In our search for the best breakfast foods in the City, we would be terribly remiss if we left out Harbour Diner. The James Street North staple has been on our list since the very beginning of the Tour, but we hadn’t yet managed to get to it as a group. Avishka had been before and really enjoyed it and knew that the rest of us would too, telling me about the homey feel of it, from the wallpaper to the nautical décor. The nautical theme has been following us throughout the Tour, and with summer coming up, I know it will work its way into our tour stops again.
Joining me for my inaugural Harbour Diner experience was the producer of CBC Hamilton, Conrad Collaco, making him an official Honourary Tour Member! We Tourists were excited to learn of Hamilton getting its own CBC station and that the digital station is the first of its kind. The week before, I got to sit down for a chat with executive producer Roger Gillespie and find out more about it. I was so happy to get to share with the CBC team all about our Tour and what we’ve been working so hard on and have been so excited about for the past year. We’ve spoken before about how we can feel something so special happening right now in Hamilton, and that we are really on the verge of a shift that is happening in the City. We’re thrilled to be part of that, and the addition of CBC Hamilton seems to be hitting at just the right time.
Arriving early, not long after Harbour Diner’s 8 am open (hands down the earliest tour stop to date!) I was greeted by a friendly server and was offered a favourite spot of Harbour Diner patrons, on a raised platform by the front window. It was the perfect seat to look outside at the sunny morning on James North and also to turn around and overlook the cozy diner. I sipped on some coffee while perusing the menu, even though I was already pretty set on what I would order. (We tend to come prepared by looking at menus online before heading out to eat, even though that usually doesn’t curb our indecisiveness at all.) I decided to continue my current waffle kick and get the Belgian Waffles. I did not expect them to arrive so artfully presented, and for them to be waffles fingers, as I referred to them, rather than the traditional circle or square waffles. They were topped off with some powdered sugar and slices of kiwi, pineapple, and orange were on the side, for a little tropical panache. Of course, lots of syrup was added!
Conrad chose the combo The Harbour, which came with two eggs, bacon (or your choice of sausage or ham), home fries, and toast and jam, along with the same sprinkling of those tropical fruits on the side. The whole breakfast menu sounds delicious; it will take many trips to try everything. The Eggs Benedict in particular comes highly recommended by people we’ve spoken to. And that’s just breakfast – their lunch and dinner options also sound amazing. Poutine? Nachos? Crab & Lobster mac & cheese? Oh, yes, we will be back.
Thanks to Conrad Collaco for the photo
Back to the CBC! It was great to chat with Conrad about Hamilton and share with him many of the things we’ve discovered over the course of our Tour. We noted that overwhelmingly, the music scene is a favourite aspect of the City, which Conrad got to see firsthand by a survey he took for CBC Hamilton’s blog. We couldn’t agree more, as music becomes a bigger part of our blog all the time. I would love for Hamilton’s artists to be showcased on an even bigger stage. The music here is world-class, and CBC’s exposure of this music would be an incredible thing.
We talked about the James North area, specifically, but I also noted how we have made an effort to explore all areas of the City. From Locke Street to Westdale, Ancaster, Dundas, and Stoney Creek, there is so much to see and do. Although CBC Hamilton is located in the downtown core, it would be amazing to see all of Hamilton invested and wanting to share their stories.
We Tourists look forward to sharing more of what we’ve discovered about our hometown with CBC Hamilton – that’s an aspect of the digital station that I’m encouraged by, is that citizens will get to contribute and help direct the content of the station, and CBC Hamilton is open and ready to listen.
We’ve said before how incredible and supportive Hamilton’s online community is, and this event is another example of that. Founder of the non-for-profit organization High Fives 2 Help Lives, Steve Gillon, reached out to us over Twitter to let us know about a fundraiser party he was hosting to benefit Skate4Cancer and Wellspring. I had never met Steve before but had heard of his t-shirt business with Noel Villenueve, Try This on for Size and had seen High Fives on Twitter. The event was held in the hip Augusta neighbourhood, at Pheasant Plucker, and I was happy to check it out and support the cause.
I had never been to the upper level of Scottish pub Pheasant Plucker; the space is available to be rented for gatherings and events. I really liked the cozy feel to it; the colours were subdued - grey and green tones, with stone and brick walls, and, of course, plenty of plaid.
With Steve Gillon, founder of High Fives 2 Help Lives
Steve, a self-proclaimed Pro High-Fiver and Ph.D (Pretty Helpful Dude) began to host benefit events a few years ago, with this event being his 7th fundraiser to date. High Fives 2 Help Lives hosts fundraisers to benefit a variety of causes, including Movember Canada, Hamilton Health Sciences, and for this event, Skake4 Cancer’s Dream.Love.Cure initiative. Inspired by family members that he lost to illnesses, Steve wanted to make a difference and do his part to make a change. Since February 2011, High Fives has raised over five thousand dollars, and Steve is just getting started!
For this event, Steve and Noel used their TTOFS t-shirt business to design a limited run of t-shirts, using Skake4Cancer’s Dream.Love.Cure slogan, adding, of course, “High Five” to the list of positive declarations. Something as simple as a high five is a symbol of positivity, enthusiasm, and support, and fits well with Skate4Cancer’s project. At High Fives events, t-shirts are available for purchase, with $5 from each shirt sold going toward that specific charity.
