Club Stereo is, in my opinion, the finest afterhours club in Canada and possibly the best in North America (It was rated #5 worldwide by Muzik magazine, the only North American club to make the list). I've had the good fortune to visit Stereo many times, as well as to be acquainted with people who work or have worked for the club. I cannot recommend a visit to Stereo highly enough.
Stereo opened in the fall of 1998, the year I moved to Montreal. It was conceived by a group of local DJs (including Alain Vinet, Mark Anthony, Nav Bhinder, and Patrick Dream) in association with New York producer, DJ, and sound engineer Angel Moraes. Stereo is inspired by the legendary Paradise Garage in New York and, at least until its recent (winter 2003) renovation, was, in fact, reminiscent of the Garage in its layout.
Stereo is located in an old movie theatre on St. Catherine's St. East, on the edge of the Gay Village. Entering the club one proceeds up a staircase, past the coat-check, to the downstairs lounge and bar2. From this room, a wide staircase leads upstairs to the VIP room3, chillout room, and the main dancefloor. The chillout room, located in what used to be the projection booth, is dimly lit, strewn with couches and chairs, and offers the relaxing clubber a panoramic view of the dancefloor. The dancefloor itself, located in the former theatre proper, is crowned by a 5-foot mirrorball (in addition to dozens of smaller ones). The lighting system is, in a word, insane (although I'm personally glad to hear that the strobe lights have been removed); no words could do it justice. Stereo's official capacity is 1200.
The Sound System
The sound system, which has been recognised as the best analog system in the world, was built pretty much entirely by Angel Moraes. It includes 12-foot speaker stacks, a Urei mixer, and gold-plated Tech-12s4. The clarity is unbelievable. Although incredibly loud, Stereo's sound system has none of the noisy frequencies which usually pollute nightclub sound (this clarity also prevents the usual post-clubbing bout of tinnitus). It's possible (although probably not very good for your ears) to have a conversation while sitting inside one of the speaker stacks.
House, House, House. Stereo was built for house music, and, with a few exceptions, that's what you'll hear. In general, Friday nights lean more towards progressive or tribal house, while Saturdays feature a more funky, diva-esque sound (see "People," below). David Morales and Victor Calderone are the club's best-known resident DJs (although Satoshii Tomiie seems to have an intermittent residency as well). The founding DJs are, of course, also residents. Guest DJs have included John Digweed, Deep Dish, Basement Jaxx, Derrick Carter, and Frankie Knuckles.
As in any good club, the people are an integral part of the experience. Stereo has probably the most diverse, open crowd of any club in Montreal: drag queens, students, ravers, circuit party types, and clubbers all intermingle freely. In general, Friday nights tend to be more heterosexual and studenty, while Saturdays have more of a gay crowd, but there is by no any sort of segregation. In a scene which seems to thrive on attitude and pretension, Stereo's crowd exhibits a refreshing lack of either. The management definitely nurtures this vibe: for example, at about 6 in the morning, someone usually walks through the dancefloor passing out bottles of water, fresh fruit, or both5. The length of any given night is usually dependent on the crowd's willingness to continue: the club supposedly closes at 9 in the morning, but it's been known to stay open until noon or later (Stereo opens at 2am). The dedication to and love for this club are phenomenal. I think one of my friends (a passionate Stereo-goer) put it best: "Stereo is addictive, and it is a cult." Some truly dedicated Stereo-philes have even tattooed themselves with the club's logo.
Stereobar opened in 2001 (I think) in what was once the coat-check space. Unlike the club proper, Stereobar serves alcohol, is open on Wednesdays, and closes at 3. It's a good place to experience a little of the atmosphere of the club without paying the high cover charge (Club Stereo's cover starts at $17, Stereobar is often free) or staying up too late. And if you decide to continue the night in the club itself, you're only about 15 feet away...
1Unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to visit Stereo post-renovation; I hear that the DJ booth, for example, has been moved to a more central location. I'll revise my description after my next adventure there...
2Stereo serves only non-alcoholic drinks: bottled water, juice, Red Bull, Guru, and the like.
3The VIP room has apparently been moved, so I won't bother describing it. It's probably still nice.
4Yeah, that last one has always seemed a little silly to me, too.
5Compare this to a certain other afterhours club, where unguarded water bottle are swept up by employees and where the dancefloor is heated even in the summer. I guess every 5$ bottle of Naya sold is $3.50 more that goes to the owners...