In this edition of The Nocturne, it’s time for Happy Endings, a monthly dance party that takes a Chinatown dim-sum restaurant and, well, turns it into a nightclub.
Friday night, 11:22 p.m.: Rounding the curve on Dundas, just past Bathurst en route to Spadina, I catch a glimpse of the CN Tower. Something about its understated, widely unacknowledged dominance has me absorbed lately; it’s always there, always around in my periphery. From not caring enough to notice it growing up or after moving downtown—or even two months ago—I suddenly pay attention to this strange beauty that’s been there all along. And that’s kind of what happened with Happy Endings, a rager of a party held in an unassuming Chinatown dim-sum hovel, a party that’s been built up and hyped up to me in ways I haven’t seen since 416 Snack Bar opened.
I walk past tonight’s locale, Forest View Chinese Restaurant, on my way to the bank and it seems too calm, especially for a 10 p.m. start time. In all honesty, 45 per cent of why I’m here is because I’m secretly excited about the talk of lasers. Like, “Waiting for Tonight“-type lasers that I thought had gone completely out of style and wouldn’t be back again within my socially acceptable after-dark lifetime. (Side bar: lasers are also the only reason that video/song is good/sexy.) When I return five minutes later, the place is rammed. It’s like the nearby Augusta House—crowd-hemorrhaging, long stairs lead to the cash box ($10 cover before midnight, $15 after). I’m worried I’m about to walk up into disaster. But the messiness of this scene right now (with Fred Perry boys and “We Found Love“-style Rihanna girls) contributes to its out-of-character appeal. Hand stamped, coats checked, Drake’s “Take Care” is playing. That’s DJ Pho warming up the crowd (real name: Ian, one half of killer duo Bonjay). He then plays some cuts from Azari & III. Perfection.
So far, there have been nine editions of Happy Endings held throughout the neighbourhood, spearheaded by Mansion Entertainment, a young promotions company I’m considering dubbing “the accessible Kleen clan.” Mansion is four people: co-founders Matt Mansion and partner Konrad, and late additions (but still equals) Nancy and Thomas. “Our company is focused on developing parties that combine high-calibre talent with interesting venues and solid production value,” explains Matt.
About nine months ago, the crew created the Happy Endings and Pop Kult party series. I had heard rumblings of both jams before, but I could never quite decide if the idea was ever worth much when produced by “amateur professionals.” No, what Mansion is doing isn’t revolutionary, and Matt acknowledges that, citing Pink Mafia’s very popular, very publicized Sport Pig party around the corner at The Bright Pearl. What is exciting, however, is the level of talent they’re flying in, with recent headliners including Nguzunguzu, Manare, Gigamesh and Remix Artist Collective. In short, the team “decided to take the idea to the next level and incorporate international talent.”
12:10 a.m.: In less time than it will take you to get in here by now, Chicago DJ Chrissy Murderbot is set to hit the stage. When I’m introduced to him, he’s wearing his trademark, (non-ironic?) kitty graphic tee that belongs on Awkward Family Photos, and he’s super affable, if not a little creepy. The man is a legend; he’s been spinning since some of these kids were still in diapers and before I’d even hit puberty. Naturally, I’m expecting too much, but still jump to ask—nay, beg—him to play some classic deep-dish house from back when my own brother and sister stumbled home at four in the morning. (He won’t.)
The capacity at Forest View is 300, and by now, the crowd is plump and primed for judgement. Kidding—everyone’s low-key here, wrapped in the music or the other things they’re doing. I won’t lie, there’s a lot of young ones here, but, like, third-year university young, not victory-lap-in-high-school young. On the floor, there’s a pile of androgynous boys in serious leggings and bloomers choking—fine, “dancing with”—a girl from behind, and, of course, there are those cliques of kids who don’t even look tall enough to ride half the rides at Wonderland. On my way to the bathroom, there’s a line of what I hear some girl call “thugged out” guys and other older dudes just chilling until the best beats get dropped by Chrissy (remember, long time DJ = long-time followers). For every plaid shirt, there is a Ramones crop top. And for every nice guy who will gently rub your back to pass—not push—you, there are girls who will talk style and drugs if you stumble into their washroom (which I always do, because a guy’s bathroom at clubs tends to suffer from a lack of cold showers, and therefore reeks of sexual hopelessness).
But that’s the good thing about a good DJ headliner—they’ll inadvertently attract an eclectic crowd of actual music lovers. “For any party we put on, we want to appeal to a wide variety of people,” says Matt. “If you love the artist and you’re all about the music, you’ll have a great time. If it’s more about dancing and partying—you’ll have a good time, too. And if you like Chinese food, you’ll have a great time.”
Tonight, for example, I’m with a music critic from The Toronto Standard. Me? I just like Chinese food. Everyone else is pretty much a standard archetype in Toronto’s current clubber scene: guys that look like MuchMusic’s Jesse Giddings but sans tattoos (so… not hot?) and funny dudes in oversized Billabong. While the DJ may be from 1995, the “dress code” certainly isn’t. Oh, and the food! Yes, there is an actual buffet-style table of food: the $1 plates of French fries, wontons and other dim-sum yums—plus $5 rums that make you see into tomorrow morning—are nothing short of the perfect party favours. I mean, I love dancing with people in ballcaps and toques and mini skirts while running around with a plate of noodles and a shot of Jäger. Take it from DJ Pho: “Coming here is, like, a serious risk, but it always pays off.”
Fair enough. Indeed, it appears people love this sort of experience. “It’s a combination of the talent we’re bringing in and the atmosphere of the party,” says Matt. “It feels surreal being in a dim-sum restaurant that is fully converted into a club. There’s huge sound, lasers, hundreds of people dancing. At the same time, the decor of the restaurant is [intact], and the staff is running the bar.”
So, just like the CN Tower, in a sea of neon and noise, Happy Endings is a quiet champion.
The next edition of Happy Endings hits Chinatown on New Year’s Eve with Canblaster and Myd from France, Chicago’s Brenmar and Toronto’s own Gingy. It will be held at the Dim Sum King, a 700-person venue at 421 Dundas St. W. with 20-foot ceilings. “It will be a sight to behold,” I’m told. Find out more here.