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Bovine Sex Club
Who are we talking to today?
Darryl Fine from Bovine Sex Club in Toronto.
Congratulations on 25 years of the Bovine Sex Club in Toronto. Can you give us a history of this venue please?
In the late 1980's I was the junior collaborator in after hours Dance Club in Toronto called 23 HOP. We played all music formats. Had some 80’s nights; some House Music nights and some Punk and Alternative nights ( thank you Michael X ). My Senior partners in crime were legendary radio and Club Dj Chris Sheppard and business impresario and sound and technology genius Wesley "Happy Dog" Thuro. This is a whole other story ..ha ha. The club lasted through the Early Nighties. I was the hospitality component of the trio, primed by spending my youth washing dishes, bar tending and selling shows.
Toward the middle of 1990 we plotted the opening of the Bovine. Trips to Paris and NYC for inspiration and crazy partying led us to the construction model we have still have today,. The place is essentially made of junk and recycled materials. We opened the first portion of the Bovine on January 2nd 1991. It was a quiet night ( despite the 1000's who claim to have attended LOL). The first real parties were set up for 3 weeks later. We were rammed and busy from then on. Kind of Rock n Roll Cheers for Rockers, Punks, and Bands ….and girls and boys who like that kind of stuff.
By 1993, Chris and Wes had left the Bovine. I’ve been here on my own here ever since……
How did it get it's unusual name? Was it ever a swingers club for animal lovers?
Ha ha ha....no no...The Club mentioned above (23 HOP) had a very funny t-shirt produced with a cartoon Cow ….and a thought bubble above the Cow’s head that said : 23 HOP is not the Bovine Sex Club. The t-shirt was a hit. Made people laugh and Wesley thoughtfully stored its success in his grey matter until we were ready to talk about the name of the new place....
So… no swingers club...although many reading will have claimed to have had sex inside it's washrooms or on the old pool tables or in the legendary Green Room in the basement. Most are rumours. But some are very true. I have heard so many sex stories it's almost frightening.
Bovine of course is Latin for hoof footed., 4 legged mammals ...Cows...but I haven't seen any having sex in the club.
What sets it apart from other bars in Toronto?
We are primarily a small live venue downstairs with an epic rooftop Tiki bar for the warm months. So we have a few rooms to party in.
We try to be a consistent purveyors of good times and good taste in music ( live bands and DJs ); We have been more than a music venue throughout the years. We participate in all the festivals that roll through Toronto including CMW, NXNE, Indie Week, Pride, the Toronto International Film Festival,
The Bovine is very open to all who want to hang out. People just find a way to make it their living room as I have for many years.
We also have to credit touring bands. They have made it their home away from home. Long standing relationships have been built between the punk, rock and metal bands and the club. Its the place where they find community and a little bit of TROUBLE when they visit Toronto. Information can be found at the club on after hours parties; food and beverage choices; record shopping; vintage shopping; cheap accommodation or couch surfing ...and lets not forget hook ups...social media is way younger than the Club.
Sometimes the live music we program can be the incubator for young breaking bands playing gigs for the first time in Toronto. It’s a place to introduce them to the audiences, the music media and Queen St. W. Alexis on Fire played some of their first gigs at the club as they were hitting legal drinking age! And sometimes bands get big and come back for good causes. Billy Talent played a fire relief concert and help us raise 8k for the displaced. Diemonds grew up in the club and received their first Juno nomination in 2015. This all contribute the community at the Bovine.
Lastly, I think the regulars are the most consistent of Toronto's punk and rock bars maybe even all bars….we have 19 year old regulars and 77 year old regulars. It doesn’t faze either.
What are some highlights of the bands that have played there over the years?
I have so many band and party stories that many of your readers in Toronto were likely in attendance ….
Memorable gigs include plays by Billy Talent; Sum 41; COC; Cancer Bats; Alexis on Fire; Monster Truck; Damn 13; BFG’s; Anti Flag; Perry Ferrall and Porno for Pyros doing a Jane’s Addiction set without notice; Nashville Pussy; The Sinsiters; The Illuminati; Chixdiggit; Starvin Hungry, C’mon, Asexuals Carole Pope, Dough Boys…..
I can’t name all the great plays off the top of my head…too many beers I suppose. Don’t be haters if I forgot some other memorable gigs.