Entertainment for the night was local musical duo The Howlers. They played a set of eclectic cover songs, and I thought of Avishka and how we always try to guess songs as they begin, whether it’s a cover band or a DJ. Songs that jumped out to me were The Beatles’ “Falling,” some Oasis (and who doesn’t still think of someone in particular when you hear the classic “Wonderwall”?), some Queens of the Stone Age, a thoughtful Levon Helm tribute, and Steve himself even got in on the action, joining the band on “My Hero” by Foo Fighters. The guys were a fun score to the party, which had a fantastic turnout, raising $720 for the cause and selling out the limited run of t-shirts.
We’re always inspired by people who are making positive changes in the City and beyond, and Steve is definitely one of those people. Keep a lookout for more High Fives events!
We’re on a roll lately with the fantastic shows happening in Hamilton! This lineup was amazing – Allosaurus, New Hands, Hands & Teeth, and Wildlife. I rolled into Casbah a little early, just in time for one of their craft beer tastings in the Lounge. Casbah’s owner, William “Brodie” Schwendiman has done a terrific job at stocking Casbah full of local, independent, craft beers, and while I’m not yet a beer connoisseur, I can certainly appreciate all of the varieties and what must go into crafting just the right brew. Be sure to check out Casbah’s first “Brews N Bands” Craft Beer Festival on June 2nd. I chatted with Aron D’Alesio, singer of Young Rival, who was bartending, and joked about my inability to distinguish between beers, much less critique one’s flavour, while swishing the brew around in my cup, trying to look like I fit in at a tasting. Avishka met up with me shortly after I sampled my beer, and then it was time to head upstairs for the show.
Allosaurus kicked off the night, and right away, Avishka and I looked at each other, and knew we were fans of the Hamilton band. Seeing the familiar set up of an electronic-pop music duo, which we’ve seen before (we’re realizing how awesome Hamilton’s dance/electro music scene is!), we were curious what their live show would be like. As soon as their matching blazers and pants lit up, (yes, lit up!) we were on board. We loved Brad Melle and Evan MacAlpine’s playful onstage presentation; they danced about with no inhibitions, making their set so much fun to watch. A highlight for me was their song “Emma-Lee,” which was recently featured on an episode of Degrassi. Ah, young love. Their closing track, “Hello St. Louis” was also a banger, and they pulled out all the stops for that one, dancing up a storm! Again, I always regret not having glow sticks with me. We really must remember that when checking out these electro acts!
Avishka and I were particularly excited to meet New Hands and see them play, after hearing so much about the Hamilton band. We have heard great things about them from major music figures in the City – their producer Michael Keire (and we recently visited his studio where the band has been working away), Lou Molinario of This Ain’t Hollywood, and Mark of Dr. Disc. And now they have the official I Heart Hamilton Tour endorsement (if I may be so bold as to put ourselves in that category), as we are quite smitten with the group!
They have a unique sound that boasts a variety of influences. There are some 80s synth sounds in there (as I noted in my April Playlist, which features “This I’ve Heard”), and they have a more danceable sound than we were expecting, but they also have a darker sound to their music, too. I still can’t get over Spence Newell’s vocals; it’s like he’s channelling it from somewhere else. He even gave us a personal shout out from the stage, which meant a lot! The guys have such a fun chemistry onstage and off; you can tell how much fun they’re having and that energy is infectious. “Whichever Way You’ll Have It” was promptly stuck in my head after the show – love the breakdown in that song. Drummer Gord Bond is also a talented visual artist, having his art featured at McMaster’s Wise Up (the annual School of the Arts exhibition) and winning an award. They are currently working on their debut full length album and I can’t wait to see and hear more from these guys.
With New Hands (Thanks to Evan Bond for the photo)
From one “hands” band to another, Toronto’s Hands & Teeth also put on a great show. Avi and I had only heard of them through Carly, who sent her recommendation. Being a fantastic music-recommender, I always take a listen to everything Carly sends me. With her being away on a Detour in Kingston, music has been a way to keep in touch, with our constant messaging over our newest finds. Avi and I liked Hands & Teeth’s set up and particularly liked how much the band switched up their roles, taking on different instruments by trading them off amongst each other and by divvying up the vocal duties. It made for an interesting set to watch and offered something different from other bands. I couldn’t help but notice they have a song titled “Sound of Hamilton,” off their latest album, Hunting Season. How apropos!
Hands & Teeth
Another Toronto band, Wildlife, headlined the show. I had heard of them, but hadn’t given them a proper listen. I listened to some tracks before attending the show and really liked what I heard. Seeing a band live is always a different experience, for better or for worse, and Wildlife’s rip-roaring set was completely for the better! It made me like them even more; they played an amazing set. To continue with our love of theatrics, they had a fog machine, and, although that was not the most fun to breathe in, as we were pressed right up to the front of the stage, it worked; it added a certain mystique. I absolutely couldn’t get over drummer Dwayne Christie, who hammered it out back there like I’ve never seen. I laughed, later on, when I read New Hands’ Tweet: “Spence watching @wildlifeband’s drummer ‘He’s moving so fast I feel like I’m watching a claymation video!’ #swag”.
It was such a wicked lineup - we were very impressed!
While I didn’t actually get out and about during this year’s Record Store Day, I fittingly stopped by Dr. Disc the week of, as they were prepping for the big day. A classic Hamilton landmark in our rich music scene, it’s about time the record store became an official tour stop! Dr. Disc celebrated its 20th anniversary last July (check out The Spectator’s piece, chronicling the store’s history). At the time, this was only a couple of months into our Tour, and I remember Avishka, Jenny, and myself exploring James Street North on the hot summer night of July’s Art Crawl, and catching part of a rooftop concert at Dr. Disc, which was part of their anniversary celebrations. We stood in the warm evening sun, listening to the music, and then, sporting our summer Tour t-shirts, of course, we took a few shots posing by Dr. Disc’s graffiti-filled outside wall. Now here I am, almost a year later, visiting the store and getting to sit down for a chat with the Doc, himself, Mark Furukawa. I also later realized that The Spec’s piece on Dr. Disc hit stands just five days before our own front-page feature. How’s that for full circle?
