It’s always the best time of year in this city – Supercrawl! Now in its sixth year, this was I Heart Hamilton’s fourth time hitting the streets to cover the festival. Whenever I think it can’t be topped, it gets bigger and better each year, thanks to the amazing team behind it at Sonic Unyon.
This was the first year that Supercrawl spanned three days, but not before a pre-party. Two shows started things off on the Thursday night before – A Tribe Called Red at Molson Canadian Studio and Rich Aucoin at This Ain’t Hollywood.
I really wasn’t expecting my Supercrawl to begin with such a bang! I’m a huge fan of Rich Aucoin and was waiting for him to come back to Hamilton since his last show here in 2012. Fresh off the release of his sophomore album, Ephemeral, Rich brought his incredible energy to kick off the ‘Crawl.
Making the night even more exciting – I was asked to DJ the night. This was my first time trying anything like this before and I had a blast curating the tunes before Rich took the stage. As I later said, I never expected my first time trying to DJ to be opening for one of my favourite acts, at one of my favourite places, during my favourite time of the year in the city. That was unreal and really meant a lot to me. Take a look at my set list here.
The next day, still riding high from the energy of Rich’s show, it was off to Supercrawl (not before my Supercrawl-themed show at 93.3 CFMU!). Meeting up with my friend Steph Dubik, we hit the ground running to catch our first act. We tried to cover as much ground as we could, like we did last year. This year made it even more exciting and official because we had trusty media passes!
All photos in this post are credited accordingly (Steph’s incredible photos are taken on film), and to make things easier, anything in regular font is by me (Kristin), and anything in italics is by Steph. Here we go…
I was really excited to see Lowell after reading about the Toronto-based artist. Her debut album We Loved Her Dearly was released a couple of days before on Arts & Crafts. I’ve been listening to it a ton since.
The crowd that gathered looked like they were in the same boat as me, curious to see this new artist, and then there were a few diehard fans at the front. For her last song, Lowell hopped offstage, climbed over the barrier of the Colbourne stage, and got right up close to her fans. She put her arms around them and had them all jumping with her. People rushed up to snap photos of the action. Lowell was a solid kickoff to the marathon of music that would continue. [VIDEO]
Next up, it was over to the TD/Arkells stage located in the lot of Dr. Disc. Working with Mark Furukawa (Dr. Disc) to book their monthly Raise the Roof shows (May – October each Art Crawl) on the record store’s rooftop has been a lot of fun. We got to fill a couple slots on this stage for Supercrawl, and The Zilis were one of my picks. The Hamilton band had been on tour and their hometown return was perfectly timed with Supercrawl. The Zilis have a loyal following, playing weekly gigs in the city, and there was a great crowd to see the three-piece do their thing.
I was really looking forward to seeing Illitry‘s set. They are one of my very favourites in Hamilton. Troy Witherow is such a special talent and their music just keeps getting better. With a few singles released already and a few changes in the lineup, a longer release has been in the works for a while now with producer Michael Keire at Threshold Studio.
Now the EP is finally coming soon and they celebrate its release on November 20th at The Baltimore House alongside New Hands, Ken Park, and myself DJing (I’m feeling the pressure now!). I can’t wait for this show and to hear the EP. [VIDEO]
George Petit’s new band, Dead Tired, have been bursting with energy and onto the punk scene recently with rabid enthusiasm. Despite the crowd consisting of some families with young kids at the beginning of their set, they took to the Colbourne stage with intensity right from the start, and the dynamic changed fairly quickly as more fans made their way to the front of the stage. That intensity didn’t let up throughout their set either. Wild guitars and equally fierce vocals made for a very energetic and off the wall performance. Loud punk rock in the heart of Hamilton. It was pretty rad.
Running back and forth from either end of James North to keep up with our crazy band schedule, Steph and I were pretty much non-stop, with the odd break in between for a tea/coffee/beer/snack. Like last year for me, The Baltimore House was the perfect rest stop. Co-owner Grant Winestock booked an incredible lineup for Supercrawl. On Friday, there were a ton of Buzz Records bands who have been getting a ton of, well, buzz.
