It worked out perfectly that one of our favourite bands, The Balconies, were playing that night at The Casbah. We decided on some delicious Lebanese cuisine for dinner beforehand, right next door to the venue, at La Luna.
We strayed from Breakfast Month, took a little a detour, if you will, and met up for dinner to kick off, as we kept calling it, “SPRING BREAK!! WOOO!!” Carly, Avishka, and I had a cozy little reunion at Capri Ristorante Italiano, the Italian restaurant that was established in downtown Hamilton in 1967. It was lovely to regroup with Carly, who has been away for school and was home for Reading Week. In Spring Break fashion, Avi was about to jet-set to Mexico for the week, so we had to squeeze in a visit and a tour stop. With so many options on our ever-growing list, we chose the elegant Capri.
As my eyes flickered about and took in the romantic decor, including little heart accents that were left over from Valentine’s Day, I looked at Carly and Avi and deadpanned, “Yeah, it’s going to be an Acclamation kind of night.” We burst out laughing, being reminded of our hilarious dinner there, which was one of our first tour stops. Much like that night, it was the kind of tour stop where we set foot in a classier establishment and proceed to laugh a little too loudly, drop some cutlery, elicit strange looks from the server, and generally draw a bit of attention to ourselves. Not to say that Capri is all elite and upscale – it’s a family restaurant as well; there were some kiddies there enjoying some pizza at a nearby table. Still, we couldn’t help but feel like we needed to be on our best behaviour.
We were definitely ready for dinner, so after divvying up the various types of breads in the basket, we dug into our food. Avi and I both chose the Pasta Shells, which came neatly presented in a star shape, as Avi noted, and Carly had the Spaghetti and Broccoli. We marvelled at the bright green colour of it! We had some fun dinner conversation that consisted of catching up on events from the last couple of months, filling Carly in on some of our recent tour stops, comparing notes from our respective Young Rival shows we attended recently, some inevitable boy talk, and giggling over various things that only we would find funny.
Posing with the Valentine’s deco at Capri
After dinner, we strolled down the street to what has quickly become one of our favourite spots, The Baltimore House. Carly got to see The Parlour for the first time and we immediately beelined for the back, the “library,” and made ourselves comfortable. We had fun looking at all the books, oohing and ahhing at the different titles, and examining the Phrenology bust. Bust? Yeah, let’s call it that. The brain thing! We ordered some after-dinner drinks – Carly had some peppermint tea, while I went with the Earl Grey, and Avi had a cappuccino. Each was delightfully presented on a silver platter with a glass of water and a little square of chocolate, which we always look forward to.
It was an ideal way to end off our night and we felt cozy and at home at Baltimore. We also couldn’t help but notice that the two establishments complimented each other with their rich colours and brocade walls. It was an inadvertent discovery, but the pairing worked out well and made for an enjoyable night out.
I’m probably the last person who should be writing a blog about a Tom Waits tribute. I know nothing about Tom Waits. Avi and I tried to dig into this enigmatic artist with a little Wikipedia and YouTube action prior to the show, but he just isn’t the type of artist that can be summed up with a quick summary of his career and a “Best Of” compilation of songs. So we entered into the evening at Casbah ready for a crash-course in Tom Waits. And that’s exactly what we got. Here’s what I learned – Mr. Waits is an incredibly talented songwriter and storyteller, his music spans numerous genres, and his fans are religiously dedicated. His music is also open to interpretation, and all of the artists who performed certainly put themselves into his music and made it their own. And there were a lot of hats worn, which I assume was a little tip of the hat to Waits, as he seems to favour this stylistic accoutrement. I felt a little left out, but my pin-striped blazer would have to do.
The second annual Tom Waits Tribute was hosted by Killin’ Time Band, who played as well as introduced each of the performers. I can’t cite all of the artists with detail, but each act played about two songs and it was a real community of musicians as they paired up or formed groups to hammer out tunes from Waits’ extensive repertoire. We got a little bit of everything, from rock, blues, jazz, reggae, soul, country. Waits transcends genres. Most importantly, however, all proceeds from the night went to Hamilton Mission Services, which was reason enough in itself to attend this event.
Ghosts of Memphis
Our pals Ghosts of Memphis (Trevor Howard and Gerry Finn) took the stage and performed two very different songs, starting with the beautiful “Ruby’s Arms,” a favourite of Trevor’s, he said, before launching into a more recent Waits tune, the devilish and irresistible, “Bad As Me”. I’m still groovin’ to that one. Trevor and Gerry are a great musical duo and both tunes suited them well. We’re excited to hear more from Ghosts of Memphis as they finish up their upcoming album (which we’ve been following the progress of!)
