Categories: MUSIC

Celebrating 25 Years of The Bovine Sex Club

The Bovine Sex Club is located on Queen West and is a bar and concert venue favourite of many locals in Toronto. We got a chance to speak with owner Darryl Fine about it’s 25th anniversary. 

Katrina (host): 

So first of all I just wanted to congratulate you on your twenty fifth anniversaries, over the years the Bovine has become such an iconic staple to Queens Street west, so I just want to ask, what inspired you to open the bar back in 1991?

Darryl (guest): 

Well it wasn’t greed because we really didn’t think that anything would last for twenty five years, and in the beginning with Wesley thorough and Chris Shepherd we were working on another project called 23 hop and I don’t know if you are the right age to remember 23 hop but in the late 80’s we had a all night 12am till 6am dance bar with no alcohol cover charge everybody was on drugs you know almost a rave place basically but some nights it was punk or new wave and some nights it was house music. Lots of famous Dj’s came through there, we were looking to do something a little bit different and ran around and flew to Paris and new York and a few places and got inspired by places called the scrap bars and cbgbs, you know, tried to do more of a rock and roll thing so we were inspired to do it with no idea what would happen, I mean it was $35,000 on credit cards, no money and a bunch of junk on the walls and “let’s play music “so you know we had some great talent in terms of DJ’s and we had some great bar tenders that we stole from other bars that everyone hates us for, you know you always pick the most popular bartender at the most popular place and woo them over and stuff like that ,so you know, it’s hard to say now what inspires from 1991, its 25 years later ladies.

Katrina: 

Well I’m just glad that you were inspired, so thank you for that. So what I love most about the Bovine is its unique interior and exterior décor, I remember always walking by as a teenager and being absolutely mesmerised by the outside but it wasn’t actually until a few years ago that I was able to catch my first show inside and I was totally blown away by it, there is this great gringy rock and roll feel and there is nothing else quite like it in Toronto. What inspired the décor and who are the artists behind the sculptures at the front of the bar?

Darryl: 

Well the inspiration again, we just talked of sort of flying to New York and to Paris and there is a bar in Toronto which was more of the a pubby feel, that it had the right type of people in it working there but the junky idea definitely came from going to new York, this place called the scrap bar which I mentioned, it had some scraps on the wall but nothing like the amount of junk that we have put in the Bovine in 25 years and we, you know, we had been to clubs with all the stickers on the walls from the bands and there wasn’t really a place like it in Toronto, I mean it’s sort of Sneaky Dee’s but not really, Sneaky Dee’s is more text mats with an empty room upstairs where they put shows on, where this is more of a bar where the bands play, nobody leaves after so, a lot of the inspiration came from just looking for a kind of post apocalyptic, messy cheap way to decorate a bar as easy as that could be and the artists were this fellow named Dave Grieveson whose passed away, lovely fellow, and another fellow named Great Bob Scott and once they did the outside of the building, so hopefully your listeners get to Google a picture at the front of the building and that sculpture has been there for 25 years, it’s just made again of recycled materials and junk, once they did the outside we just said just go crazy on the inside, I don’t think we had really planned on the craziness in here until we saw the inspiration from their art work and it was pretty cool.

Katrina: 

Back in 2012 you guys opened a Tikki bar up on the roof, what motivated you to go by that route?

Darryl: 

So it was about survival, so as the overheads kept rising on Queen Street west, we had to think of a way to be open during the day, when you are a punk and metal bar you open at 9 o’clock and bands start playing at 10 o’clock and end at 1 o’clock and the drinking goes until 2:30, that’s really not enough on a major retail street anymore, you really have to have a second trick in your bag and we were able to get the tikki bar open which was very difficult in a city like this one with neighbours around, it has allowed us to sort of put a little money away in the fall, and you know, paid our bills and hang on during the winter, because when you go back to the old model which is shows downstairs in a small room and its 30 below, its sometimes difficult to ,you know, we always make the rent but it’s difficult in the winter and obviously in the summer , in the spring, in the fall it’s a lot easier when there is music festivals, film festivals, pride and all the stuff going on that happens at the Bovine every year, so we get through it that way, so a little bit of survival and I love Costa Rica, I love Guatemala, Mexico and all places south American so it kinda looks like that upstairs.

