Music in Hamilton

Music in Hamilton Blog Series

How (You) Hamiltonians Can Help Local Musicians

Part 1: Understanding Musicians Perspectives on the Impacts of COVID
Written by Ric Taylor 

As part of my life in music over the last three decades, it's very out of the ordinary for me not to regularly touch base with dozens of musicians on a weekly basis. With the pandemic, that human connection has been relegated to online interactions and even with restrictions beginning to loosen, it seems like the future of live music will probably remain online for some time.

It is challenging both for musicians and audiences to transition into the online experience. Hamiltonians are a different breed - tenacious, authentic, and real - and Hamilton musicians exemplify these traits, too. Before getting into how you can help support Hamilton musicians, I wanted to share some conversations I’ve had with musicians explaining their first-hand experience and perspectives on how the closure of live music venues has impacted them. The closure of venues due to COVID is particularly tough on musicians as they’ve lost their places to work and make a living. I spoke with a couple of local musicians and wanted to share their thoughts and shine a light on the creativity that is still happening in this city.

Coah & Lantern by Nathan NashThe Casbah - Photo Credit: Nathan NashPhoto Credit: Nathan Nash
Hamilton musician Sarah Beatty has spent the last decade playing around the world as well as clubs like Artword Artbar, Zyla's, Homegrown Hamilton, the Baltimore House and the live beacon of James Street North, This Ain't Hollywood, offered her insights on the change in spaces where musicians perform and audiences connect.

Sarah recently did a homebased live show and although she found a good response; some added exposure; and perhaps money her thoughts go beyond that one online home-based show. From experience, Sarah knows that venues have the equipment, tools, and staff to provide a quality show and have a built-in audience. Sarah believes that it's inevitable that venues will have to change in response to COVID, too just like artists.

“New venues could offer a ‘Phoenix out of the ashes’ sort of thing and invite promoters who are now venue-less to come home,” says Beatty. "The burdens and losses will redefine us. Hamilton is a tough place - one of the toughest. Hamiltonians have grit. It's been so tough to make a buck here for so long - you've had to be very creative to survive. It's time to chronicle this important time right now - how gentrification kicked Hamilton's culture and now there's Covid 19. It's more than entertainment. It's about the people who carry and write the songs and stories of Hamilton and its people. That is the real loss to be tuned into."

And then there's Adam Carter who immediately caught my attention as self-isolation set in. Everyone with a guitar is doing live streaming but for Carter, it's more meticulously crafted. I first met the budding musician when he was a part of the local all ages scene with his band Old Man Angst. Carter is a City of Hamilton Arts Awards nominee; has studied media design at Mohawk College and runs Melodic Pixel Media. Carter took it upon himself to remain creative and decided to create the "Self Isolation Song Of The Day" series of special videos that offered dozens of songs original songs, covers of some favourites like David Bowie or Neil Young and even a tribute to other locals like a cover of Wax Mannequin's "Tell The Doctor". 

One track in particular, "Speaking Moistly" - a cover of the electronic parody that sampled a recent COVID-19 speech from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau - went viral in Carter's opinion getting more action and reaction on line than he might have received in the past.

"We're all trying to figure out how to survive once the CERB goes away because some people are saying we aren't going to be able to do concerts for another six months or longer," says Carter. "No one is even scheduling anything for the summer. The positive side of things is that more people are listening and watching more music,” says Carter. “COVID-19 has obliterated all my sources of income. In order to battle the stir crazy of self-isolation, I'm recording, mixing and editing one song a day from now until all this madness comes to an end.”

Carter is using this time to get better at mixing and editing and learning new skills. “I’m just trying to keep my chops up and that wraps its way back to making a song every day. That’s benefiting me musically and that’s what musicians do. This song a day thing keeps me going. I have a purpose right now.”

We’re fortunate to live in a city with such a large percentage musicians and artists. Many who are struggling yet still finding ways to create and connect. “If you love what local artists are doing, throw them some cash if you have it - share their stuff and tell people. Whatever the community or the City of Hamilton does, whether it’s a sparsely attended concert in the park or whatever it is - support it. Spread the word so that the rest of the community sees that this is something of value. I’m always trying to think beyond live streaming and donations. When regulations allow, if you can hire a local artist to play your house or small backyard gathering of five or ten people, there’s an option,” says Adam Carter.


