Supercrawl James Street North
The event is a year in the making, some playfully dub it Hamilton’s Christmas, it gets bigger and better every year, and for the second year in a row it’s the most fun (and tiring!) event I’ve attended. SUPERCRAWL!
As the 4th annual Supercrawl, this was the first that was expanded into two days and an even bigger stretch of downtown, extending to King and James where the main stage was located. I joked on Twitter earlier in the week that waiting for the band schedule, I felt like a student waiting for my class schedule, hoping for no conflicts. Luckily, there were none, but I had a tight schedule and knew I had a lot of ground to cover.
Supercrawl, day one: The spectacle kicked off in the evening, during the same hours of the monthly Art Crawl. My mission was a no brainer – Young Rival! But before that, I had a few other spots to check out. I spotted on Twitter that people have been anxiously awaiting the opening of Cafe Oranje, a brand new coffee shop in the city, described as “Dutch aesthetic, Hamilton infusion” by co-owners Christopher Godwaldt Amy Gringhuis. They were set up in the Lister Block, which was a great place for me to start, being the headquarters of Tourism Hamilton – hometown pride everywhere you look! I said hello to Chris and Amy and tried one of their tasty lattes as well as a macaron made by Cake & Loaf. A delicacy, and the one dessert Hamilton needs. It was the perfect kickoff to my Crawl.
From there, I ventured down the street to take in the sights. CBC Hamilton was buzzing with their event staple, the photo booth, and everyone was welcomed in to grab a treat, button and stickers (I snagged me a button to add to my growing #HamOnt button collection). As I continued down the street, I passed a marching drum band, a busking opera singer, some complimentary hair cutting outside O’s Clothes… you know, the usual.
Next I had to track down art by my friend and New Hands’ drummer, Gord Bond. Graduating from McMaster this year, Gord won the Museum Award from the Graduating Art Students Awards. It was exciting to see two of his paintings on display at Supercrawl. Thanks to Twitter I found their whereabouts – in an exhibit on the second floor of Vasco de Gama.
Meeting up with some friends, we caught the last half of Wax Mannequin‘s set (one of his last before jet-setting to Germany for a slew of shows) and moved in even closer to get a better view for one of my favourites, Young Rival. They’ve been around for a few years now but I first saw them at last year’s Supercrawl. I only wish it had been sooner! These guys are amazing, and also some of the nicest dudes I’ve met through my local travels. Their brand new album Stay Young drops this fall and I was digging the new tunes. Check out a clip in my video below.
Although the Colbourne stage continued to rock with Said the Whale and Zeus, I chose to move on to This Ain’t Hollywood for night one of the Everybody Dance Now Vol. 7 showcase, to launch the annual compilation released by 93.3 CFMU featuring the best of Hamilton music. Curated by James Tennant and Jamie (Gunner) Smith, that’s no easy feat, but I was stoked to see their selections – New Hands, The Dirty Nil, Cowlick, Matt Paxton, Canadian Winter, The Rest… the list goes on!
It has been so rewarding to get to know so many local musicians; it’s an incredibly exciting time for Hamilton music. At The Saint, I caught performances by Sarah Beatty, S.G. Sinnicks, Rackula, and The Rest (unfortunately I had to bounce before Canadian Winter and Cessna – I wanted to be fully rested for day two!)
Supercrawl, day two: Festivities kicked off at noon and I took a little extra time to refuel my energy, arriving around 3. My first stop was Homegrown Hamilton to catch some of Gunner and Tennant’s live broadcast on CFMU. Last year I got to do an impromptu interview with the two Jamie’s and it was great to see them broadcasting again, this time with a prime location close to the main stage. They had lots of interviews lined up throughout the day so I said a quick hello as they were interviewing a couple people from Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts, including Beaux Mondes’ Jackyln, and then moseyed on down the street. I later happened upon HCA’s installation which included some of the lifesized caribou I learned about through their event I attended in the summer.
I left a lot of time during the day to walk the length of James North and take in the art installations, vendors, and the vibe of the day, knowing that I had a jam-packed band schedule to tackle starting in the early evening. Once you stepped onto the street, that magical Supercrawl energy was in the air. There really is nothing like it.
After getting the lay of the land, I planned to venture upstairs to Hotel Hamilton to visit my friend Melissa at Grey Room Studio. I glanced up above Mulberry to see a swirl of bubbles pouring out the studio’s window. I can always count on Melissa for some festive flair – we also agreed to bring glow sticks to the event! I had a great time visiting with Melissa and her sister Veronica, also an artist. From the window, looking out toward the Armoury, we had a prime view of the street.
Suddenly, there was a bit of action down there as a very dapper looking gentleman (we named him “Fancy Man”) emerged and began convening with some police officers. Something was afoot! The militia joined the scene, creating a procession, and a swanky black car drove across the street and through the doors of the Armoury. We wondered over what could be happening and I decided to go down and investigate.
As it turns out, Prince Edward was in town visiting and word spread on the street that he would soon be appearing. I joined a small crowd around the Armoury’s doors and patiently awaited the sight while mingling with people in the huddle. I knew as soon as I turned to leave, something would happen, so I stuck it out, and after a little while, the crowd parted and there was Prince Edward who walked up to and through the Armoury’s door, giving a smile and a wave to us all as he went. Ok, so it was a bit anti-climactic, but hey, I’ve now seen a Royal. It was a special moment, though, definitely going down as a Supercrawl highlight.
I made another connection during my travels, with fellow local blogger Luke of Extreme Nonchalance. I really like what Luke is doing over there and he had the creative idea to design a sharezine specifically for Supercrawl. The concept was simple – you get handed the book, you write something about your Supercrawl experience, and pass it on. Whoever had the book at midnight was to leave it at Mulberry. Luke made something similar last year and it turned out awesome. Unfortunately, we have yet to locate this zine – if anyone has come across it, be sure to let him know!
