Ah, Supercrawl Sunday. Since the festival expanded into three days (for the third year now), the final day on Sunday proved to be my favourite yet again. There were less acts to catch and no official duties for me, which meant less running around. The streets were still packed but there was more room to take it easy (and day drink!). The first thing on my brain was Smalls Coffee. The coffee shop opened at last year’s Supercrawl and now I can’t imagine life on James North without them. That Americano really hit the spot, let me tell you.
I’ve been getting to know Hamilton Youth Poets and loved having them on my show at CFMU the week before Supercrawl. Their monthly poetry slams at The Spice Factory have been on my to-do list and now I want to go more than ever. HYP’s performance was one of the highlights of my weekend. And what a way to start a Sunday – they took us to church in the Dr. Disc lot!
Having never been to a poetry slam before, I learned how it all works. A few audience members were asked at random to be judges, and held up scores ranking each poet from from 0-10. The audience is encouraged to get vocal when we hear something we like from a poet, by snapping our fingers or making a noise right from our gut when something speaks to our soul. If we don’t like a judge’s score, we can vocally let them know.
The slam began, with beats by Brett Klassen in between. He had this sound effect that you would hear at a sports game, and it made sense because this was vocal and intellectual athleticism. The youth who performed were around 18 years old on average and the wisdom, self-awareness, and profundity of their words, and their confidence and bravery onstage, absolutely blew me away. I was so moved by these kids, I had tears in my eyes. After the slam, members of HYP’s core team gave powerful performances as well. The set ended with one member rapping a couple of songs to Brett’s beats, and a random passerby strolled up to the stage and gave the boy a fist bump in appreciation.
I mentioned Mother Tareka’s powerful and political performance on Friday – that along with HYP made for some of the most important performances at Supercrawl. They kept it real and that’s so important for audiences to see. We need more of that. I can’t say enough how important their art is. See HYP next at The Spice Factory on October 30th.
I’ve watched the evolution of Troy Witherow’s project Illitry (as evidenced right here on the blog!) and it has been a joy to see it change with different sounds and lineup. They are always one of my absolute favourites to see. I was even more excited for their performance after interviewing Troy the day before live on location for 93.3 CFMU’s Supercast. The band hadn’t played since Supercrawl last year and I was itching to hear them again.
There were few bands that I had the time to stay for an entire set from beginning to end. I stood faithfully, front row, for Illitry and I loved every second of it. The talent of Mike Boyd, who also plays in The Medicine Hat, really elevated the sound with his live drumming. The lineup was rounded out by Seth Hunter, and it was his debut show with the band. Troy was in fine form and it also looked like he was having an awesome time up there.
It’s cool to be witness to a band for this long – hearing Illitry’s song “Road Trip” evolve into “Runaways” and hearing the current version of that song live during this set, and it being the best version of it that I’ve ever heard, is so rewarding as a fan. This was another one of my favourite performances of the weekend. I also got to catch a new project from Troy later on in the night – more on that later.
UK artist Pete Fowler sure picked a good weekend to visit Hamilton. The artist pulled triple duty all weekend – creating a stunning mural on the wall at Dr. Disc, displaying his work in an art show at Volver (many pieces belonging to local DJ Andy Inglis’ personal collection), and delivering a stellar DJ set.
There were some unreal electronic and dance music sets on the Murray St. stage and I wished there were more people for some of them, to make it a really killer dance party. Maybe it was due to the afternoon time slot on a stage that was further away, but those who were there loved it! I chilled in the beer garden during Pete’s set and enjoyed the grooves in the shade with some friends and Collective Arts, of course. A little “Ransack the Universe” at 2 in the afternoon? Don’t mind if I do.
The dynamic Toronto clan Choir! Choir! Choir! has been on my radar for some time now and I was pleasantly surprised and curious to see them on this year’s lineup. It was impressive seeing the massive group onstage, with Daveed and Nobu leading the way. The pair’s onstage banter was equally as entertaining. “Oasis or Blur?” they polled the audience, before interrupting that the correct answer is actually Blur, before launching into “Girls And Boys” only to interject again: “We’re taking about sex! Do you guys like sex in Hamilton?” They catered their banter to Hamilton as well: “Who is paying The Toronto Star to write about Hamilton every few minutes?” they playfully quipped.
But it’s all about song selection. I was delighted with each song I heard – I was really into them doing Bieber’s banger “Sorry.” I was again in a beer garden, conveniently by the main stage. Being another “Ransack the Universe” deep, I was tempted to bust out some choreography.
Choir! Choir! Choir!’s set list also included:
– Pink Floyd “Wish You Were Here”
– David Bowie “Space Oddity”
– Lana Del Ray “Summertime Sadness”
– Leonard Cohen “Hallelujah”
– Rihanna “We Found Love”
– Neil Diamond “Sweet Caroline”
How about we get them to start a Hamilton chapter of Choir! Choir! Choir! ? Let’s do this, gang!
This was at the very top of my list for the weekend – Junior Boys. I considered this a Hamilton rite of passage for me, having never seen the local electronic music duo play live before. There’s no better James North ambassador than Jeremy Greenspan, also founder of The Brain, who I had the chance to interview the week before on 93.3 CFMU. As Jeremy said in between songs, “We’re from… about a kilometre that way,” as he looked up. They launched into their set with “Kiss Me All Night,” the titled track off their brand new EP.
It was such a memorable Hamilton moment that I’ll always remember – jamming to Junior Boys on James North, at Supercrawl, with a real who’s-who of some of the coolest people I know in our arts and music scene, right down from This Ain’t Hollywood and next to Liuna Station – people even seated around the statue next to it. Junior Boys pack venues in Europe with sold-out shows, but they’re true Hamiltonians, Jeremy even rocking a “J’aime Hamilton” tee from O’s Clothes. It almost felt like a private block party, removed from a major Ontario festival. It was just a party with friends.
Junior Boys’ set was just so on point every single second, with irresistible beats that made it impossible to stand still, even if you’re a timid dancer like myself. They ended with their classic banger “Banana Ripple” and it was a dance party in the street.
Really, though, where do you go from there? We took advantage of one last Collective brew in the garden as staff were literally tearing it down around us, as well as the stage that Junior Boys had performed on minutes before. There was one lone red balloon by the empty stage, and as sad as that image is, it was also kind of sweet.
Ending my favourite event at one of my favourite food spots made me a happy camper. We continued the James North love by stopping in at WORK. Lisa, Andrew, and I split orders of Pulled Pork Tacos, Banh Mi Fries and Avocado Fries. Perfection.
We continued the walk down James North to reach the official after party at Mills Hardware on King Street. The musical lineup was right up my alley. Brad Weber of Caribou and Pick A Piper treated us to his new solo project Coy Haste. The electro sounds continued with that new project I mentioned from Troy Witherow of Illitry – a collaboration with Jeff Wynands that I really enjoyed.
Rounding out the night, a set from Benjamin Muñoz who had a live drummer which made for a stellar addition to his set. For added ambience, super cool visuals created by Evan Bond made the sounds come alive even more. Also I have to say how happy it made me to hang with three members of the now disbanded New Hands – my dudes Ben, Evan, and Spence!
And with that, it was time to call it a weekend. I was leaving the party just as the Sonic Unyon/Supercrawl staff rolled in and I got to hug Tim Potocic and David Young and say well done, and thank you for another amazing year. I joked with Tim to get some rest, because bright and early Monday morning he can start planning Supercrawl 2017. “Might as well start now!” he said with a smile.