Ric Taylor has written for a variety of sources including a weekly column in View Magazine for the last 21 years. His voice has been heard on local radio stations Y108, 820 CHAM and more including as host of a radio music interview show at McMaster University's 93.3 CFMU FM on Friday afternoons for the last 31 years. Ric Taylor has won the Hamilton Music Awards Media Personality of the Year on numerous occasions. You can find Ric Taylor online at www.facebook.com/ric.taylor.16 or @rictaylor on twitter

How (You) Hamiltonians Can Help Local Musicians

Part 2: Understanding Your Role as a Music Listener and Ten Ways to Support Local Musicians/Bands

Written by Ric Taylor 

Musicians are doing their part to bring you comfort, entertainment, and offering a feeling of connection. While the world has reeled from the effects of the pandemic few industries have been so affected that they will no longer look like they did or return to what they were than the music world and the live music industry in particular. However, even amidst COVID, artists and musicians are still creating and there is new music being released locally and there are ten or more ways you can look to support them.

So, what can the average Hamiltonian do to support Hamilton musicians?

Be active online
It's as simple as like, comment, and subscribe and don’t be afraid of championing Hamiltonians. I grew up in a time where if a band wanted to tell someone in a different province or country where they were from, they’d say Toronto - maybe because it was easier or maybe people thought they wouldn’t know Hamilton or realize the artists who have come out of the city. Thankfully, for the most part these days more and more people are championing Hamilton. And while it might seem a little too easy but actively participating on whatever platform and adding a like, comment, or even subscribing can go a long way. It confirms to the musician and music industry that the audience is there and bolsters what can often be a lonely vocation. From a musicians’ perspective you want to communicate a melody, a thought or a feeling and if all you find is an echo, it can only dampen spirits during economic upheaval and self-isolation. Through the simple act of following/subscribing, liking, or commenting you can have a positive impact on a local musicians’ day or week and it will only cost a few seconds or minutes of your time.

Buy the music
If you want to be culturally supportive and keep the stories of Hamiltonians by Hamiltonians going; simply buy the music readily available to you. It might be a strange concept in this age of streaming but you can still buy individual songs, downloads, CDs, cassettes, and vinyl and a number of Hamilton record stores are offering curbside pick-up. The Bandcamp website announced that "On May 1, 2020, we did it again and fans paid artists $7.1 million" and as an international platform, they have a wealth of Hamilton musicians and bands that you can find by simply searching with the Hamilton tag. In addition, the site waives their revenue sharing on the first Friday of every month if you want to make sure, even more money goes to the artist. If you like metal you can purchase Lutharo's "Unleash The Beast" that was supposed to be celebrated with a local release part in April. Sweet Dave O'Connor and the Shallow Graves sophomore release of modern goth/ new wave called “Pink Dreams” also got lost in the Covid shuffle but you can help the TV Freaks vocalist side project get more attention. If you're into more roots rock and maybe even seen him play in front of Hamilton city hall for the City of Hamilton Music Mondays series but you can have his recent album "Strange Weather" by searching Matty Simpson on the site as well.

Another notable release is from John Ellison. While John Ellison, the 78-year-old West Virginia-born soul musician best known for writing the 1967 hit "Some Kind of Wonderful", he made news for his relocation to Dundas many years ago. During the pandemic he penned a new tune to help raise donations for the Hamilton area hospital system during COVID. You can find Ellison's “We’re Showing the World.” at hamiltonhealth.ca/ellison. But Ellison is making even more recent international wave with his new single - a call to arms with rising world concerns - an anthem named "Wake Up Call (Black Like Me)".

A number of additional new albums have dropped or will be released May through July that include  "Olde Towne Beverly" by Zyla, "Like Water” by Carissa Kimbell, “Love” by Radio Free Universe, Sven Gali's EP "3", “All the Time” by Jessy Lanza, Lindy Vopnfjörð's "State of the Heart", “The Devil Will Buy You Candy" by Tiny Bill Cody, The Smoke Wagon Blues Band's album "The Ballad of Albert Johnson", “Life Among Giants” by Brenda Brown, “Between II Shores” by Athanase Band,  and “Born Again” by Ellis.

Many singles have also come out since April such as “God Speed Rebel” by The Trews, “Life’s a Mission” by Lt the Monk and Buddah Abusah, "Done With Drugs" by the Dirty Nil, “Come With Me (LeMix)” by Might Be Leo, “Empty Spaces” by Joshua Pascua, “Strange” by Jordan Paul, and “In the Cut” by Jamila B.

John Ellison - Photo Credit: Giannni GrandiPhoto Credit: Giannni Grandi

Buy Merchandise
As well as music, many musicians have other items that are still for sale and can put food on the table in these tough times. Heather Valley is offering up posters and even a new line of shirts for fans to coincide with her heartbreak roots music. The Dirty Nil have who torn up every stage across North America and Europe even opening up for the Who are offering up shirts, cassettes, and coloured vinyl. If you go to indie rock darling B.A. Johnston's bandcamp you can get a wealth of the music he's become nationally known for - songs about poutine, drinking, heartbreak, and video games - as well as a personally autographed copy of his new children's book "Gary the Seagull". There are local musicians who are artists in other mediums such as musician Queen Cee also known as Queen Dollylama who is “creatively re-imagines Black dolls and dolls of other skin tones giving them a natural, ethnic, Afrocentric look.” Then there’s multidisciplinary artist, Eklipz, who raps, paints and does photography and film etc. 

