Celebrating community and arts in Hamilton.
Fire, paint and water.
After a record hot summer, Supercrawl is back.
It’s that time of the year when all the fresh students, local hipsters and out-of-towners come to Hamilton and take in the sights and sounds of the annual Supercrawl. They put on their respective campus shirt, whether it’s a Mohawk college or McMaster University, or the trendy Hamilton is Home or Hamilton Hustles Harder. All the cool kids come out to rep a city that only 10 years ago or so was still the butt-end of a stupid joke. Now we consider possibilities with resilience and hope, the type of city that survives and rebuilds itself after steel is no longer sustainable. The people here could care less about the negative insights of naysayers—they are looking for a vision of something better.
Arts & Community
The arts is the foundation of Supercrawl. It feels like our own version of NXNE comes to Hamilton, but without all the politics that come with being run by VICE magazine. Independent media is encouraged and photographers are always welcome to the front of the stage during Supercrawl. It’s designed to be an all-inclusive event, and that ethos is felt by how seriously the organizers took criticisms of last year’s event, working even harder to make Supercrawl what it is. That is, in a nutshell, what Hamilton is about.
Hamilton’s international arts
Supercrawl has been the antidote for Hamilton’s poor perception since it started in 2009. It still maintains its roots as a mixed bag of art, food and whatever else fits in between. You can find Hamilton buskers (that guy with the smoking dog, and the kids who tell him to stop it), food trucks, art galleries and outdoor art installations to attract the attention of the masses for a weekend and get people talking about Hamilton. Talking with people on the streets at this year’s festival, there was a noticeably brighter tone to the flow of people art crawling along James North compared to last year, when the festival was paused due to weather.
Late night crowds
It was during the second night of Supercrawl 2016 at the packed Strumbellas show, a little wet and caught up in the energy of the crowd, that I bumped into Tim Potocic and thanked him. Tim is the fighting force who is behind the blood, sweat, and tears of organizing this festival — you could tell that he was pleased with the results.
The Strumbellas shake hands with Hamilton
Attracting a crowd comparable to the Arkells, but not nearly as packed or chaotic, The Strumbellas shook hands with Hamilton. Moving the venue back to its roots and leaving King St. out of the equation pairs well for a happy Supercrawl 2016. For a free concert, Supercrawl tops in value compared to other summer festivals in the city.
Day 1: The Trews
The Canadian Rock staples were at ease as they engaged with a huge crowd singing along to radio favourites like Highway of Heroes, So She’s Leaving, and Tired of Waiting on Friday night. Lead singer Colin noted that Hamilton is a great city to come and perform in, noting The Reason as Hamilton born talent. No doubt that having The Trews headline the main stage was a good choice, with most of the crowds focusing on the YHM beer tents and main stage. There was well placed shelter from any rain, as well as easy access to music without standing in the middle of the street.
On the other side of the street was Toronto’s Fucked Up, which is exactly how it sounds—a shitshow of epic punk proportions, appropriately staged in the North side of Hamilton. Music was everywhere for those who wanted to tune up from the friendliness of The Trews, once again appealing to the diversity that has traditionally defined this festival. Attracting acts like K-Os and Broken Social Scene came in the past because of the growing connections people have to our arts community. Despite the gentrification along James North, there was still time to put on a punk show for the die-hards and bring some business to one of the most “real” places in Hamilton.
Community spirit as people gather despite moments of rain
A photo posted by Jill (@dsnrepeat) on
Something for everyone
Day two consisted of a whacky humidity that made the food trucks all the more appetizing. Having a horrible stomach for deep fried and delicious things, I cautiously sampled the Brazilian food truck from Toronto for a Pulled Pork poutine. Delicious and awesome to see some diversity at the festival on the food front. Even better that the food trucks were not all stacked in one place, some even setting up shop past Barton.
A photo posted by Savannah Chase (@savannahchase69) on
#supercrawl2016 #JamesStNorth #Hamilton #LastDay #Day3 #SuperCrawl #Hammer #SteelCity
A video posted by Alessandra Faria (@alefaria13) on
Hamilton Art Installations
The most obvious and personal favourite was the monumental garbage display, Overflows in the middle of James street by José Luis Torres. This striking mess of plastic-made junk coming out of a shipping container was boldly set on the streets of Hamilton to draw selfie photos and possibly some critical thought.
There were several art installations marked throughout the city. One of the coolest and my second favourite was the CLOUD installation by Donna Akrey (Hamilton, ON). I don’t know if this was some serious meta parody on last year’s cloud coverage, but the website describes it as “pushing an absurdist form of cloud cover up and down the festival route.” Bravo Donna. For anyone who saw someone pushing a fluffy marshmallow lookin’ cloud around, – this is the kind of ironic art that keeps a Supercrawl entertaining without taking itself too seriously.
Fire Ski Ball
This hot game of Riskee Ball had line ups to take a chance at winning a big fireball to the face. Put on by Site 3 Fire Arts, this art piece was a crowd favourite and an appropriate segway to Circus Orange.
Day 2: Circus Orange
A fiery spectacle of wall climbing and pyrotechnics mesmerized a packed York Street with the performance art of festival favourites Circus Orange. Between gong hits and explosive displays of flames, the crowd enjoyed a light show that included an illuminating fireworks display.
The debate over whether the festival has become too big to maintain its roots remains to be seen. If Supercrawl evolved into something bigger that brought people deeper into James North and helped the communities closer to the waterfront, it would be a total win. Especially with the potential of performances like these, it would be cool to see something other than the steel mills that could light up the night across the lake.
Hamilton Supercrawl is here to stay
The grand purpose of Supercrawl is to showcase Hamilton’s diverse arts community, a story that has now become the least kept secret for hungry Torontonians wanting to experience this beauty that is Hamilton. And for a weekend, James St was so populated that it feels safer than it ever has, with local artists gaining amplified attention as the city draws people from Burlington, Oakville and Toronto. Sure, there was a Vegan Fest going on in Toronto that might have distracted some – and Hamilton’s Locke Street festival just a hop, skip, and jump away that hopefully attracted some of the Supercrawl pot. And maybe the infrastructure on James North can’t handle having a billion customers at once. For the artists that get exposure, the restaurants that capitalize on the traffic and the business that make a profit, it’s forgivable that most of these hot spots were closed for recovery on Monday. This year it wasn’t from malaise of weather, but from exhaustion of working hard all weekend. For its eighth year, Supercrawl 2016 was definitely a remarkable success over the last year’s #WaterCrawl. The festival’s ability to adapt to it’s growing presence is a hopeful sign that Supercrawl isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
*Although I didn’t get a chance to catch the bands that are more familiar to the local scene (Mother Tereka, Emay), I know that independent blogs Cut From Steel and I Heart Hamilton will be able to represent a respective chunk of music we had to miss. That being said, this year’s festival was HUGE. Covering it by yourself is practically impossible, so shout outs to all independent media that continue to promote and share stories about the city even when it feels payless. As newspapers like The Toronto Star and other media lay off more employees, the function of independent journalism becomes more important for our community. Please support journalism efforts.