Mark let me take a peak at Dr. Disc’s roof, which offers a fantastic panoramic view of James Street North below (and a clear shot of one of our favourites – Mex-I-Can!) We sat down to lunch (Mark being so handy in the kitchen, it made me realize my fellow Tourists and I need to have more cooking adventures!) and chatted about all things Hamilton. It’s an incredibly exciting time here – so many people I’ve been speaking with can feel it – and we were quick to share what we love about the City and compare notes, running through our favourite spots in Hamilton and memories of the City. Among those included our favourite restaurants. Mark considers himself a foodie, which made me think of Avishka, who is probably the biggest foodie out of the four of us Tourists, and I recounted how indecisive we are when it comes to menus. Luckily, no decisions had to be made on this day, as Mark whipped up quite the spread along with his famous paninis.
With 20+ years of experience at Dr. Disc, I had to ask Mark about his impressions of Hamilton’s music scene, and he expressed the same thought as we’ve found, which is that overwhelming sense of community that you encounter everywhere you go, in speaking with musicians and going to shows. Although we don’t have the music scenes of other cities to compare it to, you can just feel something so special here. The music community is so supportive of each other, and we’ve definitely witnessed that throughout our Tour, as music becomes more and more vital to the core of it.
Keeping with the theme of Hamilton’s sense of community, Mark and I also talked about the City’s passionate and enthusiastic online community. When we started our Tour, we Tourists had no idea that Hamilton has such an exciting and tight-knit online world, which we’ve found on Twitter, in particular. We have connected with so many people through the social media tool, many whom we’ve ended up meeting in person and now consider friends. The social media side of things (with emphasis on the social aspect) is something Mark has really delved into recently, through Dr. Disc’s Twitter page. Along with communicating with people in the City, answering their questions, retweeting up a storm, and chatting back and forth, Mark has set up useful hashtags to make it easy for people to find what they’re looking for. Search #DrDiscTICKETS to find out when concert tickets are being sold and #DrDiscLOCAL for the Doc’s daily local music feature.
Dr. Disc is making a move toward a stronger focus on vinyl – I could see there was a lot more out on display, in relation to CDs, than the last time I had dropped in, to buy some tickets to a show at Casbah. Although I’m not a vinyl collector, I’m thrilled that vinyl sales have gone up in recent years and to see that music lovers’ passion for compiling solid vinyl collections is alive and well. I didn’t leave the store empty-handed, however; I bought a copy of Dinner Belles’ CD West Simcoe County, a local band we’ll be checking out soon.
Another major aspect to the store is DJ equipment. Mark has a long history as a DJ, and along with the help from staff who are up-to-speed on all the latest technology in DJing, the back of the store is stocked with all kinds of equipment you need to get spinning. This made me think of our Check List – Avishka and I noted that learning how to DJ must be an item on our list!
It was a fun day - really inspiring to meet another local personality who is so passionate about what they do and about this city. Making these connections has been a very rewarding part of our Tour.
It was a lucky Friday the 13th – April offered one of our favourite James Street North Art Crawls to date. The weather was just warm enough to walk about comfortably in a spring jacket, or in the case of Avishka and I, a pin-striped velvet blazer and a leather jacket, respectively. We’re hip like that.
Our first stop was over to the funky shop Bodega at 220 King West to attend the launch of our friend Samille Janelle’s new artists’ zine, PAGED. Samille had let us know of her idea to start a print zine earlier this year, and wanted to feature work from all local talent, from painters, illustrators, graphic designers, photographers, poets, writers, and more. As she puts it, the zine is, “An interactive portrait of the minds thriving in the Hamilton artists’ community.” I was really excited to see it all come together and get my hands on a copy! Bursting with colour, the art jumps off the pages, and is just gorgeous to look through. Artists who contributed to the first edition include Ashley Ince, Melissa Mostacci, Petra Matar, Abena Asomaning, and Samille, herself. Samille’s work was also on display at Bodega for the launch, which Avishka and I really enjoyed getting to see. I love the bold, rich colours she uses, along with the motif of sparkly stars that seem to twinkle right before your eyes. Copies of PAGED are available for purchase at Bodega, Mixed Media, and Grey Room Studio. With a limited run each time, be sure to get yours fast! Avishka and I were pleased to pick up our copies of the debut edition. Keep it locked to PAGED – May’s edition is up next, and be sure to contact them if you would like to have your work featured in the zine.
Samille Janelle’s work inside Bodega
Inside Bodega with Samille Janelle and our copies of PAGED
From there, we met up with our dear friend and original Honourary Tour Member, Emily, to explore the Art Crawl. We immediately headed to the newly restored and historic Lister Block for its grand opening. The place was abuzz with people constantly coming in and out, not only to get a glimpse of the beautifully renovated Hamilton landmark, but to be there for the launch of Tourism Hamilton’s new headquarters. The grand opening had begun during the day and the festivities were still going strong, bringing in even more people during Art Crawl. Cake & Loaf had recreated the Lister Block in an absolutely stunning cake, a work of art, in itself. Although I didn’t get to see it in person, I couldn’t get over the photos of it that people were Tweeting.