Katrina: 

I was gonna ask actually, did you have any other concepts that you threw around or did you always know you wanted to go tikki bar if you were going to develop the upstairs portion?

Darryl: 

Aah yes, always tikki bar because there was no tikki bar, there was a tiny little tikki bar on college street just north of us that was there for years but it was just really an empty room with a kind of a concrete pit in the back with sand in it, it was disgusting, but if you go to, if you look back in history tikki bars were the place to be in the 50’s and the 60’s where Frank Sinatra used to hang out and they would have floor shows and crazy tikki drinks and you know Trader Vic’s was a chain everywhere in the world at some point, every major city had a Trader Vic’s so, I mean it’s hard to say that  it’s like Montana’s or Earl’s but at the same time  it was where you wore tuxedos and drunk fancy drinks and part of it was always outdoors under the stars, that was a little bit of the inspiration. The other part of the inspiration was there was a club in Toronto called the Bamboo Club which was on Queens Street West in my youth and so I’m sure it opened in 1980 or 1981 and it had a roof top patio with a barbecue pit and it was a little bit tikki themed but more, you know just tropical theme, stuff like that, so when they closed and we opened here it was a 15 year gap, I invited Patti Habib the original owner of the Bamboo so she was there with a bunch of her old friends for the inaugural night, I have seen her a couple times since but she has always said that it was nice that the spirit moved on.

Katrina: 

You guys have hosted an uncountable number of great punk bands such as Anti-flag, Sum 41, Billy Talent just to name a few, what artist were you most excited to book at your venue and what made them one of your favourites?

Darryl: 

Well, we were always most excited to have the bands that play after they grow up and make a bunch of money become famous and then sort of remember the time when they came through town and had no dough were either sleeping on somebody’s couch or you know getting drinks at the bar, we were kind of rock and roll cheers for those bands whether it was Queens of the Stone age, Sum 41, Billy talent, you know, Alexisonfire all those bands sort of grew up drinking here and playing here at some point and then, you know when there, I’m always excited when they come back and play, not that I’m not excited about the bands we have now but even recently bands like Monster truck I don’t know, you know Rusty, National pussy, like Illuminati like bands just keep coming back and doing us the service of playing their big show in a small room when they come into town, they are willing to give up a little bit of money for a little bit of fun and sort of home town cooking, it’s not really food that we are cooking, we are cooking up some culture for them but we have become friends with them so it’s nice to travel somewhere to see a concert and always be welcomed as the Bovine guy or someone is pounding on the door in the subway in Paris undoing his suit and showing me his Bovine shirt that says Bovine guy, I’m accountable like that. It really is….

Katrina: 

It’s amazing.

Darryl: 

It’s nice that there is you know a love for the club which just doesn’t come from people in town, it comes from people coming through town and it’s a nice thing, I have friends who put on a work tour or the guys who know ….. and all that, everybody stops by when they are in town, it’s really sweet, just like Laura Jane is upstairs

Katrina: 

Exactly, exactly

Darryl: 

Exactly, good friend of the bar, she played her first show here years ago with her band and it was fun and you know we have always been friends since then.

Katrina: 

So what are some other extremely memorable memories that you have had at this place?

Darryl: 

Opening night, thousands of people pretend they were here; it was probably like five people here. Everyone always says to me “oow I remember opening night, I was there” I’m like nobody was here dude it was like January 2nd right after New Year’s like nobody was here. Three weeks later we had a series of parties and the place really took off almost by fluke, I mean a lot of great bars are just you know, they are flukes and not in a bad way coz you have to keep them going but when they kinda like fire it’s a fluke, but that was sort of, but everyone is remembering those first big parties but I remember the first night because there was nobody here, it was fun and I had a great time that night and I would say the night that Billy Talent did their concert for the fire relief across the street, a bunch of buildings burnt down about eight or nine years ago, you know they played they first ACC show and two weeks later they played here and raised a bunch of money for charity and things like that, so that also a really nice thing for people to do for us but COC , Croatian conformity played at my birthday in a snow storm a bunch of years ago, I don’t know Carole Pope one of my favourites when I was younger played here a bunch of times, I don’t know, so many people my friend John Cursor from the DOP boys has played DOP boys shows here, the Asexuals have played here, lots of crazy stuff, big parties with Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Ministry, Ice Cube, Ice T, U2, Velvet Revolver, Tommy Lee, I’m not gonna say anymore because it seems so, so…