Tyrone Ramsey and Bonnie Hamilton teamed up, bringing out the soulful side of Waits’ music. Bonnie injected so much feeling into Waits’ lyrics, and it was lovely to hear a female interpretation of his songs. They were accompanied by a trumpet player for their second song, and Avi and I were loving the variety of instruments that were played throughout the night – we got some trumpet, saxophone, accordion, keyboard, drums, a funky-looking upright bass (courtesy of Tyrone) and a plethora of guitars, of course.
Tyrone Ramsey and Bonnie Hamilton
We also met local musician and producer Michael Keire, who works out of Threshold Recording Studio. He played drums during one of the sets and we got to chat with him a bit after, learn a bit more about his studio, and express our mutual love for this city.
The fiery Ginger St. James crooned out her covers as only she can. I had never seen her live before but I know of her, so was glad to get to see her signature cabaret style in action. If memory serves, she sang “Chocolate Jesus” (correct me if I’m wrong – I’m new to the Waits catalogue!)
I mentioned Waits’ religiously dedicated fanbase – it was fun to hear the audience’s reactions when they heard which songs were chosen by the artists. Some sets turned into a bit of
a dance party. Avi and I had to take a little step back so people could freely bust a move.
I got to meet Darren (Mista D) Dumas, lead singer of The Salads, before he took the stage. The highlight of his set for me was a reggae-infused rendition of “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up,” something I’m sure we can all relate to at times. I really enjoyed his set.
Prominent local blues artist Alfie Smith closed the show. His gruff, soulful, powerful voice lent itself well to Waits’ music. Alfie is another artist on the scene I’ve heard about but hadn’t yet seen perform live. It was the perfect way to end off the night.
It was a wicked show - we certainly got schooled on the world of Tom Waits. It’s a lesson I definitely appreciated, and it’s a world I wouldn’t mind revisiting.
Our third official breakfast Tour Stop for the month of February was a trip to Cora. We were happy to be back in Ancaster and for me in particular, I had never been to Cora but had heard a lot about it. I met up with Avi and Jenny, while feeling a little residual Valentine’s Day festivity, so I sported my heart tee, which ended up blending in well with the bright, colourful walls of the restaurant. We also got to present Jenny with her official Tour button, and we happily sported those, which also went along with the Valentine’s motif. Since it was the day after Valentine’s Day, I’m taking a cue from Leslie Knope and declaring it Galentine’s Day (to be fair, if you caught my Parks & Recreation reference, Galentine’s Day refers to the day before Valentine’s, but I’m still going with it. As Leslie states, it’s a day to celebrate with the girls.)
Cora was established in Montreal in 1987, and with breakfast as the specialty (although they do serve lunch dishes as well), the little diner has since expanded to include over 120 locations across Canada. Cora herself remains the friendly face of the brand and is pictured on the menu and website, even appearing in a few videos to teach some of her famous recipes.
As I said, Cora’s is bright, sunny, and colourful. A little smiley-faced sun is their logo and this image is all over the walls and menus. The walls are also painted with giant drawings of some of their classic breakfast creations. I kept looking around the room and noting how cute everything was.
Now, what I should have done was continue with my personal Parks & Rec theme and gone with waffles, as Leslie Knope would. Instead, I was drawn to the fanciful-sounding Raspberry 4 Lucie, a crepe dish, and ordered that. I’m still not sure why, because I’m always a pancake and waffle kind of girl, even French toast, before crepes. This dish was a bit too raspberry-infused and rich for me, so I would opt for something else next time. But if you love raspberries, these crepes filled with them, cream cheese, raspberry coulis, honey, and English cream may just be for you. Avi ended up ordering the same (and we did that without even consulting our choices beforehand, as we usually do – yet another example of how we’re totally on the same wavelength lately!) and Jenny went with some French toast topped with a mountain of fruit. And that was no exaggeration on the part of the menu; it really was a fruit mountain! Bananas, strawberries, kiwi, melon, grapes, oh my! But Jenny was up for the challenge and conquered that mountain.
Combined with some orange and grapefruit juice between us, it all ended up being a bit more expensive than I would have liked in a breakfast, but to be sure, they were some fanciful creations, indeed! To reference Parks & Rec some more, “Treat Yo Self!” And that we did.
