Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Supercrawl in Hamilton, ON (September 10, 2011)

While the Toronto International Film Festival occupied most of my time during the period of September 8 to the 18, I'd consciously took Septemeber 10 off in order to check out a arts and music festival called Supercrawl in Hamilton, ON. I'd heard of the festival for a few years now and had hopes of going but it didn't happen, but when I'd seen the musical lineup this year which included amongst others, Broken Social Scene, J Mascis, Plants and Animals and Basia Bulat performing with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, I made up my mind quick to check it out. Somewhat serendipitously, I was clued into the festival and the music lineup by Basia Bulat herself who I'd spoke to briefly after her solo show in Mississauga at Celebration Square just a week prior to Supercrawl.

Taking over several blocks of Hamilton's James Street North neighbourhood, there was an array of artwork, sculptures, vendors, and music stages. While I was there primarily for the music, I was impressed with the art that could be found at different spots along the street - photographs, paintings, street murals, sculptures. As well there was an array of artisans selling and vendors selling their wares. In addition to that, there was a variety of food trucks, food vendor as well as local restaurants and cafes providing a variety of food choices for hungry Supercrawl-ers. But yes it was the music lineup that brought me out, and in short it was fantastic.

It was only by chance that I caught Toronto's Bruce Peninsula as I'd happened by their free show (a CD release at that for their new album "Open Flames" which comes out October 4) at Christ’s Church Cathedral. Apparently, Toronto's Snowblink had opened the show. Funny, but I'd never had seen the band live before, and have more than an ounce of regret after hearing what little I did that day. Within the sublime acoustics and environs of the church, the vibrant, vocal indie-folk of the band was mesmerizing. I'd only caught their last song and their encore, but it was enough to count me now as a convert. The band are in the midst of a tour and will be in Toronto on October 27 for a show at Lee's Palace.

Bruce Peninsula @ Supercrawl: photo by Michael Ligon

Having only seen Basia Bulat the week before, playing a solo show in Mississauga at Celebration Square, I was super excited to see her perform with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra. With the Orchestra adding illustrious arrangements to Basia's tunes and with Basia herself changing the phrasing of her vocals somewhat, these versions were quite a bit different than I'd heard from her before. And yes it worked very well. As a Hamilton outsider, when I think of Hamilton, a symphony orchestra does not come to mind, but after this set, Hamilton has proven its cultural depth with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra's blissful performance with Miss Bulat.

Basia Bulat with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra @ Supercrawl: photo by Michael Ligon

As the sun went down and then set, after a long setup, Montreal trio Plants and Animals took the stage for a vibrant set of their tactile and jammy rock music. "Faerie Dance" with the audience participation of "la la la la la la la la la" was perhaps their finest moment of the night. Terribly disappointing that the band's long set-up time meant the band had to cut their set short, but otherwise it was a fine set.

Plants and Animals @ Supercrawl: photo by Michael Ligon

Who might Paley and Francis be? Well, the Francis refers to Black Francis - yes, that one, sometimes also referred to as Frank Black. But no this was not a Pixies set nor the Frank Black show. Francis and Paley (Reid Paley that is) took relatively equal duties on lead vocals, and the music drew a bit on the garage rock eccentricities of the Pixies though perhaps with a bit of a blues flavour. With the duo rounded out with a bass player and drummer, it was not as electrifying as I'd hope it be but still to see Black Francis was exciting.

Paley and Francis @ Supercrawl: photo by Michael Ligon

Shooting back to the mainstage I went, to catch Dinosaur Jr. frontman J Mascis sitting on a chair, playing his acoustic guitar through an amp and performing some of Dinosaur Jr.'s more well known songs. Later on in the set, J would bring up Broken Social Scene's Kevin Drew to sing along on "Not Enough". Musically I loved it and J tore through some fantastic guitar solos, although as a whole it was somewhat underwhelming to watch a solo set as the quiet crowd gazed towards him. Part of me wished I could have caught Junior Boys' set down the street, but that stage was too far to get to and I wanted to secure a spot for Broken Social Scene's headlining set.

J Mascis (with Kevin Drew) @ Supercrawl: photo by Michael Ligon

Broken Social Scene's show at Harbourfront Centre in 2009 was my favourite show by them ever, with the extended BSS family like Feist and Emily Haines popping out the woodworks to make it a very special show. Broken Social Scene are a much more streamlined animal these days with a core lineup of Kevin Drew, Brendan Canning, Charles Spearin, Andrew Whiteman, Justin Peroff, Lisa Lobsinger and Sam Goldberg making up the band. Kevin mentioned that this was their last show in Ontario for a long time, and with recent news of the band going on an indefinite hiatus, I'm glad to have caught the band this time. No special guests unfortunately for this how, but the band did seem to have a pep in their step as they played selection of favourites from their last three albums and apparently also including a cover of Modest Mouse's "World At Large". It was neither the band's best nor worst show but as a capper to the festival it was a keeper. I have no doubt the band will be back (and have not broken up). I think we've all started to take the band for granted, especially over the last several years, and I think now's the perfect time for the band to take a break, both for themselves and from us, but I think when the band eventually make their return, it will be monumental.

Broken Social Scene @ Supercrawl: photo by Michael Ligon

For my complete photoset of Supercrawl, check out the link below:

Photos: Supercrawl in Hamilton, ON (September 10, 2011)


  1. Good stuff. I always thought this might be an interesting event, but never quite so much that I felt like going abroad to see it.

  2. Toronto to Hamilton is a little bit of trip, especially if you don't drive - Mississauga to Hamilton, not so much. Depending on the musical lineup, I think it'd be worth it like this year - J Mascis AND Black Francis both there the same year? Yes, please.