One of those bands I knew I had to see was Weaves. I’m a big fan of their self-titled debut EP and was stoked to see them again. Under the lights of the venue’s new stage, fog machine blowing, candles lit, and the iconic neon blue cross glowing behind them, it looked so neat and suited the band’s quirky style well. They are one of the coolest bands I know right now.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t catch their full set because I had to race over to see my boys The Dirty Nil on the main stage, which was luckily just outside at King and James. But I’m super glad I caught Weaves and captured a clip of their set. [VIDEO]
The Dirty Nil. What can I really say except that they completely demolished the main stage (including Luke’s guitar). I can’t remember what the setlist consisted of but chances are they don’t either because I’m pretty sure those guys are used to changing it as they go anyway. All I know is that classic Nil is something to be seen and experienced live. If you weren’t there you missed out. There was singing, screaming, moshing, smiling, and freak outs going on in the audience and I kind of wish I was in the middle of all of it. All the same, it was pretty awesome to see the crazy audience from a (safe) distance.
Seeing The Dirty Nil up on the main stage was definitely a Supercrawl highlight. I was just so proud of Luke, Kyle, and Dave. The band has been moving at a steady momentum over the last few years and seeing them go from a smaller stage at last year’s Supercrawl to performing before Arkells on the main stage this year, was so rewarding. Turning around from where we were in the media pit to be met with a sea of people stretching from Jackson Square and down the length of James was incredible. What a milestone moment for the band. [VIDEO]
Greys at The Baltimore House was a show I was definitely glad to catch. Loud rock up close and personal. Watching their bassist twist and turn and dance up a storm was very amusing and added to the show for sure. Also experiencing Shehzaad’s vocals from about a foot away from his microphone was definitely awesome. Seeing musicians have a good time on stage is always great. I’m a fairly recent fan of Greys and I’m really glad the first time I got to see them live was at Supercrawl. Their most recent album, If Anything, has been spinning on my record player quite a bit lately and I hope to see them live again soon.
Arkells literally played on the street corner directly beside Jackson Square and I think the fans that made the trip from Toronto for the show secretly wished that they were native Hamiltonians, at least for one night. The last time I saw Arkells, the number of people in the audience was nothing in comparison to what it was on the Friday night of the festival. Granted, it was in the former Casbah Lounge and it was kept secret until the night of the show, but Arkells are a band that can project just as much energy playing to 10 people or to 10 000 people. Supercrawl was a perfect place to host such a band, seeing as how almost everyone who lives in Hamilton is and has always been rooting for them.
When I looked back at the crowd from where I was standing I could only see people. The road disappeared and the crowd was unending, stretching far down James Street. There’s no better way to experience Arkells than to see them perform live. Their set at Supercrawl balanced older and newer material. It has always been my favourite part of an Arkells set to hear the anxious crowd scream “Oh! The boss is coming!” at exactly the right time in the song’s intro, which I was happy to experience again that night.
Despite some technical difficulties beyond the band’s control, that didn’t stop Arkells from going full throttle and delivering a high energy set like they always do. They were a joy to watch and you could feel how much it meant to the band too. I often get asked what my favourite thing about Hamilton is or what Hamilton is to me. I say Supercrawl encompasses all that is Hamilton for me, but that moment specifically – Arkells playing at Supercrawl beside Jackson Square, right in the downtown core, to that many people, really made it. It was such a great and memorable moment. [VIDEO]
Arkells was the highest peak of Supercrawl, and it wasn’t even quite the end of day one. After that madness I squeezed out of the crowd and back over to Baltimore House to catch another Buzz Records band, Odonis Odonis. The Toronto band was impressively on this year’s Polaris Music Prize Long List for their album Hard Boiled Soft Boiled. I missed their last Baltimore House appearance, so was glad to have another chance to see them. It was loud, intense, and the crowd was way into it.
