“It’s always about the music. And for me, that music is house,” says long-time promoter Charles Pavia, explaining the essence of a pure Pavia party.
“Maybe a little more techy or a tiny bit tribal or a whole lotta soulful, but house is definitely the underlying beat. And I feel that sort of music brings a certain type of vibe and personality to a night. It allows one to move, to be free, to smile and sometimes, even, [smirking] to dance.”
A veteran of Toronto’s underground music scene, Pavia is the cherub-faced poster boy for responsible partying. He has maintained a long association with all the movers and shakers without becoming washed up or burned out. His ability to take parties in moderation is something many strive to achieve.
“I think much of it has to do with the fact that I’m a part-timer,” he says. “I get to be a bit choosy — and, as I get older, that’s very important. I still really enjoy going out. I still really enjoy throwing a party that people might not even realize they want, until they are there and are having a blast. It’s always been about that: introducing the boys to something new — something better.
“And most importantly, I know when to go home. If I’m not having fun out or not enjoying the music, or the crowd is too much . . . Sometimes it’s better to simply take a break, to call it an early night and enjoy some quieter times at home. It helps me rejuvenate for the next time.”
He might not be a promoter instantly associated with the Village’s party scene, but chances are, if you’ve danced within spitting distance of Church Street, you’ve been under the grand orchestrations of a Charles Pavia party.
“I remember Honey Dijon spinning at Gairy Brown’s Living Room Sundays. I think it was really the first time I had heard house music,” he says, with trademark grin. “I can still remember her dropping ‘Music Sounds Better’ and teasing it throughout her set. It was amazing, and I felt alive on the dancefloor like I hadn’t really before. Sure, I had always loved to dance. I think there’s an 8mm film of me in a beige and brown polyester outfit at six or seven years old on a Florida boat cruise dancing with each of the women. But this was different. I connected with house music in a way I never really had with gay circuit music.
“I still get such a kick out of introducing people to a new space — one they may have thought of as a bit suspect — and seeing how their experience in that space is nothing but a fantastic time. And they tell two friends and they tell two friends, and so on and so on.”
Explaining the difference between the house-music and gay-circuit partiers, Pavia says, “I never really felt like I fit into the gay circuit. It was the mixed house scene where I truly fell in love with it all, nights like Garage 416, Living Room Sundays, Industry Nightclub, parties at 99 Sudbury and, of course, the infamous Comfort Zone.
“Still going strong to this day, it was the Comfort Zone that first introduced me to DJ Deko-ze, though I had no idea who he was or what his name was at the time; he was just ‘the black DJ’ who was always so full of energy and bouncing behind the turntables, causing the whole place to erupt every Sunday morning.”
For a decade now, Pavia has been guiding the Pavia Pink Panther Patrol, a weekly Friday-night email highlighting his picks for parties, charities and other activities one may want to check out for the weekend to come. “What started as a way to introduce a few friends to something new each week has grown into an email blast sent to over 500 people every week that deals with clubs and theatre and modern dance and even some political issues.”
Pavia is also known for the No Pots and Pans music compilations he distributes during Pride season, collecting the top tracks of the season with special pre/post and during playlists. “I find most circuit music has a monotony. It’s actually why I started No Pots and Pans . . . It was an avenue — a dialogue — to share and engage others in something other than the gay circuit we were being force-fed constantly.
“I think the scene has evolved since I started going out. Not always for the better, but I also accept that what is better for me isn’t always the case with a younger generation of club-goers with other musical likes. I’ve thought about wrapping up the Patrol a few times, but every time I then get an email or run into someone that went out because I had highlighted it or hosted it or tagged me there. It’s in those moments that I remember why I started it all to begin with. And that renews my energy.”
It has not been all sunshine and roses for Pavia, who has seen his share of dramatic events unfold in the club scene. “Sadly, crystal meth/Tina has ravaged the community. It’s affected the way people go out, when they go out, how much they might go out any more. That coupled with hookup apps like Grindr . . . means people don’t even need to go out to a bar or club to meet people anymore. The buffet is on their mobile or at home on their laptop. Those two together seemed almost like a perfect storm, especially as the recession hit and people had less money to go out with.”
Not wanting to dwell on the negative, Pavia looks to the future with a smile. “Deko-ze’s Birthday at Footwork and Mischief at fly: both will offer great opportunities to experience great house music in the city.”