LivingArts:Hamilton is right next to Toronto (but is it, though? [yes it is {but it doesn’t feel like that sometimes}])


For the years 2006 - 2011, I was living and performing in the people’s republic of FORD NATION. It wasn’t Ford Nation yet – no –that dream was not quite realized until just before I skipped town to move to Hamilton.

When I first moved to Toronto in 2006, the city’s music scene was going through a major boom. The community was super tight and grassroots operations like Wavelength, Arts & Crafts, Blocks Recording Club and a number of other groups were making a buzz internationally. It was a good time to be a musician moving to Toronto. Not long after moving there, I had started playing with Bruce Peninsula and we were playing the Friday live slot on Q (the same episode that Steven Page announced his departure from BNL, incidentally).

It was a great scene for the 5 years I was there and it still is, today.

When I left the ‘Big Smoke’ and moved to the ‘REALLY Big Smoke’ in 2011, I had it in my head that I would keep up my status in the Toronto scene by rolling into town every now and then, attending concerts, occasionally performing and liking people’s Facebook posts.

Artistic commuting is definitely a growing trend, especially when big urban centres are becoming so unaffordable. I’ve heard stories of artists commuting from Buffalo to Manhattan every weekend…

Well I tried it. It worked for a while, but as time went on, it became abundantly clear that NOT living in Toronto meant losing my Toronto scene status.

At the same time, it was taking quite a while to establish myself in Hamilton – go figure. I was wasting time and energy chasing rainbows in the 416 when I should have been focusing on the good ol’ 905.

The thing is, although we are right next to Toronto, we may as well be in Winnipeg. There is no cross-pollination happening between the two cities – it’s not like people from Toronto are coming here to check out what we’re up to. Hamilton is just far enough away to be it’s own scene and close enough to be forgotten.

It took me almost three years to figure this out.

Now that I’ve figured it out, I’m trying my darnedest to make sure that other musicians know and embrace it early on. With the cheaper real estate, there are a number of well-established musicians moving to Hamilton and I imagine they are planning to make the commute. Just this past December, I had three musical pals move here from Toronto.

In an effort to introduce them to the local musical community, I am putting together a couple of “welcome to the neighbourhood” events at Baltimore House. Called WORKSHOP, the premise is that established artists will go up on stage and workshop new material in front of other musicians. It’s part open mic, part meet and greet and something that I hope will weave the musical fabric a bit tighter.

Heaven knows I could have used something like that when I moved here in 2011.

[Next month – Steve explores the nightmare of what McKay Nation would look like…]