I’m so pleased I ventured out this year to Hamilton’s version of Open Streets! The event is described as “a community-based partnership dedicated to promoting active, healthy, and inclusive lifestyles by temporarily transforming streets into a shared space for everyone to experience.” The last one was held in June but it was lovely to get out there on this gorgeous autumn day.
The concept, “Make the Streets your Playground,” reminds me of the spirit with which I’m tackling Hamilton – get out there an explore! The main site for Open Streets is James North, but for first time, the event was expanded beyond that neighbourhood to include Westdale and McMaster University. I have focused a lot on James North so I chose to check out the west end of the city this time. It was also a chance to revisit my alma mater. The campus in the fall is so beautiful; I loved strolling around campus again and admiring the colourful foliage and stunning architecture.
There were vendors lined up along Sterling Street and part of the road was covered in chalk drawings that lead the way towards Mac. First I headed for the main stage right in the middle of the campus, in front of Burke Science Building. Oh, the memories of having to dart across that space countless times before as I raced between classes. It began as a cloudy day but the sun came out as I reached the main stage to see my new friend All About Maggie.
I recently met and interviewed Maggie for a Rendezvous and I was excited to get the chance to see her live. Maggie, rocking a bright pink and floral outfit, took the stage to perform an awesome set full of songs from her debut album Now Hear Me Out, and even a couple covers, which she is known for too. I loved her rendition of Kanye’s “Heartless” and Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel,” the latter I captured as part of my video blog.
It was fun to see Maggie up there with her full band and see her interact with the guys. They had great chemistry and looked like they were having a lot of fun together. Maggie is a total pro – she sounded fantastic live and she has a confident stage presence. It was a treat to get a free outdoor concert – the backdrop looked so pretty and picturesque.
After Maggie’s set, I grabbed a coffee and wandered back down Sterling to the Supercrawl-sponsored stage to see local duo Dawn and Marra. I last saw the girls at a fundraiser in December, and that was my first introduction to their impressive live show. Their vocal harmonies are so solid and they dazzle with their musicality that seems well beyond their years. The sound guy joked with them, asking how many instruments they shared between them. I don’t know the final tally, but between their vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, keyboard, accordion, ukulele… a lot!
Dawn and Marra effortlessly capture an authentic folk sound and have proven to be accomplished songwriters too. Watching them live made me think they would be perfectly suited to a show like the Folk’d Up Friday series I’ve been covering. They’re about to head out West to do some recording, and I can’t wait to hear what they come up with next. If their newest, “Animal,” is any indication, it’s going to be good! I included a clip of the song in my video.
In my travels I came across The Bomb Squad Art Crew who were creating an impressive piece to commemorate McMaster’s 125th anniversary. I remember catching The Bomb Squad at work at last year’s Supercrawl when they brought to life the Birth of Venus on the streets of James North. It was great to see them back in action and part of Open Streets. Their approach to art was a fitting match for the event, which is all about reappropriating space and temporarily occupying it to initiate change or make people think.
Lastly, I caught a performance by local band Of Gentlemen and Cowards. This was the band’s first show back home after beating out a ton of acts to be featured guests on The Late Show with David Letterman. An impressive gig and no doubt an exciting and whirlwind trip to NYC for the guys! Many fans arrived at the main stage to watch their set and lots of cameras were out to capture the event. Check out a clip in my video blog.
As the event drew to a close, I just narrowly managed to grab a snack from Smoke’s Poutinerie before they packed up for the day. Phew!
I would have liked to see even more people out and about during Open Streets; it was a great event and I was glad to see it expand to include another area of the city.