Then and Now: the El Mo

In Then and Now, a series of articles detailing the history of Toronto night clubs, respected writer Denise Benson has a feature on the El Mocambo during its 1989-2001 years. Interestingly, Benson bypasses the club’s more famous earlier years to make the case that the club was just as vibrant at the turn of the century. One of Benson’s great strengths as a writer is her ability to get quotes from those who were there. This article is no exception with interesting insights from among others promoter Dan Burke, past owner Enzo Petrungaro, and DJ Davy Love.

“I’d quickly learned that, as a new player in the field, I had to tap into acts, labels, and booking agents that weren’t already sewn up by established competitors,” Burke writes in an email interview. “So that’s what I did—and very deeply so—once I was at The El Mocambo. Whatever was cutting-edge—The Toilet Boys from N.Y.C., stoner rock acts from Man’s Ruin Records, nerd heroes like Wesley Willis, electroclash ensembles like Chicks on Speed, Japan’s Zoobombs and The 5,6,7,8s, Montreal’s The Dears—I got the best of them, and made the El Mocambo an important international club again.”

The Deadly Snakes, The Sadies (sometimes with R&B legend Andre Williams), Danko Jones, Sum 41, and Peaches were among the local favourites booked by Burke. He was also responsible for repeat visits by Japan’s Zoobombs, who recorded their album, Bomb You Live, at the El Mo in April 2000, and released it on Toronto’s Teenage USA label in 2001.

“Being a show promoter is like gambling,” says Burke. “When you win, sometimes you also get to see a great show. When you lose, sometimes you get to see a great show. It’s the greatest job in the world if you can keep going.”

Check out the article here.


El Mo

I don’t get out to shows as much as I used to, but I was very happy to learn that the El Mocambo has been bought by Marco Petrucci and Sam Grosso, Grosso of Cadillac Lounge fame. Numerous bands have played this Chinatown venue, including famously the Rolling Stones and Elvis Costello. Its last owner  Abbas Jahangiri (who purchased the bar back in 2001)  never seemed to really “get” the bar’s history or the importance of its iconic street-side palm tree sign, as proven by his plans to turn the place into a jazz/hip hop dance studio. Anyway, Petrucci and Grosso definitely do “get” El Mo’s landmark status and have plans to restore it to its former glory. They are certainly the right people to be handling this project (as anyone who has been to Cadillac Louge will attest).