Greenbelt Harvest Picnic 2015

Greenbelt Harvest Picnic 2015

The Arkells, Gordon Lightfoot and Bahamas

The Harvest Greenbelt Picnic marks the end of summer, attracting musicians and local food trucks to celebrate music, nature and local produce. Despite the loss of popular headliners, Iron and Wine, the show managed to go on, featuring hometown favourites such as the Arkells. The Rural Alberta Advantage filled in for headliners Iron and Wine. The festival included performances by Gordon Lightfoot, Tom Wilson as Lee Harvey Osmond, and Bahamas.

Hamilton’s Harvest

Local home grown talent had a chance to speak in familiar waters. From the fierce Kathleen Edwards commenting earlier on twitter that she would do a 35-minute Iron and Wine cover, to local favourites Laura Cole Band and the Dinner Belles. Thompson Wilson also performed a solo later in the evening, as well as playing a heartfelt set with his father earlier in the day. People of Hamilton spent the day at Christie Lake chilling and exploring what it’s like to take over a Dundas hotspot for a day and celebrate music to recognize one of Hamilton’s greatest assets: its connection with the Green Belt.

I spent the morning laughing at social media comments, the unsatisfied masses of kids and die hard hipsters complaining that Iron and Wine didn’t make the bill. Angry fans whining online that Harvest picnic isn’t what it promised:

The social media commentary got me reflecting on what it was like to cover festivals like this in Toronto three years ago. It’s rare that concerts work towards the hospitality experienced at Harvest Picnic. From pay what you can t-shirts to organic milk samples and free water that didn’t suck, it was hard not to feel like the $90 ticket was well worth the price. For photographers, it was a paradise. With an open pit, each photographer had as much time as they needed for most of the acts during the day. Toronto festivals should take note. That being said, the Harvest Picnic has really missed out on some media opportunities in previous years (it was near-impossible to get in touch with PR to cover it as a independent blog) and Neil Young did bail on a show a few years ago, but the Harvest Picnic was never about what celebrity was playing or dealing with negative PR. It’s about farmers, community, and organic produce. It’s about leaving the city behind and enjoying the scenic view of Christie Lake, watching the sunset over the trees and forgeting where we came from. It’s about uniting a community together for a common good and celebrate rural Ontario.

Greenbelt Harvest Picnic Wood Fried Pizza at the Greenbelt Harvest Picnic  Indian Tacos at the Green Belt Harvest Picnic

Harvest Picnic Highlights

The Harvest Picnic is just a taste of what Hamilton was before the hip streets of James North, or “quirky” town of Dundas became a thing. Hamilton is a city with a history of steel production, but it has always been closely associated with nature. A blue collar city surrounded by forests and natural beauty. It was no surprise that a wave of attendants returned to their vehicles and headed home after a satisfying set by Gordon Lightfoot.


Old and New at the Harvest Picnic

For a lot of festival goers, Kathleen Edwards and Lightfoot stole the show. The festival was large in numbers but it felt short of breaking attendance records. Traditionally the Harvest festival has not been designed for millennials, most of which probably never had to listen to the “Edmond Fitzgerald” in elementary school, so appreciating the presence of Canadian stardom might feel unfamiliar. Hearing Gordon Lightfoot play live was a once in a lifetime experience.

Gordon Lightfoot performs at Harvest Picnic 2015

This year was geared a bit differently, with the headlining performers aimed toward a younger crowd. It saw the presence of budding Hamilton artists, some upcoming and some that have reached the heights of Canadian stardom, a feat that can be overlooked in this country. Events like Harvest Picnic give opportunities for these musicians to have a local voice and reach new audiences, and independent media a chance to promote the bands.

Arkells perform at Harvest Picnic 2015

Music Festivals in Hamilton

Hamilton ambassadors, Arkells, rallied up an energetic crowd, and Bahamas commented that there was the perfect balance of cheer and chill. Were these guys bullshitting us? Or was Harvest Picnic a bit more than the average outdoor concert? The local focus was present, and it was reminiscent of the communal culture of Portland. Seeing food trucks and local businesses interact with the community is a refreshing experience for large events like this. Nobody gave an explicit impression that they were really selling anything, and the relaxed vibe of the festival kept concert-goers occupied with music and crafts. Did we mention water refill stations were easy to find and free?

