Road Notes from Bob: Hamilton Rock meets Favourite Colours in a Sonic Unyon

Bob Mersereau | Author's Notes | Friday, November 16th, 2007

Date: Friday, Nov. 16, 2007
Dateline: Hamilton, ON

Now, we get down to the music, which is what a music awards is supposed to be all about. Sometimes we attendees lose sight of those things, caught up in meeting old and new friends. I’ve certainly had no shortage of chat time, catching up with familiar faces, and finally getting to shake a lot of hands of the many people in Hamilton who helped out so much with the voting for the Top 100 Canadian Albums. A bit about them in a moment, but first to the clubs!

Lori Yates is a well-known Hamiltonian singer-songwriter with a country feeling, the honest, emotional type of writing, with a twang in her voice. Yates has six discs to her credit, and Friday showcased material from her latest, The Book Of Minerva. I love coming to a new area (for me), and getting a blast of local culture, and Yates is a smart writer who knows how important it is to set some of her songs in the area she knows best. That’s how we spread our stories, and as she said after the gig when we chatted, “It’s about time we stopped singing about Memphis”. A highlight of the set, and her new disc is “Simcoe“, nearby to this city, where one of her characters is working the tobacco crop. It’s a story of simple, normal heartbreak, and never once has to travel to Memphis to make that point.

Next up on my entertainment schedule was a guy who is already a huge favourite of mine. Liam Titcomb has put out two fine albums at a young age, and put on a great set. For just two guys, drums and acoustic guitar, it had the sound and energy of a full band. Titcomb writes excellent modern-and-roots rock, and plays guitar with confidence and swagger. You can tell he feels completely comfortable on stage with that instrument, and has worked really hard on setting up echo, effects, and all those touches and tricks that give the best players their individuality. It wasn’t my first time meeting Liam, as he’d come through Fredericton a couple of years back. This time though, we got to hang out a bit more, and for a laugh I even picked up a couple of his old man’s singles for him at a used record store. You may know the old Anne Murray hit, “Sing High-Sing Low“? It was written by his Dad, Brent Titcomb, the excellent singer-songwriter who also played in the seminal 60’s group Three’s A Crowd. If you’re not familiar, you youngsters, hit your search engine and pick up an important bit of Canadian music history. Anyway, Hamilton’s Tom Wilson used to follow Brent around, picking up the tricks, and Liam did the same thing to Tom as a kid. I hope Liam enjoys those singles, because Brent isn’t the kind to keep that old stuff, and Liam didn’t have them. Cost me all of forty cents.

My evening out ended with a full show by The Sadies, who are in the Top 100 book with their fine Favourite Colours discs. Although this wasn’t technically part of the Hamilton Music Awards (not a Hamilton band, after all), the city sure treats them as local heroes. The Casbah was packed to the gills, and not by the festival crowd but mostly by college students who just love the group here. I’ve only ever seen the group as an opening act before, in hockey rink tours, such as their recent gigs with The Tragically Hip, so this was my first chance to catch them in their true element. I’m going to quote from the book now, because my buddy Rick White of Eric’s Trip has a quote in it that really is true, as I found out: “I want to take a picture of their audience because all the girls are dancing, and a lot of the guys are just standing there with their jaws open.” This was exactly the scene, and my jaw still hurts. Highlights last night included lots of their new album, lots of Favourite Colours (including what is my favourite instrumental song of all time, Northumberland West), and encore covers of The Flaming Groovies’ “Shake Some Action“, and Pink Floyd’s early classic “Astronomy Domine“, as a tribute to Syd Barrett. Is there another band that goes from classic fiddle tunes such as “Stay All Night” to psychedelic freak out Floyd? I think not.

That’s a great month of music, let alone a night. I mentioned the many friends I’ve run into, and I’ll list them in a further blog as a tribute to Hamilton’s people and music scene, but I will say that I had a great visit to the legendary music label/distributer Sonic Unyon, thanks to my friend Sean Palmerston. He gave me a tour of the wonderful, funky operation, a cool old downtown building, including the distribution warehouse, a music junkie’s dream if I ever did see one. Sonic Unyon has the new Simply Saucer and Teenage Head albums coming up in the new year, and is responsible for much of the hippest music around being released and distributed across the country. Thanks to a new deal with Maple Music and Fontana North, much of that great product will now become even more accessible to Canadians coast-to-coast. Me, I got the increasingly rare album by The Unintended and The Constantines, vinyl-only, limited edition 1000 copies, with the Cons doing four Neil Young cuts, and Unintended playing four Lightfoot. Talk about the ultiimate Top 100 Canadian Albums album! The Unintended, by the way, are the sometimes-side project offshoot of three Top 100 artists, featuring Greg Keelor, Rick White, and Dallas and Travis Good of The Sadies. I got number 900, and there’s maybe a dozen left in the warehouse BTW. Go to the Sonic Unyon website.

Oh, ran into Garth and Maud Hudson in the hotel hallway. But that’s another story. Join us for coffee and book talk next blog.


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