Baltimore House was absolutely rammed throughout Friday and Saturday nights. Being just slightly away from the main action of the festival, it felt almost hidden away. Baltimore House is no secret, obviously, but it felt like you were lucky to be one of the few in there to experience this show. There was one woman who sat front row, to the side of the stage, during the entire Friday night lineup. Kudos to that lady – that was awesome.
Of course, Supercrawl is about the art as well as the music. There was so much to see on the streets with the fantastic installations and vendors. One installation that really stood out was “The Cocoon” by Kírkē, a fibre art duo comprised of artists Petra Matar and Ariel Bader-Shamai. They created an interactive piece which we saw literally come together throughout the festival. Walking by on Friday, it was just the outer wooden structure, and by Sunday, it was completely woven, and I popped inside to snap a selfie with my friend Mathieu Brazeau.
Petra and Ariel used naturally-dyed wool to weave around the cocoon. They gathered the materials for the dye from organic material – plants and minerals from compost from their own kitchens or from local restaurants. They say that the piece “symbolizes the beauty of change, and the importance of a place of refuge for growth and development.” It was an ambitious and creative installation and I really appreciate all of the work that went into it.
Fashion was also a huge component at this year’s Supercrawl. A new addition was the Mohawk College Fashion Stage which saw fashion shows each hour on Saturday and Sunday. Blackbird Studios also kicked off the festival by presenting a photography exhibit at Baltimore House on the Wednesday before. This was another awesome idea to expand Supercrawl.
Now, day two! My Saturday began with 93.3 CFMU’s live broadcast from Homegrown Hamilton. Hosted by Jamie Tennant and Lindsay Hamilton, the pair had a full day interviewing Supercrawl performers, artists, and members of the community during the six-hour broadcast. This was my first Supercrawl since joining the CFMU team and I was pleased to help out for a couple of hours and hop on the air with them.
The first performance I caught on Saturday was Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra‘s collaboration with Thought Beneath Film. Last year, HPO’s collaboration with Hachey the MouthPEACE was one of the most memorable performances of the fest and they did it again with another unique one. It’s really exciting to see musicians come together and collaborate, especially when it plays with people’s expectations of genre. The musicians arranged renditions of Thought Beneath Film’s material as well as played some classical pieces. There was a large crowd to witness this special performance in the Dr. Disc lot. It was rewarding to watch, knowing the months of hard work that went into it. [VIDEO]
My favourite discovery at Supercrawl was How To Dress Well. Not knowing anything about this singer/songwriter prior to seeing his performance on the Saturday of the festival was actually a really good thing because I was so pleasantly surprised. (I love when that happens.) Tom Krell’s passion and love for his music was endearingly evident during his performance. Throughout the set he was often reaching out with his eyes closed while singing lines like “And I swear I still see your soul in your baby’s face. And I swear to God there’s no coincidence that as I sing this song today it’s been one year since that. I miss you.” Seeing real emotion in a performer is what draws me to their music and How To Dress Well was full of it. Evidently I was swooning most of the time.
It’s always a pleasure to see Canadian Winter perform, and their Supercrawl performance was made even better as they were joined by their extended ensemble, The Snow Beach Players. It was a chilly night, but it was only fitting that we had to bundle up for Canadian Winter.
At the end of the set, Lee Reed, who had performed earlier that day, hopped onstage to launch into “Paupers & Royalty”. Always a classic. It got the crowd revved up to chant along with the lyrics, “H-A-M-I-L-T-O-N… come again!” [VIDEO]
Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene is an artist that’s been on my list of “bands to check out” for a while. We all have a list like that. I’m glad that my introduction to his solo music was live at Supercrawl. I recognized more songs than I thought I would and was glad to hear him play his recent single (which features Feist), “You In Your Were.” His band featured many talented and seasoned musicians which made for a wonderful performance.
Baltimore House was a welcomed repose again, with it being so cold outside, and of course, more awesome bands were inside, before leading into DJs for Saturday’s Night Drive/// club night. Beliefs were one of the bands I caught. Having heard the name before, I was glad to catch their set. They were rad.
