Wtchs Eschaton Supercrawl

Hamilton Supercrawl is whatever you want it to be

The free music and art festival may be leaning more populist, but Hamilton's music scene has stepped up to fill the gaps.

- Sep 12, 2016
WTCHS and Eschaton. Photo by: Jonathan Ely Cass

I set into Supercrawl the way you do a buffet: with a big appetite and even bigger eyes. Ahead of the 8th edition of Hamilton's annual downtown art and music festival, which turns over one of the city's major corridors for large-scale art installations, vendor stalls, and outdoor stages, I'd piled my plate high with Facebook events — both on- and off-schedule — I'd flagged as "Interested" or overeagerly as "Going." But Sunday, bloated, burnt out and hungover, I came to realize: you can see just about anything at Supercrawl, but you can't see it all.

It started with an early evening set Friday by WTCHS, who've grown dronier and more apocalyptic with their new lineup. Entering James Street from the North, crawlers of all description waded past the five-piece's monstrous, black-clad noise — a fair welcoming committee for the weekend ahead. A nonna and a man who I assume was her adult grandson stood arm-in-arm watching for a few minutes and she danced.

Though there isn't much talk about gentrification, it's nice to see the neighbourhood (many residents who've lived there for the better part of a half-century) engaging in the Very Big Things happening on James North. Hamilton in general seems excited, the festival just keeps growing, even eight years on.

Supercrawl WTCHS Cass

WTCHS at Supercrawl. Photo by: Jonathan Ely Cass

You can see just about anything at Supercrawl, but you can't see it all.

After touring the commissioned art projects, like José Luis Torres eminently instagrammable shipping container explosion Overflow, Site 3 Fire Arts' Burning Man fire-spewing skeeball game, and Ty Tekatch's projection mapping on Christ Church Cathedral, the corral of food trucks and vendor booths, I left festival grounds to see Sourpussy at Casino Artspace a few streets away.

This is the best part about Supercrawl: there are now as many events happening beyond the pale of officialdom as within. When the festival's music programming shifted a little more populist than some might have hoped, Hamilton's vibrant art and music communities started throwing adjacent parties, exhibitions, and concerts to satisfy those more outré whims. Now the festival is a bit like an onion. There are many layers, festivals within festivals. You can make your Supercrawl however you want it.

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Casino is a glorious DIY xanadu. In one gallery, there's an ambitious exhibition called "Which Berries Can Humans Eat?" by Gabriel Baribeau. In the other room, performance art and noise troupe Sourpussy led a sports-themed show, stalking the room in jerseys and helmets, using pylons as megaphones. When Becky Katz tells the room to take a knee, the whole room does like coach says.

Sourpussy Supercrawl

Sourpussy at Casino. Photo by: Laura Katz

After a pit stop at the Collective Arts beer garden while Fucked Up jolted the crowd with their epic-scale posi hardcore, it was over to Baltimore House to catch the end of Casper Skulls (which, ugh, we missed) and Fake Palms, who were spiky and heavy and impossibly tight. Baltimore House has itself developed a reputation for throwing an expertly stacked mini-festival during Supercrawl. And with performances by Not Of, Lonely Parade, Vallens, Teenanger, The Pucumber Sasssquash Family Band, and Fresh Snow across its two-day bill, this year was no different.

Supercrawl Saturday, for me, revolved around the twin pull of not getting rained on and making Four Tet, who cancelled two years prior, no matter what. That means I missed an excellent afternoon BBQ concert at the DIY venue Strangebarn and a comedy show there later to see Kieran Hebden play for an enthusiastic and slightly soggy crowd.

Supercrawl Four Tet Junior Boys

Jeremy Greenspan of Junior Boys and Four Tet at Strangebarn. Photo by: Chris Hampton

I made it there after, however, for the Supa Strange Afterparty, where Jeremy Greenspan of the Junior Boys was joined by Jessy Lanza and — surprise guest — Four Tet to spin for a few hours to a crowded living room. It felt like a special moment: the culmination of serious do-it-yourself efforts all over and a lucky treat for those willing/wanting to venture a little off-menu.

When I met up with my parents on Sunday, they told me about their Supercrawl — the street opera, Choir! Choir! Choir!, Circus Orange. It sounded like a completely different festival. Evidence, I thought, of the size, richness, and variety it's developed. The happy product of a festival ambitious to grow and attract new audiences and an arts community leaning into its DIY roots.

THINGS I MISSED AT SUPERCRAWL THAT I TOTALLY WANTED TO SEE/DO:

  • Andrew Baulcomb's Evenings and Weekends book launch
  • Vallens
  • Egyptrixx
  • Reece Terris 3rd Stage at Hamilton Artists Inc.
  • Customaries
  • River Tiber
  • that rave that was supposedly happening at a coffee roaster(???) on Burlington St.
  • B.A. Johnston
  • 50 Pesos poutine

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