This will definitely go down as one of my highlights of the year – the Hamilton Music Awards! I was so pumped to check out the show, especially with the amount of music-related friends I’ve made and featured over the course of the blog. The festivities ran all weekend, with many events taking place across the city to showcase a diverse crop of Hamilton artists. I attended both the Industry Awards and the Music Awards.
Night 1 – The Industry Awards
Accompanied by my friend Luisa, we arrived in plenty of time to stake out the venue and mingle in the lobby. The last time I was at Mohawk was for my radio interview at INDI 101 when the blog started. I spotted friends and nominees Hachey the MouthPEACE, Boxcar Sound producers Matt Montour and Sean Pearson, and Threshold Studio‘s Michael Keire to say hello and congrats. I also ran into Hamilton Magazine’s editor Marc Skulnick; the mag was up for Print Publication of the Year.
The awards themselves, the silver treble clefs on shiny slabs with a marble-rock finish, were all lined up neatly on a table, minus the plaques with the winners’ names, of course. I had always wanted to take a red carpet-style photo with an official backdrop, so we had to pose and take a couple photos for ourselves as we waited for the doors to open. The red, white, and black colour scheme for the HMA’s went quite well with I Heart Hamilton’s colours. I was super excited to get the full award show experience!
I think I was even more excited for the Industry Awards than the Music ones. Having met so many hard-working behind-the-scenes folk like producers, retailers, venue owners, radio personalities, and record labels, I was really invested in so many of the categories and proud of the nominees I’ve gotten to know. (How about a blog category next year? Just throwing it out there.)
There was such an exciting buzz in the air and we excitedly went into the theatre to find our seats. I had never been in McIntyre Theatre before; it’s a lovely space. Just as we were getting settled, I spotted another friend and nominee, Mark Furukawa of Dr. Disc, and flagged him down to sit with us. The place wasn’t too packed – I had assumed most would come for the Music Awards – but there was a very exciting energy nonetheless.
The categories moved along quickly and I furiously tweeted out some highlights. I hollered extra loudly when the nominees I knew were announced. I was thrilled to see big wins for one of my most frequented spots, This Ain’t Hollywood, including Live Club of the Year and awards for owner Lou Molinaro (Talent Buyer of the Year and Radio Show of the Year) and Doug Smith (Live Sound Engineer of the Year). Having worked with the whole crew of The Saint on I Heart Hamilton Presents: The Playlist 1.0, I know firsthand how amazing they are and was so happy to see them recognized by the HMA’s.
Another well-deserved win that I was so ecstatic for was when Dr. Disc snagged Music Retailer of the Year. With Mark sitting next to us, Luisa and I were extra thrilled and cheered loudly as he went up to collect the hardware. I met Mark and the Dr. Disc team earlier this year and it has been one of the most rewarding connections I’ve made. Mark has shown unwavering support and enthusiasm for not only Hamilton’s music scene, but for the city as a whole. I was super proud! And, of course, couldn’t resist snapping a photo of the trophy.
Other notable wins for me were: the fantastic Southern Souls for Website/Online Publication of the Year, 93.3 CFMU for Radio Station of the Year, Hachey the MouthPEACE for Special Instrumentalist of the Year, and Sonic Unyon for Record Label of the Year. Another fun moment was seeing Kyle Weir win for Event Photographer of the Year, right as he was in the middle of documenting the HMA’s!
After the show, we mingled in the lobby some more and had the chance to congratulate some of the winners, including Dan Griffin who won Producer of the Year for his work on Arkells’ Michigan Left. Dan was also up for Adult Alternative Recording of the Year the following night for his own solo record Leave Your Love.
From there, Luisa and I headed to Casbah for a night of music – The Box Tiger (I was happy to finally meet the Toronto band and hope to catch them again), Ashley Sloggett, Brooke Nicholls, All About Maggie, and Common & Coy. Maggie was up for 3 HMA’s the following night and her website won at the Industry Awards (I was happy to break the exciting news to her over Twitter!).
Night 2 – The Music Awards
I couldn’t wait to do it all again! I was ridin’ solo this time, and I was first seated up in the balcony. This award show was being filmed (to be broadcasted live on CHCH December 15th!) and we got to move up closer. I luckily scored a seat on the floor sitting with Michael Keire and nominees for Punk Recording of the Year, The Dirty Nil.
Again, there are too many categories to list, but I’ll list a few highlights. I was so pleased for Terra Lightfoot to win three awards, including Female Artist of the Year. Her solo material is lovely and she has one of my favourite voices to hear live. I’ve also gotten to know her as part of The Dinner Belles, who are one of the best bands in the city.