Crowd enjoying the sunny afternoon at Harvest Picnic 2015

     Acrobatic performances at Harvest Picnic 2015Quills featured at Harvest Picnic 2015

Not just another Hamilton music festival

From charging a cell phone on a electric-generating bicycle (what is greener than that?) to a booth where you could write free letters on a type writer, the festival portrayed a natural delivery to the curiosity and freedom of youth. Watching kids type old school letters to each other was a bit archaic. But overall it was refreshing without an apple computer set up to a big screen where someone is offering a prize. This festival was much more low key. The selfies seemed to be at a minimum, and there were no tobacco tents like festivals previously attended at Fort York. Even the radio booths were relaxed and less chaotic than normal. But that’s because this wasn’t Edgefest, and it wasn’t WayHome. There was no piles of garbage, and the crowd kept the grounds clean It was a peaceful homegrown event that has been running for 10 years in Hamilton, and hopefully continues to flourish without losing its organic roots.

Food trucks at night in Christie Lake

Food trucks at night at Christie Lake

Setlist and Showtimes

The festival started around 11:00am and finished well before midnight, giving plenty of time to explore the many local businesses propped in booths around the fairgrounds. The festival felt like day camp for big kids, showcasing the beauty of Christie Lake, promoting awareness of the agricultural relationship between a healthy community and the preservation of the green belt.   11:55am Dinner Belles Set included Aaron Goldstein on pedal steel guitar. Led by the wonderful Terra Lightfoot, The Dinner Belles played notable tracks such “Till The Dawn” (a fave by local blogger I Heart Hamilton) and an appropriate folk kudos to Willie Nelson’s “I Couldn’t Believe It Was True.

greenbelt harvest picnic dinner belles

12:45 Martha Wainwright Martha talked new music and life post pregnancy as a musician. Played catchy tunes such as “Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole”, “Bleeding All Over You”, and “Four Black Sheep

martha wainwright harvest picnic

2:30pm Lee Harvey Osmond Family man and local folk favourite Tom Wilson and his band, Lee Harvey Osmond, played a well-received setlist with his son on bass guitar. Performances included “Devil’s Load”, and the quintessential 90s

throwback to Junkhouse’s “Shine“. lee harvey osmond harvest picnic

3:05pm Laura Cole Hometown favourite and recent Hamilton Music Award recipient Laura Cole jazzed up the festival with her raspy voice, singing “On My Own”, “The Only One”, and “Dirty Cheat” all performed barefoot.

laura cole harvest picnic 2015

3:25pm Kathleen Edwards A bitchin’ performance by Kathleen Edwards left women with girl boners and men wanting to jump on stage. Her fierce performance resonated with the crowd. Highlights included “Chamelon / Comedian” and “Change The Sheets”. The festival favourite as far as twitter was concerned.


4:20 Basia Bulat Appropriately timed, folk artist Basia Bulat serenaded the very chill crowd at Harvest Greenbelt Picnic.


6:25 The Rural Alberta Advantage A setlist that seemed to be dedicated to natural disasters, the RAA took charge opening for Gordon Lightfoot and adding a last minute energetic force to the festival.


7:30 Gordon Lightfoot. A festival favourite, Lightfoot’s performance was well received by a strong fan presence.

Gordon Lightfoot performing at Harvest Picnic 2015

8:25 Thompson Wilson Playing a swift set, Thompson handled the time restraints of following a Gordon Lightfoot performance like a champ. Shout outs to Harlan Pepper.


8:45 Bahamas Juno award winning Bahamas played a psychadelic set and commented on the crowd having “The right amount of excitement and chill. There is something in the picnic water.” Live performance included songs like “All I’ve Ever Known”, “I got you Babe”, and “Caught me thinkin.


9:50 Arkells It’s the Arkells, and they love Hamilton. They recently filmed their latest music video in local vinyl shop Cheapies for their hit, 11:11. Fan favourites included “Come To Light”, “Never thought that this would happen” and “11:11

Max from the Arkells performing at Harvest Picnic 2015





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