This Ain’t Hollywood 345 James Street North

There are so many phenomenal shows in the city lately, it’s hard to keep up! This one was not to be missed. Cadence Weapon was in town to film his latest music video and perform at This Ain’t Hollywood in support of his latest album Hope in Dirt City. Cadence is an incredible Canadian talent – all three of his studio albums have been nominated for a Polaris Music Prize and he was honoured as Edmonton’s Poet Laureate. I didn’t know much about the artist prior to the show, but I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction.

Cadence and his crew spent two days at This Ain’t Hollywood filming the video for “Hype Man,” including footage of the actual show. The venue has such a cool, gritty, rock’n’roll vibe and I can’t wait to see it as the setting for the video. Maybe you’ll catch a glimpse of my blue hat during shots of the audience. I later realized that my blue hat also made a cameo in Canadian Winter’s music video (and this blog’s unofficial theme song!). Perhaps I’ll make it my standard music video hat. I’ll be like Where’s Waldo in all the latest hip hop vids. Lee Reed – I’m comin’ for you next!

Canadian Winter

Speaking of my friends Canadian Winter, they kicked off the show like only they can. I was already excited to see their name on the bill but even more so when I learned they would be joined by the jazz quartet Haolin Munk and piano wiz Kojo Damptey. Things keep clicking for me and coming around full circle – I first met Connor, Chris, Aaron, and Josh about a year ago when I saw them play at a few art parties I checked out. Playing under a different name at the time, they were so impressive and I hadn’t seen a group like it.

Canadian Winter already have jazz elements to their music and I couldn’t get over what a perfect fit Haolin Munk made with the band. They brought the instrumentation to life and it resulted in a forceful sound that filled the venue and had everyone grooving. I took a quick clip of “Back to the Bricks” because it was the perfect example of their amazing musical partnership. Combined with Kojo Damptey holding it down on the keyboards and the lovely Sara London joining in for the song “Ooh La La, Ah Oui Oui,” it was a fantastic set to watch.

Canadian Winter with Sara London

They closed with the aforementioned “Get the Show on the Road,” which had the most different arrangement from the original, making it even jazzier. There will be lots more to come from Canadian Winter, aka The Snow Beach Players, including the addition of DJ Close. Get ready to bundle up – winter’s coming!

In between sets, Elaquent was DJing in the lounge. It was by no means just ambient background filler between artists – everyone was riveted by the beatmaker’s skills. You had to watch as well as listen as he artfully crafted his tunes. The DJ played a set the following week at Baltimore House – keep a eye out for Elaquent!


It was a smooth transition from Equalent to Hamilton’s own Motem who was next to take the stage. I had only seen the beatmaker, rapper and performer once before, in a rare set with his full crew, The Motestra. Right away, I knew he was one of the most interesting and unique acts I’ve seen in my travels. A blindingly bright sign with his name lit up the stage, and it was showtime.

After surveying the audience to ask who was from Hamilton and who wasn’t, Motem related that there should be no divide between us. All of the artists at this show definitely united everyone through their music. I’m sure those who hadn’t encountered the enigmatic artist yet were in for quite the surprise. There’s no one like him.

Introducing his track “Nicki Minaj” (which is featured on this year’s Everybody Dance Now, Vol. 7) he stated that the song had only been played live before in two places: “Rotterdam and the internet.” Best line of the night (even though at the time I thought he said “Waterdown.” Ha.) I should have captured a video of his performance but I was too busy taking it all in! It’s always a party watching Motem play.

Audience watching Motem

Then it was time for the main event – Cadence Weapon. Since the video for “Hype Man” was being filmed at the venue, Cadence launched into the track in full force for his first song. True to the song, the artist definitely does not need a hype man. Cadence commanded the stage right from his first step. He was backed by the entertaining DJ Co-op who held it down on the decks and with his sweet dance moves. The DJ’s mom was even at this show (she was right beside me and having a blast!)

As I mentioned, I’m new to Cadence Weapon’s discography, and having dug into his tunes for a crash course of his material in advance, I was feeling everything I heard, especially the lead single to Hope in Dirt City, “Conditioning.” Cadence is more than straight hip hop, blending all kinds of genres and sounds. I particularly like the songs that are more rock-infused and he has some killer dance beats too.

Cadence Weapon

And rock he did – although I wasn’t familiar with all the tracks off his third album, he had me at “Jukebox.” It’s one of the main tracks I’ve revisited since the show. I can’t get over it – I love the instrumental. Cadence’s vocals take on different, well, cadences (ha) depending on the song. In this one he takes on a full-on rock vocal, launching into a scream that could see him fronting a band. It was a highlight of his set for me.

I always really respond to an artist when they engage and include the audience. Cadence was right with us, getting lost in the music but never forgetting the crowd, looking directly at us and performing out to the crowd. He even dove into the audience a few times and it became a dance party! I was reminded of my experience at Rich Aucoin’s live show – I hadn’t seen an artist since then that took that much care to include the audience and party with us. It’s amazing to experience a live performance that engages you on that level and makes you feel part of the show.

Cadence Weapon

Cadence is riveting to watch and performs with incredible passion and precision to his delivery. I wanted to watch and carefully take in the show but move at same time. I captured one video, the titled track, “Hope in Dirt City”. It was also a highlight of his set for me.

What was great about this crowd was they were loyal fans of the artist. No one missed a beat and knew all of his songs, including older tunes like “Sharks,” “Oliver Square,” and “Real Estate,” which the audience really hollered for. We were also treated to a rare performance of “Baby I’m Yours,” off his Tron Legacy mixtape that features Shad, and “’88,” which was produced by Grimes.

Cadence closed the show with an encore – a reprise of “Hype Man” so the crew could get some extra shots for the music video, and the B-side to the “Conditioning” 7″ (which was given out to the lucky ones who bought advance tickets to the show), “Loft Party.” On this hidden gem (featured on my Playlist this month) Cadence displays his impressive skills as a rapper, alternately spitting out his rhymes with a smooth flow and at lightning speed. I was glad to have seen that one performed live. The ode to after parties was a fitting way to end the show.

With Cadence Weapon

During his set, Cadence gave it up to the other acts, noting that the night was a “well curated show,” and I agree. It was a fantastic lineup and everyone complimented each other well – shout out to Ken Inouye (a Hamilton Music Award nominee this year) for his great work on the show. Also, shout out to Travis at Cadence’s label Upper Class for giving me the scoop and keeping me posted about the show.

I got to have a quick chat with Cadence a bit later and learned that he has played Hamilton before at the old Pepper Jack venue (which is now Club Absinthe) and Supercrawl. I’m sure he’ll be back – he’s well received in the Hammer. We love our gritty tunes and our hip hop scene is on the rise.

– Kristin

Kristin Archer is the creator of I Heart Hamilton (, 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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