The 7th annual Supercrawl has come and gone. As always, it’s my absolute favourite time in Hamilton. This was the fifth Supercrawl I’ve attended and I’m still riding high from the energy of the festival. There was so much ground to cover, I’m rolling this out in multiple posts. Here we go!
Part 1: Thursday, September 10th
Supercrawl continued last year’s tradition of kicking off the three-day festival with a pre-show. Of course, we got the pre-pre-show back in August with the massive outdoor show at Pier 4 Park featuring Caribou, Jamie xx, Jessy Lanza, and Egyptrixx. That was one of the city’s best shows of the year, if I do say so, myself. But right on Supercrawl eve, we received another treat: a ticketed show at New Vision United Church featuring Whitehorse, Etiquette, and Corb Lund.
Formerly Centenary United, the church on Main Street West was quite pleasantly a great concert venue. It was really nice to sit up top in the wooden pews and hear the sounds of each act fill the room, enclosed by the arched ceiling and stained glass windows.
It was an eclectic bill that worked, starting with Etiquette’s dreamy pop synth, followed by country with Corb Lund, and Whitehorse’s alternately sultry and stomping country/folk sound. If you came to the show as a fan of one act in particular, I’m sure you left being a fan of them all.
Etiquette is always an absolute pleasure to see live. It was lovely to bookend the show with two female vocals, with the quiet authority of Etiquette front woman Julie Fader and ending of course with Whitehorse’s Melissa McClelland. Etiquette’s debut album Reminisce has been on steady play for me this year and the band has returned to Hamilton several times now to play its songs. As an added bonus, it was announced the next day that the band was added to Supercrawl’s main festival lineup.
I was unfamiliar with Corb Lund, and that put me in the minority with this crowd. Country fans don’t mess around; they are a vocal bunch. The cheers and stomps from the crowd in between songs made for the loudest noise I’ve ever heard in a church. And I was won over – the Edmonton native and his band sounded awesome in the space. At one point, they even launched into a rousing rendition of “O Canada.”
Then it was time for the main event. Whitehorse played a full set, lasting for about an hour and a half. I was familiar with Hamilton musicians Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland, and remember seeing them years ago. The couple has gone on to achieve huge success, and rightfully so, but I hadn’t yet properly experienced the full Whitehorse live show. I knew they would be fantastic, but I was absolutely blown away. Between the two of them, they sound like a full band – rotating instruments by the song and looping parts to add layers of sound. It’s really something spectacular to watch.
The chemistry between Luke and Melissa is electric. I see a lot of live music but when it’s music that hits you and you really feel it, it’s something so special. They are brilliant musicians – Melissa’s voice shot right through the space and gave me chills. They are just one of the coolest, sexiest bands I’ve ever seen. At times it felt like we were privy to an intimate moment between the two as they crooned, sharing a single microphone.
Melissa humbly thanked the audience, saying that this was a long time coming for them. She noted that they witnessed Art Crawl grow into Supercrawl, so it was really special for them to be part of it. She also pointed out that her sister was getting married and this night was her staggette! She and the girls decided to celebrate it by coming to the show.
Whitehorse ended with looped, extended version of “Downtown” off their latest album Leave No Bridge Unburned (a song I’ve listened to a staggering amount of times, let me tell you). It was met with a standing ovation and stomping from the pews. The sounds of feet stomping below and up in the balcony vibrated through the whole church. They brought things to a close with an encore, a cover of Beck’s “Go It Alone,” noting it was the musician’s birthday recently. The groovy tune suited the pair well.
On our walk home, Lisa and I couldn’t stop marvelling over what we had just watched. We felt really lucky to have been treated to such an amazing show, one that somehow seemed to slip under the radar of all of the Supercrawl excitement, making it feel almost like a secret show. It was a stellar show, and the festival itself hadn’t even begun. It made me even more stoked to hit the streets that weekend.
More on that to come!