Explore your favourite musician in a brand new light
There's lots to watch beyond live streaming and while free, you can donate if only for the efforts behind the show. Christopher Adeney otherwise known as Wax Mannequin has spent two decades fashioning his own brand of thoughtful and at times disturbing indie rock. You can spend time in his pantry or as he writes on his Facebook page. “For the past four weeks (every Friday at 7pm EST) I have been putting on little shows in my pantry. I'm starting to have fun doing it, so I have decided to announce the series formally with this exclusive facebook event.” Monster Truck's bassist/vocalist Jon Harvey has created a daily riff video for the hard rocking fan to get a daily dose that is approaching day 100 marking how long this pandemic has lasted. Meanwhile, the mostly media savvy MT guitarist Jeremy Widerman created a weekly Vlog/podcast that includes insider info on the band and a myriad of famous guests like producer Gus Van Go.

Take lessons and learn from the best
If you are an aspiring musician or hobbyist maybe consider helping out Hamilton musicians or bands by broadening your own musical horizons. Linnea Sigglekow had just released her new album before the pandemic took hold and was set for some massive continental touring before everything changed. As Ellis, she not only offers new video content but music lessons for the 144,000 subscribers with Tutorial Tuesdays to learn how to play your favourite songs of Ellis. Arkells offered a series of music classes dubbed Flatten the Curve Music Class and even did an instagram live auction raising $7000 for charity.

Keep your advanced ticket purchase & stay engaged with live music venues
And speaking of the biggest rock band that has come out of Hamilton in the last twenty years. The Arkells offered an IOU for The Rally at Tim Horton's Field that will now be held on June 19, 2021. Arkells’ vocalist Max Kerman even offered impassioned pleas to #SaveOurStages in support of venues they love across Canada and especially the Casbah in the Arkells’ hometown. You can keep all your concert tickets as things get worked out. Brodie Schwendiman, owner of the Casbah created "Indie Rock Relief" benefit, selling advance tickets for a forthcoming tentatively scheduled show, where you can buy a $20 ticket in advance that will help the club stay afloat as we wait for that show to be booked. Schwendiman says on their website, “This is truly a unique and startling moment in our lifetimes. After much thought and deliberation, we are asking for help, ourselves. It was not easy coming to this decision, but similarly to how many people live paycheque to paycheque, we at Casbah also operate with our own financial challenges,” continues Schwendiman. Other venues are doing take-out and delivery to ease financial strains like Doors Taco Joint and Metal Bar, known for emboldening the real loud, experimental and underground sounds. Meanwhile, Mills Hardware offers a virtual cocktail hour via a video series that has your bartender, Max, offering lessons in mixology, to stay creative and keep the brand in the public's mind perhaps. Mills Hardware writes on their website, "We also ask that you consider your ability to support artists in these turbulent times by holding onto any tickets purchased for upcoming shows. Live performances sustain an entire community of creative workers, and your support today helps ensure that music and art survives in the months ahead. All tickets will be honoured for rescheduled events."

Purchase a ticket for an online show
Buying tickets for a live streamed concert in venues are slowly starting to happen. The live streaming platform, Twitch, isn’t just for gamers there’s plenty of music content on there and the ability to donate directly to the band/artists. Another platform that’s been around for a while is Side Door Access who have hosted a number of great quality virtual shows with many local artists.

Continue to support your favourite local musician and research new ones
If the Covid crisis hasn’t dramatically devastated your financial statement, perhaps you’d consider supporting in more of a long-term fashion because taking a break for a couple of months could mean the end of a lot of musical careers. "I'm an independent musician and sometimes I have to think outside the box just to get my music out there," says Jacob Moon on his website to introduce another option of helping musicians. "If there is an artist that I really loved, I would love to be a part of what they're doing, get exclusive access to certain content or rare, unreleased recordings." With varying levels of support, you can help Moon out on a regular basis with the smallest level of support getting a digital copy of all twelve of his original albums as well as a ‘Jacob Moon branded Popsocket for hanging onto your mobile phone’.

Take a bit of time to Google musicians and bands in Hamilton. Look for and share Hamilton, Ontario playlists. There’s a long list of local artists on the Hamilton Ontario Canada Spotify playlist. You can also search on the Hamilton Musicians Guild website.

