I Heart Hamilton

FALL CRAWL - November 11, 2011

James Street North Art Crawl

Note: The Grey Room is now located at 195 James St. N. Suite 211

We haven’t been to an Art Crawl yet in the colder weather, so I was curious to find out what it would be like. This was also a solo mission for me and I rather enjoyed moseying around on my own in search of some new places.

First up, I beelined for The Grey Room Studio. I’ve been in touch with Melissa Mostacci, one of the owners, over Twitter since the beginning of our Tour and I was happy to finally visit the studio to make it an official stop. Melissa runs The Grey Room along with fellow artists Jesse Parenteau and Lizzie Gosse. They work out of the space, display their art there, and feature other artists as well. Fairly new to James North, Melissa and Jesse, who met at Mohawk, first joined in the Art Crawl back in February, with Lizzie joining in this month. The goal at Grey Room is to make art and galleries more accessible to everyone; they will also give other upcoming artists a chance to display their work.

The Grey Room is a welcoming space, and, true to its name, the walls are a cool grey colour that compliment any artwork. It’s a refreshing shade, rather than the stark white walls of many other galleries. For this November installment of Art Crawl, they accented the space with a hint of Christmas - there was a little tree with sparkly silver and blue ornaments and some soothing white candles. While it was only a week or so after Halloween, there was also plenty of candy to go around!

This month’s Art Crawl displayed some of Melissa’s intricately detailed ink artwork as well as Lizzie’s installation entitled “It’s Your City”. The abstract art project was put together during local events in various cities such as Culture Days and Open Streets Hamilton. Blank canvases were set up and participants took part by throwing paint upon them. Lizzie then drew over top of the results and put the canvases together as one landscape. For this exhibit, she took them apart and framed them separately. The display was an explosion of colour to behold and also tactile - those who viewed the art were encouraged to touch it. The interactive nature of the art, from the way it was created to how you view it, all contributed to making you feel a part of the art.

The other display in Grey Room was the photography of John Steinberg. Also a local artist, John’s work features mainly Hamilton cityscapes, with some nature shots included as well. He effectively captures the gritty nature of Hamilton’s industrial landscapes and also highlights some classic City landmarks. John has a unique perspective of the City, having lived in abroad in China to teach and later returning to Hamilton. Samples of his work can be found on his official website.

Melissa Mostacci’s work at The Grey Room Studio

Lizzie Gosse’s “It’s Your City” at The Grey Room Studio

Plunging back into the crisp evening wind, I took a stroll with another location in mind that I’ve wanted to check out. Hawk & Sparrow is a new boutique to the street which has been open for about two months. The shop, which sells a variety of vintage, used, and new clothing and accessories, was another Twitter find for me and I was excited to see it. Everything I laid my eyes on was super cute and reasonably priced. I got to meet and chat with the owner, Sarah Moyal, who recognized James North as an up-and-coming area in the City and a suitable place for her to set up shop. Sarah describes Hawk & Sparrow as carrying a mixture of high and low-end pieces. There was a great assortment of items and the shop was bustling with people coming in and out. I definitely want to go back to get my shop on!

From there I popped into Mulberry Street Coffeehouse to warm up and to view the art they had on display. This month’s Art Crawl featured work by Hamilton-based photographer Luca Salvatore. Luca’s exhibit, entitled “Ghost Town,” is described as “a photographic essay” and depicts cityscapes and architecture in the City and represents, as he puts it, “how Hamilton appears through my recollection”. The photographs are extremely vivid with their rich colours and they draw attention to the many impressive structures in Hamilton. You can view the photos from the exhibit, along with more of Luca’s eclectic portfolio, on his official website.

Hawk & Sparrow

My last stop of the night was to the Vasco de Gama club, with its newly restored statue of the Roman Lady of Justice as a striking feature on the outside of the building. I wandered up to the exhibits taking place on the upper levels before heading down to the basement to watch my first ever Battle of the Brushes. The concept is simple - artists stand in a circle with blank canvases set up in front of each. They have 30 minutes to create a painting, while the spectators walk around them to watch the process. When the time is up, the viewers vote for which painting they like the best. A winner is crowned, and then all of the paintings are put up for sale through a silent auction. It was really interesting to see the paintings take shape - every time you made a circle around the room, so much had been added, altering the painting significantly from when you saw it just minutes before. All of the artists maintained their composure and focus while painting - I don’t know if I would be able to work under that kind of time crunch while people were watching. You could feel the energy in the room as the painters steadily worked away with concentration. It was difficult to choose a favourite - all of the finished products were so different that it just came down to a matter of personal taste.