From there, I wandered over to Dr. Disc where some sidewalk sales were happening, as well as an impressive art piece that was being painted in real time by Montreal’s collaborative drawing project En Masse. Along with local artists, they worked all day on the wall outside the record store, creating an impressive, colossal, black and white eclectic masterpiece of images. The completed mural is something to marvel over and it’s amazing to now have a piece of the day still in the city to remind us of Supercrawl 2012.
Onto the bands! First on my musical agenda was Rah Rah (who are on Hamilton’s Hidden Pony Records). The six-piece Saskatchewan band played the main stage and are a lively bunch to watch. I only managed to catch some songs at the end of their set and it was a bummer to have missed “Prairie Girl” (which I just included on September’s Playlist) but I really enjoyed seeing them, and hope to again. I always appreciate some props and for their last song they threw out some giant, silver, letter-shaped balloons that spelled out the band’s name. Fun! Check out a clip of their performance in my video blog below.
At this point, I’m pretty sure my blood sugar level was at zero. Time to recharge! I knew exactly where to go – Green Smoothie Bar. I grabbed an extra large peach banana smoothie and picked a few kicks to add in, with the help of co-owner Danielle. Then I beelined for Cake & Loaf’s stall in Makers’ Market, outside Christ’s Church Cathedral, where I got a delicious heirloom tomato pizza and their pumpkin donuts. By now, I think it’s safe to say all of Hamilton is obsessed with those babies.
Feeling refreshed from my snacks, I staked out a prime front row spot for Hollerado, one of my top bands to see live. Within minutes, there were a few hundred of us crowded at the Colbourne stage. The band kicked off their set with the peppy “Good Day at the Races,” and their set was a party from start to finish. Confetti cannons are a staple of their live show and it never gets old. I managed to capture a clip of the confetti action in my video blog – watch it below.
The crowd was fantastic because I was among fellow fans of the band. Everyone was singing along at the top of their lungs to Hollerado classics “Juliette” and “Americanarama” and listened attentively as Menno introduced some new songs, politely prefacing them by asking if we wouldn’t mind hearing them. He also later beamed that we made playing their older tunes so much fun. Hollerado have been steadily touring for the last few years in support of the marvellous Record in a Bag (I first saw them play here in 2007) and they must be getting a bit antsy to bust out some new material.
The sun set as Hollerado played, and by their last song, that was my cue to bust out my glow sticks. I had to book it at the end of their set to race over to the Tivoli stage. The sounds of “Got To Lose” slowly drifted from me as I waded through the crazy crowd on my way to see New Hands.
Sporting three neon glow sticks around my neck, I was pumped for New Hands! Once again I managed a front row spot and within minutes, the Tivoli stage was swamped with fans ready to dance. I ran into Evan and Pat the night before and noted that this is the biggest stage they’ve played yet. Evan mentioned he would love to see someone crowd surf during their set. The night of, Spence threw the idea out there to the audience. Almost immediately after they began their next song, up went a girl who sailed along, being carried by the crowd. (It was super dark out but I managed to catch the moment in my video.) The security fellows looked a bit jumpy, and I think any more attempts would have been quickly squashed, but hey, live dangerously (#imaliveandcantsayno)!
As proud as I was to see New Hands up there, playing this incredible festival, the band was equally as grateful. Evan wrote a lovely thank you to fans for being there and writing what it meant to him and the band. I am so excited for these guys and was thrilled to be part of their Supercrawl experience.
I really got a workout this day – after New Hands I booked it back to the other end of James to This Ain’t Hollywood for night two of the Everybody Dance Now Vol. 7 showcase. Another diverse lineup finished off my Supercrawl 2012 experience – The Dirty Nil, Toledo, Lee Reed, B.A. Johnston, and surprise guests Change of Heart. The bar was packed, with a lineup down the street.
Who better to blast the venue with their tunes first then The Dirty Nil! These dudes have quickly become one of my favourites to see live. And the crowd loves them! While I’m more of an observer than headbanger, I can fully appreciate how hard these guys rock. Check out a clip in my video blog.
Every time I see Lee Reed, I’m blown away by the intensity of his live show. I love seeing a performer so completely in the zone, and Lee is one of those. The intent and feeling behind his words are so powerful; he is someone you need to see. He was backed up by DJ Realistic and Johnny Fever of Canadian Winter on the decks.
Now at this point in the night, I about ready to zonk out, but I must mention I had my first B.A. Johnston experience. I’ve spoken of my love for theatrics, from Hollerado’s confetti cannons to Rich Aucoin‘s parachutes, and when B.A. got behind the bar, captain’s hat jauntily placed on his head and holding blazing sparklers in each hand, I knew I was a fan. He’s also the first I’ve seen to make use of This Ain’t Hollywood’s hula hoops during a performance (finally!). Although I hung back from the stage, partially due to exhaustion, and part in apprehension of what I was about to witness, I’ll be on the lookout for future B.A. shows.
And there you have it – my whirlwind Supercrawl 2012 experience. To be sure, there are tons more art installations and entertainment that I missed – the Zacada Circus School, bands like Great Lake Swimmers, Owen Pallett, Born Ruffians, Kestrels, Bombino, local acts Dawn and Marra, Sianspheric, Chore, and headliner K’Naan. I would have needed to clone myself to get to everything! But these are my amazing highlights and I had an absolute blast running around the street, meeting up with friends, and making new connections.
Until next year, Supercrawl!
Check out my video blog featuring my live music highlights of the day.