The historic corner of James and Murray was home to a beautiful night of music, support and awareness this past Friday.
This Ain’t Hollywood was host to a benefit supporting SACHA (Sexual Assault Centre of Hamilton). At face value it seemed business as usual for the venue, packed inside and out with local music supporters, but once inside you could see there was something more going on. Raffle tables, where merch would be, and information offered for those interested in learning about where their cover money was going (each and every dollar supported SACHA directly), and instead of music, promoter Jasmin Dong would MC between sets, offering information about SACHA, announcing details about raffles and introducing the upcoming act.
The first act, Shanika Maria fit the bill perfectly (a common theme of the night), and weaved introspective lyrics married to interesting and engaging melodies. While gripping the attention of the crowd with her vocal talent and captivating energy, I spent some time admiring the rhythm section. Comprised of bass, guitar and drums, the band seemed an extension of Shanika instead of group playing behind her, and together they took the crowd through many influences, including RnB, West Coast Surf, Indie and I even spotted some Bossa Nova. The performance was a treat and set the tone perfectly.
Before the show continued Jasmin made her return to the stage this time partnered with a representative from SACHA to thank everyone for their support and offer details about the organization and some history. What was saddening but not so surprising was to learn about how little funding such a vital organization receives, and how what was supposed to be a 30% increase under a Liberal government was slashed to only 6% under the Tories. Yet, for how disappointing the statistics were, it was easy to sense the appreciation and gratitude that everyone in the room came out in such force to show their support, to do what they could to support not only local music, but the well-being of their own city.
2nd on the bill was one I was very excited to see, and I wasn’t alone.
Many may recognize Jasmyn Burke as the quirky and vibrant front-woman for the Polaris Prize short-listed band “Weaves”, and fans of Weaves, myself included, were absolutely delighted watching her perform sans band. Armed with a guitar, and 2 loopers, Jasmyn pleased her fans to a deconstructed version of what Weaves offers in their performances; raw energy, eccentricity, and natural talent. Using a combination of some pre-recorded lo fi loops, and her own voice she took the crowd everywhere, and I mean everywhere. There were moments that were psychedelic, other worldly and strange, and moments that were beautiful, emotional and connected, and Jasmyn dived into each part with confidence showing the audience that every sound and frequency was planned and clearly quite important. A stand out moment was not only hearing a stripped-down version of the Weaves tune “Walk Away” but also hearing that what we were witnessing is how for the most part the band writes music, it starts on the looper and makes its way into the jam room. Anyone in attendance would agree this was a special performance, and I’m unsure when, where or if Jasmyn will do another one of these performances, but I really hope it’s soon, until then catch Weaves at The Danforth in Toronto on September 6th with July Talk.
The final band of the night, and evidentially the one most in attendance were excited to see, was Ellis.
The dreamy, emo, indie, heavy and reverby project started by Linnea Williams is one that I’m happy to say continues to get better and better with each passing show. Fans of her critically acclaimed EP “The Fuzz” should know that the studio tracks breathe new life during the live performance. Looking around during the first track “What a Mess” I could see mouths in the audience whispering the emotional lyrics written by Williams, a ying to the yang that came during the massive distortion filled sections of tunes like “All This Time”, where it was impossible to find someone who wasn’t bobbing their head. If you were to take your eyes off of the captivating front-woman who dressed in all black, carrying a black Telecaster, you would see another tight and focused rhythm section, comprised of synths, drums and bass who were integral in assisting Linnea to shape the dynamics of the set. One member who stood out to me was Colm Hinds, the bass player, not only because of his great height, and big blue denim overalls, but because of his harmonies. In a band with so much emphasis on the sensitive and often whispered vocals, it’s a tough task to blend your own voice in a way that doesn’t sound like 2 different singers. The goal is to make one clean harmonic connection to supplement the original melody and I think Hinds and Williams did a fantastic job, and really elevated the high parts of the tunes. Closing with a personal favourite “The Fuzz” the audience was treated to another example of how soft and sensitive Ellis can be, and equally how wide and heavy they can take a song. Ending on a refrain of the songs title The Fuzz, with Linnea seemingly switching on all her pedals and the band going as hard as they could, the long narrow room at This Ain’t was filled with a massive sound, that echoed in my ears even after they had finished.
Go and see what I’m talking about for yourself this September as Ellis will be making a stop off their North American tour to fill James St with their sound once more at Supercrawl, it’s not one to miss.
After the raffles were announced and Jason had won everything (you know who you are), the final artist to take the stage was Jessy Lanza. Jessy came from NYC and turned the event into a party. The drums were removed, amps and guitars taken away, and what replaced them was Jessy and her pioneer DJ setup. Technically proficient at tempo matching, and clearly quite talented at selecting great beats, Jessy provided the perfect way to let loose for a crowd that had been up the that point captivated by the bands that preceded her.
A success I’m sure for SACHA, yet a reminder for how much work needs to be done, and a success for any young woman looking to get into music, as there are pioneers blazing their own trails in a challenging industry to be sure. For anyone looking to find any of these bands, they’re all present on social media, and anyone looking for more information about SACHA, their website is http://sacha.ca or you can find them on Facebook, and I encourage you to do so.
Written by Levi Kertesz @levikertesz
Photography by Stephanie Montani @stephmontaniphotography