A stalwart band of the Canadian rock scene of the 1980s is doing its part to try and blow away the Covid malaise with a special live show, this Saturday evening, Oct. 3.
Toronto rockers Coney Hatch will be blasting through a set of their hits, including the likes of Hey Operator, Devil’s Deck, Monkey Bars and Fantasy for a special streaming show, which will take place live from the stage at the legendary El Mocambo club in downtown T.O. It marks just the second rock show to be performed at the recently revitalized and renovated venue, with hopes of more to come.
To order it, visit https://nugs.tv/live-webcasts/5,1367/Coney-Hatch-10-2020-El-Mocambo-Toronto-ON.html. The cost for the webcast is $9.99 for HD or $14.99 for 4K.
Besides having the opportunity to see some great classic, badass Canadian rock from the quartet, comprised of original members Andy Curran (bass/vocals), Carl Dixon (guitar/vocals), drummer Dave Ketchum, and long-time pal Sean Kelly slinging his axe like few others can, proceeds from sales of ‘virtual’ tickets, on-site live tickets (limit of 50), and merchandise sales will go to support the eminently worthy Unison Benevolent Fund.
“They’re an amazing organization that relies strictly on donations. I believe Rush were the first donation of $1 million bucks to get them up and running. They help out people in the music industry who don’t have any medical or health benefits or insurance or anything like that. It’s a fund that helps people in hard times, including what’s happening right now with Covid,” said Curran, taking a break from the band’s rehearsals.
The show came together rather quickly, as the venue’s current owner, entrepreneur Michael Wekerle, has been itching to have Coney Hatch play the El Mocambo since he took it over a few years ago.
“The connection is that my kid brother John is very good friends with Michael Wekerle and Michael has been a Hatch fan since the early 1980s. John introduced me to Michael and we’ve been friends for a couple of years, and right from the start he’s been saying, ‘when the El Mocambo opens, Andy, we’ve got to get Coney Hatch in there.’ And I said, ‘sure Mike, it sounds like fun,’” Curran said.
“And the next thing you know he takes us up on it because they just opened a couple of weeks ago with Big Wreck. He did some research into all these live stream shows that are happening and for a lot of the audience, it’s not like a regular show where, as soon as you put up the show for sale, there’s a frantic rush to get tickets. Because it’s online, people don’t really feel any sense of urgency to buy their tickets. So, we thought we’d better get people talking about it. So, yeah, it was very last minute, but we are super stoked about it. We haven’t played there since 1983.
“And there’s at least going to be a bit of a live audience. At the moment in the City of Toronto, they’re allowing the El Mocambo to have 50 people in the venue. The new second floor has a balcony on it so they will split the 50 people and from what I understand, 20 will be on the balcony and 30 on the ground floor. Primarily our focus is the live stream, but it will be nice to have some bodies in the building to be able to have a bit of a vibe in the room. It will be nice because when you do those studio shows online, it can be quite sterile for the artist. There’s no vibe – you’ve got a bunch of cameras staring at you and that’s it.”
The El Mocambo was already a legendary music Mecca in Toronto by the 1970s when it garnered international recognition after a surprise Rolling Stones show there in 1977. Originally a music venue in the Victorian Era, after a number of changes and reconstructions, it was christened once again as a top music establishment, replete with its famous bold, colourful neon sign, in 1948. Over the intervening decades it has seen artists from across the musical spectrum trod the boards of its stage, and at times has been a haven for punk, alternative, underground, metal and blues acts. The venerable Canadian blues band Downchild was the house band at the El Mocambo throughout the early 1970s.
Changes in the makeup of downtown Toronto, differing demographics, musical tastes and the vicissitudes of an unpredictable economy almost saw the end for the El Mocambo, as it was slated to be closed in 2014 before being rescued by successful banker and a member of TV’s Dragon’s Den, Michael Wekerle that same year. He promised that the club would return, better than ever and, after extensive renovations, even in the midst of the Covid crisis, it held its first rock show a few weeks ago, featuring the Ian Thornley-led Big Wreck.
“I’ve been asked about the importance of the El Mocambo a number of times and I can give you two answers. First, for me just as a music fan, it was a very big part of my early love for music. I saw The Cars’ first show there when they were touring their debut record. I saw Rory Gallagher there; I remember seeing an Edgar Winter show. My friend Marko Shark, who is now a really great photographer, he brought me to meet Edgar and I’m such a fan. I brought my sheet music for Frankenstein and got my picture taken with Edgar. I also remember when Hatch was on Polygram [Records] getting an invite from somebody in the U.S. to go and see Jon Bon Jovi play there on their very first visit to Toronto. So, there’s some really great memories for me there, personally,” Curran said.
“And then with Coney, when we played there our one and only time in 1983, it was in the middle of a whirlwind touring schedule that we did at the time. A few weeks ago, Carl found our itinerary for the whole year and we played 120 shows. That included 30 with Iron Maiden and mixed in there was all kinds of stuff; we played with The Tubes, and before that Ted Nugent and Cheap Trick, so we were playing so many shows that the El Mo gig was a bit of a blur for us. It was a case of we had a break in between big tours and thought, ‘the band hasn’t been back to Toronto for a couple of months, let’s pop in and do a couple of nights at the El Mocambo.’ It was such a prestigious place to play and we were really excited to play there, especially me because of all the great memories I had seeing shows there.
