AGH Annex Music Series
Annette Paiement, Manager of Film, Performance and Special Events for the Art Gallery of Hamilton, has helped spearhead the AGH Annex on James Street North adding an element of art from the AGH’s perspective to the grassroots community development. With the AGH Annex Music Series, Paiement hopes to add artistic elements of live music that help bring people to James Street on nights beyond the regular monthly Art Crawls.
“The AGH Design Annex is an extension of the AGH which features home and office Art and Design and also functions as a rental space,” explains Paiement. “The goal of the AGH Design Annex was to create a creativity lab where experimental exhibitions could be mounted as well as intimate performances could be staged. We are working diligently to promote the space and build a music audience. Each show has been well received so far and the performances and ‘Q&A’ format at the end of the performances have been a great way for artists to dialogue with their audiences about their song writing styles, musical influences and, in many instances, their cultural upbringing. As the space is still very young, we are working diligently to get the word out that we are a performance space, which holds events on non–art crawl evenings.”
With the latest edition of the AGH Music Series, Paiement offers some of her favourite singer songwriter types in an eclectic blend of talents that bridge folk, pop and very eclectic elements familiar to the local stage. With most events, a promoter tries to program performers to draw an artist's fans to a performance space but perhaps with the AGH Annex Music Series, this event is more about exposing an existing AGH arts fan unfamiliar with bar stages to perhaps more novel musicians.
“My goal is to do a bit of both,” offers Paiement. “What I have been experiencing thus far is a brand new audience with a mix of new and old. The shows have been well received. The feedback has been positive. Many have been happy to hear artists they haven't been exposed to previously. I really enjoy Robyn [Dell’Unto]'s live performance, energy and stage presence. She has an incredible sense of humour and extremely talented. I have wanted to include her in a line–up for some time. Matthew [de Zoete] tours quite a bit, however doesn't play Hamilton all that much. I love his song writing and vibe and thought that he and Robyn although very different in their styles would complement each other. Both write great songs in the genre they work in, which takes me to Wax Mannequin who is also very prolific and unique. I liked the combination because all three have their own unique voice and presence.
“These shows are for all music lovers,” adds Paiement. “It is warm inside the Annex, we have a bar, and the room is cozy. My main goal is to create an evening which not only the audience enjoys but also the songwriters. As the space is small and intimate, it is important for everyone to be engaged in the experience and for open dialogue to happen. It really is all about the music. The goal of the space is that of a creativity lab.”
Matthew de Zoete, Robyn Dell’Unto and Wax Mannequin perform this Friday January 18 at the AGH Design Annex. Show starts at 8:00pm and tickets are $12 for AGH Members and $15 General Admission. Click on artgalleryofhamilton.com/da_performance.php
The Monarch Project
One of the newer groups on the scenes have been making music for a while individually. Joe Boudreau (vocals, guitar), Jose Batista (vocals, guitar), James Rae Girt (bass) and Rob Nagy (drums) came together to form, the Monarch Project and took a decidedly Anglophile appreciation of music to the local stage. Listing the Beatles, the Yardbirds as influences seem obvious for the Monarch Project and there is definitely an Oasis type vibe they’re projecting on the band’s debut 7–inch single A Better Part of You/Desire.
“Butterflies in general have some fantastic imagery with evolution and such drastic changes in stages of life,” Boudreau ruminates philosophically on the choice of band moniker. “But the Monarch [butterfly] in particular is amazing because of the feats they over come to travel across a continent through multiple generations, and then once they've reached their destination, they just turn around to do it again, in a single life back to where they came from three generations prior. We are all here only temporarily until we move on but I guess any creation of art is an attempt to defeat that and become immortal.
“The only reason we decided to make a physical copy of our music available, was because we agreed that these songs had reached a peak potential and without taking them to the level of recorded music, they would just remain in that place and would probably fade from our own perspective as we grew more tired of trying to make it better each time,” adds Boudreau. “It's hard to determine whether or not we actually built upon our influences. For you to recognize that Oasis is definitely in my record collection, at least lets me know that I hit that mark but if I've gone beyond it is a little less clear.”
What’s obvious is the Monarch Project has been developing their skills in a growing scene along King William Street. The new 7–inch underscores that fact with the choice of artwork.
