SUPERCRAAAAWL!! It’s now been a month since the festival, and I think I’ve finally recovered. This is my favourite thing in Hamilton, and the thing that I look forward to the most every year. It was the 8th annual Supercrawl, and I Heart Hamilton’s 6th time attacking it. I’ve experienced so much through this blog over the years and I can’t say enough how much I love this event [see my previous Supercrawl adventures] and it means so much to see it grow and to be along for the ride.
It has become my little tradition to host a Supercrawl-themed episode on 93.3 CFMU – this year I went all out with three weeks of Supercrawl guests leading up to the big weekend. I needed that much time to prepare and get excited for everything:
Episode 139: Interviews with Matthew Angus of Fast Romantics / Jennifer Budd
Episode 140: Interviews with Egyprtixx / Jeremy Greenspan of Junior Boys / Hamilton Youth Poets
Episode 141: Interviews with Andrew Baulcomb / James Nelan of The Reason / Mother Tareka / L.A. West
In recent years, Supercrawl kicks off a day early with a pre-show event. This year, it was the premiere of local band The Reason‘s documentary, If It’s Not Something It’s Something Else at Mills Hardware. This Ain’t Hollywood owner and CFMU host Lou Molinaro put it eloquently when he said The Reason was the “subplot” of this year’s Supercrawl. Produced by Misfit Island and directed by Chris Paco, the documentary had been in the works for a long time. Along with the screening, it was only fitting that the band would reunite and play Supercrawl, their first show together in almost three years. It was one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend.
The film takes you through The Reason’s intense experience as a band, with many ups and downs over their 10+ year run. The title of the film says it best. It’s at times funny, at times sad, and shows the gruelling nature of life on the road. The film should be released widely by the holidays.
It was very cool to be at the film’s debut, surrounded by the band’s family, friends, and fans. There was a lot of love and support in the room. It only made me more excited for the weekend ahead, and to see The Reason play the main stage the following night.
After leaving CFMU on Friday, I hit the scene on James Street North. The streets were already getting busy and I started my whirlwind weekend at Mulberry Coffee to catch a bit of Emay‘s set, who was technically the first performance of the fest. Emay would go on to play the following day as well. I unfortunately had to miss it but was very happy to see Emay on the Supercrawl bill – he is so stellar.
The honour of the first performance onstage went to Bravestation. Not an easy task, to kick off a festival, but their smooth new wave-pop-disco sounds did the trick for me. This year the stage normally located at Colbourne was moved just past Murray, with Liuna Station making an impressive backdrop to the right of it. And so began my marathon weekend of running between Murray and the main stage at King & James. And I don’t mess around – if you want to ‘Crawl with me, you’ve gotta keep up!
First to grace the coveted main stage was East Coast’s Repartee. I only knew of their current radio smash “Dukes” but the album is chock full of irresistible shimmery pop jams that I got to experience for the first time live. They had the crowd grooving right away, including one gentleman who just couldn’t contain himself. The sounds elicited a mean strut back and forth in front of the stage and moves that can only be described as inspired. I love the dancing men of Hamilton.
We were off to a rad start and the streets only got busier. There’s an energy about Supercrawl that’s unlike anything else. It was awesome to have my great friend and photographer Lisa Vuyk along for the adventure again this year. Together, we know how to wade our way through the crowds and make the most out of the weekend. It’s a challenge to tackle as much as possible, and we’re always game. It’s sensory overload as you walk down the length of James North and see art installations, food trucks, rows of vendors, live music, and bumping into someone you know every few steps.
A local band on my docket to see was WTCHS. I only managed to catch the latter half of their set. Power walking to the Murray stage with Jen (TasteHamOnt), I got distracted by a Blackberry Whiskey Lemonade at Zyla’s (Jen opted for the Watermelon Mojito, also a winner). We knocked them back like champs and then it was onward to the stage.
Maybe it was the whiskey, but I always feel in a bit of a daze when watching WTCHS. They kind of freak me out, but I think that’s what they’re going for. That week they just released a new live video on Southern Souls for “You Own Your Bones” which features half of Haolin Munk – Connor Bennett and Aaron Hutchinson – who play together as Eschaton. WTCHS and Eschaton are a match made in musical heaven (hell?) if you ask me. I was entranced by hearing the gloomy, droning track live – it just dissolves into a pile of noise and was a killer way to end the set.
