Sarah’s Spots: Exploring Toronto’s Live Music Venues
11 Polson Street
Formerly—maybe even infamously—known as the Sound Academy, Rebel underwent a massive renovation in early 2016, to the tune of 10 million dollars. This transformed the space notorious for its awful sightlines and horrible sound system into a 7500 sq. ft. high-tech sound oasis. Now if only they could have used some of that cash flow to relocate this venue somewhere a little less sketchy and out of the way, and maybe hire someone to come up with a better, more descriptive name than ‘Rebel’.
Acoustics-wise, this place is designed to be cranked up to 11. Popular with pop and hip-hop artists, Rebel is also a sweet venue for a heavy rock or metal show. I saw Coheed and Cambria there last Fall, and it's not hard to make those guys sound spectacular, but the Rebel techs did a solid job working with their range in such a large space. It also helps that the expensive renovation worked wonders on their sound and lighting equipment, which is now top-of-the-line, and it shows. That said, while the overall sightlines have definitely improved from the Sound Academy days, the main floor is still completely flat. If you get there late and you’re not 6ft tall, be prepared to fight your way to the front if you want to see.
Finally, while their website might boast that they put on an “unrivaled concert experience”, I would argue that there is a whole lot more that goes into the ‘experience’ part which falls pathetically short at Rebel. Here are my top three reasons for why Rebel doesn’t live up to its lofty claims:
1. Drinks are ridiculously expensive for what they are: I’m talkin’ $8.50 for a 1oz mixed drink in a plastic cup, $9.25 for a regular sized can of MGD (not even a tall boy!) and upwards of $11 for Stella, Heineken or anything of the like that’s imported.
2. The staff and security are notoriously rude and abrasive. My personal peeve with security was that after the lights came up, they gave the crowd of 2000+ people all of five minutes to file out of the venue before they started making their rounds and screaming at us to get moving—we even had to justify a stop at the merch table on our way out to the beefy security guy who was stalking us out the door!
3. It’s a nightmare to get home! Quite possibly the worst venue location in the city. Rebel is waterfront, sure, but it’s also in the middle of the Portlands, with the only way in or out being one long road lined with factories, studios, and parking lots—can you say sketchy?! If you drive, don’t get sucked in by the call of abundant parking, it only makes getting out worse—and they’re gonna charge you $20. If you don’t drive, don’t be fooled by Rebel’s “complimentary shuttle service”—it’s only offered on #RevolutionSaturdays when the space is used as a “premier” nightclub. If you’re going to see a live show, good luck getting home ‘cause you’re on your own! My suggestion would be to schedule an Uber and hightail it out before the masses so you don’t waste an hour of your life trying to get back to civilization.
My Rating: 2 out of 5. On the whole, you can bet on Rebel to put on a solid show if your favourite artist is playing, but I wouldn’t suggest going (literally) out of your way to see a show here if you’re not 100% sold on the performer because everything other than the acoustics are decidedly not worth the hassle.
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