This Ain’t Hollywood 345 James Street North
By Kristin Archer
Photos by Lisa Vuyk
It’s been a rough year for me, as a Hamilton music fan! First my beloved New Hands broke up, then Harlan Pepper also decided to call it a day. Alas, we must go with the flow, and be grateful for all the good times and good tunes.
There’s no doubt for me that Harlan Pepper will go down as one the greatest Hamilton bands of all time. To think that they’re still all under the age of 25 is unreal. In their eight years as a band, they contributed so much to our music scene. What I’ll remember most about Harlan Pepper is four friends having the most fun onstage and off, and the camaraderie and friendship that shone through in every performance. I’ll remember how completely in sync and in tune they were with each other. There was always a really special chemistry between Thompson, Dan, Jimmy, and Marlon.
Harlan Pepper said farewell with two final shows at This Ain’t Hollywood this fall. These nights were true to the spirit of their last album title, Take Out A Twenty And Live Life To The Fullest. That we did.
I was at the second to last show. I think it was Lou Molinaro who joked that the first show was like the wake, and the second, the funeral. Make no mistake, though, spirits were high! It was a heck of a party, although it was sad to know these were the last performances we would see. It felt like we were witnessing a piece of Hamilton music history.
Harlan Pepper were in fine form, playing with the skill and ease that they always did. They playfully ordered a round of beers before launching into “It’s Hockey Night.” It was a blast to hear all of their now classic tunes back-to-back.
There was a solid Hamilton roster of guest performers: Ben Somer, Matt Paxton, Aaron Goldstein, Ralph Nicolle, Mimi Shaw, Patrick Hayes, Lou Molinaro, Gord Lewis, Alfie Smith, Wayne Petti, Brad Germain, Greg Brisco, Terra Lightfoot, Dylan Hudecki, Jesse O’Brien, and Tom Wilson… hope I’m not missing anyone!
The guests contributed to the party vibe and it also made it all the more sentimental to hear them say a few words about the band. Aaron Goldstein noted what a pleasure it was to be up there with the guys and said confidently that he knows we haven’t seen the last of any of them. Marlon’s dad, Ralph Nicolle of The Folk Sinners, said it was the saddest night for him. Understandable, when he taught them so much. Ralph really milked his tune, playing an extended version of “Move That Rock.” It was a joy to watch.
Other highlights included Lou’s performance of Chilliwack’s “Fly At Night” and Gord Lewis joining for a performance of “Let’s Shake.” Dylan Hudecki did a fun rendition of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” changing the lyrics to “Harlan Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” of course. The last song turned into a huge jam, with everyone hopping onstage to sing “Can the Circle Be Unbroken.”
A fitting way to end the night, before they launched into that big jam, I did a shot of whiskey with their manager (and Thompson’s sister) Madeline Wilson, and her husband Jesse Dore. My hats off to Madeline as well for all of her incredible work with the band.
I’m proud to have witnessed the Harlan Pepper journey, and I’m not worried about those guys at all – I know there are lots more good times and good tunes ahead.