Here we go! This year marked the 9th annual Supercrawl, and my 7th year attending.
To get me into the Supercrawl spirit I like to invite Supercrawl performers onto my show on 93.3 CFMU, and this year I had the pleasure of chatting with Tyler Kyte of everyone’s favourite supergroup cover band, Dwayne Gretzky. It was such treat to get to talk with him and learn the origins of Dwayne, talk nostalgia, and recap the amazing traction the band has, including a sold out show during Supercrawl at This Ain’t Hollywood [Listen to the interview!]
Onto the weekend – I took it easier this year and did less darting around from stage to stage, which allowed for visiting with more vendors and side venues, and more leisurely walks to take in the sunny weather. That said, I hit every must-see performance on the list that I made the day the lineup was released.
Total bummer, but I missed the Friday night due to being sick, and that killed me because I’ve never missed a day. I hope everyone enjoyed my top picks for that night – PUP plus local acts PERSONS and Mother Tareka!
I hit the ground running on Saturday. First up, enjoying the kids from Hamilton Music Collective‘s Jambassadors program. Their three bands – The Stinkbugs, The Violet Gems and The Theory Dogs really impressed. Terra Lightfoot even came out to support the kids and rocked out in the front row. It has been a pleasure to get to know HMC better – seeing local kids thriving from their music education programs is so inspiring.
This November marks my 4th year with 93.3 CFMU and it’s my tradition to hop on during the station’s SUPERCAST which broadcasts live-to-air all day. Even before joining CFMU I would always stop by to see Jamie Tennant and the team broadcasting, so it means a lot to be part of it now.
This year, Jamie and Rachel Connell were set up in our best spot yet, in the heart of all the action, the window of AGH Annex. It was prime people watching and perfect weather with the sun streaming in. AGH Annex was also kind enough to bring us Grandad’s Donuts. That, paired with my Smalls Coffee, and I was ready to do some interviews. Shout out to Daniel Dell who was holding it down back at the studio and to the other volunteers who helped out throughout the day.
I was part of some fun interviews, including Dan Edmonds, Thomas and Biljana from my crew at The Inlet, Hamilton Children’s Choir, Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra and Black Collar Union, Matt Johnston of Collective Arts, and Aron D’Alesio. [Listen to my segments!]
Then it was back onto the street. I visited with vendor friends Jillard Guitars, Jenna’s Doodles, Girl On The Wing, and Sugarbones. I also stopped by Club Absinthe for their marketplace to visit my girl Fazooli (Absinthe also had killer lineups throughout the weekend). We have to give it up to the vendors who put in three days on their feet, hustling their wonderful creative endeavours.
Dinner was a no-brainer. MeatVentures‘ Miso Poutine was this summer’s food truck go-to. With an honourable mention to Jonny Blonde‘s Peachy Blonde – both are my local food truck faves. More fuel for the weekend included Relay Coffee, Green Bar, and Kool Jim’s ice cream truck. As I’ve said before, food is usually the last thing on my agenda during Supercrawl, so I always count on my favourite standbys.
The next live act I caught was Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra with Black Collar Union. The performance was remounted from HPO’s Indie Series, which was I excited for since I didn’t make that original show. HPO collaborating with a local act is always near the top of my list to see at Supercrawl and this year’s performance did not disappoint.
In our wandering, Trish and I got our photo taken by Steve Haining of CreateOf Studio in his photo booth that he would be taking to the Toronto International Film Festival the following week. Then of course there is the classic Supercrawl selfie inside the model LRT, along with more photo opps with the art installations on our route.
When the sun set, I beelined for Hamilton’s own Steve Strongman, who had everyone grooving at the north end stage. It’s so much fun at festivals even just being alone in a crowd and having a shared experience with fellow music lovers. Steve’s blues chops carried all the way down to the Fashion Zone stage nearby, which was my next stop.
In previous years I couldn’t squeeze fashion into my Supercrawl schedule, so I was very excited to nab a front row seat for my friends The Eye Of Faith‘s show New Kingdom. I felt like a celeb at NY Fashion Week. It was lovely to see so many beautiful familiar faces walking that catwalk. EOF’s pieces were all one-of-a-kind, handmade, and created using a mix of new and vintage fabrics and materials.