Support a Local Arts Organization
If you have disposable income and just want to help but don’t want to play favourites, you can pledge your support our music scene. If you don't have a favourite but want to help Hamilton musicians in general you can pledge to the efforts of The Hamilton Arts Council . The HAC has been coordinating live broadcasts from locals like Alex Whorms, Dave Gould, Mother Tareka and Emma Rush but a benevolent fund that you can access via allows you to offer support for musicians as they apply for this funding. Another arts organization to support is COBRA  – the Coalition of Black & Racialized Artists, which is a collective of artists of colour. Then, there’s also 93.3 CFMU FM a listener-supported, campus-based community radio and a space for musicians to grow their audience as it promotes and plays Hamilton musicians.

Tell a Friend
In the olden times, I would always encourage a musician looking to get more attention to go out to see shows. Musicians seemed reticent of the component of networking or maybe just other musician’s live shows. But now more than ever, it’s time to build connections and community. You still have a voice in whatever platform you take. Use your word of mouth and name names when you’re talking about the Hamilton musicians that you love. Share songs and links. It's free to let people know that you're a fan. I've been a fan of Hamilton music for three decades broadcasting a radio show at 93.3 CFMU FM where I interview Hamilton bands, and for twenty plus years writing about them for View Magazine. Their respective websites remain a wealth to learn more about the local scene. If you've got time to explore, there is a wealth of amazing Hamilton music to discover and if you like some, let people know and there's no cost for that but the rewards will be priceless.


Ric Taylor has written for a variety of sources including a weekly column in View Magazine for the last 21 years. His voice has been heard on local radio stations Y108, 820 CHAM and more including as host of a radio music interview show at McMaster University's 93.3 CFMU FM on Friday afternoons for the last 31 years. Ric Taylor has won the Hamilton Music Awards Media Personality of the Year on numerous occasions. You can find Ric Taylor online at www.facebook.com/ric.taylor.16 or @rictaylor on twitter

Previous Blogs from the Music in Hamilton Series 

Improving Your Home Show

Written by Jessica Rose 

It’s Wednesday afternoon, and I’ve just tuned into Terra Lightfoot’s weekly #ClassicAllRequestWednesdays show on Facebook and Instagram. Next up, it’s Syrian Palestinian MC Mother Tareka, who is part of the Hamilton Arts Council’s online performance series. With music venues shuttered, I’ve welcomed the daily distraction of watching home shows from my living room couch.

 In past months, we’ve all had to learn to be more tech savvy; however, for musicians staging home shows lighting and sound quality create extra challenges. Thankfully, a successful set-up doesn’t need to be difficult or expensive.

 “This whole COVID thing has forced me to reckon with my life-long technophobia,” says tiny bill cody, the performance alter ego of Tor Lukasik-Foss, an artist whose creative practice integrates music, performance, storytelling, and visual art. “I really like basic tools, and really like lo-fi aesthetics. That being said, I am very concerned for the state of sound during streaming events, as it’s often very bad and can destroy what is the intimacy of casual, at home performance,” he says. Lukasik-Foss uses a Scarlett 2i2, “a little box the size of a brick of tofu,” that allows him to plug his instruments and mics directly into his computer.

Sam Holdridge, founder of Hamilton Rising , a multimedia platform using social media, videography, and digital marketing has similar concerns. “Sound is #1. People will forgive bad video quality,” he says, suggesting Dolby On, a free recording app and sound editor for voice, music, video that includes automatic noise reduction and volume boosting. If you have a small budget, he suggests a Rode Wireless GO microphone to connect to your phone. 

 External microphones and video recorders promise better quality than your phone’s built-in tools. Preeminent classical guitarist Emma Rush uses a Zoom Q2n Handy Video Recorder as an external mic. It can also be used as a webcam that gives her extra control over lighting.

 “You want to make your lighting soft. It’s not an interrogation,” says Holdridge, suggesting as much natural (but not direct) light as possible. His most surprising tool is a slightly frosted shower curtain placed between a basic LED light and the musician. “You’ll be surprised how much it will diffuse the light!”

Classical guitarist Emma Rush. Photo credit: Jessica Rose

Keeping audiences engaged without the electricity of a crowd is challenging. Rush cultivates interactivity by encouraging questions from her audience. When hosting his Hamilton Arts Council livestream, Lukasik-Foss says he used banter and storytelling to keep audiences engaged. He’s also been using Zoom to host singalongs with his weekly pub choir, Tuesday Choir.

One thing you can’t underestimate is the importance of strong WIFI and choosing the right network. Chris McKhool has turned his living room into a TV studio, broadcasting weekly livestreams for families from his Chris McKhool Kids Music Facebook page, including a Hamilton Arts Council performance. “What is most exciting is that even though you cannot be in the same room as your audience, we can now pull in a global audience and have people watching us from literally around the globe.” He recommends paid services like Restream.io and Castr to stream to multiple sites at the same time. “The best and least expensive idea is to ask a few of your friends to hold Watch Parties on Facebook.”