We were long overdue for a little Casbah action! When hometown boys Young Rival announced their show, we knew we’d be there with bells on. Or, in this case, with buttons on! Did we mention we have buttons now? Somehow, Avi and I developed a spy theme for the night. We felt like spies on a covert mission, in our matching pink and black coloured outfits, leather jackets (which, by the way, we didn’t even plan on. We’re just cool like that) and Tour buttons. We were on duty, ready to rock. Operation: Young Rival. It was a weekend of Young Rival as we tag teamed it with Carly – she hit up their Kingston show the night before and it worked out well that we could divide and conquer across the two cities.
I know it had been a little while since my last Casbah show, but the main room looked different to me, and I couldn’t quite place what it was. Chatting with owner/promoter/beer connoisseur/band booker extraordinaire William (Brodie) Schwendiman, he pointed out that they just painted the ceiling black. A-ha! Maybe I should rethink my status as a spy if I fail to notice such a fairly obvious detail. Nevertheless, I like it – it adds to the intimate yet rock’n’roll feel of The Casbah. To further the spy motif, we spotted a couple of walkie talkies behind the bar, which got us thinking, those could come in useful as added accessories on tour stops.
With a packed venue, Hamilton band Magic Shadows opened up the show. Maybe this is a bit of a stretch but we thought the elusive, mystical band name worked with our spy theme. They certainly made their presence known as their sounds blasted through the space – loud, thumping, percussive, two drummers (who played while standing!) At one point, one of the drummers was drumming with one hand, and clutching a beer with the other. Didn’t miss a beat; total pro. We have a penchant for percussion instruments so we appreciated the added flair of the drums and tambourine.
Dinosaur Bones were next in the lineup. The Toronto band has been playing shows with Young Rival and you can tell the bands really enjoy each other’s music and company. We caught them play back-to-back at Supercrawl and it was great to see them together again. You could feel the love as the boys even dedicated a song to their friends in Young Rival. They also played a brand new track, “Criminal”. As we Tweeted during the show, we were diggin’ the Dinosaur Bones.
We chatted with the guys of Young Rival before they hit they stage and it was great to touch base with them again. We filled them in on what we’ve been up to and even got a few recommendations from them for our Breakfast Month. Then, with the classic multi-coloured Young Rival sign in place around Noah’s drums, it was time for them to hit the stage. They opened with a rip-roaring rendition of “Authentic,” which is one of my favourite tracks of theirs and made my Playlist for the month. They played a solid set of classic Young Rival tunes - “The Ocean” is always a hit, and another highlight for me was “Modern Life”. The crowd sang along with the “Ohhhh’s” in “Just Can’t Stay Here” - it was a sing-a-long, hand-clappin’ dance party. They also introduced some brand new tunes from their upcoming album, which I’m sure will produce even more hits. The audience ate them up!
I kept trying to think of how I would describe Young Rival’s sound. They’re pure rock’n’roll – they hammer out so much energy and such a loud sound as a three-piece. They have a real 60s throwback sound, with a modern edge. There is something so effortless about Aron’s vocals and stage presence, and he, John and Noah are so much fun to watch. They gave a heartfelt shout-out to Hamilton and you could really feel the love and pride they have for their hometown. We couldn’t agree more!
I know our Tour of the city just wouldn’t be complete without Young Rival. Not only are they one of the city’s finest, but they’re great guys and it’s always a pleasure when we get to interact with them. I’m sure we’ll see them again soon enough in our travels.
During my time in Kingston, The Grad Club has become a bit of a staple. It is one of two great music venues in town, and has been able to book some great acts while I’ve been here. Even before I got to Kingston, I was being consistently disappointed when Hamilton bookers scheduled some of my favourite bands, being fully aware that I would not be in the City. My music lover’s heart still breaks just a little bit each time when I get a Facebook invite and there is absolutely no way to put my research on hold, come home for a weekend, and see a great show. Along with The Mansion, however, The Grad Club (almost always) makes sure that those same groups make a tour stop in Kingston. Alas, it is like clockwork: a couple of days after I get event invites from This Ain’t Hollywood or The Casbah, I get corresponding Kingston ones. I breathe a sigh of relief, my heart gets put back together, and my social calendar fills up mighty quickly.
Kristin had let me know that Young Rival was playing in Kingston and suggested that, since they are a Hamilton band, we start the “Detours” segment of the I Heart Hamilton Tour blog. This is where we leave Hamilton and, hitting the road as any good and proper tour should, support fellow Hamiltonians who are breaking through outside of the City. Getting into the show was a bit more interesting than any regular IHHT assignment, though.
