Homegrown Hamilton 27 King William Street

After wrapping our cameos at the Canadian Winter music video shoot, the night was still young, and Avi and I decided to stick around downtown and see what was happening. I remembered my friend Jose had posted about the debut show of his new band, The Monarch Project, at Homegrown Hamilton, and since that venue has been on our list, we thought it would be the perfect chance to check it out. After a quick Tweet to Jose to double check set times, we headed over.

Located in the Sky Dragon Centre (a non-profit community co-op “dedicated to the goals of progressive social and environmental change”), Homegrown Hamilton had its grand opening in December 2011 and has since proven to be a popular downtown haunt. Part café, bar, live music venue, art space, it has such a cool vibe to it and fits in well with the art and culture scene of the neighbouring James Street North. They host all kinds of events, from diverse musical talent, a weekly open mic night, art shows, literary events, fundraisers, community activism, and more. It’s also a fantastic contribution to King William Street itself. Along with fellow café and bar The Baltimore House and Club Absinthe, this street is definitely drawing our attention more and more.

True to its name, everything at Homegrown is, well, homegrown! While we didn’t get to sample their healthy and delicious-sounding menu yet (we’ll be back!), everything is made with local ingredients. Their Vegan Curry Cauliflower Tomato soup even won Best Local Soup at this year’s Soup Fest. Just looking at their menu, and I can already tell that Avi and I will be so indecisive and will want to return to sample as much as we can. This night, we just fancied something to drink, so Avi tried one of their freshly-roasted coffees and I had a local beer.

On with the show! First up was The Monarch Project. Before their set, Jose was describing their sound to us, citing bands Oasis and The Yardbirds as influences. Avi and I were excited to hear, also being intrigued by the band name which took a few tries to get straight. My first image was of a butterfly, while Avi’s first association was Monarch, like royalty. This was only fitting because we’ve often described our Tour as something of royal proportions, and when creating our Facebook page, we were tempted to list ourselves as a Monarch, which was one of the options given. But I digress.

With Jose Batista on guitar, Joe Boudreau on vocals and guitar, Rob Nagy on drums, and James Rea Girt on bass, The Monarch Project delivered a tight set that definitely didn’t seem like their first show. Their 60s rock influence and strong musicality were clear, and adding another dimension to their folk-rock sounds, a few artists were creating some ambient visuals with a projector and a sheet set up as a backdrop. A couple of the artists behind it were Kearon and Connor, who I’d met at some Temporary Projects events. The colours floated across the band members as they played, making it quite psychedelic. Avi and I are pretty on par with our musical tastes, and we really enjoyed The Monarch Project’s set and look forward to hearing more from them.

The Monarch Project

The 60s vibes continued as the Guelph folk duo Love & Guts took the stage. Erin Crickett and Scotty Hertz, playing accordion and guitar, respectively, were a complete throwback to that decade. It felt like we were at a rally or protest, and the duo were standing up for a cause they believe in. It was a call to action, and the audience responded. At one point, Erin passed out a few shakers and noisemakers to some audience members who wanted to get in on the action. As they state on their official page, “From the picket line to party time, we’ll be there.” They even put their own spin a Guns and Roses classic, “Sweet Child Of Mine”.

Love & Guts

Alex Bien Band were up next. The band was new to us but we were pleased with what we heard. Hailing from Toronto, the guys seemed happy to be in Hamilton and the audience welcomed them warmly. The cool purple and blue lights worked with their chill, folk-rock sound and the track “All Falls Down” stuck out for us as a highlight of their set. We also thought three out of four of the guys were quite stylin’ in their vests. We’ll give the drummer a break; you’ve gotta be comfortable back there, after all. Later that month, the band was part of Toronto’s Canadian Music Week, but we hope they come back this way again!

Unfortunately, we had to get going before the main act, local boys The Safety Collective, took the stage. We’ll be back for you another time, fellas!

We love a good impromptu tour stop like this one. We got to discover an awesome new venue, which we can already tell we’ll be frequenting, and we got to discover some new music. ‘Twas a fun night!

– Kristin

Alex Bien Band

Homegrown Cafe on Urbanspoon

Kristin Archer is the creator of I Heart Hamilton (www.ihearthamilton.ca), 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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