“The convenience store is just the accidental subject,” offers Boudreau on the 7–inch cover photo. “I saw the symmetry of that building one night after playing our first show on the street. I imagined it exactly the way it ended up on the cover so when it came time to decide on a look for the 45 I already knew what it had to be. It's good because years from now when I want to hear these songs, the whole experience of putting that record on will be filled with positive memory of 2012. I would love if the image sparks conversation about the state of music, quality, the age of convenience, or even the topic of architectural preservation and restoration in Hamilton. It says a lot really without the intention. King William has been good to us for developing. In the New Year, we hope to move away from this area and give it a break, and explore some new grounds. For us, this is a huge step just to allow ourselves to get booked. Without material available to demonstrate the style you're doing, it’s pretty hard for a promoter to agree to put you on a half decent bill and take a risk of you being terrible or not bringing anyone out.”
Produced by Roman Marcone and the band at Catherine North Studio, the new Monarch Project 7–inch is a confident calling card for promoter and fan alike. It’s sonically solid and introduces what could be another great band developing in our local Hamilton scene – but don’t tell that to Boudreau and company.
“If I said that I don't see any future in anything in Hamilton, it would only be because I can only stand hearing so many times in one day how amazing it is to be creating in Hamilton,” notes Boudreau. “And if I said that something is boiling and ready to explode, it would be redundant because no one outside of Hamilton will read it and we all know it anyway. So, I reserve my opinion of the scene in Hamilton, but I am very excited to be part of whatever is or isn't going to happen. I try not to be cynical, and I make a poor cheerleader so I'm stuck in the middle. Truthfully though, scenes build and explode and fade — and people go with them. My intention is to make music for the rest of my life.”
The Monarch Project plays this Saturday January 19 at Homegrown Hamilton with the Human Race, the Rosy Red and Haolin Munk. Tickets are $7 in advance. Click on themonarchproject.bandcamp.com
Steve McKay’s Soft Focus
Steve McKay has long been making musical waves in the city as a solo artist or in a variety of outfits like Bruce Peninsula, the High Kites and more. But this weekend, McKay offers the debut of a musical series meant to focus on the art of songwriting with some of his favourite songwriters.
“Hamilton is hard to crack from the outside, so you need a connection on the inside to get anything going,” offers McKay on his new music series dubbed Soft Focus. “I've spent a lot of time touring and playing with other bands, and since moving back to town, I've become the Hamilton connection for those people. If I can use that status as a way to encourage artists and bands who would otherwise skip Hamilton to come do a show and then give them a good experience, it's good for everybody.
“To me, a soft focus snapshot or film is something nostalgic,” McKay adds on the Soft Focus moniker. “I picture a time when people would use soft focus to make a scene more romantic and it screams simpler times to me. That soft focus effect makes me think about the Tin Pan Alley era, for whatever reason and Tin Pan Alley represents the height of the art of songwriting. The term singer–songwriter has lost its original meaning and has come to mean strummy strum three chord songs on CBC radio 2. To me, it's the same as what happened to the indie movement — it stopped being about the indie–ness and became the same predictable sound. I'd like to put the emphasis back on the exploration of songwriters with this series. Maybe I'm the only one who feels this way, but I actually like it when people are playful with music. You know, a twist here, a leap there. It's more exciting for me as a listener and as a musician if you keep me on my toes a bit. Put that together with the fact that a lot of my favourite songwriters are afraid to come to Hamilton because they think nobody will show, and you get a new series.
The debut of Soft Focus allows McKay to offer two artists that he believes deserve attention from locals and as an added bonus offers up his own solo music as well.
“This series will highlight artists who play around with songwriting form, arrangements, convention, lyrical content and style,” explains McKay. “The series will be bi–monthly and will move around the city from venue to venue, depending on the bill. Soft Focus 1 features, in my mind, some of the best songwriters that Southern Ontario has to offer: The Bicycles, all four members are great songwriters, similar to Sloan or the Beatles and Samir Khan of Tusks. Obviously I love songwriting more than anything, and as a songwriter myself, I'm all about strange chords that you don't expect or an extra phrase here and there. I write my songs with other songwriters in mind, pretty much always, and I try to do something new with every song.
“It's a bit strange to feature yourself in a series that claims to be about good songwriting, because that's just plain cocky,” adds McKay. “Well, the fact is that I'm a pretty good songwriter and that most people who like me are going to like the Bicycles and Tusks. Actually, if you like my stuff at all, you'll probably like everything that I book for Soft Focus. Saturday's show is for lovers of the Beach Boys, Paul McCartney, Elvis Costello, Paul Simon and The Police. The way I see it, if you like any of the above, you are going to be pleased.” V
Soft Focus happens this Saturday January 19 at This Ain’t Hollywood with the Bicycles, Tusks and Steve McKay. Click on Stevemckay.ca