The night before, I joined the historians for The Grad Club’s weekly trivia night. Well, not just the historians. Our team, Rock the Tesla, is actually made up of some engineers and pretty cool biochemists, too. We kind of rock, and have actually become one of the major teams to beat. So, as I was walking to our couches on the second floor, the first round of general trivia for that night was about to start. Announcing that Dinosaur Bones and Young Rival tickets for the next night were up for grabs, the group of us got down to work, played an expert round, and won. Thus, I had Friday night plans.
To be honest, I was really looking forward to Dinosaur Bones. I had been introduced to them when I went to a show at The Garrison in Toronto a few years back. The concert is actually legendary, as far as I’m concerned. A few friends from Toronto said that there was this ’50s show going on and invited me to check it out. Unaware that The Garrison is a pretty hip concert venue on Dundas St West, though, I was thinking that a record player and a large amount of older folk of the senior citizen variety would be digging the tunes of their day alongside us youngins. I was completely up for it, and knew my friends and I would still have a rad time. Needless to say, though, I was incredibly wrong. Members from a ton of incredibly hip up-and-coming bands were actually the ones responsible for putting on this 1950s dance party. Modernboys Moderngirls, The Balconies, and the Dinosaur Bones, along with a bunch of other incredibly talented people, were dressed to the nines in poodle skirts and leather jackets. I have not seen so much slicked back hair since, well, ever. With Jailhouse Rock set up on a loop to play on a screen behind the stage, and a ton of kids singing and dancing their hearts out, it remains one of the most musically-talented and fun nights that I’ve ever been to. You can actually check out one of the tunes here.
What I have heard about Young Rival, though, came straight from Kristin and all of her gushing about their performance at the Supercrawl. Interestingly, after the IHHT went to Supercrawl, I went to the record store in Kingston to get some new music. I was looking for Memphis or Zeus. There was no Memphis to be had, but I saw Zeus’ name and grabbed the CD behind their header. Surprise, surprise – it actually ended up being Young Rival! I knew that Kristin was impressed with the band, but I had yet to give them much of a chance. So, I put it back in the proper place, because Zeus had ended up being where Young Rival ought to have been, and left with the album that I had come for. After this concert, however, I B-lined it for the merch table to pick up Young Rival. At this concert, I have to say, I was simply as impressed as I could possibly have been.
Oh, what a preface! Fast forward to Friday – Molly and I walk over to The Grad Club and wait for the concert to begin. Spotting a couple of our friends reading for their Latin Club on the second floor (really, we are the coolest grad students ever), we were able to convince Beth to join us downstairs for the show.
The Grad Club is a few floors high and a beautifully old house. It’s on the corner of campus, and has a ton of the unique touches that we Tour Girls really dig in a music venue. Picture the Casbah Lounge as the stage, This Ain’t Hollywood’s length, and an architectural effort akin to The Baltimore House’s Victorian style. Throw in a slew of tables and black couches spread out on all three floors, and a ton of graduate students looking for a break from the everyday doldrums of study, and you have the Grad Club.
Cue Dinosaur Bones. They take the stage and got the night started off right. “Ice Hotels” was definitely a highlight, and the boys in the band were giving it their all. Bassist Branko Scekic’s performance was a complete and utter distraction for us girls, though. Being so into their own tunes, he was bouncing back and forth with the music as most bassists are bound to do. Something important to note, however: the Grad Club’s stage is not very high. As a result, the audience is quite close to the band who is playing. Thus, there was this girl in front of him. She was really enjoying herself and not paying quite enough attention to her surroundings. On the opposite side of the stage, this is why Molly, Beth, and I could not stop staring – the proximity between his headstock and her face got closer every time that Branko swayed his bass. I have no idea how, but nobody got hurt.
Then it was Young Rival’s turn. Aron D’Alesio, Noah Fralick, and John Smith put on one of the most unexpected and talented sets that I have ever seen. Frontman Aron had some footwork that rivals Jacquie Neville of The Balconies. With his right leg quivering as he played, I could not help but make the jump to a performance akin to a tamer, rockabilly, and pre-punk Joe Strummer of the 101ers variety. These boys are simply passionate, and you can really tell with their live show. Noah’s endearing laugh at the end of their set and John’s bass skills rounding out the band, the show was nothing short of inspired. They play with heart, they play with soul, and they play it all incredibly well.