And there you have it - another James Street North Art Crawl for the books. Even as the chillier weather creeps in, that shouldn’t stop anyone from getting out there to explore!

- Kristin

Battle of the Brushes
2 years ago on 30 November 2011 @ 11:58am 4 notes

A LOVE LETTER TO HAMILTON - November 10, 2011

Light of Day Fundraiser
This Ain’t Hollywood 345 James Street North

 I moved away a couple of months ago. Leaving this City, where I have lived for 23 beautiful years, I am now living in Kingston. And, Kingston, well, it’s a different kind of beat. It’s been a nice change, and a new experience. I was home this past weekend, though, and have reaffirmed one thing - there is nothing that will ever make me feel the way that you do, Hamilton.

 Initially, I had planned to come home when I found out that Sam Roberts and Rural Alberta Advantage would be in town. A few weeks after buying tickets, I found out about the Light of Day fundraiser that This Ain’t Hollywood was hosting on November 10th. This show is part of a concert series raising money for research and support for patients suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. And it is this concert that reminded me of everything that I miss about Hamilton; of everything about Hamilton that I bring with me everywhere I go; and of everything that any other place will fail to live up to.

 The special thing about This Ain’t Hollywood is that it’s a microcosm of Hamilton. The people that go there vary in age and style, and everyone comes together to enjoy whatever music is playing. From the Joe Strummer tribute that I went to earlier this year to the first time Kristin and I saw Hollerado and their confetti cannons a couple of years back, This Ain’t Hollywood is the venue where everyone is welcome. I cannot get over how happy I was to be there this weekend. It has become inextricable to my idea of Hamilton.

 Walking into This Ain’t Hollywood, Honourary Tour Mate Bre and I claimed our territory close to the stage and got set to watch the show. Joe D’Urso & Stone Caravan began and, once they took that stage, they sounded like true Springsteen brethren. They pounded out their set, and it was a pure joy to listen to their music and watch them play. Willie Nile joined the band and, as a legendary American songwriter that I have hitherto been unaware of, it was a great introduction. “Cell Phones Ringing in the Pockets of the Dead” has been in my head for the past week. Ending with a rendition of the Stones’ “Satisfaction,” it was a rockin’ set full of sweat and energy. Again, This Ain’t Hollywood gave me an impressive introduction to new-to-me artists.

 After a short break, however, the first of the bands that I had come there to see took the stage. The Peter Elkas Band, with a number of impressive keyboard solos and saxophone interludes, played “Anticipation” and “Cruel Thing to Do” with heart. Encouraged to “yah” and “woo,” you could tell that the crowd loved the climate and the band. Oh, and I must say, that if my future husband is not similar to Peter Elkas in every way, I will be incredibly disappointed.

 Once the Band left the stage, Joel Plaskett joined Elkas to play an impassioned set. Starting with “A Million Dollars,” the duo didn’t lose steam for over an hour. Having been at CBC earlier in the day, Plaskett played a “Fashionable People” version that he taped for a kids’ show that morning. Playing the track over his iPod and mimicking the dress-up bits as the song played, well, suffice it to say, I will be waking up at 7am on January 2nd 2012 to watch Plaskett in action on the CBC. It was definitely a highlight, but the rest of the show was just as amazing. I had seen Plaskett earlier this year with the Emergency at The Studio in Hamilton Place. Although that was also a great show, this night in this venue was complete perfection.

 Inviting The Band and Joe D’Urso back up to the stage, they hammered out an amazing “Bobby Jean” cover (thankfully someone taped it, so check it out here). Joined by Willie Nile, Vincent Pastore encouraged everyone to play along to Van Morrison’s “Gloria.” And, throughout this last song, I couldn’t help but watch Plaskett. With a jam-packed stage and everyone shouting out G-L-O-R-I-A, he nonchalantly leaned on the wall to the right and strummed his guitar.

 Having to leave before local favourites The Dinner Belles took the stage, I’m sure that they played a great show and hope to see them the next time that I’m in town.

 Suffice it to say, I had little voice for the entire weekend that I was home. I enjoyed the folk that I was around, dug the tunes, and sang my little heart out. Plaskett has been a musical godsend while I’ve been in Kingston. His music has pushed me forward in my graduate work, and reminded me of what I’ve come here to do. He’s motivated me when I’ve felt lonely, and encouraged me to enjoy my independence. “On the Rail” has become my theme song, and listening to Plaskett explain how it was written made it all the more prevalent to where I am in my own life. It’s about leaving loved ones, about new things, about change, and about getting ready to accomplish something huge.

