A Midsummer's Dream
An extraordinary explosion of colour and music takes over Gage Park this weekend for the third annual A Midsummer’s Dream festival.
“I was born and raised in Hamilton, went to Mohawk College for marketing and I’ve lived here mostly my whole life,” offers A Midsummer’s Dream founder Mark Gowland. “I got the idea for this festival after I had just finished working at a marketing firm and I saw this festival of colours in Utah and I thought that was the most amazing thing and I want to experience that and I wanted to do that here. I called the guy who organized the festival in Utah and he’s been my mentor on how to do it ever since. It’s been my own expression to give to the city of Hamilton a massive force for good.
“When I tell people it’s this festival where you throw colour on other people, they raise an eyebrow but when they actually get there, they just get it,” adds Gowland. “It’s one thing to say it and it’s another thing to experience it, which is the best thing about it.”
The Holi inspired festival, to celebrate peace, unity, and fellowship has people buying packets of Cornstarch mixed with food colouring and some perfume and then on an hourly basis huddling together and throwing it up at the air and at each other. Music plays on the bandstand and onlookers gawk in amazement at the mess. The popularity of the event has grown dramatically in its first two years although there are some local detractors.
“The first year I lost money but I had enough powder to hold me over so I thought I’d give it another go,” notes Gowland. “And then last year, the attendance tripled so that really let me know the city loves it and supports it and that this festival is going to continue to grow. Approximately 2000 people attending in 2013.
“There were some people that had some issues but I tried talking to them,” adds Gowland. “One of the greatest things they told me was that they were the most respectful festival goers that they had and the people that came in from the other festivals came in drunk and angry. Even though they made a bit of a mess, they were really respectful, polite and happy.”
It’s a mass of humanity, music and mess for a beautiful sunny afternoon in Gage Park and without alcohol present or a massive corporate presence, A Midsummer’s Dream makes for Hamilton’s own summer of love — at least for one afternoon.
“I’m willing to help out people who are giving it a real solid go and their message is really good,” says Gowland on the musical artists he’s included. “I want this festival to help out everyone involved in some way. That’s why Hachey has been with me every year and he’s headlining again. The Human Orchestra is really good — I wanted to celebrate everything that is Hamilton basically. A lot of people are calling it a hippy festival but I like to look at it as a day where people come and have fun. It’s a really interactive festival. It encourages people to get messy, have fun and smile.
“We’re raising food for Living Rock Ministries with food donations as your admission and one hundred percent of the donations at the Creativity Temple will be going to the McMaster Children’s Hospital,” adds Gowland. “I’m expecting between five and six thousand people. It’s for everyone. Anyone who wants to make new friends should come out. Anyone who is having a bad day should come out. It’s an inclusive event and is really meant for everybody.”
A Midsummer’s Dream happens this Saturday August 16 in Gage Park from 12pm to 9:30pm. Music happens throughout the day with Hachey the MouthPEACE, the Human Orchestra, the Rhythm Church, Beautiful Nothing, City and the Sea, P.O.E, No Shoes One Sock, the Perpetual Peace Project, Tom Wolf, Funk DNA, the Latin Vintage Orchestra, David Hickey, the Lad Classic, Daryl Switzer, Alex Gunby, Sophie Shy and more. A non–perishable food item for Living Rock Ministries gets you in. click on midsummersdream.ca
The Thirty–Ninth Annual Dundas Cactus Festival
The three–day Dundas Cactus Festival celebrating cacti and a whole lot more takes over downtown Dundas this weekend with Big Time Productions’ John Balogh spearheading the musical programming for the event.
“I’ve been involved about 30 of the last 39 years of the Dundas Cactus Festival,” notes Balogh. “The all volunteer board of directors for the festival has grown in stature and everyone involved has helped to really develop a solid template for an excellent weekend of entertainment. I’m just one spoke of the wheel here.
“The board makes suggestions for the musical talent and we take suggestions from people of what they’d like to see on our Facebook.com page,” adds Balogh. “This year our newest addition is we’ve actually added a fourth stage set up in front of Records On Wheels sponsored by the Avalon Music Academy and it’s for strictly Dundas artists exclusively. Dundas native Steve Parton has really helped out with this stage and he’s got a good pulse on the Dundas stuff.
Allotrope, Sinking Ships, Good Anya, Social Animals, Steven Collett, the Dukes, Jennifer Beehler and more represent Dundas proud on the special staging making the programming a little different from many of the other festivals in Balogh’s opinion.
“Ten or fifteen years ago, there were only four or five festivals in the entire region – now we have twenty–two area festivals and we’re not in Arizona so we’re lucky to have two months of good weather for these festivals,” reasons Balogh. “The size of the festivals has grown enormously and if you don’t start to base stuff on uniqueness, everybody ends up with the same bands on the festival run. We mix it up so that we’re not the same. We’ve got a lot of new stuff including the Hell Bent Rockers Friday night on Stage 1 and Russ Wilson, Radio Free Universe and Tommy Gunn on Saturday and the on Sunday we totally diversify on the same stage with the Southern Comfort Dixieland band.
