(Hamilton, Ontario) The young don’t notice the seismic changes that occur over time but the city and the world were quite different just ten years ago. Sure it wasn’t like the ’60s and ’70s counter culture but James Lloyd was one of many who believed in a culture and helped the world bring it more into the mainstream. Once a place you might not bring your mom, head shops almost seem quaint in the days of cannabis retail outlets but for Lloyd and Where Heads Meet, business has always been booming. The store on Ottawa Street North celebrates a decade helping to add character on that neighbourhood as well as bringing a community together that oft includes a wack of musicians.
“It was a business plan I drew up about twenty years ago but the business plan got lost on a computer that crashed,” recalls Lloyd. “My cousin fixed it, I found the business plan, six months later I opened the store. I was always a cannabis enthusiast and it just seemed like a natural fit for me. When I opened my store, it was downtown Hamilton or St. Catharines for the next store. The head shop started in the ’60s down in California. You’d go in and the guy would be doing a painting and at the end of the week, the painting would be for sale. They were the first underground dispensaries and if you knew the guy well enough, he might offer you something under the table. It was about potheads, deadheads, motorheads or cool people, right? There was a whole bunch of stores downtown throughout the years but they became a more common culture more recently but at one point they were more underground. I sold a wealth of products from the bongs, vapes and even 30000 vintage records but it was all on the up and up — I've already got into trouble in my earlier life. This store is about the rock and roll lifestyle with the glow in the dark posters, tie–dyed t–shirts but I do have an ecclectic collection of stuff like soap stone carvings. I deal with about 200 wholesale companies and we offer a lot of interesting things for sale.
“I’ve got a reputation and a clientele that I’ve developed over the years but there were a couple of days in the first year where I didn’t have a single sale — those days were tough,” adds Lloyd. “But now we get lineups and the store is very popular. When the dispensaries opened up originally, it was a bit of a cottage industry as I ended up supplying them with — I was selling about 150000 empty pre–rolled cone joints a month to them. I did a math formula and figured they were selling a million joints a month in Hamilton so that’s a lot of up in smoke there. They closed most of them but maybe they switched gears to home delivery.”
The head shop has offered a community to grow around with Lloyd as a lightning rod. Now a respected businessman and community member, Lloyd and Where Heads Meet have added a culture that has helped grow the Ottawa Street retail district that two decades ago was at best limited. Musicians have been a big component of the clientele as well as employees at the shop and with an anniversary celebration this weekend for Where Heads Meet, a wealth of musicians are coming to celebrate.
With a shake up in their membership bringing old drummer Adam Benning back into the fold, Lo–Fi guitarist and vocalist Todd Knight confirms preparations for their latest release, ‘The Pink Album’ are moving forward as planned tentatively scheduled for release this fall. But with a special anniversary for Where Heads Meet, the band’s dubbing Saturday ‘Lo–Fi Day’ in Hamilton with two live performances.
“We’re doing a day gig and an evening gig so you can bring the kids and teach them new swear words and it’ll be fantastic,” quips Knight. “James and Where Heads Meet are one in the same to me. He’s a real character that’s always out in the community. We’ve played for James before but this year looks like the biggest with lots of bands and lots of giveaways. James just throws it and works hard to make it all come together. He knows a lot of people in this city and the scene — the music and cannabis scene — he’s a real hard worker and he’s the kind of guy we like to tie our ship to. We’ve played a bunch of gigs for James because we’re proud to support him. Lo–Fi is an off–colour, funny band with our lyrics and Lloyd’s got a good sense of humour so it’s a good fit.
“We’re really excited for the weekend and Saturday is going to be a marathon,” adds Knight. “We’re playing at 4pm but there’s a little break at 4:20pm because James has a massive joint we’re going to pass around. We’re honoured to be on at that time. We’re going to play until the party is over there – but then after that we move over to Hess Village and do a full night of debauchery at the Lazy Flamingo. We’ve helped out the cannabis community over the years and a lot of them have been working on legalization for decades so it’s about time for that. It’s still a little strange playing a gig and not having to hide in back of the bar to partake and instead doing it in front of the club. The party rages on just not as much in the shadows. We’re going to playing two great shows and featuring some songs from the forthcoming album at both but you can expect a party for James and Where Heads Meet as well as for Jay [Skarratt] and the Lazy Flamingo.”
“I’ve been an outlet for bands to sell their tickets, I’ve sponsored band’s albums — I’ve always been a music enthusiast, going to hundreds of concerts every year,” says Lloyd on his musical connections. “Using the church parking lot in front of my store, we’ve got a bunch of friends coming out to play through the afternoon. We’ve got live glass blowing, interactive art displays, Smoky Bandits Tattoo Shop is raffling off tattoo sessions and there are a lot of things going on in and out of the store. At 4:20 pm, we’re going to light a three ounce joint. It’s nice that the community can publicly embrace their culture and enjoy it without threat of persecution.
“Where Heads Meet is doing fine and we’re not going anywhere because we’re still seeing positive growth,” adds Lloyd. “With the tenth anniversary, we’ve hired bands as well as doing a jam, we’ve got a bigger space outside, The whole community is welcome, we just say no attitude. Come happy, enjoy the music, art and the company. I’m hoping there are passerbys that just join in. We do pretty good with our events. We get a mixed crowd from young to old, people come with their families. It amazes me how many nice and kind people come out — it makes all the work worthwhile.”
Where Heads Meet Tenth Anniversary happens this Saturday May 18 at Where Heads Meet (162 Ottawa Street N) from 10am to 7 pm with Ginger St. James, Lo-Fi, the Killin’ Time Band, Zander Lamothe and more. Click on whereheadsmeet.ca