 That, right there, is where I am at. Music is probably the only thing that can really do that for me, and remind me of who I am and where I want to be. And, being in Hamilton at This Ain’t Hollywood watching Plaskett, well, it just brought everything together. It made everything more possible, more tangible, and more real.

 Active Tour member or not, it is this Hamilton, the one that I take with me and the one that pushes me forward, that remains in my heart.

Xoxo Carly.

P.S. Be awesome and click here to donate to Light of Day.

2 years ago on 18 November 2011 @ 11:12am 3 notes

PUMP IT UP - October 15, 2011

San Sebastian CD Release
The Casbah 306 King Street West

It has been far too long since I’ve woken up the morning after a show, ears still ringing and without much of a voice. Cue the San Sebastian CD Release at Casbah. The hometown boys played a killer show to celebrate the release of their debut album, Relations, now available in stores/iTunes. I set out early with Honourary Tour Members Stacey and Krystal to beat the rush, and good thing we did, because the venue was packed!

Kicking off the night was electronic duo En Francais. Made up of Steve Earle and Dave Herres, these two know how to get a party going. I’ve seen them several times over the past couple of years and, every time, I regret not having glow sticks with me. I mean, really, I should have learned by now. So I’m saying it here – at their next show I attend, I will. You heard it here, friends – hold me to that! The crowd was a bit unsure at first, but after being beckoned by Steve to come up to the stage, a bunch of us moved up to the front. The audience loosened up a bit but still weren’t quite ready to bust a move. I give credit to the dudes behind me, though, they were feeling it. I particularly liked their track “Headband” (and not just because the title immediately made me think of Glee… my fellow Gleeks, you understand) and one of their older tracks, “Space Age” is always a highlight. Their new songs sounded rad and I could hear their progression. It always makes me wonder how musicians go about making this type of music, with all of its intricacies. En Francais – je t’aime!

En Francais

Teenage Kicks kept the party moving. I especially appreciated lead singer Pete’s sweet tambourine-playing moves. We have deep affection for the tambourine and various percussive instruments here at the Tour and I knew Carly and Avishka in particular would have approved. The band has a fun sound; I’d definitely catch them again. Toward the end of their set, we managed to stake out an ideal spot in the crowd and anxiously awaited San Sebastian to hit the stage.

The lights went out and “The Boys are Back in Town” began to blare throughout the venue. No song could have stated it better - it was the perfect intro for San Sebastian’s much-anticipated hometown show. At the risk of getting sentimental, I’m so proud of this band and the amazing success they’ve achieved so far. The first time I saw them, they were The Racket, made up of brothers Mike and Greg Veerman, and drummer Ted Paterson. Adding brothers Brodie and Sean Dawson into the mix, they then became Pumps. Right from my first Pumps show, it hit me – I knew I was witnessing the start of something big. A couple years later, I was watching their appearance on Much Music’s series Disband, which launched them further into Canada’s music scene, garnering them a much bigger fanbase, a name change, and a record deal. They have since toured with Arkells and Hedley, all the while writing and recording their first full-length album. Relations is such a solid album from start to finish; you can tell the work that went into it. They took their time, and the result really captures what San Sebastian are all about. I feel like I’ve witnessed and been a part of the band’s journey so far and am so pumped (pun intended) to see where it will take them.

It was a wicked set – the guys played Relations in its entirety, plus debuted two brand new songs and had some fun with a couple of their classic covers. We danced up a storm the whole time – it was impossible not to! San Sebastian always put on an incredibly dynamic live show and that energy is infectious. Their memorable songs are some of the catchiest I’ve heard and their current single, “Baby” is no exception – a newer song, it’s the perfect blend of their original Pumps sound and the band’s natural evolution. If you haven’t already watched the hilarious video for it (which features some classic Downtown Hamilton haunts), check it out on their YouTube channel.

It was a treat to get to hear all of Relations live, especially the band’s newest songs that I hadn’t heard them play live yet. Another highlight for me was getting to hear the album’s closing track, “Somebody,” which they played live for the first time.

An encore was demanded and San Sebastian took the stage again, slowing things down with the acoustic “In or Out” before bringing down the house with a cover of the classic party tune, “Shout”. Max Kerman of Arkells jumped up onstage to help them close off the set. The party then raged on into the night with an after party in the Lounge.

What I especially loved about this show is that you really felt the love and support from all of San Sebastian’s family, friends, and fans who were there, and have been since the beginning. Those feelings were mutual - you can always feel the sincerity from Mike, Greg, Sean, Brodie, and Ted as well. They remain the same grounded guys and are always quick to speak of their appreciation for the city they’re from, even as they make waves nationally. Go get ‘em, fellas!

