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Festival of Friends - Hamilton


phishtaper
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Managed to catch a few sets at the Festival of Friends in Hamilton and had a great time. Always seem to have a good time here. Lots of food and craft venders and a ton of great, free music in a beautiful, old urban park setting. And lots of rain this year.

We saw Steven Page and Marky Ramone's Blitzkrieg on Friday night. It's not quite the same seeing Page on his own as it was with BNL, but he sure does come close – and in all the better ways. One thing I never really liked about BNL was the quirky, almost gimmicky, style to so many of their tunes. Page solo strips out a lot of this stuff and present a raw, charming, acoustic version of songs that have infected our brains over the past 18 years. Like it or not, we all know the words to many BNL songs. Perhaps overly selfconscious, Page allowed us a glimpse into what these songs are really all about. Very well crafted lyrics and beautifully simple and catchy tunes. Light rain initially kept the crowd at bay for a few of these differently-styled songs, but his inviting version of Good Boy – complete with a stop and start instinctive pause to wait for Ed Robertson's missing choral response – won the crowd over completely. Page also treated us to some new tunes, and a lot of BNL tunes like Jane and an incredible version of Brian Wilson.

Next up was Marky Ramone. Marky (Mark Bell) was the central drummer for a musical adventure ride called The Ramones, in case you didnt know. As a drummer, he's religated to the back of the stage. And as much as his three, much younger, up front, almost glam, bandmates stole the show, I found it imposssible to not stare at that the moptop hidden behind the big kit as he beat out hit after hit. Soap opera aside, Marky Ramone was a very important part of a very important stage of musical evolution, laying down the drums on punk classics like, I Wanna Be Sedated and Rock n' Roll Highschool. Increasing rain through Ramone's set didnt dampen the spirit of the crowd, but it did temporarly result in a complete power failure to the main stage. Up and going again within only a few minutes, the band played beyond its curfew but no-one seemed to mind – even the park neighbours we encountered as we ducked out early, hanging out on their porches listening to the sounds wafting their way. All in all, a fun night.

Saturday, we had some decisions to make. The Kitchener Blues Fest with Canned Heat and Ronnie Hawkins in the afternoon was very tempting but getting in a couple of dog walks and running errands before another round of expected rain trumped that. Unfortunately, continual rain thoughouit the day put a damper for us on seeing Leon Redbone there later that night. The crowded streets of downtown Kitchener arent an especially great place to stand around in the pouring rain. Neither would be downtown Oakville which was offering up its intriging Oakville Jazz Festival, we decided. (Anyone go to either of these events?)

Instead, we stuck with the Festival of Friends again and ventured down Hwy6 in the rain to see Canadian legends, David Wilcox and headliner, Kim Mitchell. So glad we did. Thinned out a bit from the night before, the soggy crowd on Saturday was full of diehards. No pretense here whatsoever. None of these bimbettes in D&G glasses chatting away on their faux diamond cellies you see at way too many events nowadays. This was a beer-drinking, hard-working, fuck-the-rain Hammer crowd who came to hear the formative music of our youth, and neither Wilcox nor Mitchell disappointed. In fact, both far exceeded my expectations.

Blues-rock icon Wilcox treated us to a set of greatest hits, including Bad Apple, Hypnotizin' Boogie and set closer, Riverboat Fantasy – all huge crowd pleasers. Sure, it's nostalgic now, but if you were there when these songs dominated FM Rock in the 80's (and I have to admit, I was) it was a very fun trip back. The man can still play that guitar! Mitchell was up next and he closed out the night. His head fully shaved (OMG!!!), Mitchell wandered out into the rain and simply gave us one great solo or Max Webster tune after another, like Million Vacations and Battle Scar as well as All We Are, Patio Lanterns and Go For Soda. Soaked, miserable, yet feeling no pain, the crowd drew appreciation from the veteran rocker who thanked us for sticking it out. Hell, why wouldnt we? This was a great evening of music! But like all good things, this one too came to an end. Thankfully, despite our raingear, we also packed dry clothes in the car for our ride home. We needed them.

Writing this now from the sunroom on battery power because hydro has kicked off, and staring out at the drizzly yard outside, Im not sure we will make another trip down today to the soggy Festival of Friends. But if you do go, let us all know. I have no doubt it will be another great day of music.

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Blues-rock icon Wilcox treated us to a set of greatest hits, including Bad Apple, Hypnotizin' Boogie and set closer, Riverboat Fantasy – all huge crowd pleasers. Sure, it's nostalgic now, but if you were there when these songs dominated FM Rock in the 80's (and I have to admit, I was) it was a very fun trip back. The man can still play that guitar! Mitchell was up next and he closed out the night. His head fully shaved (OMG!!!), Mitchell wandered out into the rain and simply gave us one great solo or Max Webster tune after another, like Million Vacations and Battle Scar as well as All We Are, Patio Lanterns and Go For Soda. Soaked, miserable, yet feeling no pain, the crowd drew appreciation from the veteran rocker who thanked us for sticking it out. Hell, why wouldnt we? This was a great evening of music! But like all good things, this one too came to an end. Thankfully, despite our raingear, we also packed dry clothes in the car for our ride home. We needed them.

Was there a noticable amount of boozed up stragglers from the game showing up at the Festival? Tiger Cats winning just around the corner + Wilcox + Kim Mitchell ... sounds like a magical night in the Hammer! Wish I could've been there.

Pretty sweet Kim played Battle Scar too!

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caught about 1/2 of Wilcox and then the full Kim Mitchell set. good stuff. I enjoyed the balls Kim had in including some non-hit album tracks in the set. Of course he encored with the one tune I wanted to hear, "Lager and Ale"! And yeah, "Battlescar" was an unexpected treat.

got totally soaked but it was still fun, although having a sea of umbrellas in front made it hard to see, and then the video screen died. speaking of which, when it was working, combined with the full on light show - seems FOF organizers stepped it all up a notch this year. right on.

the crowd was a lot less jacked up - funny enough - than last year's Steve Earle show, which made me a bit embarrassed to a Hamiltonian. maybe the rain sorted things out.

peace.

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