When it comes to monetizing shows, Holdridge suggests using tools social media platforms are launching during unprecedented times, including Instagram's fundraising tools. McKhool notes that Facebook is also rolling out tools to help artists monetize.

“Although nothing can replace a live performance experience, virtual events still offer us a chance to connect with an audience and have a shared experience,” says Rush. Similarly, McKhool is encouraged by how home shows are connecting people young and old alike: “Art is more important now than ever to help connect people and heal the pain inside we are all feeling, and to also celebrate the joyous moments with others.”

Lukasik-Foss sees an opportunity right now for people to better recognize the value of culture in our daily life. “Hopefully people are consuming culture a little more deliberately, a little more locally, and with a real awareness that we all have an obligation to support it, it’s part of our interconnectedness.” 


Jessica Rose is a writer and editor whose writing about Hamilton can be found in Hamilton Magazine, The Inlet, and in the upcoming book Reclaiming Hamilton: Essays from the New Ambitious City. You can follow her on twitter at @notmytypewriter

Strumming your first chords: Introducing babies and young children to the power of music & exploring some music schools in Hamilton

Written by Andrew Baulcomb 

Music has been part of my son’s life since before he was born. During the final trimester of my wife, Ciara’s, pregnancy, we set about converting our home office into a colourful, engaging child’s bedroom.

The one item that remained was a small guitar amplifier. Toward the end of 2018, as winter descended, Ciara would sit in her nursing chair and listen while I played songs on my Stratocaster. Of course, our little man was listening, too. By the time our son, Dylan, was born in January, he was already familiar with several of the songs I had been playing. His responses, simple and instinctual as they were, melted my heart. It wasn’t long before we had instruments within his reach. 

Image of Baby with it's mother and drum kit
Ciara with son Dylan and drum set. Image: Andrew Baulcomb

Soon after, we enrolled him in a local music class. Music and children go hand-in-hand. For parents of budding virtuosos and curious onlookers, there are several local options for providing all manner of education and hands-on learning. 

Leigh-Ann Allen, co-founder of the Amici School of Music, says parents and caregivers are helping shape children's brains with everything they expose them to. With music, it’s never too early to begin. Amici, which Allen co-launched with Michelle Garlough, offers classes seven days a week at eight area locations, serving families from Hamilton to Toronto.

Playful instruction is offered for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. “When we give our children musical experiences — as we do in class, and ideally at home as well — their brains are developing the wiring that will help enable them to be musical for the rest of their lives,” explains Alen, who runs a Hamilton branch on Locke Street South. “The tricky thing is that their brains will drop any connections that aren't stimulated over and over again. It’s the ‘use it or lose it’ theory,” she adds. “This is why we encourage our families in class to listen, play, and sing with the music at home, too.” The Amici School of Music is just one of several options for babies and young children in Hamilton.Toronto-based Little Rebels is known for its “carefully crafted and specifically designed” classes for small strummers. It recently expanded into Hamilton, Burlington, and the Niagara Region, and best of all, Little Rebels is happy to come straight to you for in-home lessons. 

The Hamilton School of Music, located on Stone Church Road East, takes things a step further by offering a unique ensemble experience for children. According to the school, the aim of the latter is to, “make music and have fun while playing songs [children] enjoy.” Bands at the school also have opportunities to perform at community events and compete in festivals

Jazz trumpet player Ben Bowen — otherwise known as “Mr. Ben” among area youth and parents — runs the popular Mr. Ben’s Open Door Music program out of Binkley United Church. Beginning with children as young as 10 months, Mr. Ben’s classes and workshops cover everything from basic rhythm and melody to more advanced musical critiques.

Still, structured classes and lessons aren’t the only way to introduce a child to music. Simply exposing a young person to music is extremely beneficial for their development. Steve McKay is a father of three and a stalwart of the Hamilton music community. By day, he works as a mortgage agent. During the evening, however, it’s family time, which means bringing out the instruments at home. “All three kids are lucky in a way. They were given an immediate musical edge just by being born to a mom who is a chorister,” says McKay, who also performs in local chamber-pop group Twin Within. “For nine months in utero, each baby listened to mom singing for hours and hours at choir rehearsals and at home,” he continues. “That’s the cornerstone of our kids’ musical experience.”

Baby reaching for guitar on a couch
Dylan with Andrew's guitar. Image: Andrew Baulcomb

Baby with dad strumming guitar
Andrew playing for son Dylan. Image: Andrew Baulcomb

For McKay, a skilled musician who can play several instruments, it’s important to drive home one crucial point — you don’t need to be gifted to enjoy music. That goes for both parents and children. “I’ve had conversations with other parents who assume that music is a genetic gift given from parent to child,” McKay begins. “Whatever you do, do not assume that your non-musicality is genetic. “If you expose your child at the youngest possible age to lots and lots of music, they will grow to love it and find ways to express themselves using music as a tool,” he adds. “My son’s brain is getting a full workout by participating in tons of music at this stage of life.”