- Kristin

2 years ago on 10 November 2011 @ 2:11pm 56 notes

POP THE CORK - August 27, 2011

Corktown Pub 175 Young Street

This was the first solo tour stop by any of us, and it ended up being a very eventful night! After still feeling tuckered out and a little loopy from our car wash during the day, I cleaned up and set out downtown to check out a show at Corktown Pub. I had been there before and always liked it; it has a friendly, local pub vibe about it and I’ve seen all types of live music there, from acoustic singer-songwriters to aggressive bands. Even with its quaint Irish pub setting, it caters to all kinds.

Tonight’s show on the main stage (there is a second performance space upstairs) was one of the “Full Out Friday” or “Full Out Saturday” concerts, sponsored by Lou’s Music & Soundcheck Rehearsal Studios, which pop up every few months at Corktown. With over 200 people in attendance, these events keep getting bigger. Jose Batista does an excellent job booking the shows as well as acting as the lighting tech. Lou Furlanetto himself was at the helm behind the mixing board doing the sound. If you are in a band and are interested in partaking in a future “Full Out Friday” concert, contact Jose at: josebatista@lousmusic.com. Tonight’s lineup featured bands Pale Whale, Anyone For A Hold-Up, Speaking Braille, and Until We Fall. With a huge sound system, colourful lighting, and a smoke machine, the Corktown was ready to rock.

Pale Whale

First on the bill was Hamilton-based band Pale Whale. Now, describing music is not my forte at all, so I recommend checking out all of the bands on their sites and at upcoming shows to hear for yourself. The highlight of their set for me was when one of their slower tempo songs inspired some spontaneous slow dancing from several audience members. I took a sip of my drink and when I turned to face the stage again, there were at least half a dozen couples dancing away. That was quite the sight – the patrons at Corktown were a fun bunch!

Next onstage was Anyone For A Hold-Up. I’ll declare my bias upfront – this is the band I came to see. When I found out my good friend Chris was playing his first show with the band, I just couldn’t miss it, and I knew it was the perfect opportunity to make Corktown an official tour stop. The band has been around for about two years and this was the first show with Chris onboard, taking on bass and piano. The lineup, rounded out by drummer Brad, guitarist Phil, and singer Cam, looked like a great fit; their onstage dynamic made it seem like they had been playing together for long time. Having only heard samplings of their music and being intrigued by the unique band name, I did not know what to expect. Nevertheless, it didn’t take long for me to become a fan. Their set opened up right away with a piano solo, which was a refreshing sound to hear, particularly with a heavier-sounding band. They rocked out with so much energy throughout the entire set, and at one point they slowed things down with one song that was just acoustic, with Cam and Chris on vocals and piano, respectively. It really showed that they have a clear vision for what they’re about as a band. I chatted afterwards with Cam and Phil, who are Hamilton natives, telling them about our tour of the city. Anyone For A Hold-Up is a band to watch out for.

Anyone For A Hold-Up

The show ran swiftly and on time, with each band playing about a 45-minute set. Speaking Braille was on third. Ok, so, I dropped the tourist ball on this one, and wasn’t fully taking in their set as I started to mingle around a bit. However, it was great to see the crowd getting bigger with each band that played. Throughout whole night, so many people were rocking out and wanting to get up close to the stage. You know that awkwardness at a show, when people don’t come up to the stage, no one wanting to make the first move? That didn’t happen here. The audience didn’t hesitate for a second to get up into the action and they really supported all of the bands. It’s that kind of laid back, friendly vibe that Corktown has. All of that energy led up to Until We Fall, who finished off the night. They’re mainly a cover band, playing everything from The Tragically Hip to Queens of the Stone Age. Once again, the crowd was loving it and the band was very interactive.

Anyone For A Hold-Up

In the midst of the last couple of bands, who happened to walk through the door, but our friend and man-about-town, Max Wray! There is a running joke about the amount of appearances Max makes on our blog. After reporting back to the girls about my yet another run-in with Max, we concluded that he is officially the “Where’s Waldo” of our Tour, since he keeps popping up at many of our tour stops. (Not that we’re complaining, of course.) Ever the gentleman, Max introduced me to the Corktown’s manager, Jesse Dore, who had heard of us Tour Girls and was very enthusiastic about what we’re doing, as he is a big advocate for Hamilton, himself. Through talking with Jesse, I found out that Corktown is Canada’s oldest Irish pub, which is an interesting fact to note, making it a very unique bar and live music venue to the city. As I noted, Corktown is very accommodating to all genres, and Jesse let me know about some regular events to check out, such as every Friday they host the East Coast Kitchen Party with the Liam McGlashon Kitchen Band, featuring ten-year-old fiddler phenomenon Liam McGlashon.

