T.O.’s greatest rock club, ever!
From Zeppelin to Zappa
Clockwise from top left: Led Zeppelin at the Rock Pile circa 1969; thousands of fans caused a stir outside the club when Led Zeppelin appeared a second time in the same year; Rod Stewart sings with the Jeff Beck Group; the late, great Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead
The cornerstone for Toronto’s Masonic Lodge was laid in 1917 at the corner of Yonge and Davenport. Little did the forefathers know just how much this place would rock the city over the years. Although the six-storey building, now home to CTV, would host countless rock shows, it was during the short incarnation as the Rock Pile that its reputation was, ahem, cemented.
It was in 1969 that the Rock Pile really made history as a Toronto concert venue. No bar, no seats, sure, but what the Rock Pile lacked in amenities it made up for in rock ’n’ roll spirit. It was on Feb. 2 in that year that Led Zeppelin played their first concert in the city, with Rock Pile being the venue of choice. It was a notable occasion because the bookers signed up the relatively unknown Brit rockers to play another date the following August, and by the time that concert rolled around, the band was a worldwide sensation selling out arenas. But they returned to the Rock Pile to play to thousands of screaming fans, with thousands more, along with Toronto Police lining the streets outside the venue. It was a legendary coup and part of the mystique of the venue.
It was a simple affair, inside. There was a giant white sheet that hung from the ceiling and white walls for the light show. The stage was small. It was hot. And pot smoke, so we gather, hung thick in the air. In just over a year, the Rock Pile hosted all the great legends of rock ’n’ roll, including Chuck Berry, the Who, the Grateful Dead and many more. Although many clubs have come and gone, it is hard to match the Rock Pile for its brief and glorious run at rock ’n’ roll infamy.