When we first entered the Lister Block, we didn’t know where to look! Avishka took note of the activities and classic Hamilton spots listed on Tourism Hamilton’s sign, picking out which ones we’ve done already and have yet to do. Walking about inside, I didn’t make it very far because I was too busy staring at the floor! I’m sure I stopped the flow of traffic, attempting to get a photo of it. Just amazing! One of the photos I took was also a first foray into Instagram (that’s right – I’m on Instagram now! Follow me @ touristmetaphor for pictures from the Tour.) We also wandered out into the hallways to take in more of the building. I can’t wait to have a proper look throughout the whole building – it really is something to see and is such a special part of Hamilton’s history.
Avishka and I even did a little impromptu interview! Friend to the Tour, Michael Canton of Valleytown Media, handed us a mic and asked us a few questions, on behalf of NewsClipTV, about our impression of the Lister Block, Tourism Hamilton’s move into the new space, and of the James North Art Crawl in general. We noted that it has almost been a year now since our very first Art Crawl (when we started the Tour in May), so to be here now at this time, and see how things have expanded even more, and the increased energy, is even more exciting. We also spoke of our hope that the restoration of the Lister Block sparks more initiative to preserve and restore other historic buildings and architecture in the City.
At the Lister Block’s grand opening and Tourism Hamilton’s launch
Avishka, Emily, and I continued on down the street on our crawl, making a stop at Hotel Hamilton to say hello to our friend Melissa Mostacci at Grey Room Studio. We love the bright orange studio and always like to see Melissa’s work, some of which was featured in the debut edition of PAGED, as noted. Just down the hall, Spark Society were having another jam session, and remembering how much fun that was to watch, Avishka and I told Emily about it and made sure to peek in the doorway to see them play.
After that, we made a quick pit stop to Makers’ Market, outside Christ’s Church Cathedral, to fuel up with some delicious snacks from Cake & Loaf (so good!). We also made stops in Hamilton Artists Inc., definitely a must on Art Crawl, or any time you’re in the James North area. There is always something exciting going on there. We popped in and out of as many galleries and shops that we could as we turned back around and headed back toward the direction of King William Street, on our way to a party at Baltimore House – the Sweet Ice Art Crawl After Party!
Sweet Ice Cones at Baltimore House
The girls of Sweet Ice Cones, Meg and Linds, were hosting a party to raise money to fix up their brand new trailer, so they can hit the streets this summer to deliver their delicious ice cones to all! Dubbing the event Operation Shasta, and being prepared to celebrate whether they reached their goal or not (but they did achieve it, and then some, thanks to all who supported the cause!) we knew we couldn’t miss it. We were happy to meet Meg and Linds and say hello, and finally try those snow cones. They offered their classic cones as well as a spiked snow cones, for that little extra kick. It was a party at the hot spot that is Baltimore House, after all! Avi and I hadn’t tried their snow cones back at kitestring’s Christmas Spectacular, with Carly, so we were ready to try them now. We had three choices: The Apple Jack (whiskey), The Daiquiri (rum), and The Margarita (tequila). There was no question, here; Avishka and I didn’t miss a beat and chose The Apple Jack. How could we not, it was called JACK! It was meant to be. They were very tasty, we must say. Cones in hand, we sat down on a nearby sofa to get our picture taken by the Sweet Ice team for their blog. We love a good photo opportunity! We’re thrilled that the party was such a success for the girls, and we’ll definitely be seeing them on the road this summer for a refreshing treat during our tour stops.
It was a fantastic Art Crawl - we can’t wait for what’s in store this summer!
I’m a festive person – this has been well established. Every year, April 1st kicks off Birthday Week and I get prepped for the big day, which is on the 8th. This year, true to the Tour, I kicked off Birthday Week with waffles at Cannon Coffee Co. A couple days later, Avishka and I did brunch at Sunset Grill and couldn’t resist ordering waffles, turning Birthday Week into Waffle Week!
As the day grew nearer, I knew we had to celebrate it, Tour-style, and I had been brainstorming what we could do. I really wanted to go to a show, but hadn’t spotted anything of interest. Then, the week of my birthday, an event was posted – a Songwriters’ Circle at Casbah featuring Kirby, Max Wray, Trevor Howard, and Gavin Slate. BAM! I excitedly texted the news to Avishka, who replied saying it was like the dream team of singer-songwriters. We couldn’t believe our luck! So after quick messages to my friends who were already committed to attend the night of my birthday festivities, plans were rerouted to Casbah. I can’t say it enough – you really couldn’t have made a better show for me. Not only are these guys friends of ours, but they really are some of my favourite singer-songwriters, and to see them play at one of my favourite venues, to boot! It was also so perfect for the Tour, since music has become such an integral part of it, and lately Avi and I have been completely on the same wavelength with our musical tastes and our love for acoustic tunes. To be serenaded by four of my favourites, what could be better!
Trevor Howard, Kirby, Gavin Slate, Max Wray
I called the night my Silver Jubilee and set a dress code of black and white (and silver, if you cared to get sparkly, and who wouldn’t?!) Shout outs to my friends and Honourary Tour Members who came out to celebrate throughout the night, along with Avi and I – Stacey, Krystal, Jamie, Lauren, Sarah, and Vanessa. My only regret from the night is not getting a group photo because everyone dressed to the nines and took part in the dress code, looking fabulous! My mental picture of you all will have to suffice. Special shout out to Trevor – I noticed that silver nail polish!