“I am pretty sure [then the top rock station] CHUM-FM presented the show and we did two sold-out nights. One funny story I can tell you is that, at the time, the load in for the gig was horrendous. I mean, you had to go in through the back stairs and up at stairwell and everything. For years, and even to this day, I still play with an Ampeg SVT cabinet, which is the size of a fridge, and our road crew offered me cold hard cash if I would play a different amp for those shows so they didn’t have to haul that thing up the stairs. I didn’t take the cash; I put those poor boys through it and said, nope, the SVT is coming in.’ What I have heard is that part of the new renovations includes a freight elevator at the El M now, so it’s all quite modern and high tech. And, as you may or may not know, they’ve got an audio room and a video room, and they’re going to be broadcasting in 4K which is like watching a show on CBC or NBC or one of the big broadcast networks.”
And that audio and video gear is going to be put to good use, as not only will it stream the show on Oct. 3, but it will record it for future release, according to Curran, part of an intended vinyl/CD package that may also include new Coney Hatch material.
“They told us they were going to record and film the show and we said, ‘hell, we’ve never done a live record.’ We’re going to use that material, and hopefully there’s no train wrecks, but our plan is to print up some vinyl for the first ever Coney Hatch live album. We’ve also been working on a couple of studio tracks and we have brand new Coney Hatch songs in the can that we were working on just before Covid hit. Carl and I finished up some vocals and they still have to be mixed and everything, so we may include those new songs on the live album. But, honestly, it’s just nice to come out of hiding a play a show, because I feel fortunate there are so many of my fellow musicians and road crew and people in the music industry that are at home wanting to get back to work.”
During the late 1970s and into the early 1980s, Coney Hatch was one of a number of excellent young rock bands hopping from venue to venue in what was a very vibrant scene for rock and metal music in Toronto. At the centre, was the El Mocambo Tavern, which catered to all audiences and all styles of music, and because of its pedigree, was the prestige gig at the time.
“I’ve done my homework on the El Mo and that place was the premier showcase room. And the thing that I love about the El Mo is that it was never really genre specific. You could see Blondie one night and then the next night Jaco Pastorius was coming in there from Weather Report, and then obviously there were gigs by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Cheap Trick and Judas Priest – the list goes on and on of amazing shows there,” Curran said, admiringly.
“It was always a really cool place where it didn’t matter what type of music it was. During our time, we would have maybe played The Rondun, or maybe the Knob Hill, or Tony’s East and Tony’s West, there were literally a dozen gigs you could play in Toronto, and for the longest time, The El Mocambo was one of the gigs we never had. We were almost the friggin’ house band at The Gasworks, but we came up in The Yonge Station. When you think about it, you could tour all over Canada and even the world, and then come back home and have, like, 12 places you could play back in Toronto. And the whole GTA area was great, and across the border in places like Buffalo and Detroit there were great clubs. When Devil’s Deck was being played on MTV, we got some good U.S. coverage.”
All members of Coney Hatch are busy with other projects, some in the music business, some outside of it. Curran spent many years working for Anthem Records before moving on to Ole Music, a publishing house that took over the Anthem back catalogue, including everything by Rush. Now, he is kind of a self-described music business ‘gun for hire.’ He also has a lot of solo material sitting on his hard drive, waiting for him to find the time to put it all together for some sort of release. He’s done four albums with Coney Hatch, one with the group Soho 69, and an acclaimed self-titled release in 1990, which features the hit songs Licence to Love and No Tattoos. That album garnered two 1991 Juno nominations, of which he won one, for Most Promising Male Vocalist. The other nomination was for Best Metal/Hard Rock Album.
“A buddy of mine said to me, ‘look, I am building you a website and you need to get back out there, and you need to put the No Tattoos band together again.’ I’ve got so much music in the can for my solo career. I have, honestly, two full records that I am going to finish off and probably get out there soon. But there’s not enough time in the day. It’s a labour of love, although my wife is kicking me in the rear saying, ‘come on, man, get that stuff out.’ It’s the 20th anniversary of my solo record, so, all things being normal, or close to normal again, I will go out and do some shows,” he said.
“With Hatch, we’re kind of weekend warriors. We’re lucky if we play somewhere between six and 12 shows a year. But the pressure’s off for us. It’s all fun now. It’s not like we’re trying to take over the world. Like putting on your old tennis shoes, it’s a bunch of old buddies hanging around, getting back out there and doing what we love to do. And once we’re back onstage, no matter how long it’s been, it comes back really quickly.”
Prior to the start of the show, well-known Canadian music journalist ‘Metal’ Tim Henderson will interview Dixon and Curran, updating folks on what the band has been up to and perhaps telling some stories from ‘back in the day.’ Showtime is 8 p.m. with the virtual doors opening at 7:45 p.m.
For more information on the El Mocambo, visit https://elmocambo.com.
For more information on Coney Hatch, visit https://www.coneyhatch.com.
To keep tabs on Andy Curran’s activities, visit https://andycurranmusic.com.
For more information on the Unison Benevolent Fund, visit https://unisonfund.ca/home.
- Jim Barber is a veteran award-winning journalist and author based in Napanee, ON, who has been writing about music and musicians for nearly 30 years. Besides his journalistic endeavours, he now works as a communications and marketing specialist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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