Remember, the sooner a child is exposed to music, the sooner they’ll be blessed with a lifelong gift.


Andrew Baulcomb is an award-winning writer and author of Evenings & Weekends: Five Years in Hamilton Music, 2006-2011 (Wolsak & Wynn). You can follow Andrew @abaulcomb

Musicians’ Perspectives & Recommendations about Getting Out to See a Show, Supporting Artists & Who You Should Discover in Hamilton

Written by Seema Narlua
I caught up with three Hamilton musicians that have been carving out this city with their hustle and musical prowess. I asked them about their thoughts on Hamilton’s music scene.

LTthe Monk performing image courtesy Don Gleeson
LTtheMonk - Image: Don Gleson

LTtheMonk, in his signature white socks and Michael Jackson inspired dance moves, has been sliding around various stages of Hamilton music venues since launching his hip-hop music career here in Hamilton (direct from London, UK). You’ll hear his baritone voice spit bars over funky live beats on his recently released debut album “Kinks, Drinks & Hip-Hop”.

LT’s favourite show in Hamilton was his album release party at Mill’s Hardware, “that night was a celebration of every producer, musician, friend, fan, clothing brand and creative that I've been blessed to connect with since I first arrived in Hamilton, and the first time I ever really packed out a venue”.  Besides buying merch and truly developing fans that stream and buy your music, LT says “like 90% of life, attendance is the most important part of supporting the venues and the events. If people are at the venues buying tickets, drinks and keeping the money moving, then the venues will survive”.

LTtheMonk’s tip for checking out shows is to go and see the people you love. Doesn’t matter where they are playing; check them out! His picks for local musicians are Aisha Barrow, Viktoria Csik, Hoss Bowman and Judah Jump.

Musician, visual artist, and music promoter, Becky Katz easily listed off four bands that she is a part of starting off with Earth Wind and Choir (2011) and ending with her most recent band Freaky Boos (2018). She is proud to have opened up for nearly all of the former members of Sonic Youth and their most recent musical incarnations. As a music promoter, she co-founded the music and art festival, Strangewaves. They have put on over 100 shows in four years including Strangebarn (a series of live concerts at a venue in a house).

One of Katz’s favourite shows of all-time was during Supercrawl of 2016. She coined it “a wild and juicy house party fundraiser” that was thrown at Strangebarn. Fourtet, Jessy Lanza and Junior Boys DJ’d “the house was PACKED, the party was SLAMMIN, and [they] made over $2000 at the door”.

Image of Becky Katz performing. Image courtesy Sasha Katz
Becky Katz- Image:  Sasha Katz

Katz says that “when live shows are well attended, the energy is more palpable… I believe that we are all connected to each other and subconsciously invested in each other, so when there is a strong attendance at a concert, it strengthens our co-existence and adds to the beautifully textured fabric of our cultural spaces and communities… [it’s] an unadulterated way to meet people, and make new friends”.

Katz’s tip on what people can do to help support Hamilton’s music scene, “be more open-minded! [Leave] your house! [Don’t] be scared to go to a show that’s $10 or even $15… check out all the acts instead of just the headliner… just because you don’t know the performer doesn’t mean they won’t blow your mind”. Her local music recommendations: Jessy Lanza, Persons crew, Man Made Hill, Juliana LaChance, Hadahawis Parent, and Lee Reed.

Legendary indie-folk musician, Wax Mannequin has been on the Hamilton music circuit since the early 2000s blessing us with his eccentric quirkiness; singing about everything from basketball, squirmy worms, things that are boring, and white privilege. Both Wax and Katz talked about the changing landscape of the Hamilton music scene with regards to gentrification and a continued need for accessible and affordable music venues.

Wax remembers fondly a venue that no longer exists that got him hooked on performing live. He describes the Raven as a “gloriously seedy bar” and one where he opened up for Fax Head. Their music was “horrifying -- incredibly loud, dissonant and angular with absurd starts and stops”. That sort of thing inspires him “anyone at that show will remember it forever”.

Wax’s advice is to “go out to more shows. Buy merch”. He adds “of course the audience is what makes the show”. Leave the screens and social media behind, connect and interact with people because according to Wax “inexplicable, life-altering things can happen at small, live concerts. Calculated absurdism can cause these out-of-self experiences. Music can still shock people out of their daily grind, depression, materialism”. Wax recommends you check-out musical locals Hannah Bech, Get Off The Cop, Evelyn and the Heaby Metal, plus all his label mates on Coax.

