The Rockpile East

The Rockpile East is situated in Scarborough at Eglinton Ave E and Danforth Rd. Housed in the same building as the Eglinton Inn and conveniently (landmark-wise) next door to Caddy's Adult Entertainment (look for the cadillac above the door and two crude cut outs of nearly naked women below) the bar and live music venue is as unpretentious as Toronto gets. I was reminded of random bars I've hit up in small towns in Canada, the US, and countries like Latvia. What decor there is in the stripped down bar is garish and fun. Alt rock songs by Radiohead and "old Coldplay cuts" play on the house stereo, even though I'm there on a punk night.

The Rockpile East is modeled after the Etobicoke location ( Rockpile West ) with its prison theme, but is a little slicker, cleaner, and more spacious. There are three bars in total, and the layout puts a raised dining area with tables and chairs on the east side of the vast floor facing the stage. Then there's a raised area for the main bar and a small lounge on the west side with basically no view of the stage where TVs broadcast sports and the celebrity mugshots line the wall, which are worth a mention: Amanda Bynes, 50 Cent, Eminem, Downey Jr, and Lindsay are there, plus Suzanne Somers (writing bad cheques) and Woody Harrelson (dancing in the street). Coat check is available for $2.50 — no ins and outs.

I arrive early on the night of a Teenage Head show to get a look at the bar before it fills up. I'm hoping to try out the grub advertised on Rockpile's website, and the bartender directs me to a chalkboard to take in the full menu. There are four items in total: $7.50 for a cheeseburger or chicken fingers or $6.50 for pizza or a deluxe hotdog. Mohawked bands are loading in and I'm weighing the options when the bartender returns apologetically to say the cook won't be in until 7:30pm. Waiting an hour for food would put me in a critical zone, so while I come back later for the show, I regretfully never sample the eats.

By 9pm an opening punk band is starting and the crowd is mostly older punks and rockers in denim, eye liner, and leather seated at the tables and congregated near the bar. The band look to be the youngest people in the club. Everyone (staff and patrons) seem really goddamn nice, especially for a cavernous bar in Scarborough that's supposed to feel like a jailhouse. The clientele is largely going for domestic beer and rail drinks but a friendly bar tender in a cop's hat is happy to make my friend and I cocktails. We try a bourbon sour which is sweet and tangy (it's like drinking candy) and a white Russian which is tiny but sweet and delicious. Both drinks are a modest $6.50. The bar special is mini pitchers of domestic draught for $10.50 each. Canadian and Rickard's Red are on tap.

Right now the Rockpile East is operating as a concert hall and only opening up for live music nights, generally four or five nights per week. Hamilton's Teenage Head are best known for their musical output from the 70s and 80s and as fans trickle in the crowd continues to reflect that, yet the Rockpile is an all ages venue and and the crowd will obvious reflect the bands on stage by the night. Fucked Up will play here later this week, as will Swollen Members, and a lot of local bands and nights are booked regularly as well. For the most part the venue is clearly a casual affair where jeans, studs, box-dyed hair (my people) and hoodies reign together.

The Rockpile brand is a project of former Big Bop owner Dominic Tassielli, and Matthew Almeida, former Big Bop booker, is also on board at both Rockpile locations. While the bar in Etobicoke and these new digs in a rather desolate part of Scarborough lack the scummy urban glamour of Bip Bop's old Bathurst and Queen location, residents of both neighborhoods will be happy to have fully-licensed, all-ages venues with good sound and friendly staff bringing rock, punk, indie, rap, metal, and miscellaneous acts large and small to their own parts of town. That can only be a good thing.

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