Will Ross’ musical journey began back in middle school when he formed his first band, Broken Exit. He’d go on to form a local ska troupe, the Jolly Rogers, and then forge a few musical paths with Psychedelicatessin and his own solo material. But when we last caught up with Ross about this time last year, he was reuniting his old band the Jolly Rogers for a ten–year anniversary event and quietly releasing his solo CDEP debut – just as he was deciding to leave the Hamilton area for sunnier climbs. A year later and Ross is back, at least for a visit.
“Even though I play guitar, harmonica, and sing during my solo performances, it’s not quite the old, slow, folkie stuff you may think of when someone mentions that’s what they do,” offers Ross. “I have always had a fondness for many different bands, Neil Young being one of my all time favourites. I had a lot of time trying to think of how I could compare the solo stuff but I would say that it’s Neil Young met John Butler and Sublime. With my bands, I loved them to death but sometimes the songs I wrote just didn’t fit in with what we were doing so I had to expand my horizons that way. It has been a hell of a journey that resulted in the release of the EP Over The Counter Culture last year and has allowed me to tour a lot of Canada.
“The journey continued, I think it was pretty timely though,” adds Ross. “I had been planning on making the move out west for a while now and I absolutely love it out there. I basically wanted to leave so that I could tour all over the west coast, which has been an incredible experience. Being in that much nature just makes me feel really at home. Hamilton has a lot of nature to which I do love, but it isn’t quite the same.”
With a performance secured at an Ontario festival, Ross included a return to his hometown to catch up with family friends and fans with two local concerts that feature music from his old band and his latest solo CD.
“I wanted to come back to play at Come Together music festival, and also to visit my family and friends here,” explains Ross. The shows at Casbah and Corktown are just icing on the cake and will allow me to play for even more of my friends here. There is definitely a special feeling about being able to come home and play for all my family and friends after almost a year away on the road. I am really excited to show everyone here how hard I have been working over the past year and how much genuinely better the live performance has become. I know a lot of fans from Hamilton and the surrounding area are going to make it out to both shows so it will be a great time. Codi and Dan of Psychedelicatessin have been playing together in a new project Toadhouse since I left, and Kurt just formed up with a new funk band from Owen Sound called Flat Five. Had the pleasure of seeing them for the first time at Come Together last weekend and they were great. It will be a great feeling to reunite and play music together as a band because we all started out together and it just makes playing that much more fun. We had our first practice in a long time last week, it was like falling into a familiar groove that makes everything else go away, and the music takes over. It was a great feeling and I can’t wait to have it on stage with them again. We are working on some new songs as well so that it’s not the same old Tessin show you always saw.
“I think that if anyone who has never heard of The Rogers, or Tessin, or Will Ross before comes out to the shows either Friday or Saturday will really love it,” adds Ross. I would tell people to definitely try to make it to both nights, reason being is that they are going to be so sonically different from one another, but both still very good. You will not hear the same thing twice that’s for sure. I look forward to seeing as many of you out there as possible and I can’t wait to show Hamilton what I have been doing to represent our city across the country. It’s an honour to be from a city with such a rich music history and I hope that in my own little way I can help add a chapter to the story that is Hamilton music.”
Will Ross plays at the Casbah this Friday Sept 6 with Kirby opening. Show starts at 9:00. $10 gets you in. Will Ross and Psychedelicatessin play Saturday Sept 7 at The Corktown. Show starts at 9:00 and $10 gets you in.
Locke Street Festival
With their fourteenth anniversary, the Locke Street Festival returns with more music, arts and crafts and activities to do for their annual street closing multi block party. Last year, the festival brought out a reported 20,000 people over twelve hours and things got a little too busy during the Dinner Belles live performance. The live stage was closed down before Harrison Kennedy could perform because of the wealth of people but this year, the festival continues with some lessons learned.
Over 200 venders are scheduled this year and the live music remains an important factor: The West Town Bar and Grill Stage returns but beside the famous eatery this time out, in addition to a stage at Judy Marsales Real Estate Office and at Jamie Reid’s Picks and Sticks music store.
“I got into music retail back in 2007, prior to that I was in marketing and hospitality,” offers Picks and Sticks owner and Locke Street Festival co–organizer Jamie Reid on the development of his retail outlet on Locke Street. “I was in the corporate world and I wanted to get out of it. I wanted something a little closer to home so that I could be with the kids more and came up with a concept and knew that I had some friends that could help me out like Chris Houston, Gord Lewis, Dave Rave, all the Westdale boys. I put the concept together and it turned out good for us. I’ve been keeping all of the musicians I’ve known since we were kids employed.”
“The West Town Stage has been moved to have a little more control and try to contain it a bit, I think,” adds Reid. “We’re spreading [the musical entertainment] out a little more this year so we’re having a central stage and a stage at the north and south ends of Locke Street so we’ve covered off the whole street with stages, which is kind of nice.”
Reid himself a Westdale High School grad from ‘75 has a long history with music in the city and his stage is affectionately dubbed the Westdale Alumni Stage.