The show would have been amazing enough just to have the singer-songwriters play individual sets, but what made it even more special was that the show was a Songwriters’ Circle. All four musicians were onstage together in the Lounge and took turns playing songs, along with some playful banter in between. They would throw out a theme for each round of songs (also very apropos for the Tour – we love themes, as you know) and the songs they chose to play had to be of that theme. With themes thrown out like “lies,” “gingers,” and “country,” (ok, maybe the themes could use a little work) it was extremely entertaining. The guys also joined in on each other’s songs where they saw fit, backing each other up on guitar and vocals. Max in particular had done his homework, learning the others’ songs. Having the perfect seats in the house, all lined up in a row in front of the stage, we got in on the action, chiming in every now and then as the guys joked around.
I was excited to see Gavin play, having only seen him play a few songs before, back in December. Avi became a fan as well and was excited to see him play for the first time. He played a few songs off his debut EP, (including “Falling,” which was recently featured on Avi’s Playlist) along with some new songs that he is currently recording for his full length effort, such as “On the Incline” and “Hollywood Hills”. Earlier in the week I had Tweeted him a request for “Life as a Salesman,” off his EP of the same name, and he played it for me as a birthday dedication! I had included the song on my first Tour Playlist; it’s one of my favourites by Gavin.
Avi and I were also happy to see Trevor play some of his tunes, after having visited him in the studio at Boxcar Sound as he was working on the new Ghosts of Memphis album. Having seen some of the recording process of songs like “Rails,” “Save Me,” and “What Do You Do” (which he debuted live at this show!), I was excited to see Trevor play them live. Also tying in our Boxcar connection, producer Matt Montour was in the audience too, which made it a real Tour affair!
Kirby posing for my photo as Gavin croons away
Speaking of Boxcar, Max is also in the middle of working on a new album there, with Matt, and he played a lot of new tunes at the show. Avi and I have been pestering Max to hear some of his new songs at the studio, and having listened to his EP Max Wray Live so much over the course of our Tour, can you blame us? Max has definitely become part of the soundtrack to our Tour and we always love getting to see him play. As quick-witted as ever, Max never holds back when introducing his songs, being open about past stories and the inspiration behind them, which is just what you need in a Songwriters’ Circle.
At the end of the first set, Kirby corralled the other three musicians into a four-part harmony “Happy Birthday” serenade to me, taking the lead in true Kirby fashion. (Video below – thanks, Krystal, for taking that!) Earlier, Max had dubbed the night “swoon-a-palooza” (don’t flatter yourself, Wray! Well, ok, it was all incredibly swoon-worthy.) Thank you, boys!
Continuing with my Playlist motif, Kirby played his tune “High Horse,” a favourite of mine off his newest EP, Into the Dark, but my favourite Kirby song has to be “When the Princess Won’t Sing.” It remains a classic Kirby song, and was the first song I heard of his, a few years back. The storytelling nature of the song just grabbed me right away, and I’m not alone in that; it’s a favourite among fans. Kirby tends to dub in a girl’s name in the lyric, “What the princess wants, the princess gets,” depending on who is in the audience, and, of course, it was fitting for me, the Birthday Girl! And so the lyric became, “What Kristin wants, Kristin gets,” along with some other improvised lyrics on the part of Kirby to personalize the song even more. Stacey and I looked at each other like, “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” as the song neared the “Row, row, row your boat” part of the song. We darted up to Max’s microphone at that part of the song to sing it. That got some laughs, but hey, we tried. We’ll leave it to the professionals! (With the exception of the odd karaoke venture.) Gavin, Trevor, and Max joined in on the final, “What Kristin wants…” line, and, yep, swoon!
Stacey and I joining in on Kirby’s “Princess”
What was fun about the show was seeing, along with the good-natured digs here and there, the camaraderie between the four musicians and the genuine love for each other’s music. They didn’t hesitate to compliment each other’s songs and say which ones were favourites. Again, I can’t say enough how ideal it was to have a show with all four of these guys for my birthday! It was very serendipitous and as Avi and I would say, “FULL CIRCLE!”
After the show, we headed over to one of my favourite spots, The Baltimore House, to finish off the night with some classy cocktails in the Parlour. It was our first time getting drinks at Baltimore (Avi and I had previously eyed their giant chalkboard menu, liking the sound of their classic drink menu.) It was a low-key night at Baltimore, which was what I wanted, and it complemented the show. The music that tinkled in the background was of another era, reminding me a little of Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris (a favourite of mine), and worked well with the décor. Again, here would have been the opportune time to take some photos! No matter, it was fun to just hang out and take it all in.
It was a super fun, laid-back birthday, perfect for my Silver Jubilee, and perfect for our Tour!
This Playlist is most definitely a mixed bag. Ranging from pretty acoustic music to hard hitting hip hop with a dash of Top 40, trance and indie rock, I’ve also featured some tunes from my travels to Cape Town, South Africa and Tanzania. Enjoy!
