Lindsay Darling and Brittney Townson throw some of the most consistent dance nights in the city. In anticipation of the one-year anniversary of their FUCK IT party, we catch up with the DJ duo professionally known as Bangs & Blush.
I think you’ll always remember the first time you stepped into Clinton’s Tavern in Koreatown. (Fresh into your twenties. Bad date. Shitty Smirnoff coolers.) But then you’ll also always remember the first time you stepped into Clinton’s for a Bangs & Blush party—and had a bitchin’ time with grownup drinks. If you’ve never heard of DJ duo Lindsay Darling and Brittney Townson, let me give you a sentence-long debriefing: “just two pals that throw on heels and dresses and throw wild parties!”
There’s a lot to love about Bangs & Blush: the gals are simple and laid-back, but they’re also spitfires and sweet as pie. Working together professionally since 2008, their vision was a spontaneous combustion of energy—Darling and Townson just wanted to give Toronto some good times. Since their modest beginnings making people dance on Queen West tabletops, they’ve been bringing a tinge of nostalgia and no-nonsense revelry to the party scene with their retro-infused nights. None of it is annoying or reductive (as so many of those, say, ’90s hip-hop parties can be), since Bangs & Blush specialize in substance over style, but style over stuck-up. (After all, the epicentre of their madness is Clinton’s, which isn’t known for being, well, uptight. Rock on.)
“Initially, we had a few nights on the go, but we wanted to build it bigger so we started a feverish flyer campaign, leaving “Who the fuck are Bangs & Blush?” flyers all over,” Darling wrote to me. “We still talk about how many of those mini flyers we dropped in bathroom stalls and bars. It was an insane campaign to get noticed but it totally worked, because a week later Clinton’s contacted us.” In October 2010, the duo launched Shake, Rattle & Roll, a new ’60s party that replaced the Bloor Street bar’s outgoing Saturday night jam. Its launch coincided with the explosion of ’60s way-back playbacks fuelled by pop-cults like Mad Men and, well, just about the entire fashion world.
But I didn’t quite follow the girls until late last summer, just after they launched FUCK IT, a party that they carefully described as “a giant clusterfuck of music where we throw on only the music you know and secretly love.” (Think your first Winamp playlist.) Since then, the gals have expanded in spades, booking private functions like mad, doing the blog thang with custom playlists for your own backyard happening, taking longtime doorgirl Holly under their peplums as their newest music recruit, and, most recently, launching a Beatlemania jam at Bloor and Ossington’s The Piston. To celebrate yet another milestone in their burgeoning careers, I did the chit-chat thing with Bangs & Blush before their latest anniversary party.
Photo courtesy of Becca Lemire
It’s the one-year anniversary of your FUCK IT party. Describe it to me as an elevator pitch. Sixty seconds. Go.
Brittney Townson: Take delicious guilty pleasures such as “Will 2K,” Ghostbusters theme song, “Man I Feel Like A Woman,” and so on, and play them for a room full of other guilty-pleasure junkies who can get pretty out of control on the dancefloor. Everyone has a really good time at this party—the type of night you will leave dripping with a smile on your face.
You seem to operate primarily out of Clinton’s. Has it always been that way? What was your first party like?
Lindsay Darling: Our first party was at Czehoski. It was Mick Jagger’s birthday, so what better excuse to launch Bangs & Blush? It was insane: We had people dancing on tables, and we were dancing on the bar. It was bedlam, and it kind of set the tone for every other party we’ve thrown. We’ve not always been at Clinton’s. In the beginning, we were throwing dirty little dance parties all around this fair city. Clinton’s came about because the previous Saturday party was leaving and they wanted to shake things up a bit. We came in and launched Shake, Rattle & Roll. We immediately fell in love with the venue, because everyone who works there is wonderful. And the rest is history.
You’re also known for a few other nights you organize. Tell me about those.
LD: I think we’re best known for Shake, Rattle & Roll, our ’60s dance party that we throw every Saturday. Think Dirty Dancing on crack. It’s my personal favourite! We also run Beatlemania on the first Friday of every month at The Piston. Self-explanatory!
You both take turns playing the tunes. Do you have a “sound”?
LD: I’ve been DJing for almost six years now. My pal thought it would be hilarious to walk away from the turntables and leave me hanging. That’s pretty much how I started. I wouldn’t say we have a sound. I think B and I just feed off the crowd. We watch and see what they’re reacting to and give them more of that!
BT: I haven’t DJed as long as Lindsay, but I’ve been a music freak since birth and played in a few bands growing up. But Bangs & Blush sound-wise, no. We can’t help but let tunes from the Motown era and ’60s rock ‘n’ roll movement get us wild, and I think the energy and positivity we express while playing this music inspires our crowds.
Duos are always fun to dissect—Sonny & Cher, Pinky and the Brain, etc. Break down yours.
BT: Lindsay has a much stronger business background, whereas I come from a writing/design background. [We share] most of the exact same responsibilities, but I’m more or less behind everything visual Bangs & Blush puts out there—everything from flyers to our websites to our other promotional materials. I like to write a lot of our web content as well. But I’ve figured out lately that I’m mostly just the goofy one. Sigh.
How has the B&B operation evolved?
LD: This seems like a really easy job, but it isn’t. I’m not going to pull the “girl card,” but sometimes being a female in a male-dominated industry isn’t the easiest. I think what’s changed is we’ve become better friends, more protective of each other and of Bangs & Blush. It’s harder to screw us over now—ha!
BT: Lindsay and I didn’t know each other as well as we do now, which can be a complete gamble business-wise. Now our friendship has become really important to Bangs & Blush. And I can easily say I’ve become a tougher person. We’ve paid dues, been screwed—you fall down, you pick yourself up.
Photo courtesy of Becca Lemire
And what about the “scene” and getting crowds out?
LD: Easier! People know who we are and know what we’re all about now, so they know what to expect when they come to one of our nights. I think we have some of the best crowds in the city, but I’m obviously being biased.
When you’re putting something together, what do you think makes for a great night?
BT: Great music, big smiles, lots of energy, and a room full of people who can check their egos and shyness at the door and get nutty with us. It’s my number one concern with this crazy job: I just want people to walk away sweaty and happy.
What do you think is Toronto’s biggest nightlife strength?
LD: Torontonians are over-worked and know a lot about music. Put those two things together and we’re bound to have a wild nightlife scene.
What could Toronto be doing better? What do you want to see more of in the city’s nightscape?
BT: I can see that there’s a slight change in the air lately, but I’ve always had a hard time with the egos and shyness. We need to be able to check our shit at the door, not give a flying fuck about what people think, grab your friends and dance like idiots sometimes. Life’s too short. And it’s something we definitely try to inspire people to do.
When you’re not doing your own DJ thing, you can be found…
LD: I definitely will go to anything that my pals Pie & Mash or Misty Rock n’ Roll throw! However you’re most likely to find me on the patio of the Churchmouse & Firkin. I like to keep things low-key when I’m not working.
BT: My favorite thing to do on my night off is see Ride The Tiger. They play at The Drake and Orbit Room, and they’re one of the best groups the city right now. For someone who loves to throw really exciting, fun dance parties, they’re totally on the same page.
And the future?
BT: Parties, after parties, after parties! PARTIES 4 EVA.
The first anniversary of FUCK IT happens Friday, June 8 at Clinton’s Tavern, 693 Bloor Street West. #CHP Find out more here.