambo, so a shiny new venue will be a pleasure. Still the same, a huge piece of me will miss 410 Sherbourne Street.

Obituary performs live at The Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto. Photo Credit: Jay Broderick
Death to All perform live at The Phoenix. Photo Credit: Jay Broderick

In closing out this chapter, I would be remiss to give a massive shoutout to my fellow photog, Keith Ibbitson, for providing the cover photo for this article. A word of wisdom for all you fans, and even you photographers. ALWAYS take a photo of the venue when you go. It will provide photographic proof that it existed, and that you were there. You simply never know what tomorrow will bring.

Got a favourite memory from this venue? Leave us a comment below!



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