Benjamin Francis Leftwich - “Box of Stones” [Listen] I’m young, I’m yours, I’m free, but I am flawed, I’m here in your heart, I was here from the start. I had the most difficult time trying to pick just one song from Benjamin Francis Leftwich’s album Last Smoke Before the Snowstorm for this Playlist and not because I have a tendency to be indecisive. Seriously. Each one of his songs are beautiful. By the way, Grey’s Anatomy fans, you may’ve heard this song in the latest season premiere. Benjamin Francis Leftwich kicked off his North American tour at Homegrown Hamilton where he had all the ladies swooning. His music left me speechless and really allowed me to appreciate all the singer/songwriters out there who have this uncanny ability to draw you into their world, taking you on a journey with their music. Such is the case with “Box of Stones”. From the soft, raspy vocals to the build of a violin-backed chorus, the song embodies a seafaring theme and a sense of journey in finding someone and oneself in the process. There was something special about watching Benjamin perform this song, just him and his guitar, and both Kristin and I were glad to have witnessed this up and coming singer/songwriter in action.
tyDi feat. Sarah Howells - “Acting Crazy” [Listen] You’ve got me acting crazy and I wanna dance Caught in the moment, come on, let’s take a chance. It may come as a surprise to some people, even my fellow Tourists, that I am a fan of Electronic Dance Music (EDM). I first got into the EDM scene during my first few years of university and have had an interest in it since, finding myself drawn to the sweet sounds of trance. I discovered this song by talented Australian trance DJ/producer tyDi last year and absolutely love it. This is one of those songs where from first listen, I was hooked. From the first few beats, ”Acting Crazy” opens with an undeniably catchy melody that draws you in, embodying that lighthearted, uplifting feeling of being in love. Featuring the beautiful vocals of Sarah Howell (from the band Paper Aeroplanes), this song is about the feeling of acting crazy and doing things you wouldn’t normally do, imploring that special someone to take a crazy chance. Sarah Howell’s vocals and harmonies compliment this track nicely, add that extra bit of sweetness. The song twinkles with that distinctive tyDi sound which you hear throughout his latest smashing album, Shooting Stars. Be sure to also check out the fab Tom Fall and Tomas Hereida remixes. With a new album in the works, I’m looking forward to hearing more from this talented DJ!
Donovan Woods - “Lawren Harris” [Listen] I’m not sayin’ he’s gifted, I’m sayin’ he’s damn good, I’m not saying he’s gifted, but most people would Kristin and I first saw Donovan Woods at Homegrown Hamilton where he had the audience captured with his John Mayer-esque voice, good-natured sense of humour and stage presence. When he began playing this tune, off his album The Widowmaker, both Kristin and I looked at each other excitedly, recognizing the tune from the first few notes. We were literally on the same musical wavelength. It’s no surprise then that I’ve followed suit and included it here, along with the same lyrics. There is just something about this song that grabbed me and I stood there pondering the lyrics as Donovan wowed us with his music.
Bon Iver - “Holocene” [Listen] And at once I knew I was not magnificent. I was first introduced to Bon Iver (note: Bon Iver is pronounced Bon E-vair, NOT Bon I-ver. Trust me, it makes a huge difference) by my brother Deven. While Justin Vernon has become known as the guy who wrote and recorded his debut album in a cabin in the woods in Wisconsin, Bon Iver has evolved into a band with a more orchestral, experimental sound, featuring instruments like the sax and trumpet and 80s-esque synths. I’ve listened to his album many times during my drive to and from London (Detour coming soon!) and have found myself looking at the horizon, reminiscing. You can hear the passion in Vernon’s voice as he singles in on a moment, feeling overwhelmed by all the beauty in the world and realizing his own ordinary state, and observing time, how things change, and finding himself looking off in the distance for miles and miles and miles.
Tumi and the Volume - “What It’s All About” [Listen] Aye what you doing with the mic in your hand, You gotta give a little something you a puppet or man Wherever I am in the world, I always make an effort to not only immerse myself in the culture and get to know the people, but also get a taste of the local music scene. Despite having been to South Africa many times before to visit family (proper I Heart Hamilton Detour coming soon!), I wasn’t too familiar with the music scene. That changed during my time in Cape Town, South Africa when I mentioned this to a friend of mine, Themba, who then excitedly shared a wealth of musical knowledge about some local South African acts with me, including Tumi & The Volume. Backed by the groovy beats of 340ml (another fantastic South African-based band) with Tumi Molekane on the mic, Tumi & The V keep it real, effortlessly weaving stories about the hardships of life and attempting to find a voice and make a change, whilst blending jazz, hip hop and reggae sounds to create a rich musical masterpiece. Tumi’s talent as a wordsmith and poet is evident as he lays smooth, sophisticated rhymes, keeping up with the guitar lines. Another favourite of mine is "The Story Behind The Pain", a slower tune with fantastic violin and a haunting trumpet solo. Check out their debut album Tumi & The Volume and their latest album Pick a Dream for more.
Dan Griffin - “Lorne Park” [Listen] Lorne Park, will you see me after dark, Will you bathe me in your blue suburban sky? I remember first hearing this song on the local Everybody Dance Now, Vol. 6. compilation and instantly being taken with Dan Griffin’s vocals. While I was familar with Arkells (who’ve made Hamilton so proud!), I only learned recently of Dan Griffin’s solo project, Leave Your Love. I honestly don’t know how else to describe this song than by saying that it’s magical in its simplicity, with a rich organic sound and lovely vocals from Dan. It’s a song that resonated with me when I first heard it and one I’ve found myself listening to whenever I’m deep in thought. Writers’ Strike - “Stay Down” [Listen] Overeducated, underwhelmed and underpaid Kristin and I had the chance to see this Halifax group rock out at theRich Aucoin show. One of my favourite parts of their set was their use of props, ranging from flags to signs. During the performance of this song, keyboardist Amy Bollivar whipped out a sign, holding it high and proud as the whole band implored us to chant “stay down.” Kristin and I had a blast singing and dancing along to this tune. Emeli Sande - “Next To Me” [Listen] When everyone has lost their heads around us, You will find him, you’ll find him next to me Scottish singer Emeli Sande is another musical act crossing over the pond to America to wow us with her soulful voice. This song speaks to times and troubles, and is a declaration of love to perhaps a loved one that they will steer out of trouble and will find their way to her. Featuring some fantastic tambourine (which I am sure Carly would approve of) and gospel choir-inspired vocals, this song is a danceworthy, head nodding number.
