The Casbah 306 King Street West

By Steph Dubik

When I walked into the Casbah Lounge for what was the first of three last times, I knew it was going to be a night I’d never forget. Although I was alone, I saw lots of familiar faces, and familiar strangers; those people I see frequenting the Casbah and Casbah Lounge as much as I do. (Which is a lot.)

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Christina, not working the door that night, saw me when I walked in and eagerly asked: “Do you know who it is tonight?” My stomach did a few excited flips when she smiled and semi-whispered: “Arkells!” We chatted a little about how it was a bit of a given for the Arkells to play one of the Casbah Lounge Farewell Shows, and about our theories on who the other two bands were going to be. Since I know how Arkells shows can be, I made sure to get a cold beer and a spot at the front early in the night for an optimal view considering my shortness.

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I had been wishing for a tiny, sweaty, Arkells dance party ever since the one they played last February with New Hands at This Ain’t Hollywood on Family Day. I still smile when I think about that show. Then I got to thinking about how Arkells always remember to save a spot in their busy schedules for Hamilton, either with small secret shows like these ones or song lyric tidbits referencing things real Hamiltonians understand.

By this point, my internal thought process had wandered over to the projection screen running The Breakfast Club and it made me become more aware of the fact that The Casbah is always a place where you can go to a show alone (like I often times do) and not feel weird or lame or awkward about being thought of as a “loner.” No such thing. Just then I heard a few shouts and hollers as people were realizing Arkells were the secret band. Each member squeezed through the cramped but excited crowd, single file, to take their places on the stage for what would be nearly a two hour set.

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Arkells were welcomed to the stage with huge cheers and applause. Anyone who has seen an Arkells show can attest to the fact that they are always energetic, engaging, on point performers. Even though the opening song was an unfamiliar one, myself and the people surrounding me couldn’t help but get right to the inevitable dancing that comes with any Arkells show. “Coming Cars” was a great tune to start the set, which included a handful of new material. New song “11:11” had catchy hooks and lyrics and a bass-line that was fun to bounce along with.

My absolute favourite song to see Arkells play live was next: “Oh, the Boss is Coming!” It’s guaranteed to get the most apprehensive of audience members singing and dancing up against the strangers beside them, and maybe even screaming into the microphone that makes it’s way into the crowd at various points in the night.

Casbah owner Brodie Schwendiman onstage with Max Kerman
Casbah owner Brodie Schwendiman onstage with Max Kerman

Of course, there were other classics in the set, too. “Pullin’ Punches,” “I’m Not the Sun,” “Deadlines,” just to name a few. Because I got so into it, I nearly knocked over Mike’s microphone stand a handful of times because the stage spilled onto the floor and every inch of the place was covered. Luckily I steadied it before it toppled to the ground. All the excitement escalated when the Arkells didn’t leave the stage as is the protocol before an encore. Since the Lounge is so small, there was nowhere for them to go, so they burst into “On Paper.”

Next, as the night was rounding out, Max asked Brodie on stage to help sing the classic Clash tune “Rock the Casbah.” I had been wishing for this to happen at The Casbah for a long time and, oh, how sweet it was. My shins and calves were burning, someone spilled beer down the side of my shirt, I was sweaty, but none of that mattered because I was jumping around and having the time of my life. Then there was just one song left and how could it be anything but “John Lennon”? Adrenaline kicks in and sore muscles dissolve for a little while so the grand finale can be just that – grand.

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When the show was over, I quickly swiped the set list as a memento of one of the best nights I’ve ever experienced. I took photos with my disposable camera most of the night, forgoing the blurry phone pics. I took a photo of the set list and posted it to Instagram because how could I not brag just a little bit about seeing a tiny, secret Arkells show? Turns out CBC Hamilton saw it and my pic ended up being “Photo of the Day” the next day! Thanks for letting me say goodbye to the Casbah Lounge the right way, Arkells. What a bunch of gentlemen.

Until next time…

– Steph

(All photos were taken with a disposable camera except for the ones of the set list and Casbah sign.)

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Arkells set list
Arkells set list
Kristin Archer is the creator of I Heart Hamilton (, where she has blogged about experiences around her hometown since 2011, growing a social media presence along the way. Encouraging locals to “be a tourist in your own city,” she promotes arts and culture across her various social media platforms, blog, and weekly radio show on 93.3 CFMU.

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