“You get a real special group of musicians at this year’s Cactus Fest,” adds Balogh. “The headliners on Friday on the main stage include Life of Riley and the Spoons and on Saturday Sonny Del Rio and His Five Star Revue and we turn completely different with an amazing rapper named Crossword followed by Troy Harmer and the Persuaders and then a big band the Small Town Get up. And our headliners—Groove Corporation opens up for Platinum Blonde. This is Platinum Blonde’s thirtieth anniversary so they’re doing all of their old catalogue but they’ve got a new album coming out this week as well.”
The free event very much reflects the perhaps more small town vibe that Dundas offers and for Balogh, it makes for the perfect setting for a great weekend out.
“There are tons of things to do for the whole family,” says Balogh. “There is lots of kids stuff and we’ve got a stage set up with just children’s entertainment all day Saturday and then local band Dead End Session plays it at 7pm. We’ve got arts and crafts, our ninth annual baby contest, the Robertson’s Midway and more. It’s a great family weekend. We’ve got a good all around year. It’s free so it’s probably the best value around if you want to take the family out.”
The Dundas Cactus Festival runs Friday august 15 (6pm – 11pm), Saturday August 16 (11am–11pm) and Sunday August 17 (11am–4pm). Click on Dundascactusfest.ca
With Alexisonfire and Saint Alvia packing it in, two long time musical chums came together to form a new band. Former Alexisonfire drummer Jordan ‘Ratbeard’ Hastings came together with former Saint Alvia guitarist Adam Mitchell and added bassist Michael Zane to form Say Yes in August of 2012 and two years later, they offer their long awaited eponymously titled debut CDEP.
“I was born in Hamilton at St. Joseph’s Hospital but we moved to North Bay while my mom went to school up there,” clarifies Hastings on historians confirming Alexisonfire’s Hamilton area roots. “We moved back to Hamilton after her schooling was done but we moved to Burlington shortly after that because of my mother’s work as a nurse. I was raised in Burlington since I was five but Adam is living in Hamilton these days — we’re spending more time there.
“Adam and I have known each other for close to twenty years now,” adds Hastings. “We played in bands together all through high school and we really developed a musical bond during that five year run. Then in our twenties, we remained very good friends. In between his touring and my touring, we’d get together and write songs. After both of our other bands ended, we were hanging out and I showed Adam some of the songs I had written. He wanted to work with me on the songs and so we needed a third party to round things out and we saw Mikey playing bass in a bar here in Burlington and asked him to jam with us. The songs began in my garage and then working with Adam, which brought the songs to life, and then with Mikey, the songs really took shape and we had a band. It started with me but the new album wouldn’t have happened without the three of us together.
With a free song introduction offered a year ago, the track called “Sunrise” suggested a much more pop oriented direction for Say Yes but with the entire CDEP, the band shows that while their individual tastes have matured as a power trio they offer a progressive post–rock edged collection of songs that fans of Queens of the Stone Age or otherwise could certainly sink their teeth into.
“I don’t think we we’re trying to write something specific,” says Mitchell. “Our song writing has matured as we’ve matured into adults as well so I think we came upon that way as it did.
“When you’ve been making music as long as we have, you’ve got to do something fancy sometimes to keep yourself entertained,” interjects Hastings. “This is an important project for us so we wanted to do it right. We’ve known Justin Koop since the ’90s and he’s an old friend. When we did this project, we definitely wanted to go with people we thought were like family. The artwork was done by our good friend Trevor Bowman, Greg Taylor of Saint Alvia and Jersey; he did our website for us. Our record label is Dine Alone Records, that’s run by Joel Carrier, and he and I have another business together. We’ve known each other for years. This EP is definitely a family thing I think.”
With their debut CDEP set for release this week, Say Yes offer a hometown Hamilton showcase for friends and family but are set to hit the road and bring the music to the people and will probably get a lot of attention, if only because of their previous bands.
“We’re heading out on a Canada wide tour and hoping to play as much as we possibly can,” says Hastings. “We hope everyone likes our new music obviously.
“But you could probably not like those bands and like Say Yes although you could like both of those bands and still like us,” laughs Hastings. “It’s really just heavy rock and roll and we hope people like it.
“On stage, we give it what we got and that’s how we like to do it,” adds Hastings. “We give everything we’ve got every time we play but one of our first gigs as a band was at the Casbah a couple of years ago, so it’s always kind of special playing there.” V
Say Yes plays this Tuesday August 19 at the Casbah with Teenage Kicks, Not of, Herd of Elk and more. Doors open at 8pm. Click on sayyesofficial.com