As the great Joni Mitchell said, “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.” When I started this blog in 2011, I didn’t think about how long I would be chronicling my hometown adventures, and also how much Hamilton would change over time. With change comes new sights and new spaces, but it also means having to say goodbye. So it goes, we lose another great one.
This Ain’t Hollywood was a pillar of Hamilton’s music scene for the past 11 years. Knowing the venue was up for sale for the past several months, it still doesn’t make the goodbye any easier. It’s the end of an era. This feels like we’re getting to the last of its kind in Hamilton – the local gritty, dirty, rock’n’roll bar. As Hamilton continues to change, spaces like this that are so rooted in Hamilton community are being lost.
Even worse, with this happening during the pandemic, it hurts that I didn’t get to see it one last time. My last time there was back in February for a drag, burlesque, and live music night (Red Umbrella Cabaret), all in support of SWAP – Sex Workers’ Action Program Hamilton. Which is just an example right there of the community space that it was. Fundraisers, karaoke, bingo, hosting incredible touring acts as they came through Hamilton, to giving so many local acts their first gigs, This Ain’t was such an important space and its impact will live on.
This is another huge blow to Hamilton’s music community. Prepping for this, I looked back on my ode to The Baltimore House when it closed its doors in early 2017. It really, really hurts to lose another venue, but I am so grateful for all of the times I’ve enjoyed live music and great company there. Looking back on some of my This Ain’t Hollywood memories…
I Heart Hamilton Presents
When approaching a year into the blog and exploring our music scene, I caught the idea that I wanted to try my hand at booking shows. I remember so clearly being at This Ain’t one night, chatting with owner Lou Molinaro, and asking him, “What if I had the bar for the night and chose some bands, and we donated everything to a local cause?” Lou did not hesitate at all, and said “My bar is your bar,” adding that they would also donate a portion of their bar sales that night to the cause. I can’t say enough about Lou, his generosity, supportive nature, and sense of community that he helped foster in our music scene. Which he will continue to do! And so it began – my love of curating lineups, and four installments of I Heart Hamilton’s The Playlist series, which marked my first four anniversaries. I’m so proud of what we did with these shows.
The Playlist 1.0 (Fundraiser for The Boys & Girls Clubs of Hamilton)
July 28, 2012 – This Ain’t Hollywood ($1719 raised)
Featuring: Canadian Winter / New Hands / Ascot Royals / The Dinner Belles / DJ sets by members of Young Rival
(Photos by Sonia Cacolio – see more)
The Playlist 2.0 (Fundraiser for Food4Kids)
June 8, 2013 – This Ain’t Hollywood ($1814 raised)
Featuring: Illitry / New Hands / The Dirty Nil / San Sebastian / DJs Rockstars For Hire
(Photos by Mike Radd – see more Part 1 / Part 2)
The Playlist 3.0 (Fundraiser for Food4Kids)
June 7, 2014 – This Ain’t Hollywood ($1066 raised)
Featuring: Brielle Melle / Haolin Munk / The Tallest Tree / Hands & Teeth / The Medicine Hat (now Ellevator)
To launch Supercrawl 2014, there was a kick-off show at This Ain’t Hollywood with one of my favourite Canadian acts, Rich Aucoin. I was stoked be asked to curate music for the evening, making for an epic first DJ set! I’m a huge fan of Rich’s energetic live shows that overflow with positive energy, and wanted to bring the good vibes. It was my first time meeting Rich and he came right up to me with a smile and a high five to tell me he liked the selections. My first foray into DJing led to so many more amazing opportunities, and I’m very grateful for this night.
Over the years, Supercrawl adventures were never complete without a stop-in to This Ain’t Hollywood. Supercrawl 2011 was my first time attending the fest (in the festival’s third year) and I ended up at This Ain’t for a pint by night’s end. It just felt like heading home at the end of the day! Supercrawl 2012 remains a fave Supercrawl of mine – I set out to tackle the festival on my own and ran into pals at every turn. Ending each day at the bar, I caught performances from The Dirty Nil, B.A. Johnston, Lee Reed, and Change Of Heart.
Hamilton Music Awards
The HMA’s are no longer around, but in their day, it was a blast to bring so many Hamilton musicians, industry folk, and fans together. After the awards ceremony, we always ended with an after party (like this wild one in 2012!) at This Ain’t (who scored numerous HMA’s for best venue throughout its run). A night out at This Ain’t is just unmatched anywhere else. Places like this are feeling fewer and far between now in Hamilton.
It’s hard to believe, but I didn’t catch a live set from hometown heroes Arkells until this show. On February 17, 2013, it was a surprise Family Day show that was just announced a couple of days prior. Making it even sweeter, my favourite Hamilton band New Hands was set to open, and proceeds from the show benefitted The Boys & Girls Clubs of Hamilton. A classic, sweaty, packed to the brim, rowdy night at This Ain’t for the books, and a killer way to experience Arkells’ live show for the first time (one I have seen many times since!). This night is one sweet Hamilton memory that I’ll always remember.
It’s too hard to begin to pick favourite shows at This Ain’t, but here are a few more precious nights!
- Epic cover band supergroup Dwayne Gretzky
- Harlan Pepper’s farewell shows featuring a star-studded local cast of players (Fall 2015)
- Austra with New Hands
- My first show at This Ain’t Hollywood ever, featuring friend to the blog since day one, Max Wray (May 2011)
- PERSONS (any time I got to see them on that stage!)
- SACHA Fundraiser with Ellis, Jasmyn Burke (of Weaves), Shanika Maria, DJ set by Jessy Lanza (August 2019)
- Diamond Rings with Jessy Lanza (November 2012)
- Being an extra in Cadence Weapon’s music video for “Hype Man,” part of a stellar show with Cadence Weapon, Canadian Winter, Motëm, DJ sets by Elaquent (November 2012)
- Jessy Lanza’s Album Release Show for her debut album Pull My Hair Back (September 2013)
- Cowlick’s 3D Video Release Show & Night Vision EP Release with New Hands (November 2012)
- Hollerado‘s signature confetti fest with openers Topanga (who would later morph into PUP!) (March 2013)
- Annual fundraiser shows in support of 93.3 CFMU (including Tristan Psionic in April 2019!)
- Also gotta give a massive shout out to another one of my very favourite Hamilton spots that has now dearly departed – the restaurant WORK that was right next door. Still so bummed over that one.
Read more about This Ain’t Hollywood’s history and community impact in Graham Rockingham’s tribute.
Thank you to everyone who was involved in making This Ain’t Hollywood the very special place that it will always remain in our hearts ❤️ Owners Lou Molinaro, Jodie and Glen Faulman. All of the staff I connected with including Darlene, Lindsay, Carl, Leah, Mary, Doug, Wally, Becky, Kathy, and more I know that I have interacted with over the years. I raise a pint of 50 (and a shot of whisky, for good measure) to you all!