Image of Wax Mannequin performing. Image courtesy @Ramucy
Wax Mannequin - Image:  @Ramucy


Seema Narula is a part-time teacher, freelance writer, Hamilton blogger, mom, and sometimes DJ. You can follow Seema @thismustbeseema

Hometown Advice for Fledgling Musician from local artists Luke Bentham and Terra Lightfoot

By Stuart Berman
Hamilton boasts a fertile, self-contained musical ecosystem that’s served as the launch pad for a number of nationally renowned touring acts. And not only did these artists get their start in Hamilton, they’ve continued to make the city their home, even though there’s a certain gravitational pull eastward down the QEW that some say could be beneficial to advancing their careers. We spoke to two such local success stories to get their thoughts on how fledgling musicians can use Hamilton’s more tight-knit infrastructure to their advantage.

Luke Bentham of pop-punk power trio The Dirty Nil and roots-rock phenom Terra Lightfoot hail from different corners of the Hamilton music scene, but they’ve each managed to parlay their homegrown followings into steady international touring and JUNO Award recognition. Both got their start in the late-2000s, just before social media became an integral part of every artist’s self-promotional strategy. But their experiences are as instructive now as ever. After all, Hamilton isn’t the sort of city that cares about how many Instagram followers you have. What ultimately matters is whether you can deliver the goods onstage. Here’s how they learned to do it.

Image of Luke Bentham
Luke Bentham (middle)

Image of Terra Lightfoot
Terra Lightfoot

Take Matters Into Your Own Hands

Bentham: “Our first local gig was in Dundas—I booked the show myself. I rented out a church and a bunch of us 13-year-olds in cover bands played a show. And then to get my first gig in Hamilton, I started asking around to people that I knew who had already played gigs, and I heard of this guy named Brodie Schwendiman—I emailed him, and he gave us a gig to play at The Underground. Brodie was very nice to us early on, and he’s still booking shows at The Casbah, so he’s a nice resource. I think that bands underestimate how easy it is to get things going. I just assumed there was going to be all these hurdles, and it’s like, ‘No, you can just do a show.’ But once you get it, you’ve got to do the legwork to make sure it's good.”

Find Your Tribe

Lightfoot: “I had been going to open mics at The Pepper Jack Cafe [now Club Absinthe] for a year as a spectator and maybe playing one song here and there, and I ended up getting my first proper gig through that. At the Pepper Jack, I found a place where I could go any night of the week and hang out, whether I went for dinner, drinks or to just hang out with friends. I found a real sense of community there.”

Play Anytime, Anywhere

Bentham: “Between the ages of 18 and 21, we did a lot of weird off-kilter gigs and house parties. We did a residency at this one house in Guelph where basically they’d have a kegger, like, once every two months or so and we would play it in return for free beer. But there were awesome turnouts. Those shows were definitely key to the development of our band.”

Lightfoot: “I was playing cover gigs in bars that were removed from downtown—like I'd play up on the mountain at a place called The Whistling Walrus. I think there's a definite need to pay dues. And in this business, you need to hustle a little bit. Before I even started working with [my label and management company] Sonic Unyon, they invited me to play the main stage at Supercrawl, just because I was playing so much around the city. I got to play for a lot of people I had never seen before, and that was really exciting. Supercrawl is such an excellent resource for people who are looking to connect with more Hamilton folks.”

Connect With Local Media

Bentham: “We started this band when we were 16, but we didn’t play a show in Hamilton until we were 17, because we just were figuring out everything by ourselves… we were kind of an isolated island out in Dundas. But Ric Taylor at CFMU was very kind to us, and he wrote about us in his column in View Magazine. He was the first industry person that got behind us and was our first real link out into the community.”

Never Say No

Lightfoot: “I remember being really busy doing gigs and teaching music, and the [now defunct] Harvest Picnic asked me to play at their press conference and I thought, ‘You know, it's on an afternoon when I could easily be doing other musical work… but I guess I'll do the press conference.' So I went—and it turned out Daniel Lanois was also playing the press conference, because Harvest Picnic was his festival. And he didn't have a proper amplifier with him, so he had to borrow mine. We ended up talking and we've become friends and he's become one of my greatest mentors. So my advice would be to always say ‘yes,’ even when it may be inconvenient or even when you don't think it's going to be helpful to you. Every gig, no matter where it is and who’s there, you're always playing for a reason. My reason for playing music is I want to make sure that young women feel they have a place in the music industry, because it was not always easy for me. And I think it's really important for each musician to find the reason they want to do it and work towards that at every single gig and, you will be much better for it.”


