This Ain’t Hollywood 325 James Street North

It was yet another evening of music when Kristin and I decided to hit up the hottest party in town i.e. Max Wray‘s Rent Party. And what a party it was! Featuring a stellar lineup of musicians and refreshments outside on the patio, Kristin and I mingled with new friends and regulars outside of This Ain’t Hollywood, but all the action was inside as Kristin and I made our way inside to take in the local talent that evening.

Kristin and I found our usual spot by the infamous red lampshade which has acquired all sorts of names due to its bold colours and frilled detail. We like to think of it as a fun and festive sombrero which goes along with fiesta. Full circle! Kristin even got the nerve to switch it on, adding some unofficial lighting to the place. We ended up chatting with Matt Montour and Ben Somer, both of whom we’d hung out with recently at Boxcar Sound Recording Studio. And then who else should make an appearance than the man of the hour, Max Wray! He has certainly made a number of appearances on this blog (third if I’m not mistaken?) and for good reason. He’s definitely embraced the city of Hamilton and the music scene it has to offer and seems to pop up here and there around town.

The night began with a performance by Mike Maas who drew people in with his melodic voice. Mike and his band, The Shout, have opened for The Salads and you can hear some of his musical influences, ranging from U2 to The Beatles, in his music. Drew Smith took the stage next and the room went silent as he crooned away, just him and his guitar. What struck me about him was the richness and warmth in his voice. He’s a local celebrity in his own right having landed songs in the films “The Roomate” and “The Stepfather”. Kristin and I decided that we’re going to watch these films just to find his songs. It’s not every day that you know someone whose music has been featured in a movie!

Max Wray and Matt Montour pair up for a song

Last but not least, Max Wray took the stage. With his striking blue eyes, charming good looks and John Mayer-esque voice, Maxwell Wray certainly knows how to make the ladies swoon and the gentlemen wish they could be him. Accompanied by a band for the second time, it was neat hearing his album with added instrumentation and vocals courtesy of Allie Smith from BowTie, Matt Montour on guitar, bassist Kevin Freer, and drummer Kevin Gallant. Kristin and I had attended his CD launch party last year (Max Wray Live, check it out) so it was cool for both of us to hear these songs we knew so well with a live band.

One of my favourite Max Wray songs is “Lost In Your Eyes”. When I first put his CD for a spin, I was like wow, this song is amazing. I don’t know, there’s just something that grabbed me, the lyrics, the emotion you can hear as Max sings about that familiar feeling about wanting to be that special person for someone, wanting to be with them and get lost in their eyes, in who they are. I think also the lyrics and the simplicity of the guitar and Max’s vocals make the song so raw and relatable. Upon learning that Max would be playing with a band, I was very excited to hear this song with added instrumentation and boy oh boy was I not disappointed! Matt Montour added sweet, subtle yet effective notes with the glockenspiel, sweetening the song even more while Allie provided backup vocals. Together with the bass guitar and percussion, that song made my night.

Max Wray and band

It was an entertaining show, with Max shouting out to his parents in the back of the room and cracking jokes here and there. At one point, he gave the band a break and tried his hand at a cover of Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn”. Despite having only rehearsed for a short while, there was such a great group dynamic between the band and you could tell they were all having a great time being on stage and making music.

All in all, Max Wray’s Rent Party was most certainly a success. We’re definitely looking forward to hearing him play again with a band and take in more of the local talent!

x’s and o’s,


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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