This past weekend James St. N was transformed as it is every year from an already bustling hub of art and food into a SUPER bustling hub of art and food. The 11th annual Supercrawl couldn’t have happened at a better time, with the announced sale of the Artword Art Bar, and the closing of Zylas, and with a listed This Ain’t Hollywood, I along with other music lovers needed to hear the popular stretch of James St filled with local music. So for those who shared those feelings this weekend was surely one to be excited about, with notable bands and artists from Ontario and Canada making appearances across its 3 stages. Massive names like Bahamas, Bettye Lavette, Buffy Saint-Marie and Stars took to the 2 main stages at opposite ends of James. While the bulk of the street was filled to its limit with food trucks, vendors and artisans showcasing their crafts, a conveniently placed 3rd stage behind DR. Disc was where most of the Hamilton based talent performed. With so much to do, see, hear and taste it’s tough to take it all in even with the festival being a 3 day affair, so I’ve decided to mention a few acts that stood out to me personally.
London-born and now Hamilton-based Hip-Hop act LTtheMonk was hard to miss in his usual colourful button up shirt, with his massive hair flying around, and whether by look or sound drew in quite a large crowd to the Mohawk College side stage. Playing a mix of tunes written back home in London and new ones written since moving to Canada, LT kept the momentum going forward his whole set. Playing just shy of an hour LT and his band stopped only to energize the crowd, and for the most part had a consistent stream of tunes going, with his band providing a selection of up-beat bangers, and chill RnB backing tracks for LT to rap over. It’s always refreshing to see a rapper opt to use a band, instead of a DJ especially a smaller artist looking to make a name. It shows an ability to network, manage and lead a band that only comes from a talented and dedicated musician, which it’s apparent that LT is. Speaking of the band, it was comprised of a synth player with a trigger for the occasional sample, a bass player with his own synth and an incredibly solid drummer who filled every second with exactly what rhythm needed to be played. I would recommend seeing LT and his band to anyone into Hip-Hop, RnB, soul or a reason to dance, and you can see him at The Rivoli in Toronto on the 18th, or back in Hamilton at Sous Bas on October 4th. Lts 2019 album “Kinks, Drinks and Hip Hop” is available online anywhere you can listen to music, and its well worth giving a listen.
The most recommended band of the weekend by any of my friends was Edmonton-based band Nêhiyawak. The 3-piece band are of Cree heritage and were successful at working their heritage into their sound and lyrics. Comprised of drums, Synths and guitar the band produced a sound very inline with the Indie-Rock movement of today, with heavy reverb and deep open synths glistening under catchy melodies, but with addition of deep drums, and other tasteful samples by drummer Marek Tyler and a wide selection of synth patches by keyboard/bassist Matthew Cardinal the band was able to elevate and fill their sound well beyond the confines of 3 instrumentalists. Polishing the sound produced by Nêhiyawak was singer and guitar player Kris Harper whose guitar tone was exactly what a love to hear from Indie-Rock, lots of Reverb and lots of gain and everything played was a compliment to the busy wide sounds produced by the analog synths on stage right. The vocals were what stole show for me, with the low-mid range filled by instruments Harper weaved unique and engaging melodies that floated perfectly above the band keeping each song honest and grounded in-within the confines of what we consider to be modern Indie. A perfect band for a celebration like Supercrawl and it was great to see so many faces of local talent in the audience, showing how supportive and active our music scene is.
The juxtaposition of a wedding at Liuna and the Exclaim Stage was a fitting setting for Dilly Dally, as their audience was made up of drastically different types of people who were there to listen to a band that played a different type of music. Open and reverb soaked at times, and aggressive and distorted at others, Dilly Dally played an hour filled with music for indie-lovers, emo fans and punks alike who all shared a common appreciation for the Toronto act. The energy during their performance was the highest point of the night for myself and everyone else standing near the stage, as a few rare James St mosh pits opened allowing the fans to appreciate the heavy moments, while the wedding goers in tuxes and gowns took the whole show in from not-so-far away. Releasing their first album in 2015, Dilly Dally have been listed for a Polaris Prize, a Juno and a SOCAN Songwriting Prize and since then they’ve released a handful of singles and a follow up album which has helped evolve and expand their sound, weaving em0/dreamy soundscapes into their Alt/Grunge riffs. I didn’t take any notes during this performance and I spent most of their set up front around the pit to feel the energy pouring from the crowd and from the band. Maybe some notes would have helped get across the massive yet controlled sound this band created, but I urge anyone reading this to hear it for yourself. Dilly Dally has 2 shows at The Danforth with Against Me! which is absolutely crazy and their music is in all the usual places, so check it out.
I could list a multitude of other acts that deserve recognition from this past weekend, unfortunately I planned on choosing 3 to mention here and they were all bands/artists that can benefit from your support. The idea of Supercrawl is to celebrate the artists, musicians, chefs, writers, designers and dancers in our community, but when the tents come down and the speakers get packed up a lot of these creators struggle to move forward and make a living doing what they love. I love music, and I love when honest music is being created by my peers so I hope that the joy in celebrating art that Supercrawl can conjure will last in the people that attended. I hope that the scene continues to thrive, and that if a venue shuts its doors, or a band decides to call it quits, it doesn’t shake anyone or deter them from continuing to create. Hamilton proved that it cares about its artist this weekend, it’s up to you to keep it going till next year. Go to a show.
Written by Levi Kertesz @levikertesz
Photography by Stephanie Montani @stephmontaniphotography