WTCHS’ latest offering She Walks, She Creeps is out on Halloween (naturally) on Sonic Unyon (the powerhouse also behind Supercrawl).
Another act I was particular excited for was Fast Romantics. I’m still so super proud and humbled they played I Heart Hamilton’s 4th anniversary bash last year. It has been amazing to watch the incredible success of their song “Julia” (I’ll never tire of listening to it!) and to see them really hit their stride. It’s always a pleasure to see them play.
This was Fast Romantics’ first Supercrawl and for a fest that leans toward the indie rock variety, it was almost surprising they hadn’t played it yet. Frontman Matthew Angus was right at home on the main stage, engaging the crowd every step of the way.
Their new tunes sounded in fine form – they included “Everybody’s Trying to Steal Your Heart” and “Radio Waves.” During the latter, they asked the audience to hold up their phones/flashlights and a sea lights promptly popped up, stretching from the front row and continuing down the street.
Bringing things back over to The Reason, it was their time to shine on the main stage. As I said, this was their first show together in almost three years. “It took this festival to make us want to be a band again,” said frontman Adam White during their set, adding that it “feels so special to do this again” with his best friends Cubby and Ronson. The audience response was awesome right from their first note.
Although I hadn’t seen The Reason a ton over the years, and there were fans in the audience who knew their material much more intimately, it still made me feel nostalgic to hear some of those older songs like “All I Ever Wanted,” “The Longest Highway Home” and “Run.” For that one, they spun it into Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” before they circled back into their own tune, which made it all the more nostalgic. Toward the end of their set they also went into The Tragically Hip’s “Ahead By A Century,” which was also super sentimental.
It didn’t take the band long at all to get right into the swing of things and they looked like they were having an absolute blast. Cubby said it was a very humbling experience playing on the street he walks on every day, and Adam noted he could see his place of work, The Mule, from the stage.
The Reason finished with a cheers of their beers to the audience and a sweet band group hug. “I’m not going to be able to sleep tonight” said Adam with a smile. Never say never to another performance – we may see them play again in support of their documentary.
I also need to give a massive shout out to my pals The Dirty Nil who were simultaneously and ill-timed opposite The Reason, rocking the stage at Murray. From everyone I talked to, they absolutely slayed, as I knew they would. Seeing the Nil rock the main stage two years ago was a huge Supercrawl highlight for me and it’s so rewarding to see them explode even more. They so deserve it.
Another performance that ended up with a lot of the weekend’s buzz was Mother Tareka and The Rebel Funktion, who played the stage in the Dr. Disc lot. In all of my racing around, I unfortunately only caught the tail end of it. It was an insane lineup up there with Tarek, including Lee Reed, Kobi Annobil of Canadian Winter… it was jam packed!
Most importantly, you can always count on Tarek to keep things real. In a weekend full of excitement and flashiness, we also can’t forget about our roots and what we’re all about in Hamilton. Tarek and Lee Reed unleashed their thoughts with a new song about the city. There’s a lot of talk about gentrification and we have to remember to stick together and make sure no one gets pushed out as the city evolves.
The ensemble just recorded an album appropriately titled Elephants with Michael Keire at Threshold and celebrate its release on October 28th at This Ain’t Hollywood.
Ending day one of Supercrawl, The Trews brought things to a close on the main stage. They may not be a Hamilton band originally, but with a couple of the members now living here, and a rabid Hamilton fanbase, I think we can claim them as our own.
I learned a few months back at their In-the-Round performance in the Hamilton Central Library what a solid live band they are, the dedication of their fans, and just how many hit songs they have! It’s just classic, feel good Canadian rock. The crowd was bigger than ever and energy was still high as we hit midnight.
At the other end of the rock spectrum, Fucked Up was playing at Murray. I also heard from first-hand accounts that they were amazing and that Damian Abraham had a lot of love for Hamilton. You can’t catch em all at Supercrawl, as much as I want (and desperately try) to. Maybe by the 10th Supercrawl we’ll have perfected cloning.
And that’s day one for ya! It was off to the various after parties for most, and home to bed for me. We had two more full days of Supercrawl to come.