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Get To Know… Bobby Kimberley of Young Lions Music Club
"Get to Know..." is a regular series where we interview Toronto's creative thinkers.

“I’d say our competitive advantage is our effort to develop a community around our events,” says Bobby Kimberley, founder of the music marketing and events company Young Lions Music Club, referencing the oversaturation of entertainment programming in Toronto. “The payoff is the day after, when I can reflect on how it all went and when I hear feedback on how great of a time everyone had.”

For almost four years now, Kimberley has been growing a business out of his apartment that connects Torontonians through music and art. His parties have become legendary for introducing some of the best local bands and, as his work expands into other mediums, he is showcasing rising talents in the art world whose installations, artwork and performance abilities are nothing short of influential (see Katy Perry approved Allie X.).

September has been a busy month for Kimberley, with his contribution of a HAL9000 replica to TIFF’s Festival Street and his new role as a music curator for the Junction Music Festival. Tonight, the entrepreneur hosts his annual SS Dwayne boat cruise dance party but he managed to sit down with the Toronto Standard to help us get to know him a little bit better.

He’s a Stanley Kubrick fan. 

“Everything about his films is iconic,” Kimberley says, explaining why he chose the celebrated filmmaker’s oeuvre to bring to life in a series of parties he has been managing since 2012. “Each [of his] films has distinct elements that translate perfectly into a live experience. They’re fun to invest energy into, to interpret, and re-create.”

He’s the guy who helped put Dwayne Gretzky on the map (and a boat). 

Kimberley is the creator of the SS Dwayne, an annual fall boat cruise that circles the Toronto harbour while all aboard enjoy a sweaty dance party with Dwayne Gretzky, a Toronto band that performs some of the best music ever written. “I am quite particular about how we market the band,” Kimberley explains. “We never call them a cover band.” There is no need because, as Kimberley says, their talent exceeds that kind of title, even when they play borrowed music. “The band can capture anyone’s attention in 30 seconds…they’re unreal talented.”

He’s always working on a new project. 

In addition to supporting the Junction Music Festival that took place this past weekend, where YLMC books performers and manages promotion, Bobby has a million other projects always on the go. SS Dwayne is his next venture and you can be sure there will be more Kubrick-themed events in the near future. His biggest focus now, though, is Young Offenders, a collective that was something his co-founder (and girlfriend) Anna Wiesen had dreamed up years ago.

“It was when people started calling YLMC about our graphic design, content development, and live event activation that something really clicked,” Kimberley explains of their final decision to make the leap in creating the multi-disciplinary artist agency. “Where Young Lions has a particular set of services and a clearly defined target audience with our events, Young Offenders can literally create anything for anyone. It’s really opened up the breadth of projects we work on and the clients that we work with.”

He’s an artist who is better at curating than creating. 

“I’m a creative person who could never sit still long enough to fully develop a tangible creative skill,” Bobby says when asked if he considers himself an artist. “I’m not a musician, though I love music. I’m not an artist, though I love art of all mediums.”

While he has stuck to organizing events and marketing bands and artists he believes in, his impact on the community isn’t small. “My contribution has become the leadership, organization, and ideation. It’s my network that is the most valuable tool.”

The music industry has always had a way of finding him. 

Shortly after moving to Toronto in 2007, the Lindsay, Ontario native landed a job at a major record label. “It didn’t take me long to find where I wanted to go,” he says. “But I could’ve never predicted how things would develop since then.” Shortly after beginning Young Lions Music Club in 2011, he was offered the opportunity to start his own record label. “I think [record labels] are heading in the wrong direction,” he says of his ultimate decision to turn down the offer in favour of the more hands-on marketing work his own business had been growing upon.

He believes Hamilton is going to be Toronto’s Brooklyn someday. 

“I’m seriously considering joining the wave of likeminded people that are moving to Hamilton,” Kimberley says of his next (literal) move. With rents rising and an impossible real estate bubble in Toronto, the Pittsburgh Penguins obsessed music fan is considering making the move along with other like-minded folks his age. “ It’s really only a matter of time until Hamilton becomes our answer to Brooklyn,” he states, matter-of-factly. “I think that’s pretty obvious.”

SS Dwayne takes place tonight, September 26. To purchase tickets, visit the YLMC Facebook page and be sure to check out what Young Lions Music Club and the Young Offenders are up to next. 

Image courtesy of Becca Lemire.
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Lauren Pincente is a contributor to Toronto Standard. Follow her on Twitter.

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