“Chris [Houston] was a little bit younger than us but I hung out with Gord [Lewis], Nick [Stipanitz], Frank [Kerr] and Steve [Marshall, all of Teenage Head] and Steve Park and Dave [Rave] and Rick Andrew [of the Shakers],” explains Reid on his high school days. “We all came from the same neighbourhood and had a similar interest in music so we all kind of hung out. It’s good to celebrate all of the great music that came out of Westdale.
“But we start the day off on our stage with Picks and Sticks Kids, this is where bands like Illusion Avenue came out of,” adds Reid. “It’s a camp for kids from 8 to 13 and we bring them together in a band situation and they learn how to play their instruments in an ensemble or band concept. We do that in the morning. Then we go into the house band with a bunch of guests. The house band are our instructors; Chris Houston, Anthony Goodine and Jack Peddler. And the guests are residential community members and business community members, guys that play instruments but not with a band. And then, starting at Noon we celebrate the music of Westdale High School.”
The Westdale Alumni stage hosted by Dave Rave features Matt Paxton, Chris Houston, and Rave himself for a full band set. You can also check out Mary Simon, Harrison Kennedy, Tomi Swick, BOB, Dave Ptolemy, Illusion Avenue, the Abbreviations, Michael Vallely, Gone Gorilla, the Bar Chords and dozens of other area musicians on all of the stages at the Locke Street Festival. Click on lockefestival.ca for the full schedule. For this festival, it is very much about the people that live and work in the immediate surroundings but that doesn’t mean you’ve got to be from Locke Street to enjoy what this festival offers.
“This festival is about the community on Locke Street,” says Reid. “This is my community and where I grew up. It’s actually quite different from a lot of the other communities. The people in the area grew up there, started businesses and some of the people that left have even come back. We even have the Hammer City Roller Girls involved with this year’s festival. A lot of the Roller Girls live and work in our community so we have them involved promoting their sport and helping out as unofficial marshals of the festival. They’re going to be hosts and showing everybody what they do with their spare time.
“There is a lot of character on Locke Street,” adds Reid. “It’s a fun festival with lots of activities and lots to do for the kids. We try to gear the festival more family oriented and there are tons of activities for everyone. We’re different from other festivals. We’re not a music festival but a festival with music; we’re not really an art festival but a festival with art. But most of the people who are involved are people who live in the community. It’s just going to be a good fun festival and everyone can attend.”
The Locke Street Festival happens this Saturday September 7 from 10am to 11pm. Admission is free, for more info click on lockefestival.ca
Boy With An Atlas
Riley Alex Ducharme (vocals, rhythm guitar), Jillian Kooymans (trumpet, vocals), Spencer Jones (piano, bass, synth, vocals), Simon Marsello (bass, mandolin, tenor saxophone), and Shane Bowley (percussion) individually come from Markham, Toronto, Goderich and Montreal but they came together as Boy With An Atlas while studying at McMaster University in 2011.
“I initially was just supposed to sing, but they found out I used to play trumpet so that became my primary instrument,” recalls Kooymans. “I grew up in Markham as a huge musical theatre geek. I’ve been doing musicals since I was 12 and playing trumpet in band class for about as long. I think the four of us bring out the best in each other musically, and while we all come from different styles, we come together to make our own unique sound. I never really thought a trumpet would fit into an indie rock band, but the music that Riley and Spencer write really work with it, and they find a lot of ways to feature it.
“I think the band’s name, Boy With An Atlas, kind of represents how we all come from different places,” adds Kooymans. “It was just the four of us initially, but then earlier this year we added a drummer. We all just really wanted an opportunity to play music and get our music out there. It was just convenient that we found a group of people that we are able to do this with that we not only work well with musically, but also get along with so well as friends. From that first time that we got together in the common room of Riley and Spencer’s residence building and bashed through Mumford and Sons’ “Little Lion Man,” it just kind of worked.”
The music of Mumford and Sons is an easy musical touchstone for the music of BWAA on their debut CDEP recorded at Threshold Recording Studio with producer Michael Keire. With a very timely sound, this very young band could easily attract attention that might push the band into other levels, but for the time being BWAA are working out their life’s goals, post secondary education and just what they will do with their lives. For the time being, it’s about the enjoyment of the music they make together as Boy With An Atlas.
“It’s been hard because we are all individually focused on our academics as well as our band,” offers Kooymans. “As much as we would love to make it and be constantly promoting our work and playing gigs, Spencer is applying to medical school this year, I am applying to masters programs, Riley is up to his ears in coursework and Simon is newly graduated so he is also looking for employment. We would all love to be able to work in the music business, but we are still learning about what that might mean.
“Given all that, we knew we wanted an EP to kind of show our progress over the last couple of years as a band and to have something to give our fan base so we picked our favourite songs and got down to recording them,” adds Kooymans. “We’ll be putting it up on bandcamp.com as well as selling hard copies. And since it’s done, we are all about the music so why wouldn’t we celebrate the achievement of releasing a CD with a night full of music? We can’t wait to share the stage with some great musicians and get as many people as possible out for an awesome night of music and beer.” V
Boy With An Atlas plays this Sunday September 8 at the Casbah with the Conservation Authority, Miniver Sail and Dana Swarbrick. Show starts at 9pm and $10 gets you in, $5 gets you a CD. Click on facebook.com/boywithanatlas