We also had crazy after parties with Joe Strummer and The Poques that went stupid late. Joe came by when he was in town, Super low profile guy. Sweey man. However that night with Pogues was a rush.
Chris Sheppard, one of the originals at the club (as mentioned above) was friends with so many bands in the early 1990’s…one time he brought six limos full of all the headliners at Lollapalooza to the club to party all night after the event. We had The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ministry, Ice Cube, Ice Tea and George Clinton and P Funk in the house. That’s a party ..can’t divulge the rest of that night ..was way too much fun.
What is the secret to the venues longevity?
You can’t be afraid of change. We have moved towards and away from Hardcore, Punk, Metal, Rock, Hip Hop, Film, Art and Burlesque. Always including each genre but emphasizing the needs of the current group of consistent regulars.
Example : The late 1990’s we played and booked lots of East Coast punk and lots of West Cost stoner rock bands. However there was a point the early 2000’s when we started to book and play more Southern California hardcore and punk and established a 15 year relationship with the Warped Tour and their associated bands…and then me moved from there…
We are in a bit of a Metal centric phase with consistent Burlesque weekly, and the crowds are loving it. But those bands are growing up and some are too big play our small stage. Everyone grows up. Some of these bands are starting to play a very cool 70’s inspired progressive and blues inspired rock. It’s very cool to keep up with all the new spirit.
To battle the rising overhead on a busy Queen St. W. in Toronto, we built a roof top Tiki Bar for the warmer months. Tiki bar has provided extra cash and a new dynamic outdoor room for all of the genres of customers to hang at. We have Mohawks and Suits partying together on the roof. It’s been a hit since we opened it 4 years ago.
What's the current state of the Punk scene in Toronto?
Ha ha ha…That’s a loaded question. The city is too big now for one scene. There are so many punk slices of life here. We try to accommodate all genres of punk life in Toronto. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to program the diversity. It’s safe to say punk in alive and well in Toronto.
What's the craziest thing you ever saw happen at the Bovine?
So many stories…..
1. In our first year a street musician rolled a battery powered mobile electric organ, sculpture into the club. He played a few songs and got really wasted and left it there. We hung it up in the side room and its been there ever since, still works in case our organ player wants it back …ha ha ha
2. In the late 1990’s or early 2000’s I saw Steve Saint from The Sinisters climb up into the junk and fencing on the ceiling and squirm his way over the audience all bloodied, with his Mic. He did the next few songs from their set entangled in the junk and metal suspended. That was dope.
3. In 2002 we hosted the TIFF ( Toronto International Film Festival ) premiere party for the movie Spun, ( of course it was about drugs ) with Mickey Rourke, Brittany Murphy, Jason Swartzman, John Leguizamo and the rest of the cast in the Bovine. Mickey somehow invited Nick Nolte to the party. Nolte was on stage ( made into a lounge for the event ) in his house coat, Hawaiian shirt and slippers, somewhat wasted…and we arranged a lap dance for him from a burlesque dancer. 48 hours later the photos of him in the in the same clothes were his booking shot from his arrest on the Pacific Coast Hwy. He was booked for driving under the influence and tested positive for GHB. Pictures from the lap dance appeared in The Globe and/or the National Enquirer….. the predecessor TMZ…
That didn’t top Mickey Rouke at the same party. Mickey decided he wanted to be a Burlesque dancer and did a dirty pantsless dance I am still trying to wipe from memory…yikes!
I could go on and on…so many more stories
What do you have planned to celebrate your anniversary?
During 2016 we will be planning and executing a Bovine 25th Anniversary Concert Series . The first was in May..during Canadian Music Week (CMW). The festival let us pick a band from Los Angeles called The Shrine to headline the night. Check them out.
In June we have three event series concerts
June 17th, the Cancer Bats and Black Lungs head a list of bands supporting the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation.
June 18th Diemonds, Sumo Cyco and Mokomokai are headlining a great Metal bill.
June 24th Biblical and Public Animal are headlining a great heavy rock night.
July 9th The Sinisters ( Reunion Show) with the debut of Grey Bush ( with Gymbo of Dayglos fame )
We will continue to announce more 25th Concert Series Showcases in the near future, Some great acts coming to pay tribute the club ( they are too big to play here normally), and some to use the platform to raise money for worthy causes.
Final words of wisdom for people reading this
Ha ha…I’m not one to give unsolicited advice. I can say, be true to your passion for music, especially punk and metal!