Jay-Z and Kanye West - “Ni**as in Paris” [Listen] That sh** cray This, my dear Hamiltonian homeys, is one catchy hip hop song with a hook that you’ll be humming along to and a catchphrase that will find its way into your every day conversation. This rap duo delivers some hard hitting rhymes back and forth, smooth yet aggressive, over a pounding beat with samples from “Blades of Glory” intercut, adding some humour to the song. After telling Kristin how I was thinking of including this song on my Playlist, we both realized how full circle it was due to our unofficial Detour to Paris last summer on our way to the Fest of Friends. There was no question that I had to include it. Kristin came upon a Katy Perry cover of the song which, sorry Katy, just doesn’t deliver. Now THAT sh** is cray.
Sumalee - “Hakunaga” [Listen] During my time in Tanzania, I was introduced to a funky style of music called Bongo Flava, a fusion of hip hop, reggae, R&B and traditional Tanzanian styles, amongst others. This was one of the most popular songs in Tanzania when I was there. The students I taught couldn’t stop raving aboutu it. They sure love their Bongo Flava music and took every chance they could to break it down and show off their best dance moves. During a Detour that Nicole and I made to the city of Morogoro, we found ourselevs, along with fellow YCI volunteers Ben and Duncan, dancing along to this song, laughing and smiling at one another as we attempted to do what was essentially a Tanzanian line dance. Every time I hear this song, it brings back memories to my time in Tanzania and to the power of music in bringing people together to celebrate.
The Wanted - “Glad You Came” [Listen] The sun goes down, the stars come up and all that counts is here and now My universe will never be the same, I’m glad you came Like it or not, boy bands are back and they are bigger than ever, casting a spell on teen girls and the like everywhere. This song by British boy band The Wanted is a guilty pleasure of mine. I discovered these Brit heartthrobs last summer after hearing this song in DJ Earworm’s mashup ”Party On The Floor” (featured on my March Playlist), before they had even crossed over the pond. With a catchy hook, equally catchy lyrics and signature “ohs” (Kristin and I have a dance move for those), “Glad You Came” was stuck in my head in no time. There was one day when I actually ended up hearing this song a total of FOUR times on the radio as I was, fittingly enough, driving home from a Tour stop. Clearly, this was a sign that it was Playlist worthy. A few days later, Kristin and I were jamming along to this tune on our way to Baltimore House for Kristin’s Silver Jubilee celebrations. Bound to be a summer anthem of 2012, I am sure the four of us will find ourselves singing this song (and dare I say at karaoke?!) as an ode to the end of each Tour stop where it’s safe to say, we’re all “glad we came.”
I kicked off my Birthday Week with waffles at Cannon Coffee Co, and it ended up turning into Waffle Week! Avishka and I were out bright and early for a meeting, and decided to check out another breakfast spot for some brunch. We chose the cozy and sunny Sunset Grill, having spotted that they have an all-day breakfast. Founded in Toronto, the franchise has many locations across Ontario.
Avi and I have been totally on the same wavelength lately and appropriately ordered the same thing - the Sunset Fruit Waffle. With so much to choose from, however, we noted that we must go back. I was completely torn between waffles, pancakes, and French toast, but had to continue with my waffle kick! Have we mentioned how much we love breakfast food?!
My waffles, pre-maple syrup. Please note that a copious amount was used.
I ended up having waffles again on my birthday, the 8th. Waffle Week, complete!
Glee Cast - “Up Up Up” (Givers cover) [Listen] You’re gonna find a way, find a way to be
You’re gonna get yourself aligned with your own mind
You’re gonna get it free
This is just the most joyful song. I’ve known of this track by Givers for a while now and was pleased to see it covered on Glee. Dianna Agron and Kevin McHale are delightful singing it and I love the scene in which it was used. Dianna is a big inspiration for me with everything she is doing with her website, You, Me & Charlie, which I absolutely love. This song is simple but its message is profound. It’s a current reminder for me to let go, be free, and remember, “With no doubt, it’s in everything.”
Dinner Belles – “‘Til the Dawn” [Listen] And I would gladly step aside, if I only could / Pick up all the pieces of my heart
Dinner Belles are a hometown super group – formed in 2009, I can’t believe I’m only just giving them a proper listen now. Lead singer Brad Germain has been in just about every Hamilton band you’ve ever heard of (well, not quite, but he’s in a ton of bands!) and I saw Terra Lightfoot play some of her solo material back in December; I love her voice. I’m not usually drawn to country music, but Dinner Belles are more than just that; they have an irresistible, rich, warm sound that evokes a summer night and you can just picture the band sitting around and jamming, audience or not, just for the joy of it. But of course, they have a huge fan base, and now I know why! We love themes on our Tour and I think we need to kick back, country-style, in a saloon, or a barn. Barn party, anyone? As the first track off their album West Simcoe County, this song jumped out at me right away. It makes me want to kick up my heels when that chorus kicks in! Carly and I have a dance move that we call the “humbug” that fits absolutely perfectly to this song.
