Leander Boat Club 50 Leander Drive

After dropping by CBC Hamilton’s grand opening at Art Crawl, Kristin and I, dressed to the nines in matching nautical inspired outfits (totally not planned, by the way! It’s a same wavelength thing) made our way to the Leander Boat Club to see the Dinner Belles play their first Hamilton show of the year. Fitting that we’d been to CBC earlier, as the Dinner Belles were featured on CBC Hamilton’s “Hamilton Rocks.”

The Dinner Belles had been on Kristin’s radar for a while and I remember her excitedly telling me about this country folk band and how they’d be a hit at our fundraiser, The Playlist 1.0. After listening to their tune “Til The Dawn,” I could understand why. Naturally, we were both looking forward to seeing them perform after listening to their tunes, as well as get a feel for their live performance and the audience. It’d been a while since we’d ventured down to the Waterfront, so it was nice to be back. It was a beautiful evening and the sun was slowly setting across the water. I’m sure Art Crawlers were reveling in the beautiful weather.

When we walked into the boat club, Kristin and I exchanged a look and I think the first word that came to mind was PROM! White sheets were draped along the ceiling with fairy lights strung alongside, as well as bright, colourful decorations hanging from the ceiling. There was almost an ethereal feel to it and it couldn’t have been more perfect for the evening. I think Kristin even made a reference to Glee, as Glee’s anticipated prom episode had aired just earlier in week. We were a bit early, so we took a walk around, taking in the decorations and caught up on all things Hamilton.

Toronto rock-roots band Samantha Martin and the Haggard opened the show. Backed by Mikey McCallum on lead guitar, Greg Sweetland on bass and Pete Lambert on drums, lead singer and rhythm guitarist Samantha took the mic and crooned about everything from relationships to hopeless love, hardships in life to simply about life in the country. Her strong, powerful vocals took centre stage; I was taken by surprise when she first started singing because what a voice, was not expecting it! The band had a cool groove to them, from the twangy and rockin’ guitar to the drums which set a great pace for all their songs. During a fewer of their slower tunes, including “Where I Went Wrong,” I could just imagine how fun their songs would be at a school dance back in the 50s. Kristin and I noticed Samantha’s cowboy boots and nodded in approval and glad we’d decided to wear ours! Their set was a great way to start off the night and ease our way into the Dinner Belles.

Then it was time for the Dinner Belles to take the stage! Kristin and I weren’t sure what to expect, but boy were we in for a show! By the time the Dinner Belles hit the stage, the boat club was packed. Kristin and I smiled as we looked around, taking in the crowd. We loved the mix of both young and old, a surprise appearance by good friend Gunner, as well as parents, friends of friends, family and grandparents who’d come out for a night of music and dance – truly a family affair.

The Dinner Belles pretty much ROCKED the stage. Each of these musicians are involved with other musical projects, but seeing them together on stage as a supergroup, it was like they were a family. They looked like they were having so much fun, playing and singing their hearts out and taking in the energy of the crowd, transforming it in their music and sending it back out to us. Playing songs off their album West Simcoe County, the Belles have been able to cultivate their own sound, thanks to a bit of musical inspiration and their own creativity. Terra Lightfoot and Brad Germain’s warm vocals complimented each other so well, especially on songs like “Running To Ravenna” and “Til The Dawn” which was a surefire hit with the crowd and had everyone singing along. Jonathan Ely Cass got right into things on the drums, keeping the tempo going and getting in the groove along with bassist Scott Bell during their more upbeat songs.

Kristin and I also loved the variety of instruments, as seen with Melanie Pothier strumming away on the mandolin, Brandon Bliss on banjo and Greg Bisco on piano who cracked jokes here and there throughout the evening. For “West Simcoe County,” Greg was on accordian duties and I remember Kristin and I looking at each other being like, “Oh my gosh, he has an ACCORDIAN!” We sure love our musical instruments.

Soon enough, both Kristin and I found ourselves dancing, clapping and stomping our feet along with the Belles and everyone in the crowd, many of whom were hardcore Dinner Belles’ fans. Did I mention dancing?? Oh there was dancing. At one point, a group of people made their way right up to the stage and were swing dancing and shimmying along. A highlight was one little girl in particular, bassist Scott Bell’s daughter, who’s pretty much a member of the band. She was such a joy to watch throughout the night as she spun and danced around, smiling happily without a care in the world.

As the crowd dispersed, Kristin & I stood in awe and looked at each other thinking, “Wow.” This show was probably one of the most energetic we’d ever been to and seeing how amped the audience was had as excited for the Dinner Belles’ appearance at our upcoming fundraiser. We had a blast and hope you’ll come out and watch the Dinner Belles rock the stage til the dawn. Check out the video below to get a taste!

xoxo Avi

Kristin Archer is the creator of I Heart Hamilton (www.ihearthamilton.ca), where she has blogged about experiences around her hometown since 2011, growing a social media presence along the way. Encouraging locals to “be a tourist in your own city,” she promotes arts and culture across her various social media platforms, blog, and weekly radio show on 93.3 CFMU.

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