This is where Beth comes in. I had not yet been back to Hamilton to get my Button Pushers button that the rest of the girls had in order to separate me as an IHHT blogger from the crowd. I did, however, have my summer Tour tee. Wearing it, I was hoping that the bright yellow would make me stand out enough for the band to come to me. Silly, I know, but that was my thought process. After the set, they and the Dinosaur Bones were hanging out by the bar. I did not want to interrupt, so, I walked back upstairs to meet up with Beth, Connor, and Molly. Beth, being as amazing as she is and seeing that I had not gotten a chance to talk with the boys from the band, insisted that she help me have a quick interview with them. We ran down a couple of flights of stairs (because we have gotten to treat the Grad Club like any other house) and Beth paused. She was unsure of where the boys were. Aron passes by, I point him out, and Beth sprints down the hall, grabs him by the shoulder, and says, in all of her adorability, “You guys were great. My friend, Carly, she’s really smart.” Now, formally introduced, Noah joined the conversation and we had a great (but way too short, as far as I’m concerned) conversation about Hamilton, our blog, and their tour. Surprised with their sound, I had to tell them how interesting and original their show was. Aron’s response, “it’s just rock’n’roll,” was as appropriate a label as any. Hesitant with the description that night, insisting that they were something better than that, I have since come around. Young Rival is what you expect from good rock’n’roll. And that is what separates them from their peers.
Listening to the album (a Sonic Unyon record), I enjoy every track. My favourite is a toss up between “T-Shirt and Shorts” and “Authentic.” With the opening riff on “Got What You Need” sounding like the Kids in the Hall intro, I immediately understood why Kristin (not only a Gleek, but also a Kids in the Hall fanatic) was attracted to their sound. The lyrics and voice reverberations of “Just Can’t Stay Here” come close to a Julian Casablancas sound at some points, and “Don’t Make A Sound” is a throwback tune reminiscent of The Zombies. I cannot help but think of Young Rival as a more clear shimmering stars, with an added dose of rockabilly grit and proper rock. Their stage show translates into a tight and rousing album that any rock’n’roll music lover should add to their arsenal. And, with a new album slated for late summer, there’ll be new songs, a new tour – and new opportunities for them to impress a slew of new fans.
I have long awaited our return to a spot that caught my eye during our first ever Art Crawl as a group during the Tour. Kristin, Carly and Jenny have joked about making our grand return and have dubbed me ‘the jazz expert.’ Mind you, I am no jazz expert, though I definitely have an appreciation for jazz music, stemming mainly from my band geek days in high school. Located just off of James Street North, the Artword Artbar seems unassuming from the outside, but who knew all of the events they house in this quaint space! From the moment we walked in, sat down and caught a performance by jazz ensemble, The Altobeelays, I knew this was a place I had to revisit. From the saxophone that just oozed of music brilliance, to the string bass, and the trombone, trumpet and percussion providing subtle but equally effective touches to the music, it’s not hard get lost in some jazzy beats. That was back in May and I’ve been dying to go back since. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but come on. Not only does Artword Artbar feature musical performances, they also host a whole slew of artsy events, from dance to world music, spoken word and poetry, book readings and plays, all of which you can find on their event calendar each month.
I stumbled upon this singer/songwriter’s showcase on Twitter of all places, thanks to tweets from INDI FM. Featuring some of Niagara’s finest singer/songwriters, the name of the event caught my eye and after reading about it, I promptly messaged Kristin and pretty much said, “we have to go.” So off we went to Artword Artbar to get lost in lies, fables and old wives tales. Thinking about it, this was a superb segway (note to my Tour friends: why have we not used that word yet?! It is a very Tour-esque word) from hip hop to rock and roll. Fittingly enough, there was a bright, red ‘A’ lit up outside Artword. So begins the hunt for J, C, and K (the first initials of our names spell JACK) in the City! Anyone with tips or hints as to where we can find them, let us know ;) Operation Alphabet, anyone?? We certainly love our spy theme.
This was actually the first Tour stop where we sported our I Heart Hamilton Tour buttons, thanks to our friends at The Button Pushers! Kristin and I were pretty excited to wear them for the first time. We arrived a bit early and took the time to catch up, have a mini A & K team meeting (we love our meetings) and take in our surroundings. With a red and black colour scheme, Artbar has that jazz club kind of vibe to it, which is why I think I love the space. With seating at the bar area, tables and chairs lined along the wall, there is plenty of space for people to sit and relax. The fairylights and candlelight also added an extra touch. When we’d first arrived, Kristin and I noticed for the first time that there was a menu! After scanning the items and being a bit indecisive, we decided on some delicious hot chocolate, perfect after coming in from a chilly winter evening.