Jaunt. Oh, so dreamy. Seeing Jaunt at Baltimore House with lots of familiar faces in the audience was really, really nice. I couldn’t help but smile and sway to the sounds of their floating guitars and fluid vocals. Being the lo-fi darlings that they are, I kept to the disposable cam during their set. Although they have only one track available on their bandcamp page, their live show has a lot to offer. Make sure to catch Jaunt next time they’re in town (November 21st at Baltimore House); you’ll be glad you did.
I am definitely late to the Spoon party but I really enjoyed seeing them headline Supercrawl on Saturday night. It was pretty incredible for a band with such a large following to play a free festival in Hamilton. I recognized a handful of tunes and watching this seasoned group of talented performers made me wish I knew a lot more than just a handful. Nonetheless, everyone around me seemed really happy and in the moment, regardless if they knew every word to every song or not. I’ve got Spoon’s latest release, They Want My Soul, on the record player as I write this and I think it’s safe to say I’ll definitely be digging deeper into their discography very, very soon.
Feeling pretty exhausted after a long day, we played it safe with an early night before hitting the streets again on Sunday. On day three, the first person I ran into was Fresh FM personality Andrew Gerrior, who was broadcasting live from the festival. He had set up a canvas and was getting people to paint on it and I happily joined in.
Sunday was the best day I had for just leisurely roaming the streets and taking a better look at the vendors. The weather was just right, too. My stroll was so relaxing, I even hopped aboard a wine truck (like a food truck, but wine. Genius.) courtesy of Wine Country Ontario to sip a couple samples.
My first musical act of the day was the talented Katie Bulley, who was accompanied by The Zilis as her backing band. The two acts work together well and it was a great Sunday kick-off to see them.
I met up with Steph to see Bry Webb a little later. Constantines has such a loyal and devoted fan base, that it was no surprise that a sizeable crowd formed to see the frontman do his solo thing. Bry Webb also played the Hamilton Blues & Roots Festival back in June (also organized by Sonic Unyon) so it was great to have him back in town. I really enjoyed his set. [VIDEO]
Despite the singer-songwriter being a native Hamiltonian, I had never seen Jeremy Fisher live before. Supercrawl was the perfect time and place for Jeremy to come back and visit. I was pleased to chat with him beforehand in a recent episode on CFMU and to meet him before his performance. He’s the nicest guy. There was a big crowd for Jeremy who were eager to hear his older songs as well as tracks off his new album, The Lemon Squeeze. Fans sang right along with him the whole time. I could feel the Hamilton pride. [VIDEO]
With already so many amazing and memorable moments and performances, what would Supercrawl be without a grand finale? The Daptone Soul Revue closed out the weekend on the main stage. Spanning a few hours, it featured the impressive lineup of Sugarman 3, Antibalas, Naomi Shelton, and Charles Bradley.
I got to the stage when Antibalas were already mid-set. What energy! It was impossible not to move to the rhythms and get so into their music. The stage was filled with musicians and it was the most joyful experience. [VIDEO]
Unfortunately I missed Charles Bradley, but from all the excitement that was being tweeted, I know he put on a fantastic show. My friends Paul, Aaron, and Sarah from The Eye of Faith and Hawk & Sparrow even came to the rescue when his luggage was lost, and got to style him before his performance.
Exhausted as I was, I ended my Supercrawl at Baltimore House that night for Discography. How did I manage that? Not sure, myself!
This recap may be a little late (that was a lot to sort through!) but I hope the ripple effect of Supercrawl is still going strong, and I really think it is. To see this event get bigger and better each year makes me so proud and excited for what’s to come. Once again, thank you to everyone behind Supercrawl and all of the volunteers who made it possible. It was just the best time ever. And thank you to Steph for all her contributions to this post!
For a great piece on the history of Supercrawl and what it means to Hamilton, check out Andrew Baulcomb’s piece for Noisey.
Until next year!