The first time I heard Hamilton band Arkells play live was at this yearâ€™s SCENEfest in St.Catharines and I couldnâ€™t believe I had waited so long. They were loud, charismatic and most of all, talented. So when Jay Perry and I found out they were playing at Mohawk Collegeâ€™s Mostock, we jumped at the opportunity to do a co-post. (CLICK HERE TO VIEW PHOTOS AND VIDEO OF THIS SHOW ON JAYS POST)
We got there around noon just as all the students were taking their lunch break and gathering around the stage. We joined the crowd and waited to be entertained.
As the band hit the stage you could feel the sense of pride as Hamiltonians watched their peers make musical magic. Within seconds of the first song, singer Max Kerman had broken a guitar string, but in true frontman style, he continued to play with as much intensity as if it was their first show.
The band opened with Heart of the City. Max has a unique and endearing onstage performance that features a kind of drunken swagger. Not the too many Jager shots at the bar drunk, it was the one too many glasses of wine during dinner at home that gets you giddy and dancing around your house kind of swagger. Something I could relate to. His hand gestures looked like he was telling a friend about a great meal he had just eaten with his hands up by his face waving in excitement. Not only does he have some eye-catching moves, he has a voice that kept my toes tappinâ€™. I always appreciate a singer who gets better the louder he gets because there is nothing like a song with building guitars, a pounding drum beat and a vocal that can rattle your bones.
After busting through Ballad of Hugo Chavez and Tragic Flaw, they gave us a preview of what the band has coming on their next record with On Paper. When a band can make you a fan of new material on the first listen and while playing live, you know you will be waiting and watching the clock until their next release comes out.
They brought us back to songs off of their debut LP Jackson Square with Abigail, but not without adding an ode to Katy Perry and her Teenage Dream. I had read the articles in The Hamilton Spectator that followed this quintet on their first American tour, and it seems they may be having a teenage dream of their own. Although it is exhausting and expensive to make a living at this music gig, it sounded as though each member was passionate about and committed to making their sacrifices and talent worth the reward. I kept the image of them touring across the U.S to rave reviews in mind while these local boys played a lunch show to a lawn full of adoring students and promoted their favourite local club, Absinthe.
The band has a self-described Black and Blue Eyed Soul sound and they let their soulful influences show with their performance of a Stevie Wonder classic as their encore. Max and keyboardist Dan Griffin led their rendition of Signed, Sealed Delivered to a crowd of dancing college kids, and you could tell they werenâ€™t lying when they said they couldnâ€™t wait to get back to Absinthe for a good old fashioned Motown dance party.
They closed with Oh, The Boss Is Coming! and ended a show that I was happy I missed work for. They humbly thanked the crowd for choosing them over their classes, but as Max said, the first 2 weeks of college donâ€™t count anyway. After the set, they wasted no time talking to fans and taking pics for a sure to be new Facebook profile pics.
Jackson Square was a debut LP that most bands can only wish for, garnering them a JUNO for Best New Group and catching the attention of super-band Them Crooked Vultures to score them an opening gig. Not only do Arkells pump out amazing and heartfelt tunes, they are true local boys at heart and give all of us Hamiltonians one more reason to be proud of this city.
If you were at the Mohawk concert, Iâ€™d love to know what you though of the band, their music and their performance. Drop a line anytime.
Ballad Of Hugo Chavez – Arkells