UKG SUNDAYS Three-YEAR ANNIVERSARY with SASSA'LE, BUTCHA, DIVY, POP and more at Nasa (609 Queen West), Sunday (March 30). Free.
THE SOCIAL with special guests the FLIRT CREW at Cream (322 Adelaide West), Friday (March 28). $5 before 11 pm. www.flirtcanada.com
The UK press has long been notorious for hyping up an emerging musical trend, then just as abruptly turning its back on it as soon as it gets big.
The saga of the UK garage scene is one of the most striking examples of this short attention span. British garage rocketed up from underground pirate radio stations onto the pop charts, then suddenly suffered an intense backlash before settling back into its underground roots.
Unlike other UK-born genres like drum 'n' bass, UK garage never really broke into the North American market, which may turn out to be a blessing in disguise.
Flirt Canada was started way back in 1996 by Bristol-born DJ Sassa'le with Toronto's favourite d 'n' b personality, Marcus, as a strategy for bringing the emerging sound here. Over the years they've managed to create a Toronto home for the music and the culture, but kept it at an underground level.
As a result, even though the bubble may have burst overseas, a growing legion of local fans are making the transition to DJing and promoting parties.
"At the end of the day, money and fame can be evil," Sassa'le admits. "Garage maybe reached its peak too quickly. In 2000 it was everywhere in the UK, on TV, getting played in all the stores and on the radio, but the music was still trying to find its place. When the hype took over, people got greedy and it became less about the music and more about what people could get from the music."
In many ways the story of UK garage is very similar to that of hiphop culture's evolution in North America. As the first rappers started becoming pop stars, the focus of the culture shifted to the MC and in many ways away from the actual music.
As Sassa'le explains, the equivalent shift in focus in the UK garage scene changed what the music was about, and not for the better.
"All of a sudden it was all about MCs, and the song wasn't that important any more. It was more about MCs trying to make a name for themselves, as opposed to trying to progress the music. The MC thing turned into a crew thing, which turned into a gang thing, which then became a violent thing, and then all of a sudden they wouldn't play it in clubs any more because there was too much violence.
"What's happening today is that it's gone back underground. Producers are trying to bring more soul back into it, and the sound is going back to more of a four-on-the-floor thing, more like house.
"People are stepping back now and trying to see where things went wrong and fix it. A lot of people have left the music, but all the original names are still there. Just like with jungle, the waste is getting cleared out and it's returning to what it was.
"People are realizing what they had, and now they want to do it the right way."