Published in National Post. [Toronto magazine, June 28, 2008]
He's spun his last record
Brit pop impresario, College Street icon and polarizing indie scenester Davy Love (born Dave Lovell) is a lot of things to a lot of people. Sober isn't usually one of those things, but that's what he was as he sat upstairs at Sneaky Dee's preparing for his last DJ set at his retirement party on June 21.
"This is the first time I'm going to DJ sober," he says with a laugh. "I figure it's going to be my last time, so I want to remember everything."
Most retirement parties are sombre affairs but the gregarious Lovell doesn't do somber. The owner of the 45 rpm record label Magnificent Sevens is best known as the force behind Blow Up, the weekly Brit pop party that ran from 1995 to 2005. It was the biggest accomplishment in his DJing career, which began in his teenage years.
"When I was 13, I worked at a biker bar and one day the DJ didn't show up," Lovell said. "The bar owner asked if anyone was a DJ and I said I could do it. The bikers thought I played great music. The owners fired the DJ and I worked there for the whole summer."
After doing the Orillia teen club circuit, Lovell moved to Toronto where he tired launching a number of nights to little success. Faced with a club scene that was still under the sway of grunge, he saw the possibilities of a niche Brit pop night.
"You'd go to the Dance Cave back in '94 and throughout the night, they would play a three-song set of all this good stuff like Ride and Happy Mondays in the middle of all this crap," he said. "This whole crowd of people would come out from the woodwork and fill the dancefloor and then you wouldn't see them the whole night. That's when I knew that if you did a club night that played that type of music all night, you would get all those people."
A trip to England that year gave Lovell a glimpse of what could be. When he returned to Toronto, he and some friends handed out flyers to the first Blowup party at The Red Raven (now The Pour House) at St. George and Dupont. "Lo and behold, it was packed - 150 the first night," he said. "It never did less than 150 people ever."
Initially a monthly event that moved to different clubs, popular demand caused Lovell to change Blowup to a weekly party; a decision he described as "liver killing." The party eventually found a home at the El Mocambo and led to a few excessive moments.
"We were standing in the DJ booth at the El Mo and we brought a blender in," he recounted. "We were smoking Cuban cigars and we started making margaritas in the DJ booth. We were looking out at this sea of people and realized that this is huge. It was a really great feeling."
Things changed for Lovell and Blow Up when the El Mocambo temporarily closed in 2001. Scrambling for a new home, the party would spend two years at Lee's Palace before winding down at Swallow Lounge. While he's cut down on his DJing duties in the past few years, a major life change forced him to give up DJing at 40.
"The lifestyle of a DJ will just wear you out," he admitted. "Most DJs I know don't even last until 40. They've had enough booze, drugs or whatever. And whether you do them or not when you start DJing, you end up becoming a part of that lifestyle. I had a baby and the lifestyle that goes along with DJing isn't conducive with being a father."
While Blow Up regulars have been increasingly telling how much they miss the night, Lovell has given up that fight. "It's like, 'Start your own club,'" he said with a shrug. "It was basically what we did with Blow Up at the beginning. I think it's definitely up for an uprising."
In addition to leaving DJing behind him, Lovell is leaving Toronto and moving "to a village of like 300 people" south of North Bay. Whether the country life will suit him or not, Lovell got surprisingly modest about he and DJ skills will be missed.
"It's flattering," he said. "I'm just happy to be part of it."
Link to story in National Post here.