Dark Mean - “Happy Banjo” [Listen] I woke up here alone / I feel so happy, alone
Avishka and I were introduced to Dark Mean on the St. Patrick’s Day extravaganza that was Threshold Studios’ grand opening. Another Hamilton band that really should have been on my radar prior to the Tour, they were the ideal soundtrack to our St. Patty’s. I find this song so uplifting and joyful – fitting for my spring Playlist. The instrumentation is unlike any I’ve heard from other local bands. Their official bio describes their music as, “whimsical while monumental, traveling between overt classical pop to dream-like ambiance,” and I couldn’t describe them any better than that if I tried; this song epitomizes it all. I look forward to seeing them live again.
Ascot Royals - “Do It All Again” [Listen] Still I make up my mind
But still I take too much time
I know that with some rest I will be on my feet again
Collectively, Ascots are one of our favourite Hamilton bands. We have yet to feature them properly as part of our Tour, but we’ve seen them play live a bunch of times prior to the Tour and always have such a blast at their energetic live shows. I’m so excited to hear they have a new album coming out and the songs they’ve released on their site so far showcase a new sound for the band, and we’re really feeling it. Carly hit up their show at the end of March in Kingston and was thoroughly impressed. As noted, we’re quite smitten over British accents, so that’s an added bonus with a couple of the members. Again going with my uplifting theme, this song does it for me too; the chorus is another reminder that things will work out ok in the end, despite my frustrations at times. I can’t wait to see these new songs played live and be reunited with these fellas!
You Can’t Win, Charlie Brown – “I’ve Been Lost” [Listen] Don’t be alarmed, you’ll be fine / Feel it and hold it tight
I first spotted this Portuguese band on MTV Canada during an episode of Sharlene Chiu’s show VS. I was drawn to the band name, being a fan of the classic character Charlie Brown (and the name Charlie holding particular significance for me), but found I really dug their music (they have sparked comparisons to Bon Iver). I had been looking into more of their music but then sort of forgot about them. Carly shared with me (because she knows me so well) an amusing post by CBC Radio 3’s Dave Shumka, who speculated about bands performing at South by Southwest, based solely on their band names. After giggling throughout that entire blog post, I was prompted to listen to YCWCB some more. And here we are. That’s a very roundabout explanation of why I chose that song, but you know we love our full circles.
Childish Gambino - “Heartbeat” [Listen] I wanted you to know / That I am ready to go
My Playlist needed a banger. Bam. This is it. This beat reminds me of MSTRKRFT and it grabbed me right away, along with the feisty lyrics about the complicated throes of a relationship. Even though I have yet to really get into Community, I’m really into Donald Glover; every time I see him interviewed, I like everything he has to say. This track also inspires moves that make me want to break out the glow sticks.
Florence and the Machine - “No Light, No Light [Listen] A revelation in the light of day / You can’t choose what stays and what fades away
Flo never fails to get me to centred and snap me back into gear. Lungs will forever go down as one of my favourite albums of all time, but of course she blows everyone else out of the water yet again with Ceremonials. She is otherworldly; I love everything about her. The word “epic” is completely overused in today’s lexicon, but her music is epic, grand, sweeping – each song stands on its own as a colossal, sensory, visceral force; you can feel and see the sound. There is no one like her.
New Hands - “This I’ve Heard” [Listen] You can shed your tears but I won’t cry
A new local band on our radar, New Hands are ones to watch. Spence Newell’s vocals struck me immediately when I heard this song and I instantly thought of Joy Division - turns out my musical references were on point with that one, but they have such a unique sound that is difficult to pin down. New Hands are another band that Michael Keire has been working with at Threshold, which Avi and I recently visited, as I said. Speaking of Playlists, the guys have been posting themed Playlists on their Tumblr, like we do. Tumblr and Playlists? I took this as a sign that we would get along well - and that we did! Avi and I checked them out this month at Casbah and were happy to finally meet them. We look forward to hanging with them again!
Drake ft. Rihanna - “Take Care” [Listen] When you’re ready, just say you’re ready
When all the baggage just ain’t as heavy
And the party’s over, just don’t forget me
We’ll change the pace and we’ll just go slow
I’ve been grooving to this one for a minute – who could resist Drizzy? I love the smooth flow of this song and always like hearing Drake sing as well as rap. I don’t even know what to say about this one except that it’s just so… smooth. I’m feeling it. He’s doing Canada proud.
Donovan Woods – “Lawren Harris” [Listen] I’m not saying he’s gifted, I’m saying he’s damn good
I’m not saying he’s gifted, but most people would
I had such a time trying to choose a song from one of my favourite albums of the moment, Donovan Woods’ The Widowmaker. Then I had such a time trying to choose one lyric from any particular song! Avi and I got to meet the Sarnia-born, Toronto-based singer-songwriter at Homegrown Hamilton in March. With Kirby and Benjamin Francis Leftwich also on the bill, it was easily one of our favourite shows we’ve seen on our Tour. I can’t get over Donovan’s music; he is an incredible songwriter, and this song was one of the first that grabbed me when I listened to the album, before even seeing him live. I wouldn’t hesitate to see him play live again.
Illitry – “Roadtrip” [Listen] It’s been a long year
I have a knack for picking these Tour-related song titles. We’ve definitely been on quite the road trip this past year, and in some ways, given all that we’ve seen and done, it does feel like “it’s been a long year.” Avi and I were introduced to Illitry when the Hamilton duo opened for Rich Aucoin at Casbah last month (one of my favourite shows to date) and loved what we heard. I love the floating, dreamy quality to this song and the beat that kicks in. I can just imagine taking a road trip to this song, wherever that may be. And in mine, it remains our local road trip around this lovely city, and at the risk of getting deep, my inward road trip as I continue on my own personal journey.