Adam Webster started off the evening with an acoustic set, remarking to the crowd that it’d been a while since he’d played a live show. You wouldn’t have been able to tell from his performance that evening. Even before the show as he sat, adjusting the mic, tuning his guitar and scanning the crowd, I got the sense that he was silently preparing himself and that we were in for something special. His tunes and style reminded me of Dallas Green from City & Colour, in the best of ways. There was a warmth in his soulful voice that drew you in as he crooned about life, love and relationships and also an ease as he strummed his guitar, one leg propped up on the chair.
Hailing from Fort Erie, Jesse T. Reid took the stage next, offering up some tunes inspired by past girlfriends. With an easygoing personality and great sense of humour, Jesse had the audience laughing in between songs as he provided a detailed account of each song and the girlfriend or event which had inspired it, without naming names, of course. His music has a folksy/bluesy sound to it and you can tell how passionate he is when he’s on stage, crooning his little heart out. The simplest of words get transformed when he sings and his songs possess a certain authencity, filled with honest emotion. His latest album, “Dumb as Chance”, embodies all of these qualities. Take a listen to “Drop Dead Girl,” ”Belong To Me,” “Home Again,” and “House” to get a taste of his music.
Sarah Beatty closed off the show with yet another fantastic acoustic set. Having gotten a new guitar strap, Sarah started off standing up, but later took a seat, finding it more comfortable. As she played on, Kristin and I both found that she reminded us of someone and looked at each other, trying to figure out who. While it took a few minutes to put our finger on it, we remembered Feist! Major aha moment. Sarah’s voice and tunes definitely have that quirky, Feist-esque sound to them. While I enjoyed all of her music, including songs “The Right Shoes” and “The Finer Things,” the highlight of her set for me was a song she’d written recently about water called “Molecules”. She brought a smile to our faces as she sang about all things science, a song filled with fun rhymes and a great beat.
What I liked about these three musicians was their easygoing, down to earth personalities. Their interaction with the audience allowed us to connect with them and it felt like we’d been invited over to their house for an impromptu show. Ronald (Ron) Weihs & Judith Sandiford of Artword Artbar also made the night more entertaining as they introduced each act and engaged in friendly banter in between. It was so fun watching their interaction on stage and Kristin and I couldn’t help but giggle at how cute they were. At one point, Judith remarked, “Apparently it’s hard to have conversations while making hot chocolate!” Too funny. Another thing I appreciated was the attentiveness of the audience to the musicians as they played. The room got unbelievably quiet as all attention was directed to the stage and it was humbling to experience.
I am so glad to have had a chance to be introduced to some new singer/songwriters. Adam, Jesse and Sarah certainly weaved lies, fables and old wives tales through their music and they are definitely going places. And I am obviously pleased to have FINALLY revisited Artword Artbar. So looking forward to going back!
After a delightful breakfast over at Jet Cafe, Kristin and I jetted over to The Button Pushers who, having previously been located on Ottawa Street, are now housed on Locke Street, to pick up our customized I Heart Hamilton Tour buttons! We’ll be rocking these fun accessories from now on (in lieu of our t-shirts) so if you spot us, you’ll know who we are. The Button Pushers were so helpful in taking note of our ideas and we left all creative control in their hands. They certainly did not disappoint! We chose to go with one which incorporated the colours of this blog, pink, black and white, along with a city landscape to represent the whole concept of ‘being a tourist in your own city.’ Cue Death Cab for Cutie’s, “You Are A Tourist.” The song, by the way, is on a collective Tour Playlist.
Carly had won a box of buttons in a raffle at kitestring’s Christmas Spectacular, a fitting win for someone like Carly, who loves buttons. I remember her excitement as she examined the beautifully designed box, carefully opened the lid and took a peek inside. Buttons galore, all shapes, sizes and colours! The three of us stood huddled over the box of buttons, rummaging through and pulling a few out at a time, examining them. This encounter led us to visiting the place which they’d been created.
The purpose of The Button Pushers is to do exactly that, push peoples’ buttons. We had a chance to speak with owner Joanna, who explained the concept behind The Button Pushers. She expressed a strong belief in social grassroots movements and causes in the city and the ability of people coming together to make a change and express themselves. It was great to hear her support for local groups, again, illustrating the sense of community. Joanna explained how buttons are the ideal way of spreading a message and raising awareness. They spark curiosity from passers-by, leading to people approaching you ever so often asking about the story behind your button. It’s amazing what something as simple as a button can do.
