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A new 2553-capacity club that Drake helped design just opened in his hometown of Toronto. Global promoter Live Nation, which owns and operates numerous concert venues, partnered with the rapper on History, located in the city’s east-end Beaches neighborhood.
Variety got a tour from general manager Steven Biasutti ahead of Sunday’s opening night sold-out concert by Jack Antonoff’s band Bleachers. The 35,000-square-foot space took over 80 percent of the adjacent Champions Off-Track Betting Greenwood building and a 300-spot parking lot.
“When Live Nation decided to take on the build of History, to add another premium venue to Toronto, what better choice than Drake to be the ambassador for it, a proud Torontonian?” says Biasutti, noting that Drake is “one of the most popular artists in the world right now. What a great partnership we thought it would be, and it has been a tremendous success.
“He wanted to bring an arena experience to artists in a smaller club,” Biasutti says of his input.
Bleachers perform opening night at History in Toronto
Unlike Drake’s members-only Sher Club inside Scotiabank Arena, described by Toronto Life as having a “vampire-in-Vegas vibe,” or his custom-built mansion in the prestigious Bridle Path, described in an Architectural Digest feature as “a marvel of old-world craftsmanship, constructed of limestone, bronze, exotic woods, and other noble materials,” History’s interior is plain and timeless. Biasutti says it’s suitable for concerts of all genres as well as private weddings and corporate functions. “I’d love to see a symphony on this stage,” he adds.
History was created by DesignAgency in consultation with Live Nation Canada and Drake. The architect was IBI Group, with sound design by PRG and its lead engineer Jon Halliwell. Swallow/Thornton Tomasetti was the acoustic consultant.
The club has a 22-foot x 40-foot stage with a permanent LED wall, and faces a two-level hall, the lower level accommodating 2202 people and the curved mezzanine 351, for a total capacity of 2553. Seated shows can also be accommodated.
“What I tell artists when they come in and preview the stage is that you can see the facial expressions of the person at the very back of the room, the way that it’s designed,” Biasutti claims. “The curve is mostly to create the best live experience for fans. You could be at any point, any area of the room, and you’re still this close to the stage. You could be standing directly across from the stage and still have a great view.”
History also has the ability to livestream and record, and is equipped with cameras “located strategically throughout the venue for speaking engagements, like TED Talks,” he says.
The fun little touches include a giant Instagrammable and TikTok-able “H” on the wall right inside the main entrance, “where fans can let everyone know on their socials where they are and what artist they’re going to see,” says Biasutti, as well as extras that most fans won’t get to see. The feature stairwell to get from the green room down to the stage has customizable lights “to any color, any speed,” that the performer can select “to hype themselves up to get out onto the stage,” Biasutti reveals.
Another stairwell that the artists have direct access to from their tour bus has lyrics from Canadian artists all the way down, including, of course, “Started from the bottom now we’re here,” painted one word per stair in gold. And Toronto artist Kwest — who in 2015 designed a sculptural ping-pong table for Drake and an installation in his since-defunct restaurant Fring’s — was commissioned to paint a mural on the wall.
The venue has 55 front-row, theatre-style seats on the 351-capacity mezzanine, with 10 premium boxes just behind them, plus two ground floor VIP areas, including the north VIP box directly stage left with its own bar and entrance “for super fans.” There is also a south platform on the mezzanine for the artist’s guest list and promoters. “It gives the ability for the artist to see the venue fill up before they get on stage, or for the headliner to watch the opener,” explains Biasutti.
The dressing rooms and lounges look similar to modern high-end hotels, not stark white rooms that are commonplace in clubs, where artists can hang or hold meet ‘n’ greets or do interviews.
“I would say the green rooms definitely have his personal touch for the artist’s experience,” Biasutti says of Drake’s suggestions. “So the artist flies around the world playing club levels, why not come to Toronto, play History and actually get that elevated experience?
“A lot of the spaces in here are designed to give the incoming artist the arena experience inside a club-level venue. So lighting, sound, a state-of-the-art the green room design… most clubs worldwide, Canada-wide, don’t have those little touches that ours have.
“In terms of the fan, this is designed to be a concert hall and designed for the fan and the artist experience. With our VIP’s, it gives the super-fan the ability in our north VIP to be as close to the artist as probably possible in any other club setting, as well as for fans to be able to have a bit of a further view, but still have a VIP experience.”
History was supposed to open in October, but was delayed when Ontario upheld capacity restrictions due to COVID, forcing the cancellation of shows by All Time Low, Passenger and Allan Rayman. “We were just waiting for the province to allow 100% capacity and GA standing venues,” says Biasutti. “Suddenly we got the go-ahead. So we were ready to go on November 7, and we’re happy to have Bleachers on our stage.”
History concert lineup:
November 7 – Bleachers
November 11 – Thundercat with Channel Tres
November 12 – Deadbeats with Zeds Dead and Guests
November 13 – Deadbeats with Zeds Dead and Guests
November 16 – Jack Harlow Crème de la Crème Tour with Babyface Ray and Mavi
November 18 – Teyana Taylor: The Last Rose Petal…Farewell Tour
November 24 – CHVRCHES
December 4 – Big Wreck & Monster Truck
December 8 – INDIE88’s 8th Birthday Party with Glorious Sons & JJ Wilde
December 9 – July Talk: Live At Last
December 10 – July Talk: Live At Last
December 12 – Silverstein: 20 Year Anniversary Tour
December 17 – USS – Final Freakquency Tour
December 18 – USS – Final Freakquency Tour
December 22 – BADBADNOTGOOD Talk Memory Tour
December 28 – Duke Dumont
December 29 – Kaytranada – Autumn ’21 Tour
December 30 – Kaytranada – Autumn ’21 Tour
January 20 – WizKid: Made In Lagos Tour
January 21 – WizKid: Made In Lagos Tour