Burly Calling

A grassroots festival of independent rockers has turned into an annual seasonal instituition in the city of Burlington

A grassroots festival of independent rockers has turned into an annual seasonal instituition in the city of Burlington and this year, there will be nearly sixty artists playing this year’s Thirteenth Annual Burly Calling Festival at the Dickens, Queen’s Head, Wendel Clark’s and Oddspot in Burlington.
One time Saint Alvia and current Rules vocalist Ben Rispin, the Killin’ Time Band’s Brad Hails and Jesse Bye continue the tradition about supporting the local community and local talent. Rispin talks of it like a Burlington style punk rock roving raging Christmas party.

“It’s actually pretty remarkable we’ve kept this thing going for this long and I don’t know how Jesse keeps it up to be honest,” quips Rispin who works with Puff Digital, the Into the Weeds podcast and recently added to his resume the role of VP of A&R for Walk Off The Earth’s Golden Carrot label. “I’ve been busy with so many more things especially in the last year that it’s great that Brad and Jesse have helped develop into the real guys who put this whole show together.
Jake Reimer formerly of Voltang has two new solo songs available for streaming including “Everything Sucks” as well as a Nillson cover of “Coconut” but he gets two featured performances at this year’s festival. Something Different at Burly Calling is a family friendly show with no cover hosted by Jake Reimer on Saturday December 7 at the Oddspot (480 Brant St) with Royal Tea, Lazy Slang, Billy and the Crystals. And the Burly Calling annual Toy Drive kick off with Todd Knight and Lo–fi, The Killin Time Band, Jake Reimer, The Classy Wrecks, Nice Things, and Silvertone Hills happens Thursday December 5 at Joe Dog’s Gasbar Grill — $10 or $5 with a new unwrapped toy gets you in. For the participants, Burly Calling is an important showcase of music but also a great’ excuse to get together as well.
“Ben and I used this as a way to hang out and started working more and more on this together,” says Brad Hails. “While everyone does their own stuff all year, this is a downtown Burlington tradition where everyone comes together and gets a chance to hang out and listen to each other bands.”
Hails does double duty playing with The Killin’ Time Band as well as the quirky if not obscene Golden Beaver but everyone has had a hand in organizing these sixty performances but no one as much as Jesse Bye.

“I was more of a slug seven or eight years ago and helped out more in the last four or five years,” says Bye. “We re-focused this year to focus more on the southern Ontario talent we have so that the networking and talents were more locally based.”
“It was harder to develop local bands as bigger booking agents got involved in the area,” says Rispin. “We were booking something bigger and then be forced to deal with bands rather than focusing on more local bands. Having the bigger bands were great but it wasn’t helping the more and up and coming bands we have in this area so it made sense to make it more of a focus on the greater Hamilton, St. Catharines and Toronto area.”
Every year, an element of nostalgia is included in the more sentimental side of Burly Calling and this year a special showcase for the perhaps not forgotten Turn It Ups happens.
“The Turn It Ups’ original drummer was Paul Koehler of Silverstein,” says Bye. “The other guys work as tour managers in the states or advertising in Toronto but they were one of my favourite local bands and when one of the guys asked if we’d be interested in them getting back together, i said, ‘absolutely’. There’s already been a huge response for that show alone.”
A show dubbed, a group of your Burly Calling favorites featuring the return of the #turnitups  happens Saturday December 7 at the Queen’s Head including the Penske File, Darenots, The Turn It Ups, Gnarly Horse, The Bartops, Holy Smokes and Ever Elsewhere. Doors at 8:30 pm and $15 cover. Another big show is the Shut the Punk up Showcase with The Creepshow, Anti–Queens, The Ruddy Ruckus, Youth on Drugs, Dead Broke, Frank Dux, Okayswimmer happens Friday December 6 at the Dickens and $20 tickets are available at the door. With each show having it’s own cover, it’d be wise to show up early as most events sell out.
“The Dickens is always a favourite venue and to throw two big bands like the Creepshow and the Anti–queens in there for that intimate experience and to see those bands in a smaller venue is really special,” says Bye. “Every show has it’s own cover charge but it’s a pub crawl feel and we encourage everyone to check out as many shows as they can but you might have to pick and choose what you really want to see. Friday at the Queen’s Head has a show we’ve done in the past and it’s one of the best. It’s Palfest, basically a group of kids in the community for the last five or six years like Big Lonely, Oh Geronimo and Dakota Mill — they’re all friends with each other and they’re all in different bands with each other and it’s like one big family Christmas at that show and it’s really what the local music community is in a nutshell.”
Palfest V3 happens Friday December 6 at the Queen’s Head Pub with Dakota Mill, Oh Geronimo, Big Lonely, Dog Cops, Fonfur, Matt Lasswell, Thick Picnic and Billy Ranger but for full details on all of the individual shows click on It’s the seasonal get together for a bunch of friends that have grown up in the local music community but everyone can partake in the celebration.
“I can’t take credit for all the work this year but I put my time in the beginning — I love both Brad and Jesse and we don’t get to see each other a lot during the year and that’s what this event is about — these guys and all of my other homies — it’s about getting together with a whole group of friends at this time of year — that’s my favourite part of Burly Calling,” says Rispin.
“It’s rare that I get to spend a weekend in town and check in with friends, watch some bands and have some drinks — so this is a good reason to throw a party,” says Hails. “It’s good to support each other, the bands, the venues and all of the fans in downtown Burlington and great to have this event to make it happen. It’s always better ever year.”
“It’s always the best time and my favourite party of the year,” says Rispin. “Good memories are made every year and we hope everyone comes out for Burly Calling.”

Burly Calling (Un)Lucky 13 happens this Thursday December 5 through Saturday December 7. Click on for all the bands and shows.

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