Upcoming: Elvis Mondays back in the building
William New is relaunching his Elvis Monday series at the Drake Underground January 10 with a lineup that includes By Divine Right's José Contreras and New's, uh, new band, Mousekiss . It was almost exactly 23 years ago that New led his fledgling pop outfit, Groovy Religion , into the now defunct Beverley Tavern and started a Toronto rock institution.
In those days, the beloved Beverley hangout for the crusty punks and art impresarios of the Queen West scene demanded that the bands they booked play a three-night stand. The enterprising and psychotropically inclined New decided to take his Groovy gig a step further and dubbed the shows The Elvis Presley Memorial Beatfest.
"At the time, I told rock journalists Elvis had come to me in a dream and instructed me to marry Lisa Marie, who was about 13 at the time," shrugs New. "I claimed the festival was a fundraiser to get me to Memphis so I could find her. It was a great hook."
The faux fest was such a smashing success that the Beverley's proprietors invited New and his crew to return for a weekly residency on Monday nights ("the slowest night of the week," New laughs), and Elvis Mondays were born.
Although the showcase jumped between Toronto venues (after 30 months at the Beverley, New held court at seven other clubs, including the pre-makeover Drake ), it's served as a stronghold of indie culture and an opportunity for rising bands from Morphine and Change of Heart to Peaches and Billy Talent to test the waters.
The dreadlocked scene fixture claims he had no plans to revive the series.
"But then I got my heart broken, and it made me think, 'Elvis Mondays never broke my heart.' I wrote a solo record and started recording it, I have a couple of bands and I wrote a novel, all based on this gal who broke my heart.
"But my good friend Jeff Rogers is now programming shows at the Drake, and he put out the last two Groovy Religion records out of the goodness of his heart. If anyone else had asked me to resurrect the event I'd think twice, but I'd do anything for him."
Coming back to the Drake is particularly resonant for New, who remembers holding Elvis Mondays at the old Drake, aka "the 1150 Club" (named for its address).
"At that time, it was so far west we didn't think anyone would show up, but they did! I just dug up an old article from when I first started it there in 1993, and the writer asked me why people had such fond memories of the last decade of Elvis Mondays. I said I just hoped that 10 years from then people would be looking back with the same rose-coloured glasses, and I guess they are... or at least the owner of the Drake is."