Monday, November 21, 2011

Hamilton Music Awards Weekend

The Hamilton Music Awards 2011 had quite the build-up. Maybe I was just more aware of it (the celebration not the award) because I was involved in some of it. Singer-songwriter (and neighbour) Ian Thomas was receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award, and he told them (the organizing committee) that if they wanted any historical items they'd have to contact me since I had them all. Let me clarify that. I don't have them, but I know how to get them! I was involved in the negotiations that brought Ian's archives to McMaster University, and since I dealt with him the most regularly, he knew I could put Jean-Paul and his team in touch with the actual materials. JP even asked if I would be interviewed for a video celebrating Ian's career. Wow, was this to be my big break in show biz? Would I get my own listing on IMDB like my pal Les Harding? (Les has been playing drunks, ne'er-do-wells and priests in a variety of CBC productions filmed in Newfoundland.) More on this later.

The Awards run from Thursday to Sunday, with seminars, press meetings and a star concert before the awards gala on Sunday night. In the past I've seen related shows by people like Garth Hudson and Steve Strongman but this year the Saturday night concert featured Blackie & the Rodeo Kings.

I've seen BARK a few times before, and they're always an entertaining night out, filled with great music and a few laughs. The laughs come from wondering how early Tom Wilson will start swearing. This night he was pretty much under control, prowling around the right hand side of the stage like a wolf, with his low slung Gibson guitar. The one with all the autographs on it, Ralph Stanley, John Fogerty and Johnny Cash among them. It's interesting to note that of all the guitars on stage, this is the one that comes on and leaves with its owner. No stage stand for this baby. Colin Linden is on the left of the stage (stage right to you theater people) wearing his ever-present fedora, and clearly enjoying himself. He bounces up and down as if on a pogo stick contrasting Tom's hozizontal movements across the stage. In the middle is Stephen Fearing who basically stays put. The three Kings are backed by John Dymond on bass and this evening Tom Hambridge on drums. I have to put in a special word for Tom (award-winning producer of Buddy Guy), who did a tremendous job filling in for the usual drummer Gary Craig.

The band played a fine cross section of songs from their whole career. What started as a tribute band playing the songs of the late lamented songwriter Willie P. Bennett, has became one of the world's top roots bands. They have seven albums under the BARK name and each of the partners has his own body of work, where do they find the time?

From "Water or Gasoline" through "Stoned" and "49 Tons" with a brief look back to Willie's "White Line" and a generous sampling of the new (and critically acclaimed Kings and Queens they simply rocked the place. The stories included tales of how the songs were written, life growing up in Hamilton (Tom's a local boy) and dreams of Lucinda Williams recording their song. (BTW Lucinda Williams DID record the song!) Tom proclaimed "Hey Hamilton, you don't have to pay to see me, I LIVE HERE! In fact Monday morning at 11 o'clock I'll be at Fortino's doin' my grocery shopping!" I wonder who met him there to drive him home. There was probably a convoy.

Blackie and the Rodeo Kings? A fantastic night out. They were scrambling to find songs they all knew to keep the night going. Then after the show they came out to the lobby to sign and schmooze.

Sunday night Tom Wilson was the co-host (with Shelley Marshall) for the Awards. What do you wear to an Awards show? Well, there's no red carpet at the Hammies. It was jeans and hoodies for the most part, at least for the nominees who seemed to be all in the 19-25 range. Even younger if you include Brandon Pacheco 14 year old boy soprano. Look out Beibs!

The show got off to a slow start, and then almost fizzled out altogether. The awards (any awards) are meant for the families of the winners. Anyone who says "it's a privilege just to be nominated" must be on something. As Tom made clear...most of the people in the room are "losers". He lost a couple himself, winning Roots Recording for Kings and Queens but, well, let's not rub it in.
If you Google Hamilton Music Awards you can see all the names, but if you're not from The Hammer you might not recognize many of them. That's okay, I'm from here, and I'm quite involved in music around town and there were lots of unfamiliar names. The Riddim Riders played some reggae, Jeremy Fisher, the Dinner Belles, Monster Trucks and James Hoffman all made an impression. The show simply went on too long. After BARK played a song ("Another Free Woman Gets To Walk Away") with Johnny but without Tom, we left the theatre. Teenage Head's Gordie Lewis was roaming around the lobby with Mickie DeSadist in wackie regalia. Murray McLauchlan and Rik Emmett were around to support their old buddy Ian Thomas who performed his first big hit "Painted Ladies" and the Boomers' classic "Rise Above It". My interview portion was left on the cutting room floor, although the pictures Kevin Andrews and I took of some old Ian Thomas paraphernalia were obvious in the clip.

So I guess IMDB will have to wait. Les doesn't have his own music blog, after all. And who watches The Republic of Doyle anyway?

Next week it's off to Hugh's Room again for A Man Called Wrycraft's Tribute to Tom Waits, and then John Mayall! I'll let you know how that all turns out!

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