Katrina: 

Well its 25 years worth of memories, hopefully many more to come

Darryl: 

Absolutely, and they are all, not everyone is a lovely person Diamond Davis was a bit of a dick when he was here but lots of people fall in love with the place and come back and we have a big pride crowd every year and we also have a huge Tiff crowd every year, so we often get little invites from people who come here and rent the place during tiff and have movie parties like when Bill Murray shows up and does crazy stuff with a tie around his head, or Nick Nolte gets a lap dance from a burlesque  dancer on stage, it’s in like world news 150 million news papers across the, you know, the world. You know they just write all this crap and call the Bovine some illicit sex club and stuff like that but it’s always fun when you see that and they fall in love with the place, so if I show up at a film festival it’s nice to see them, they are like “bovine guy” and I’m like yeah ‘bovine guy’, they remember my name After but it’s quite cute.

Katrina: 

So back in May you guys announced your 25th Anniversary Bovine sex club music series which features numerous events including fundraisers, reunions shows and concerts, what are some of the upcoming events you are most excited to host?

Darryl: 

Well, we did the Shrine from L.A with Dr Boogie in March… plugged that one, that was our first Anniversary series show, we have done a show with the Illuminati, not the Illuminati, we have done a show with Biblical, Nick Sewell’s outfit and Ian Blurton outfit Public Animal, we did a show with the diamonds in……., we are also doing the sinisters tomorrow night which is July 9th 2016 and this is a band that was sort of the quintessential Queens Street Punk band in the late 90’s and early 2000’s and I have convinced them to get back together, through money at them, put Try up in my apartment, whatever it takes, we gotta have this show, that’s gonna be a big show tomorrow night, I was trying to work on stuff with Laura, she is the busiest lady in the world right now, she is her anyway having drinks upstairs so it’s nice to see her, love against me, and still working on stuff with Billy Talent to do a show here, so  if this comes out tomorrow I will probably be in trouble but we are trying to put together a show and a music video at the same time, so you know, do the video and open the doors again and have this crazy anniversary show and that could happen at any time folks, watch the internet but I think the point of that show is that we are gonna sterilize it, we gonna come up with a puritive time and place where you have to come dressed up like that you can’t come up dressed like you would normally see that band, so we will figure out if people can figure it out, it’s going to be fun. So we are looking forward to that and we are doing ‘Chicks dig it’ in September, so we are doing two nights, I forget the exact dates but third week-ish of September, they have signed on, again same sort of love instead of doing one big show in a room three times the size they are going to do two shows at the Bovine because it’s their 25th anniversary and it’s our 25th anniversary so we decided we need to celebrate it together and got a sponsor to give me a little help.

Katrina: 

A joint birthday party

Darryl: 

A joint birthday party, yes. So you know will try and fill it in, we are working on some other shows for November and December, so 25th Anniversary shows all year in 2016 and then no one will want to play here next year, but that’s ok.

Katrina: 

Are you going to have a 26th anniversary series and a 27th anniversary series to keep on going?

Darryl: 

No one is gonna care about the 26th year, we keep quiet, we only do media, sometimes we only do media every five years like this, my last set of interviews were 2000, well five years ago.

Katrina: 

We came here at a good time then I guess

Darryl: 

A good time, you know, I think every five years its good to sort of talk up you club other than that you gotta keep a low profile or people think you are crazy or egotistical.

Katrina: 

Thanks for speaking with us. It was nice to meet you

Darryl: 

Nice to meet you as well, thanks for taking the time, you’re welcome.

 

Katrina Lat

Katrina is a writer and photographer at Live in Limbo. You can follow her musical adventures at @thekatalysts.

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