ABSINTHE UNPLUGGED

ABSINTHE UNPLUGGED

Fundraiser for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Hamilton and Burlington
Club Absinthe 233 King Street East

Note: As of January 2012, Absinthe’s new location is 38 King William Street.

When I think of Hamilton’s music scene, of course we have incredible bands, but my mind always goes first to the solo artists and duos of the acoustic singer-songwriter variety. Ten of these talented local acts came together for a fundraiser show at Club Absinthe to benefit the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Hamilton and Burlington. The event, hosted by INDI 101 and inspired by Max Wray’s weekly radio show “The Kitchen Sessions,” featured an eclectic variety of musical styles, ages, and genders. Each played from about three to five songs and there was never a dull moment as the event moved quickly from one act to the next, with DJ George Petit, formerly of Alexisonfire, spinning some tunes in between.

Before I get into the show, I want to make note of the fact that it was at Absinthe. The venue will be moving to a new location in 2012, and knowing that this was my second-to-last time being there, I want to pay a little tribute to one of my favourite Hamilton haunts. This is my personal Ode to Absinthe, if you will. Even before we started our Tour, Absinthe has been a staple for me over the years. From the legendary weekly Wednesday night party that is Motown, to the equally legendary Saturday night ragers I Say Disco/You Say Punk, my friends and I have passed countless memorable nights (and some fuzzy ones) at the venue. So many occasions have been marked – Halloween, New Year’s Eve, and a celebrating a birthday at Absinthe has proven to be a rite of passage. Ending up in colourful and potentially embarrassing party photos by Jay Perry on MONSTERSvsME the morning after a night at Absinthe is an inevitability.

Not to mention the variety of musical acts I’ve seen at Absinthe over the years. I’ll always remember the venue as being the place where I met and became friends with one of my favourite bands in recent years, The Carps, and even helped to book them a show there. Absinthe was one of those unique venues where you could be dancing up a storm to a pulsating beat downstairs, and take a break to watch a low-key folk band play upstairs. More often than not, the bands would then join in the party after their sets. I also can’t think of Absinthe without thinking of their amazing staff – everyone I’ve met there from security, bartenders, DJs, promoters, and photographers have all been such great people and really made the club everything it was, will continue to be.

Absinthe was my first foray into Hamilton’s nightlife scene a few years back, and I’ll forever be nostalgic for that space. The hilarious characters we’ve encountered, the dance moves we’ve coined, the new music we’ve been introduced to, the friends we’ve made, and the few-too-many drinks we’ve sampled will all go down as unreal memories and classic anecdotes for years to come. Alas, like everything else, we must go with the flow of change, and I’m excited for the venue’s next phase and I know it’s only onward and upward from here. Expect a blog entry once I hit up the brand new Absinthe in the coming weeks. Cheers, Absinthe!

Xo.Ex.Oh’s

Back to my regularly scheduled entry – shout outs to my Honourary Tour Members for the night, Matt Montour, Michael Walsh, and one of the night’s performers, Gavin Slate, who were lovely company to sit and chat with throughout the show. Our dapper host for the evening, Max Wray, took the stage to introduce the ladies of Xo.Ex.Oh’s, who kicked off the show with their acoustic melodic-rock tunes. Danielle and Kenda continue to add to their repertoire of songs and every new song I hear from them instantly becomes my new favourite. I always love getting to see them play.

A prominent fixture on the Hamilton music scene, Juno-winner Tomi Swick, was up next. I had never seen him live and was pleased to get the chance. The highlight for me was getting to hear the beautiful “December Sky,” which Tomi recorded in New York with Julian Lennon.

Next on the bill was another Hamilton music heavyweight, Max Kerman of Arkells. It was really a treat to get to hear Max play some solo songs in this intimate setting, including powerful acoustic renditions of Arkells singles “Whistleblower,” “On Paper,” and “John Lennon”. Max quipped about our shared alma mater, McMaster, in between songs and gave some insight into some of his lyrics. “Whistleblower” was a highlight of the set for me – to hear it played acoustically made for a completely different feel and added intensity to the song.

Max Kerman

Another Max, Mr. Wray himself, continued the acoustic tunes. It has been well established that Max is a favourite of ours on the local scene, having made many blog appearances already and becoming part of the soundtrack to our Tour. Max delivered a short but sweet set of his trademark swoon-inducing love songs.

It was then Terra Lightfoot’s turn to take the stage. Another artist I had yet to see live, I was excited to get to hear her play, having only heard recordings of her songs. Accompanying her beautifully rich and soulful voice with an electric guitar, which was a refreshing sound to contrast with the acoustic sounds of the night, Terra’s set was impressive and effortless.

The Dundas-based folk-pop duo and winners of the 2010 Hamilton Music Awards Rising Star Search, Dawn and Marra, carried on the evening. Their harmonious vocals were soft and strong and they were a joy to watch. Switching up their instruments by playing guitar, ukulele, accordion, and percussion between them, they were also joined a couple of musicians, which only added to their already full sound.

Harlan Pepper

Tom Wilson was another impressive addition to the lineup. Asking for his guitar to be cranked up, Tom’s music ripped through the venue with a volume that was not matched by anyone that night. His gruff, bluesy vocals told stories of his hometown Hamilton and he had an incredible command of the stage, being the accomplished performer that he is. Tom was another big name on the bill that was special to get to see in this intimate setting.

Mike Trebilcock was up next. Previously of The Killjoys, he has had a successful career on the Canadian music scene both in bands and as a solo artist. Also a composer for film and television, Mike was another seasoned musician to grace the stage for this great cause.

Harlan Pepper were next to switch things up. The four-piece folk-rock band are favourites on the Hamilton music scene, and deservedly so. They’re often described as old souls because of their ability to capture the specific sound they do, being as young as they are. I hadn’t seen them live in a while so I was glad to see them on the bill; they’re always really enjoyable to watch and listen to.

Gavin Slate

As our only out-of-towner performer for the night, talented Toronto-based musician Gavin Slate closed the show. I was happy to get to meet and chat with Gavin beforehand – I had first heard of him through my first visit to Boxcar Sound Recording Studio this summer. I was most excited to hear the last song he played, “Goodnight Lovers, Goodnight Thieves”. I was hoping he would play it – right from the first note, the dreamy song, accompanied by an incredibly creative video, is most definitely a standout track. It’s simply gorgeous and one of those songs where you immediately hit “repeat” after listening. I was getting a bit sleepy by the end of the show and “Goodnight” was just the lullaby I needed to send me floating off into the night.

And there you have it – my play-by-play of Kitchen Sessions Live. Kudos to Jamie “Gunner” Smith of INDI 101, Max Wray, and Absinthe for putting together the event. Please visit the official Big Brothers and Big Sisters website for more information and to donate your time or money to this great cause.

This is also my last official blog entry of 2011, so thanks for reading, and I can’t wait for all we have planned here at the Tour in 2012!

– Kristin