I'd forgotten that the Elmo has been around since 1850. And no, that's not a typo. The bloody place is 162 years old.
Here's the official press release about its most recent sale.
Sam Grosso, owner of the Cadillac Lounge in Toronto’s Parkdale area, has acquired the most legendary music venue in Toronto, the El Mocambo.
The downtown music venue at 464-466 Spadina Avenue just south of College Street — which was built in 1850 — had been owned by businessman Abbas Jahangiri, and in its heyday brought major music names to the city.
Mr. Jahangiri purchased the venue in 2001 and has since used the earnings to support a wide variety of charitable initiatives both in Toronto and internationally.
Sam Grosso and his partner Marco Petrucci completed the agreement to acquire the property on Monday July 23, but they did not disclose a purchase price.
They did, however, announce plans to restore the venue to what they described as “its glorious past as one of Toronto’s best live music venues.”
They plan to renovate both the upstairs room, which can accommodate some 350 people, and the main floor venue, which has room for more than 200.
They also plan, in the immediate future, to renovate the iconic El Mocambo “palm tree” sign — a $20,000 project in itself.
“The changes to the physical structure, both upstairs and down, will have to be done little by little over the next year,” said Mr. Grosso. “There is much work to be done to restore the Elmo to what it was. The stage upstairs will be returned to the north wall, where it used to be, and the sound system upgraded.”
Mr. Grosso has owned the Cadillac Lounge — certainly Parkdale’s largest and most successful venues — for 12 years. His partner in the El Mocambo acquisition, Marco Petrucci, owns 99 Sudbury Street, a successful venue in the Queen-Dufferin area.
“We’re aware that the music scene in Toronto has changed dramatically in the last decade. There are new venues, new kinds of popular music,” said Mr. Grosso.
“We want to bring back a venue that will accommodate all kinds of music, and once again be a mecca — under the palm tree sign — for the very best. It will take time and a lot of work to bring the Elmo back, but we’re starting now…”
The El Mocambo was built in 1850, and the building was part of the Underground Railroad, and served as a haven for escaped slaves from the United States.
It was one of the first venues in Toronto gain a liquor license, and its name— and sign — arrived in 1946. In the 70’s and in the early ’80s it was one of the best-known venues in North America, presenting a eclectic variety of rock and roll, edgy pop, blues, folk, jazz, alt.country and r&b in an era when disco ruled.
Artists who performed there at that time included U2, Elvis Costello, Charles Mingus, The Ramones, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Blondie, Clannad (with Enya), Jimi Hendrix, and (in 1977) The Rolling Stones. More than a dozen artists, including the Stones and Vaughan, made live albums at the Elmo, as did Meatloaf, Downchild, Elvis Costello, Henry Rollins and April Wine. A local group, Mainline, recorded Last Show @ The Elmo in 2001, but the hard-rock band Silverstein recorded Decade: Live at the El Mocambo two years ago.
For the last decade, the club has been booked by Yvonne Matsell, who will continue with the venue. Amongst the artists who’ve appeared in more recent years on their way to high-profile careers are Fleet Foxes, Alejandro Escovedo, K’naan, Civil Wars, Queens of the Stone Age and The Sheepdogs.