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Thursday, December 9, 1999

The stuff of legends
By KIERAN GRANT -- Toronto Sun

It figures that the El Mocambo would be the one local club to lay claim to "The Last Rock Show Of The Millennium."

That's how they've billed tomorrow's rock 'n' roll extravaganza featuring Torontonians Danko Jones and The Sadies, among others.

It's just another in a long line of distinctions for the famous Spadina Ave. nightspot, lest we forget: "The Stones Show That Broke Up The Trudeaus," "The Elvis Costello Show That Became A Famous Live Album," or "The Night Somebody Got Murdered And Became A Ghost."

Whether you believe that last one or not -- and, for the record, the El Mo staffers I've talked to swear the place is haunted -- the El Mocambo has always relied heavily on its legends.

Taking chances

Those legends have kept the place alive in recent lean years. They've seen it through three closings and re-openings in the past decade, and made it a spiritual spawning ground for punk, hard rock, reggae, and pop bands alike.

Now, 42 years after it began as a Latin dance club, the El Mo is trying to create some legends for the 21st century.

"The El Mo has undergone a renaissance," says club booker Dan Burke. "There's a rock 'n' roll spirit that it represents along with the bands who come here to play. It's not just a rock 'n' roll landmark, but it's assumed a new role representing the state-of-the-art."

A lofty claim, yeah, but one totally in keeping with Burke's vision since he started booking the El Mo early last year.

Not afraid to take chances on bookings -- taking the odd financial bath in the process -- the former journalist has made the El Mo a destination for underground rock acts from as far afield as Japan (Zoobombs, The 5.6.7.8's) while establishing a home for promising locals like The Deadly Snakes and Chris Field. The club also attracts large crowds every Saturday for its "Blow Up" Britpop nights, featuring DJs and the occasional band.

Naturally, the Last Rock Show is Burke's idea -- "It's for all the marbles," is his cryptic explanation for the show. But it might be more exciting as a first than a last: Tomorrow marks the first-ever time suave hell-raisers Danko Jones, the man and the band, will grace the El Mo stage.

Jones just blasted his way on to mainstream radio with a new single, Bounce, from his second CD-EP My Love Is Bold, so it could be a breakthrough gig for both the band and the El Mo.

A favourite among Toronto underground audiences for the last three years, Jones has finally reached more ears now that Bounce has been picked up by FM stations Edge 102, 97.7, London, Ont.'s 96.3, and Q107's Top Ten at 10, which is generated by listener requests.

"At first I was worried they'd think it was our friends calling," Jones says. "That's the last thing I want people to do. But we've been the only non-arena band in the Top 10. It's quite funny, the company we're in."

'Hit hard'

Jones and bassist JC also parted company amicably with gifted drummer Gavin Brown last week. Tomorrow they'll feature a guest, ex-Econoline Crush stickman Niko Quintal, before hiring a full-time replacement.

Jones says there's one main requirement: "Hit hard."

And the ideal Danko drummer, if they had their pickin's from history?

"I'd have to say John Bonham, without the hair. Or Tommy Lee, without the hair."

The El Mo's fin-de-siecle show also features Demonspeed and Hacksaw, performing upstairs with Danko Jones. The Sadies are joined downstairs by U.S. murder-balladeer Johnny Dowd, The Tijuana Bibles and The Beggarz. Admission is $8.50 in advance, or $15 at the door for both floors.

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