And there you have it – first solo mission, accomplished, and another live music venue checked off our list of fun places to go in Hamilton. If only the other girls were with me at the time, I’m sure we would have busted out some mean Irish accents, or at least had fun trying. That will have to wait until our next visit.

- Kristin
3 years ago on 19 September 2011 @ 12:19pm 21 notes

KISS AND TELL - August 25, 2011

Xo.Ex.Oh’s EP Release
Casbah Lounge 306 King Street West

Time for us to rock the Casbah once again! This time around, Avishka and I hit up the venue’s smaller and more intimate performance space, Casbah Lounge. Tonight’s show was the EP release party for upcoming acoustic duo, Xo.Ex.Oh’s. Also on the bill were Trevor Howard, Lost Astronaut, and AdRock Acoustic.

Trevor Howard was up first. As you know, Avi and I have been in the studio with Trevor a couple of times now to check out the making of his new album. We were happy to get the chance to hear him perform some of the songs he has been working on. With his strong vocals and an acoustic guitar, Trevor commanded the room with his emotionally charged songs, performing with ease. In perfect unison (as we tend to do) Avi and I let out a very audible “Awwww” when he introduced his song “Water,” a favourite track of ours. Trevor’s set was the perfect way to kick-off the show.

Next up was Lost Astronaut. Bringing a different sound to the night, Darren Marranca has a vocal style that reminded us of singers in bands of the pop-punk variety, like Blink 182, or even Dashboard Confessional. With just an acoustic guitar, Darren performed with a lot of power and passion behind his lyrics.

AdRock Acoustic rounded out the opening acts, switching up the sound yet again. We were pleasantly surprised by his smooth reggae-acoustic sounds. Accompanied by another guitarist/singer, together they played some real toe-tappers, and we couldn’t quite sit still during their set, bobbing along to the music. Even a broken string toward the end of the set couldn’t stop him and, most importantly, you could tell they were both having a blast while performing. They got the crowd in just the right mood for the main event.

What I love about the Hamilton music scene, judging by friends I have who are musicians, is that there is a real sense of community and camaraderie as fellow musicians and friends support each other. Avi and I sat with Max Wray and Amberley B, who were in the audience showing their love for the acts (we’ve also featured these two on the blog before at their respective shows). There is always a great vibe at shows like this.

Then it was time for Xo.Ex.Oh’s to hit the stage! Although members Kenda Legaspi and Danielle Vann have been making music individually since they were very young, they haven’t been a band for very long. I caught one of their first shows, back in May, when they were an unlikely opening act for local rock/metal band Mercy. They completely held their own, though, and it was clear the duo were ones to watch out for in the coming months. In the span of those few months, they have been writing songs, playing as many shows as possible and, in between, managed to record their very first EP – Kiss and Tell (which was generously given out for free at the show). Even in that short amount of time, they have come a long way and they sounded stronger than ever at this show. The girls played the four songs off their EP, as well as debuting some brand new tracks. It’s an exciting time for Kenda and Danielle; the new material sounds amazing and at the pace they’ve been going, there is no stopping them! The two best friends are a perfect match with their smooth harmonies, guitar playing, and loveable banter in between. You can feel the sincerity in every song they sing; their lyrics are relatable and they are engaging to watch. A surprise guest, guitarist Timothy Busa of Mercy joined the duo for a few songs and complemented their sound quite well. The show had an amazing turnout and everyone loved their set. Check them out on Facebook and follow them @xoexohs for info on how you can get your hands on their EP and to stay in the loop for upcoming shows.

It was a fun night of music, friends, hugs, and kisses!

- Kristin

3 years ago on 15 September 2011 @ 12:00pm 27 notes

MAX WRAY’S RENT PARTY - August 11, 2011

Max Wray's Rent Party
This Ain’t Hollywood 345 James Street North

It was yet another evening of music when Kristin and I decided to hit up the hottest party in town i.e. Max Wray's Rent Party. And what a party it was! Featuring a stellar lineup of musicians and refreshments outside on the patio, Kristin and I mingled with new friends and regulars outside of This Ain't Hollywood, but all the action was inside as Kristin and I made our way inside to take in the local talent that evening.

View from our favourite spot inside This Ain’t Hollywood

Kristin and I found our usual spot by the infamous red lampshade which has acquired all sorts of names due to its bold colours and frilled detail. We like to think of it as a fun and festive sombrero which goes along with fiesta. Full circle! Kristin even got the nerve to switch it on, adding some unofficial lighting to the place. We ended up chatting with Matt Montour and Ben Somer, both of whom we’d hung out with recently at Boxcar Sound Recording Studio. Check out Kristin’s entry for more about our time in the studio. And then who else should make an appearance than the man of the hour, Max Wray! He has certainly made a number of appearances on this blog (third if I’m not mistaken?) and for good reason. He’s definitely embraced the city of Hamilton and the music scene it has to offer and seems to pop up here and there around town.

