Revitalizing the El Mocambo through Rock and Doc


By Ola Mazzuca; Photos by Amanda Macchia

Do you remember seeing the Rolling Stones play “Brown Sugar” at the El Mocambo, a Molson Canadian in hand? Or maybe you were present for the live recording of a Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble show? Maybe you weren’t even born! Whatever the case, you’re probably interested in this prolific concert venue in Toronto’s vibrant Chinatown.

On Spadina Avenue, just south of College Street, the fluorescent palm tree sign of the “El Mo” still shines bright. The legendary music venue has seen many changes since it’s opening in 1850, and has been preserved in a new documentary.

Under the Neon Palms is a 2012 documentary produced by students from the Ryerson School of Journalism. Derek Kirk, Patricia Skagen, Amanda Macchia, Lucy Screnci and Kailah Bharath capture stories that shaped the rich history of a landmark that both hosted and harvested Toronto’s diverse landscape of sounds.

Delving into the El Mo’s long-standing structure and those that resonate within it, Under the Neon Palms focuses on its new owners, Sam Grosso and Marco Petrucci, who want to bring El Mocambo back to its heyday that celebrated one thing whole-heartedly: rock ‘n’ roll.


The documentary features interviews with musicians and public figures that were part of this vivacious time in Toronto. From blues guitarist Danny Marks to music journalist Peter Goddard, they share their experiences, reflect on El Mocambo history and ponder about its potential to relive its glory days to reclaim its position as an active part of Toronto’s music scene.

The crew will be hosting a private screening of Under the Neon Palms on Thursday, February 28 at 8:00pm as part of an El Mocambo revival concert with sets by:







For more information on Under the Neon Palms and the private screening contact [email protected]

Sean is the founder/publisher of; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.