The counterpart to that category, Male Artist of the Year, went to Lee Reed. I was thrilled for the hip hop artist’s win, especially with it being the first time an artist of that genre has won. Lee is a powerful artist and one of the most thoughtful lyricists I’ve encountered. I’ve noted before that Hamilton’s hip hop scene is on the rise. I really wanted to delve into the city’s hip hop scene since the blog’s inception and I’m glad to have gotten a taste. Plenty more to come from this scene – get ready!
Another special win was Missy Bauman, scoring New Artist/Group of the Year. She was also chosen as the winner of the Rising Star Search, making her the first artist to win both. During her speech she appeared as your average seventeen-year-old, giggly and nervous, but the talented singer transcended age when she treated us to a beautiful performance, showcasing her mature vocal inflections and songwriting. I’m sure it was the first time many of us in the audience were introduced to her music. This is just the beginning for Missy, who has an exciting career ahead of her.
The most exciting moment for me was when my friends The Dirty Nil won Punk Recording of the Year! I was so proud, especially sitting right with them. The most rewarding part was getting to see friends up on the HMA stage and I was stoked for Kyle, Luke, and Dave. If they hadn’t won, I would have pulled a Kanye West and stormed the stage. Which would have been risky considering it was the Punk category, so all worked out for the best.
I was also very happy that Record of the Year went to The Rest for their brilliant work on Seesaw. The seven-piece band, who also performed, are so special and also one of the best in the city. They went through an insane journey making this album, even almost losing it forever due to a computer glitch. Thank goodness it was recovered – it just shows you that it was meant to be, although I can’t even imagine the frustration and heartbreak for them at the time. It was great to chat with Adam Bentley at the after party, who was still stunned at the win!
Another awesome moment was Monster Truck‘s win for Canadian Recording of the Year by Peoples Choice, beating out Justin Bieber and Michael Buble. Better luck next time, boys. The audience’s reaction confirmed it – you “Don’t F*ck with the Truck!”
Shout out to the lads of Arkells who scored two well-deserved awards. Although they were on the road and could not attend, they delivered a couple of video messages and were also connecting with myself and others over Twitter throughout the show.
Lifetime Achievement Awards went to entertainer Gordie Tapp and legendary Hamilton rockers, Crowbar. It was a joy to hear Gordie’s acceptance speech – what an incredible career he has had. Crowbar were also so inspiring and delivered a performance that rivaled any of the young cats in the game now. To hear them wax nostalgia about their wild days on the road and their full careers as musicians made me think of all my friends in bands now. I wish them all the longevity, joy, and success that Crowbar as had and, most importantly, that same lasting friendship. Maybe one day some of them will be up on the HMA stage, receiving the same acclaim. Getting to see Crowbar perform “Oh, What A Feeling,” was an honour. It remains one of the top rock songs to come out of Canada and we’re proud to call them our own!
After the party, comes the after party! What better place to celebrate than This Ain’t Hollywood. I hit up the club with Mark of Dr. Disc and Marra Koren (of Dawn and Marra). At this point, we were starved, and we were luckily treated to a delicious spread by Chef Shane of Jack & Lois. Guacamole & chips, spring rolls, pulled pork, fruit & veggies… just the fuel we needed to party on.
I kept asking around, and no one knew who was performing that night, so I suspected we were in for a few surprises. The first surprise was seeing Doug Smith, who is normally on sound (for his HMA-award winning work!), up on stage singing and playing guitar with a band. The Saint is one talented place – Lou Molinaro also took the stage, fronting a band, and it was my first time getting to see the owner perform. I know it won’t be the last. Lou is a total pro! Keep an eye out for his new band’s debut in January 2013.
Another surprise guest to take the stage was Kelly Jay of Crowbar! It was fantastic to be treated to such an intimate performance. He and the band had everyone dancing the night away. The best dancer, by far, was an adorable lady named Ruth who presented the category Loud/Metal Recording of the Year, an amusing moment at the Music Awards. She completely stole the show. At the after party, Marra and I were delighted to find ourselves dancing with her. Ruth attended with her husband and didn’t stop dancing for a moment! It was clear she would outlast us all. Ruth was a complete joy and has such a passion for music, telling me she was going to request that Kelly play some songs from back in her day.
Everyone wanted to dance and chat with Ruth – including Hamilton rockers BEARD. I had a fun time meeting Kevin and Nigel and they couldn’t resist stopping to pose with everyone’s favourite dance partner.
It’s safe to say I caught the HMA fever, and the only cure is more cowbell (a little Blue Coupe reference for ya there, who also performed). I look forward to attending the Awards again in the future and being involved in any way I can. There was an overwhelming sense of community and togetherness, pride and support for Hamilton’s music scene and I’m so happy I got to be part of it. My thanks to the HMA’s for having me out!
For a complete list of winners, check out the official HMA website. Also check out HMA-winning photographer Kyle Weir’s shots from the night on his official website. And be sure to watch the broadcast of the 2012 HMA’s on December 15th at 8pm on CHCH.