The night began with a performance by Mike Maas who drew people in with his melodic voice. Mike and his band, The Shout, have opened for The Salads and you can hear some of his musical influences, ranging from U2 to The Beatles, in his music. Drew Smith took the stage next and the room went silent as he crooned away, just him and his guitar. What struck me about him was the richness and warmth in his voice. He’s a local celebrity in his own right having landed songs in the films “The Roomate” and “The Stepfather”. Kristin and I decided that we’re going to watch these films just to find his songs. It’s not every day that you know someone whose music has been featured in a movie!

Max Wray and Matt Montour pair up for a song

Last but not least, Max Wray took the stage. With his striking blue eyes, charming good looks and John Mayer-esque voice, Maxwell Wray certainly knows how to make the ladies swoon and the gentlemen wish they could be him. Accompanied by a band for the second time, it was neat hearing his album with added instrumentation and vocals courtesy of Allie Smith from BowTie, Matt Montour on guitar, bassist Kevin Freer, and drummer Kevin Gallant. Kristin and I had attended his CD launch party last year (Max Wray Live, check it out) so it was cool for both of us to hear these songs we knew so well with a live band.

One of my favourite Max Wray songs is “Lost In Your Eyes”. When I first put his CD for a spin, I was like wow, this song is amazing. I don’t know, there’s just something that grabbed me, the lyrics, the emotion you can hear as Max sings about that familiar feeling about wanting to be that special person for someone, wanting to be with them and get lost in their eyes, in who they are. I think also the lyrics and the simplicity of the guitar and Max’s vocals make the song so raw and relatable. Upon learning that Max would be playing with a band, I was very excited to hear this song with added instrumentation and boy oh boy was I not disappointed! Matt Montour added sweet, subtle yet effective notes with the glockenspiel, sweetening the song even more while Allie provided backup vocals. Together with the bass guitar and percussion, that song made my night.

Max Wray and band

It was an entertaining show, with Max shouting out to his parents in the back of the room and cracking jokes here and there. At one point, he gave the band a break and tried his hand at a cover of Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn”. Despite having only rehearsed for a short while, there was such a great group dynamic between the band and you could tell they were all having a great time being on stage and making music.

All in all, Max Wray’s Rent Party was most certainly a success. We’re definitely looking forward to hearing him play again with a band and take in more of the local talent!

x’s and o’s,


3 years ago on 7 September 2011 @ 2:37pm 13 notes

PAPER DOLLS - July 23, 2011

Amberley B CD Release
The Casbah 306 King Street West

We would be terribly remiss if we didn’t include one of Hamilton’s best and well-known music venues, The Casbah, on our tour of the city. Of course, we’ve been to countless shows there before, but upon hearing my friend and Hamilton-based singer-songwriter Amberley B was hosting her CD Release Party for her debut solo album, Paper Dolls, at the downtown bar, I knew it would be the perfect opportunity to make Casbah a tour stop. Avishka and I were excited to check it out, along with our friends Krystal, Stacey, and Chris. We decided to forgo our standard uniform of the colourful tour t-shirts this time, since the night coincided with the annual Christmas in July celebration I have with Stacey. As a result, I attended the show sporting red and green beads, and a red scarf with snowmen on it. I don’t think anyone noticed.

The night started out with a bit of mystery and intrigue. A while back, Amberley made a stuffed doll, aptly named “Merch Man,” who was then stolen at one of her shows. The mascot miraculously reappeared at the CD Release, with a lengthy, heartfelt note attached to him. Who is the culprit? Who is responsible for the kidnapping and subsequently safe return of beloved Merch Man?? The mystery remains…

Kicking off the show of acoustic performances by female singer-songwriters was Kasey Downey. Playing guitar and accompanied by a single bassist, Kasey delivered a set with her soft yet powerful vocals. A little banter between the two in between songs made for a very enjoyable set. The stand-out track for me was her original track, “Warm Milk”.

Next on the bill was Ellie Ketsetzis. Showcasing her bubbly personality, she played some original tunes as well as some fun covers, including Adele and Jackson 5. My favourite was her closing number, a cover of Demi Lovato’s newest single, “Skyscraper”.