The following day I also saw Cha Nimke Nagwagin Kwe (Jasmin Glaw) perform a traditional Indigenous dance while showcasing a beautiful garment. “The Missing Heart is a textile design/artistic advocacy piece that uses Traditional Jingle Dress Regalia to create a platform for awareness of the current crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) in Canada.” Listening to Jasmin lead us in a moment of mediation was also very moving. That show lead me to learning more about the Sweetgrass Sisters Collective and attending their first Howling Moons event this past weekend.
The announcement of the Supercrawl lineup each year gets me so excited to hear if any of my favourites will be in the mix. This year that was Donovan Woods. I first discovered him in 2012 at Homegrown Hamilton and he cited those early Hamilton performances, joking that he was paid in coffee beans. I met a nice girl who, like me, staked out a prime spot in the front row. She drove down all the way from Waterloo just for his set. Donovan expressed his appreciation for the festival, telling us he has always wanted to play Supercrawl.
We’ll see Donovan in the area again in Paris, ON next May as part of the 2nd season of DT Concert Series.
As always, there are so many acts that I don’t even get to, and this year that included headliners The Sheepdogs, Sam Roberts, John K. Samson, Dan Edmonds. I also heard amazing things about Andy Shauf; plus there were tons of awesome gigs happening at Mills Hardware, This Ain’t Hollywood, and Club Absinthe.
I was back at it at noon on Sunday for another major must-see – The Medicine Hat. It’s a tough time slot but they attracted a loyal crowd. The band gets better and better every time I see them. Their new material sounds amazing and I’m very excited for a full length release that has been a long time in the making. I can see them really striking a chord across Canada.
So many art forms are showcased at Supercrawl – music, visual art, fashion, artisans, as previously highlighted. This year there was also a theatre component as well as the return of more performing arts by Hamilton Aerial Group. Our local literary scene is also booming, and they had a presence with the new Author Tent. Last year, Hamilton Youth Poets were one of my highlights of the weekend and I would love to see them back on a main stage. This year they were part of the Author Tent. How about some comedy next year? That’s another art form that deserves its own presence at Supercrawl.
Basia Bulat was another act near the top of my list to see. Basia has played in Hamilton many times over the years, including The Casbah, Mills Hardware, and a very special performance with HPO in 2012 that I’m so glad I documented. Basia is a joy to watch – she absolutely shines and is such a delightful performer.
This set was extra special as it was Basia’s last show for a while; she will be taking a well-deserved break from touring after the last two years of it. For her final song, Basia took to the stage solo to perform my favourite song of hers, “It Can’t Be You.” Teared welled up in my eyes immediately after that last strum. I was reminded of her performance with HPO five years ago, the moment when I was first moved by that song.
Next I had to make one final trek to the north end stage, but first I stopped partway to catch Thompson Wilson. I was such a fan of Harlan Pepper, who have since disbanded, so it was really special to see both Thompson and Dan Edmonds among headliners at this year’s Supercrawl. Both are just at the start of exciting solo careers. Thompson’s vocals impress me every single time; his signature tone and twang really move me. The crowd especially loved his tune “So Long,” which gives a nod to the street we were on.
I would say Tanya Tagaq was the most highly anticipated performer of the weekend. After I first discovered her when she won the Polaris Music Prize in 2014 (she was on the Short List again this year), I never thought I would have the opportunity to see her perform live.
Tanya was met with an incredibly warm reception as she walked onto the stage. She first spoke to us in her sweet, soft spoken voice before performing, looking right at us, making eye contact and taking everything in. I felt so present and rooted in the moment, looking up at her. Tanya introduced her band and explained that the performance would be entirely improvised, before launching right into it. Standing in the orange glow of that Sunday evening, all of us were transfixed. Tanya is an experimental vocalist, a throat singer, and her performance transports her and the audience to another place. It was like nothing I’ve ever witnessed before. After their last note, Tanya opened her eyes and was met with our applause and cheers. “I forgot I was here,” she said. “You felt so good. My heart’s so happy; thank you.”
Back at the opposite end, Blackie & The Rodeo Kings were just finishing up their set. I made it in time to catch the uproarious grand finale which had the audience clapping along in union. It was a fitting way to bring it all home, with Hamilton’s own Tom Wilson.
Until next year, Supercrawl! And brace yourselves – 2018 marks the festival’s 10th anniversary and Sonic Unyon’s 25th, so you know it’s going to up the ante in every way.