From the moment we walked in, we were drawn to what I have deemed the The Wall of Buttons which features a colourful collection of buttons. We stood in front of the wall, taking in the kaleidoscope of colours and messages, ranging in tone from serious to humourous. I must admit, Kristin and I stifled a few giggles every now and then at some of the buttons. As well as specializing in customized buttons, The Button Pushers houses some delightful vintage clothing. For all those vintage lovers out there, add The Button Pushers to your list of one-stop shops for all things vintage. Each piece is carefully handpicked and you could spend hours perusing the clothes. Keeping with the button theme, the prices are listed on buttons instead of the usual price tags. The Button Pushers even have birthday parties for children where they can design and make their own buttons. Such a fun idea!
Naturally, I wondered out loud to Kristin whether we’d spot actual buttons in this button shop and lo and behold, we spotted a box of buttons! Along with buttons, there are also magnets and many eye-catching accessories, such as hats and jewellery, My Dog Joe/Mulberry Street Coffeehouse and Cafe Femenino coffee, a collection of books and local artwork, all coming together to give a laid back feel to this quaint location.
One that caught my eye was a take on a Mahatma Gandhi quote which I’d incorporated in my fundraising for my Tanzania project, “Be the change you want to see.” I smiled to myself and thought about the power behind the simplest of actions, reminded how you can make a statement and express who you are through something as simple as a button.
Our custom buttons! Image courtesy of The Button Pushers
Here we go – our second tour stop of Breakfast Month! Avi and I were headed downtown so we decided to try out a spot in the area. Jet Café is a place we must have passed by so many times along busy King Street, but never really noticed. In search of breakfast places to hit up this month, their all-day breakfast caught our attention.
I definitely did not expect the splash of colour I got as I stepped inside the unassuming brick building. As soon as I did, the sunny yellow walls, lined with framed photos and artwork, made it clear that Jet Café would make for a perfectly pleasant breakfast spot. With red and blue accents and marble-patterned tabletops, the café is bright and inviting. The place was bustling with people, no doubt regulars, coming in and out.
Their chalkboard and whiteboard menus boast quite the selection, but our choices were helpfully narrowed down as we zoomed in on the breakfast menu. Avi decided on the 2 Eggs, which come with homefries and toast, and also ordered a fruit salad. I went with the Cheese Omelette, which also comes with homefries and toast. The prices are extremely reasonable and the portions a fair size, we were pleased to note. To compliment our food, Avi went with some orange juice, a classic breakfast beverage, while I needed a little morning pick-me-up and ordered coffee. There was such a variety to choose from, but when I saw an organic roast called “Kick Ass,” I knew that was the one. True to its name, and I should have known, that coffee kept me alert for the rest of the day! Food and drink ready, we were set to tuck into breakfast.
In between devouring the best meal of the day, we got down to business with another A&K team meeting that we’ve been having lately at every tour stop. But we have no time waste – we have so many ideas in the works for the Tour.
We thoroughly enjoyed our morning and were impressed with our new find. Breakfast month is shaping up to be a fun one here at the Tour, and it’s looking like the theme will have to extend past February!
Yo homeys, whatup! Don’t mind me as I attempt to incorporate some hip hop slang into this entry. Emphasis on attempt. For Kristin and I, this was our first foray into Hamilton’s hip hop scene. It was certainly a change of pace for us after many shows filled with rock music and pretty acoustic tunes from some of our dear Tour friends and fantastic local musicians. I was first introduced to Canadian Winter by Kristin who heard they’d be playing at the Snow Bowl at This Ain’t Hollywood, putting a musical twist on Super Bowl weekend. After taking a listen to some of their tunes, we knew we had to check them out and we didn’t have to wait long, just until February. Named 2011 HMA Hip-Hop Recording Artist Of The Year, Canadian Winter’s debut album, “Just Wait Until February,” chronicles Kobi’s move from the UK to Canada and his experiences in this great city. How fitting for them to be playing a show a year later, no less in February, to celebrate this success. We’d joked with them a week prior about it being a true Canadian Winter due to the amount of snow we’d gotten!
Seeing as this was our first ever hip hop show, a lot of preparation went into getting ready! Kristin and I spent the days leading up to the show contemplating outfit ideas, wanting to embody a fusion of Canadian winter and hip hop. I also spent some time prepping musically, taking in the tunes of Drizzy (Drake), Weezy (Lil Wayne), M.I.A., Jay-Z, Kanye West and kicking it back old school with some Gil Scott-Heron and Digable Planets. In the end, we settled for leather jackets and winter accessories, perhaps more rockstar than gangsta, but hey, as Beyonce once proclaimed, “Diva is a female version of a hustla.” Haha true dat. Dressed to the nines, Kristin and I, as Homie K and A.V.I. (Articulate, Vivacious, Intriguing - shoutout to my friend Duncan for his help!) headed to the Hammer to get our swagga on. Holla at your girls!
