I had heard of Burlington’s DIY music festival Burly Calling for a few years now. They always have a great lineup of bands and the idea is to get to see big-name bands in intimate settings. The festival began with members of Burlington band Saint Alvia Cartel. According to the official description, “The original concept was a ‘joke’ tour across their hometown of Burlington from one of end of the city to another.” The initial idea reminds me of my own idea to tour my hometown, so I loved learning that about the festival.
The idea was a complete success. Now in its 6th year, it’s bigger than ever. Being a smaller community in Burlington, all of the pubs are basically a stone’s throw away, making it ideal to bar hop and catch as many shows as you can over the weekend.
While I only made it to one show, I was happy to support the festival and get my first taste of Burly Calling. I was also glad to get the chance to venture out to Burlington and include it in my explorations.
As Luisa and I drove into the city, we were struck by all the Christmas lights. There were many light fixtures all across Spencer Smith Park and it was a fantastic sight to see. It definitely made me feel more festive. Arriving early, we took a stroll around Burlington’s City Hall, which was right by the pub we were headed to, to take in even more lights.
The Queen’s Head is a cozy pub and we felt transported to the UK right away. I wondered how the bands would fit in the small space and was excited to get to see The Monarch Project, New Hands, and The Wooden Sky in the imitate setting. It almost felt like we were at someone’s house party, and we were ready to have some drinks, mingle, and be entertained.
A new Hamilton band, The Monarch Project took the floor first. I first caught them back in March at their debut show and they have been on a roll since then, with a slew of shows in Hamilton, including a residency on King William Street earlier this year. The band just released their first recordings, a limited edition 7″ vinyl of the singles “A Better Part Of You” and “Desire.”
Their alternative rock and psychedelic sound was a lot of fun to listen to in this setting. The lighting was also impressive – the lights had sensors and changed colours according to the music. All the bands were blasted with colour throughout their sets. The Monarch Project also bravely covered a Beatles song, “Dear Prudence,” which sounded great and suited their style well.
My bffs New Hands were up next! They were a blast to watch in this small space and it was cool to be on the same level as them, rather than having a stage. It was a true New Hands fan club night out with Evan and Gordy’s parents in the audience, Gordy’s wife Lisa, Mark of Dr. Disc, and super music fan Steph Dubik, who all made the trek to see the show. (Ok, Burlington’s not that far, but it felt like being in a new town!)
We superfans even got a shout out – Spence dedicated my fave, “Whichever Way You’ll Have It,” to me, Steph, and Mark. Check out my footage of their performance below.
The Wooden Sky headlined the show, and the bar was packed with people at that point. The crowd even got a little rowdy – Burlington knows how to party! It was a fun, new atmosphere to be in, different from venues I’ve been to recently.
It was a treat to get to see the Toronto band that close up – they’ve played some huge shows and it really felt like we were being treated to a special, exclusive show. I saw them last in June at The Casbah’s Brews N Bands fest and was impressed with their live show. This one was no exception.
My first Burly Calling experience in the bag. While I would have liked to see more shows that weekend, I’m glad I could make it to one, and such a great one, at that. I’m also pleased that it brought me out to Burlington, an extension of the Greater Hamilton Area that I would like to explore more.
Thanks to Saint Alvia for putting together this great festival each year – hope to catch up with you guys sometime. Cheers!