Brooke Nicholls rounded out the opening acts. Accompanied by Aaron Bruce on the keyboard, Brooke’s soulful, jazzy voice soared through the venue as she sang some original songs as well as covers of Jessie J and Kings of Leon. The keyboard was a nice change and switched up the sounds of the night, all leading up to Amberley B.

Amberley B’s merch table

Then it was Amberley’s time to shine! Opening with the first track off her album, a powerful acapella song called “Silence,” Amberley commanded the stage right from her first note. (Merch Man was perched dutifully by her side.) The girl can belt out a song like I’ve never seen. Whether she’s giving an impromptu performance around a campfire or opening for major Canadian talents like Bif Naked and Holly McNarland, I’m so impressed with her vocals every time I hear her. I’ve been to many of Amberley’s shows over the past year or so, and I feel really familiar with all her songs and I love seeing how everything has evolved and come together so well. Armed with only an acoustic guitar, Amberley played the whole album, and each track is so solid and stands out in its own way, making it impossible to pick favourites. The finished product also sounds amazing - we all picked up copies of Paper Dolls before Amberley even hit the stage. Make sure you do the same at one of her upcoming shows. Check out her official site for info. I’ve been spinning it nonstop since the show!

It was a great night of music - girl power at its finest!

- Kristin

Amberley B.
3 years ago on 28 July 2011 @ 6:10pm 8 notes

THE ART OF SANGRIA - July 8, 2011

James Street North Art Crawl

Hello everyone!! As planned we had decided to check out the July Art Crawl on James Street North. This was actually my first Art Crawl as I was unable to make it to our first, so as you might imagine I was excited and curious to find out what the Art Crawl was all about. Since we arrived a bit too early we got the chance to walk around James Street. We checked out Dr. Disc which carries vinyls, DVDs and a large variety of CDs. We browsed through the store for a bit before deciding to walk around the back of the store to check out a rock band that was playing on the rooftop of the building! We were joined by a small crowd of people that gathered around the parking lot to listen to the music. It was definitely a unique and great way for bands to promote their music and attract new fans. Before leaving, we were attracted to the graffiti painted on the side of the building. Graffiti can be considered art, after all! So naturally we decided to pose by the wall and take snap shots of each other.

Posing outside Wild Orchid

Our next stop on the street was the Wild Orchid. Since I had not eaten and had become famished at this point of the evening I was attracted to the scent of Portuguese food while walking by the restaurant. A sign advertising sangria, just outside the restaurant, got us excited and eager to try out our new find. As soon as we walked in we were welcomed by some traditional Portuguese music that suddenly made me want to dance the polka! The restaurant itself was very inviting and offered a menu with a wide variety of Portuguese cuisine. Although it was a difficult choice to make, I decided to go with the grilled salmon fish with a side of Portuguese rice and veggies. Since Kristin and Avishka had already eaten, they enjoyed a pitcher of sangria that we shared between the three of us. If you are unsure, sangria is essentially cold wine mixed with juice and cut up fruit. After a few glasses of sangria the three of us began to have a bit of a giggle fit. Our small group has become known for our random outbursts of the giggles and hilarity but after a few glasses of fruity wine our giggles took over much of the conversation. It is safe to say that we very much enjoyed our time at Wild Orchid and we would certainly recommend this restaurant to anyone who is up for some authentic Portuguese cuisine. Authentic cuisine is one thing to love about James Street North. It is known for its Portuguese and Italian restaurants and cafes. Visiting James North is definitely a great way to step away from the ordinary and try something new.

Out front of Wild Orchid

The Art Crawl itself was quite exciting. In all my life I have never seen James Street so packed with people. People were everywhere! The atmosphere on the street was very welcoming and fun. Everyone was accepted and seemed to be having a great time listening to musicians playing on the street or looking at some very impressive works of art. Creativity at its best was definitely evident on James Street that night!

The girls and I had a blast checking out shops and galleries along the street. Some of the places we visited included White Elephant and Mixed Media, where we actually found Hamilton post cards!! We were so proud of this find that we decided to buy a few as souvenirs for our tour and mailed one to our close friend, Emily, who lives in Toronto. Humble Pie, Hamilton Artists Inc, Loose Canon, The Print Studio, and James Buttrum & Son were other examples of places that we discovered while touring the area. Each gallery or shop displayed unique pieces of art and knickknacks that craved discovery!

Artwork along the streets of James North

At the end of our evening we lounged at the Mulberry Coffeehouse to get off our feet and discuss what we had seen. While leaving the coffeehouse we were approached by reporter Emma Reilly who works for The Hamilton Spectator! We were overcome with joy when we were told that The Spectator wanted to cover our story! It was the best possible way to end our night of touring the Art Crawl.

