This Ain’t Hollywood 345 James Street North
This event completely epitomized I Heart Hamilton for me. On the Friday before, Arkells announced they would be playing a small show at This Ain’t Hollywood on the Sunday. Unbelievable! Didn’t I just confess in my post on Q in Hamilton that I had shamefully never seen the band live? The Hamilton music gods granted my wish. It was a Family Day miracle!
Making the night even more special, all of the proceeds went to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hamilton, an organization I feel connected to after working with them on I Heart Hamilton’s The Playlist 1.0. It was lovely to see Lisa Valvasori of BGC at the show and catch up with her. Arkells also chose BGC as the not-for-profit organization to receive the proceeds from downloads of their Hamilton anthem, “TiCats Are Hummin’.”
And as if Arkells weren’t enough, who should open the show? New Hands! I was so stoked for the band and couldn’t wait to see them share the stage with one of Hamilton’s biggest acts.
There was such a great vibe about the venue; a buzz in the air that it was going to be an amazing night. It had been a while since I had seen so many people arrive early (or heaven forbid, on time!) to a show. I tend to be fashionably early, myself, and when I got there, the front of the stage was already lined with music fans who had staked out their spots.
By the time New Hands were about to start, a big crowd had formed at the stage. The band began their set in a new way, with just Ben onstage, starting off with his signature beats. The audience grew attentive as the sounds filled the room and you could feel the anticipation. When the rest of the band walked onstage, the crowd erupted into cheers. I haven’t seen that type of reaction at a show in a while – it felt like a true rockstar moment for the band. I was pumped.
As always, it was a joy to watch New Hands perform. They always look like they’re having so much fun, but they had an extra spark for this one. Each member has his own energy that he brings to the mix. Spence has a presence beyond his years. I heard him pushing his vocals even more and trying new things. Pat had an added bounce to his characteristic bobs and sways to the music, Evan was all smiles, and Ben kept his calm authority about him while still busting out some smooth dance moves, while Gordy held it down with such precision and ease.
This was one of my favourite New Hands shows, for sure. They just keep getting better and I was super proud of them. There was lots of support in the audience from family, friends, and fans, and I’m sure many new fans were won over. Watch some footage I shot of their set.
The love and support continued throughout the night. Before Arkells took the stage, This Ain’t Hollywood’s Lou Molinaro introduced the band and summed up the family theme of the night, nicely articulating how Hamilton’s music community is really one big family. He added that the venue first booked Arkells back when they were Charlemagne. It was a full circle moment for Arkells and another memorable stop along their career.
As for my first proper Arkells experience? They are fantastic. Of course I knew that already, but all of my expectations were exceeded when seeing them in the intimate club setting. Frontman Max Kerman completely engages the audience, singing out, smiling with that signature cheeky grin, and looking right at the crowd. He is a real storyteller though his performance. Everyone was hooked from start to finish of their dream set list and sang along to every word. I love shows where the band really makes the audience feel involved and part of the show.
Towards the end, things got rowdy and the crowd surfing began! People took turns being tossed into the air and sailing by the band. I was getting tossed around too much so I maneuvered my way to the back to watch the last few songs. Of course, that’s when the epic encore happened! New Hands joined Arkells onstage for a rousing rendition of Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer” (a nice throwback to the last time I saw Arkells when they sang the song with Jian Ghomeshi). Organizers of the show, Lou Molinario and Heather Mueller joined in and it was the best finale before Arkells took it home with a couple more songs.
The band played for about a solid hour and a half. A true rock show! It was the most exciting show I’ve been to in a while. Check out the video I took of Arkells performing “On Paper.” (I tried to capture the crazy audience as well!)
In between sets and after the show, DJ Pleasure Horse (Sean Dawson of San Sebastian) took to the decks to keep everybody moving. (I heard the Wham! classic “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” and didn’t even need to turn around to know the San Seb boys were in control of the tunes.) They’re always my favourite bunch of dudes to get the party going. As longtime friends of Arkells, it was fun to see the San Seb boys dancing and singing along with everyone while the band rocked The Saint.
This was one for the books. I feel lucky to have been part of this show.