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Rockpile Nightclub

Photo: Brian Morton

Posted by Alexandra Grigorescu / April 5, 2012

The Rockpile Nighclub's exterior is the first thing to throw me off. Set at the tail-end of an immense (but mostly empty) parking lot, it looks a bit like a worn dining establishment. Step inside and you'll find an all-ages prison-themed space filled with a haphazard mix of faux barbed wire above the secondary bar, a jokey execution chair, and a mugshot panel. Gamers rejoice: there's a Big Buck Hunter arcade game. A poster of the Big Bop's final show sits pretty, but strangely-placed, at the entrance to the washrooms, which dubs girls birds and men cons. Why Big Bop? Because the Rockpile is the brainchild of former Bop owner, Dominic Tassielli.

Let's start with some gold stars: service is prompt and attentive, especially on slow nights, and the acoustics are good. The drinks are not outlandishly priced by downtown Toronto standards, but Etobicokeans, feel free to pitch in. There's also an ingenious room with a big-screen TV intended for parents who want to relax while their kids go nuts, and earplugs on sale.

As a long-time Toronto resident without a car, I don't often find myself in Etobicoke. Make that never. That said, I grew up in Toronto's northern suburbs, so I'm familiar with Rockpile's concept: fully-licensed, all-ages venues that endeavor to provide live entertainment seven nights a week. The live music mostly steers towards hard rock, but on a Tuesday, the nightclub moniker is a total misnomer with the scene being decidedly Canadian Idol-esque. Ridiculously talented teens perform on a stage backed by colored fluorescent lights to a mixed audience of aging drinkers, hoodie-sporting twenty-somethings, and proud parents. An absurdly large mirror ball casts pinpricks of light over the seated crowd.

Behind the bar, you'll find the requisite makings for rail drinks. I ask the bartender to recommend a cocktail, and she assumes I mean "fruity." I take it in stride, and suggest something sour. She makes me a Pornstar ($6.75): blue curacao, Sour Puss and soda. It tastes diluted, but I can't really fault a all-ages club for going light on the hooch. My partner-in-crime orders a pint of Canadian, also $6.75. Domestics like Coors Light and Molson Export are $5.25 while standard imports such as Heineken or Corona will cost you a hefty $7.50.

Does the Rockpile do justice to the Big Bop? No. When the beloved Big Bop closed its doors in 2010, fans of the all-ages music venue were outraged. Like me, they'd seen many a hard rock act in the dim, dingy, and ruefully un-decorated space during their formative years, and it had left its mark. The Rockpile has some interesting decor choices, such as the wall filled with famed mugshots of actors and musicians, and I can picture a rowdier, more robust crowd in front of a solid rock act, but I'm nowhere near the all-ages club's target audience. And I hate to prove Tassielli's claim that certain sectors of Toronto aren't willing to make the long trek to Etobicoke, but if you're relying on public transit, it takes a good chunk out of your night.

Tassielli admits that the first year of running the Rockpile was hard, and I can see why. The crowd doesn't grow over the course of the night. Still, there were moments--a teenaged girl singing Celine Dion a cappella brought rapt silence to the room. The pre-teens near the stage were starry-eyed, and that's really the goal of an all-ages club. Tassielli points out that some of the touring acts that used to frequent the Big Bop are coming over to Etobicoke, but even so, he's looking to expand "back into town." We'll be waiting.

Additional Details

Beers on Tap:
Canadian, Coors Light, Rickard’s Red
Signature Drink:
In the works
Bar Snacks:
Full menu available
Patio:
Yes
Music/Genre:
Steering towards rock and metal
Live Music:
Yes
Who Goes There:
Everyone—shy 13-year-old girls to flannel-sporting 40-year-olds.
Hours:
Irregular, based on live shows

Discussion

11 Comments

Darcy McGee / April 5, 2012 at 9:45 AM
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Perfect: a suburban bar that caters to the late 30s woman who refuses to realize that she's in her late 30s and continues to relive her glory days at the Big Bop.

Or MILFs.

Either way, sign me up: I'm in.

Daryl / April 5, 2012 at 9:54 AM
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$7.50 for a bottle of Corona??

Moi / April 5, 2012 at 11:18 AM
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ONE WORD: EWWWWWWWWWWWWW

LJ In replying to a comment from Daryl / April 5, 2012 at 11:19 AM
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hear hear Daryl

Rockin Mel Slurrip / April 5, 2012 at 11:49 AM
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When is the Queen Haters gig?

TheRealJohnson / April 5, 2012 at 1:54 PM
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Wow. This seems thoroughly awful. When the highlight of a review is a teenaged girl singing Celine Dion a cappella you can probably just close up shop.

duuuuuuude / April 5, 2012 at 2:25 PM
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It seems like the only events happening there are teenage metalcore, corny rappers, washed up butt rockers or karaoke. I think there could be a bit more potential if they added some more variety or used outside promoters, which really made the big bop a great place to see bands.

Alex / April 5, 2012 at 3:13 PM
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"only events happening there are teenage metalcore, corny rappers, washed up butt rockers or karaoke".

Let us look at the demographics of Etobicoke (since, as it was well put, nobody will go here from downtown. I'm FROM Etobicoke and would never make this mission. It's even WEST Etobicoke).

We have teenagers and their parents. That's pretty much it. And to be frank, the racial diversity in etobicoke is less than in the rest of the city.

So, for those people we give them teenage metalcore. Sounds right. Corny rappers, perfect for the suburban rap fan too afraid of real shows. Washed up butt rockers, which perfectly fit the parents who don't want to go all the way downtown. And karaoke, a working format in the suburbs already.

Would I go? Never. Is it a misguided attempt? Seems pretty well targetted.

Ron / April 5, 2012 at 5:53 PM
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Hey! My band is playing there this Saturday, and we are in no way rock / metal / deathcore. We are a pleasant mix of pop and 90's alternative!

infernalmachine / April 5, 2012 at 7:07 PM
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When it takes someone who actually lives in Etobicoke (well, just over the river) over 40min to get there...When they charge you $8 for a can of mediocre import beer... When most of the bands that play there are metalcore from Ajax... you should just close up shop.

I'm sorry ... I used to go see thrash and metal at the Big Bop, but this place is nothing like it. Granted, the Bop turned pretty 905-metalcore-kids towards its final years, but it was never this lame (or this expensive, or this far in the middle of nowhere).

I miss the Bop but really, the Rockpile needs to just die.

EricM / April 6, 2012 at 8:06 PM
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I'll see the Rockpile in the dead pool soon... maybe it will go back to being a Mother's pizza. Not all their fault though, tough to be the big bop next to an abandoned WalMart.

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