Stuart Berman is a Hamilton-based contributor to Pitchfork, CBC Radio’s Q, and Third Bridge Creative, among others. He is also the author of This Book Is Broken: A Broken Social Scene Story and Too Much Trouble: A Very Oral History of Danko Jones. You can follow Stuart @stuberman

The Power of Live Music: how it benefits you, musicians & the local music community

Written by Jamie Tennant
There are many different ways to experience music – earbuds, overpriced headphones stereos, car radios, dance clubs, basement parties, crappy turntables, shopping malls, and everything in-between. Each provides its own unique magic, to be sure. But there must be a reason people stand in the rain, travel hundreds of miles, or spend outrageous amounts of money on Stubhub in order to experience live music. It can’t just be, I don’t know, for the ‘gram or something.

Band performing live

What do we even mean by “live” music? And we’re not just talking dudes with guitars as hopefully the images that come to mind are more diverse. All it really means is a live performance – in some fashion, the entertainer is creating the music in front of an audience. Could be a 45-piece orchestra, an emcee rapping over a recording – both count.

There’s an intangible energy involved when something is created live. There’s a tension between the artist and the audience, a push and pull of energy, almost a symbiosis, to get a touch pretentious about it. One feeds the other. It’s not replicable in a situation where you experience the art alone. You need the artist there. What’s more tangible, though, is the power – the power that comes from the energy on stage, from the swell of reaction from a group of people, from sheer bloody volume. When bass thumps in your chest like a shock wave against your sternum, and you can feel the passion from the stage, and everyone around you responds…that’s the magic right there.

Performers on stage

There’s an intangible energy involved when something is created live. There’s a tension between the artist and the audience, a push and pull of energy, almost a symbiosis, to get a touch pretentious about it. One feeds the other. It’s not replicable in a situation where you experience the art alone. You need the artist there. What’s more tangible, though, is the power – the power that comes from the energy on stage, from the swell of reaction from a group of people, from sheer bloody volume. When bass thumps in your chest like a shock wave against your sternum, and you can feel the passion from the stage, and everyone around you responds…that’s the magic right there.

woman performing live music on a stage

There are more practical reasons to see live music too – and that’s to support live music. You want to feel like you’re doing some good in the world, giving back to the artist. The artist isn’t selling CDs and is getting one hundred thousandth of a cent on Spotify. Your ticket order/cover charge/T-shirt purchase makes a difference to whether or not they can devote more time to making the music you love. If you’re seeing a local artist, you’re supporting an entire community. Dropping ten bucks to see someone from Hamilton means you’re simultaneously supporting musicians, bar owners, bartenders, sound people, poster makers, studios, guitar makers, etc. You’re really helping a community 

What do you get out of it? A good time. A rush of endorphins and a better sense of well-being.  Being a body in a live room gives you a sense of community, a communion with other people that listening on earbuds can’t give you. Room to dance like there’s no one watching, because they probably aren’t.

They’re too busy enjoying the experience themselves.

If you’re looking for live music, there’s plenty to be had in this city – so get out there and see something. You won’t regret it.


Jamie Tennant is a Writer, radio guy, host of GET LIT, pop culture enthusiast, and author of The Capitan of Kinnoull Hill . If you’re on social you can follow @jtennant1020

Hamilton - The City of Live Music

Written by Biljana Njegovan
As Hamiltonians, we are very lucky to live in a city that is full of so much high quality music. Sure, you can listen to any number of excellent Hamilton artists in the comfort of your own home, but where Hamilton really shines is in the world of live music. From clubs to parks - you can leave your home on almost any given night and stumble across great live music being performed all over the city. Let’s take a look at the various live music experiences available in Hamilton.

Venues & Festivals

We begin with your classic nightclub style music venue. For a population of our size, we have a decent number of well-run music venues with great sound systems and owners and staff who care about the local music scene. These places are the backbone and steady drum of the local music scene. The Casbah, This Ain’t Hollywood, Club Absinthe, The Corktown Pub, First Ontario Concert Hall, Theatre Aquarius, The Zoetic, Artword Artbar, HAVN, Sousbas, Club 77, Zylas, Stonewall Bar and Grill, Doors: Taco Joint and Metal Bar, Mills Hardware.

Festival goers sitting on grass.

Festivals are a great option for seeing a variety of music in one spot. As we enter the full swing of the summer season there are many opportunities for the whole family to enjoy some great live music all over the city. It’s Your Festival, Ancaster Fair, Locke Street Festival, Supercrawl, Winona Peach Festival, Hamilton Latino Festival, Festival of Friends, Strangewaves Festival, Dundas Cactus Festival.

Unexpected Places & Spaces

The real magic happens when you stumble across live music in places where it doesn’t normally happen. That is what takes us from a city with some live music venues and festivals to something else entirely. You can see:

Artist performing in a small venue

Artist performing on fire escape

There are more places than this, but this list should give you a good idea about the range of live musical offerings at your disposal. Did I miss your favourite? Share yours on twitter with #HamOntMusic.


Biljana Njegovan is an award winning blogger and a passionate Hamiltonian who has been writing about this city for over a decade. If you’re on social you can follow @biljana3000