This concludes our time at the Art Crawl. If you haven’t already gone to check it out we would strongly recommend going. Also, check out our story in the paper!!

Jenny :D

3 years ago on 8 July 2011 @ 3:42pm 3 notes


The Augusta House Gastropub 17 Augusta Street

 This month, we decided to start things off with another Judy Marsales karaoke night. Who doesn’t love singing with a live band in front of an incredibly forgiving audience who are all just out for a marvelously fun Monday night?

 To start our evening out right, we tasted a few culinary samplings from the kitchen. Avi and I had the Crispy Polenta Cake, and Kristin went with some classic fish and chips. Sitting in the bay window at the front of the pub, we had a prime view of the entire place and were able to enjoy a generous amount of sunlight. It was quite lovely, in fact.

 Once the karaoke got going, we headed up closer to the stage and contemplated song choices over some delicious chocolate fondue with marshmellows and strawberries. We pounded out some “Do Wha Diddy” and “Joy to the World” as a trio, Kristin and Avi were perfectly pitched singing “Walkin’ on Sunshine,” and I, being in the mood for some Beach Boys, decided to try my hand at “Sloop John B.” With Judy as the ever-hospitable hostess for the evening, and the boys in the band as willing as ever, it was another great night in the Hammer.

 xoxo Carly. 

3 years ago on 5 July 2011 @ 5:12pm 6 notes

LIFE IS A CABARET - June 1, 2011

Coach and Lantern 384 Wilson Street East

We kicked off our second month of tour the same way we started - live karaoke! We challenged ourselves yet again by singing in front of an audience, but this time, we were backed by a live band. Another first for us. Every Wednesday, Ancaster’s British pub Coach and Lantern throws its weekly sing-a-long/karaoke night, hosted by the lovely and enthusiastic Judy Marsales. The impressive ensemble that made everyone look good included Gordon Lightfoot’s producer Bob Doidge on bass, Mike McCurlie on guitar, Vince Rinaldo on keyboards, and local tv personality Steve Ruddick on drums. Tambourines and various noise-makers were passed out beforehand, along with the overwhelmingly huge binders of songs to choose from. There were so many varied songs chosen throughout the evening that the band declared it must be “Stump the Band Night”. True professionals and accomplished musicians that they are, they didn’t miss a beat.
We pored over the songbooks as we finished up our dinner. There was a great selection of food including standard pub fare as well as some traditional British dishes, like bangers and mash. We decided to start with an appetizer by sharing some bruschetta (delish!) before ordering our main meals. Carly and I went with The Pub Club sandwich (which is just fun to say), while Jenny chose the Classic Coach Burger and Avi opted for the Spicy Thai Stir-Fry. Full from dinner, we were energized and ready to hit the stage!

Judy started the show by leading a sing-a-long to “Cabaret”. A personal favourite and a karaoke song I’ve been eyeing for a while, it gave me a chance to belt it out without the full attention of an audience. Judy is awesome; she was so welcoming and encouraging. She kept things moving and made sure everyone was having fun. You could tell many patrons there were dedicated regulars to Judy’s weekly sing-a-long night - and the place was packed!

Oh - did we mention we have official tour t-shirts now?! Well, we do! As if we don’t already make our presence known where ever we go, now you’ll really see us coming. This was our first tour stop with our new shirts. Sitting front row and being the youngest ones there, we were quickly noticed in our brightly-coloured “I ♥ Hamilton Summer Tour 2011” tees (in the carefully-selected colours of lime, mauve, sunshine, and slate). From then on we were referred to as the Hamilton Tour Girls. This was the perfect introduction for us as we went up together to perform our first song, the classic (and strategically-chosen crowd-pleaser) “Sweet Caroline”. First we were asked by McCurlie which key we would like the song to be played in. This question was met by our blank stares, and slight panic. We sang a few notes just for the band (and I’m pretty sure we were each in a different key) so they could get the general idea. Assessing our range, they began to play those famous first few Neil Diamond notes, and away we went! We prevailed, getting the audience to sing along. It was a hit.

The group number warmed us up for a couple more songs. Jenny and Avi took their turn with “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and I backed up Carly with the “hey-la’s” and some tambourine as she sang “My Boyfriend’s Back”. As much as we go for the standard karaoke songs, we also like to mix it up.

If I can speak for all of us tour girls, I would say this was one of our favourite tour stops to date. It was such a fun, friendly atmosphere, and we had a blast! Wednesdays at the Coach and Lantern is highly recommended. We’ll be back, that’s for sure. From the looks of it, karaoke is definitely going to be a monthly venture on this tour.

- Kristin

3 years ago on 1 June 2011 @ 8:30pm 4 notes