Unlike Vegas’ cluttered world of enormous and impressive nightclub’s, REBEL has struck Toronto’s nightlife core outside of a competitive atmosphere. There’s nothing like the place, at least for an Ontario-based blog writer who doesn’t get out of the house as much as he’d like. On Saturday night I put my best dancing shoe forward and ventured deep into INK Entertainment’s new nightlife establishment to take in the most buzz-worthy event since the brand’s closure of their last mega-club. In one night, REBEL has changed the landscape of Toronto nightlife; a horizon with polished interiors, golden butterflies and light bright umbrellas.
Instantly greeted by incredible hospitality, REBEL’s brand ambassadors lined the walkway leading to the VIP section’s double doors. To my left, a spiraling staircase leading up. To my right, a security guard blocking the doorway between general admission and the not-so generally admitted guests. I went left.
After passing a beautiful piece of ceiling art hanging down the centre of the stairway – an upside down Christmas tree of drum cymbols – I walked onto REBEL’s upper terrace. Instantly I was hit by bright flashing lights, big room EDM music and a sense of awe. The big bright room is a see-it-to-believe-it matter; a trend over the next couple paragraphs.
The transformative qualities of REBEL’s main hall are immediately striking. I ducked away from my spot wedged between bottle service patrons on the balcony to go grab a drink. Out of the corner of my eye, I viewed the ceiling’s lighting rig reconstructing itself. A series of circles turned into a converging selection of rings reminiscent of a diagram of an atom. Moving up and down on various angles, this heart of the main room re-orchestrated itself based on the music style and pulse of the crowd’s attitude. Slowing down for a hip hop mashup, or waving up and down during a massive EDM hit, REBEL’s central lighting rig is the heartbeat of any dance party on site, rather than a scientific equation.
Surrounding the eye-grabbing intermediary, REBEL’s cieling is made up of a series of striations; lines that reach from the converging lighting rig to the far edges of every degree. These LED-laden ridges extend underneath terraces that sit above each and every upstairs VIP booth.
While standing on the ground floor, REBEL looks to be outlined with a bushel of flower petals, with each segment shading bottle service patrons. The suit and tie wearing audience members above are sandwiched between these bright umbrella-like coverings and a long LED screen that wraps around the edge of the entire room.
Between 2am and 3am, resident DJs Manzone & Strong brought the crowd into a raucous groove of fist pumping, jumping and dancing while Tujamo’s ‘BOOM!’ blared through the crisp audio system. Hands were waving, people were singing along, but many of us were just staring at the action around us. As much as I enjoyed the music, the emotion surrounding me was just as captivating. For years, I’ve touted my favourite music acts like Nine Inch Nails, The Rolling Stones and Queens of the Stone Age for having a luminous stage presence. REBEL itself generates its own stage presence, a high impact energy that stretches from the flick of someone’s finger on the stage all the way to the back of the main room.
At most Toronto concert venues, I find myself facing the stage alongside shoulder upon shoulder of other crowd compatriots. At REBEL I could treat my senses in a full 360 degree spectrum while staring at the CO2 jets rushing towards my front, the sparkling bottle service team passing me on my side, or the gigantic lighting grid peering back to me like an iris from above. I wasn’t experiencing a stage presence, rather, the presence of an entire venue.
The atmosphere of the dance floor at REBEL is astounding. At the time, I had trouble putting into words how awestruck I felt experiencing this Las Vegas-style of nightlife emerging from a music hall I frequented so often. The grandiose scale, albeit obviously tremendous, was by far not the only thing that impressed me.
REBEL’s VIP section is lavish, large and very easy to navigate, but the thing that stuck out to me the most were small bits of attention paid to the things we care most about when enjoying a drink and kicking back. Every surface upstairs could serve as a spot to put a drink. The back portion of each booth and the railings serving as a spot to access lower tiers of the section have wide flat areas to lock your elbows in place and sip a cocktail or set your beer down safely.
REBEL has an elevator. No, I don’t mean a service elevator. I mean, an elevator that can take patrons from the VIP upstairs to the dance floor downstairs. No line, lots of room and a quick jaunt to the other floor without traversing stairs drunkenly.
A couple steps ahead of the elevator and you’ll find yourself in front of a glass doorway behind the bar. REBEL’s VIP section grants you access to your own exclusive rooftop patio. The space wasn’t crowded, had lots of room to put down a beverage and offered an unblocked line-of-sight to the downtown skyline. Sure, the sky was cloudy on the opening night, but I’m eager to get back and experience a full view of the CN Tower peering back at me from across the port lands. REBEL’s patio is mega romantic!
My final takeaway is probably trivial to the common club goer, but the REBEL experience impressed me even after I left the venue. There’s actually enticing food trucks outside. Gourmet fast food was at my fingertips – I couldn’t have been happier. For years, I’ve been conditioned to expect to find “street meat” outside the golden gates of every Toronto club. Instead, I dug into a grilled cheese sandwich, complete with mouth-watering pulled pork between two thick slices of bread. Say goodbye to Italian sausage and day-old diced onions.
I want to go back already. By virtue of my sense of discovery, I know there’s more corners and facets of Toronto’s state-of-the-art super club to explore. The potential for more lighting(lasers), international DJ residencies and privately-rented affairs heighten my impressions even more with a sense of optimism and thrill. Instead of injecting the GTA with another rave center, or increasing the tally of tables for bottle service patrons to sit around, INK have once again carved out their own identity in the city’s nightlife, one that intersects high end lavish with the average party lifestyle under one VERY BIG roof. With Cabana Pool Bar joining REBEL as an all inclusive event space and the Solarium hall just asking for a party below the stars, the future is bright – very bright – for the future of this city’s shiny new toy.