We made our way towards our favourite spot at This Ain’t Hollywood by the infamous red lampshade (we’ve frequented This Ain’t enough to have chosen our fave spot), only to find the space occupied by Gunner (Jamie Smith) from INDI FM, who was was broadcasting his show, Faster and Louder/Live to Air from This Ain’t Hollywood. It’s always nice to catch up with friends and we spent some time before the show chatting it up. We also had a chance to speak with Lou Molinaro, owner of This Ain’t Hollywood, who took us ‘backstage’ later on in the evening and introduced us to the guys of Canadian Winter, who were chillin’, waiting to hit the stage. Comprised of Kobi on vocals, DJ Johnny Fever on the decks, and Kojo B. Chintoh on percussion, the guys of Canadian Winter are so friendly, down to earth and chill, and it was fun watching the friendly banter between them. As we explained the story behind our Tour and February being Breakfast Month, the crew began to list off breakfast places in the city and the two of us quickly noted the many fine sandwich establishments in Hamilton! Looks like we’ve got another Tour theme on our hands.
First up on stage were Hamilton Hi-Cats who split up into two groups to open and close the show. The Hi-Cats, featuring Lotty, ARC, Dose, RashDon, Mitchell Heaton and Stealth Elementz, brought their game and most certainly hit hard. During a break, they got the crowd in on some entertaining call and response of “I say hip, you say hop!” and “I say Steel, you say City!” Kristin and I got in on the action, joining in as the audience belted out their love for the city. One love, homeys, one love. Take a listen to “Bring It Back,” “I Don’t Wanna Move” and “Get Lifted” (sampling John Legend’s “Get Lifted”) to get a taste of what these cats are all about.
The Phorce came out full force and brought their hip hop game to the stage. I loved the smooth R&B vocals from John Dailey which added to the sick rhymes by Flash Jenkins and Michael ‘Dex’ Brown who rapped like it was nobody’s business. Their first single, “She’s Bad,” has a great old school vibe to it, reminding me of groovy rap anthem “Put Your Hands Up” by Fatman Scoop, and will have you dancing along in no time. I can totally imagine a break dance competition taking place with this song in the background! Watching the three of them, you could sense a unity in their group, embodying what The Phorce represents which, according to Dex, is “the unity of strength, power, and creativity we bring toward our music…” With a debut album dropping soon, trust me when I say that these guys are going places.
It was time for Canadian Winter to get the show on the road and boy did they give us a show! The guys of Canadian Winter have got such a great dynamic to them and it was neat watching them play off one another. Frontman Kobi brought so much energy to the stage, hyping the crowd and checking in to make sure we were alright. Also, accents make everything better, as did Kobi’s British accent. Kojo brought some subtle yet effective beats on percussion and DJ Johnny laid down some sweet tracks and looked like he was having a blast. Singer Bonnie Hamilton joined them on stage, lending her sweet vocals to “Ooh La La, Ah Oui Oui,” yet again a full circle moment! Paris, French, France meets hip hop in Hamilton, what could be better?? Kristin and I were excited to hear some of our favourite tunes, including “Get The Show On The Road” (featured on Kristin’s Tour Playlist), “City Lights” and “You Know What You Are.” One thing I loved was their jazzy sound, evident in their first track which starts off with a bang and features one smooth saxophone run that you can’t help but hum along to. Towards the end, they were joined on stage by Lee Reed to bust out some rhymes about life in the city.
As the night went on, I found myself joining the audience in dancing along and getting into the groove. It wasn’t hard to look around and take in the crowd. I know I’ve spoken about the sense of community in Hamilton a few times, but this was further emphasized at this show. Watching everyone get in the groove, heads bobbing in sync and taking in the slick rhymes and beats made me understand the appreciation for hip hop sounds. Unlike some mainstream acts, these three hip hop groups had an authentic, raw sound and messages which they conveyed ever so mellifluously. At one point, a few people started breaking it down, showing off their best dance moves.
So all in all, this was most def a successful foray into Hamilton’s hip hop scene. I can’t wait to delve further into Hamilton’s hip hop scene in the future and experience what Hammer’s finesthave to offer to the hip hop game. Peace, A.V.I.