Since its inception in 2009, Supercrawl has gone from an ambitious festival for which the sky was the limit to an increasingly corporate event that features cookie-cutter versions of indie-rock bands and little else.
Every September, those that aren’t already engaging in the nauseating practice of blindly lauding their city (#hamont, if you were unaware) for the growth of its burgeoning art scene or the arrival of yet another coffee shop with a cute origin story, flock to James Street in their Sunday best (Blundstone’s and MEC) to take in mediocre bands like The Arkells (who were introduced as Hamilton’s version of The Beatles last year—yawn, I’d take Migos over both of them) or washed-up has-been’s from the early aughts indie-rock heyday like Kevin Drew, touring their latest solo record purely meant to pay the bills.
Those that had money at this past incarnation will have found somewhere to spend it amongst the fleet of food trucks and other vendors, while those that didn’t, namely Hamilton’s homeless population, were nowhere to be found within the blockaded streets to ensure that the wealthy patrons making their lone annual visit to the downtown core wouldn’t be bothered by the sight of real problems like systemic poverty.
The insertion of Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones into the lineups over the past two years might incline me to give Supercrawl a break if their presence at the festival didn’t reek of the faux-progressiveness of having a “token blackie” (as per Kanye West’s “Spaceship”). That the two most prominent musicians of colour to have visited Supercrawl in recent time both played soul/funk music (brilliantly, I might add) is depressing as it suggests that there is no room for other genres like rap or R&B that Hamilton’s wealthy elite might not find as palatable. It’s a shame that such is the case when there’s talent like Hamilton’s own Emay or Toronto’s Daniel Caesar, among many others, waiting around to be booked.
Something about recent lineups that featured revered but vanilla artists like Spoon and Yo La Tengo suggests that the Supercrawl booking staff have decided on the lineup by flipping through old copies of the now-defunct SPIN magazine (although the inclusion of Monster Truck this year indicates they read The Hamilton Spectator—a worse thought). That has to be the case, or otherwise I’m just not in the required tax bracket one has to be in to enjoy a set where Daniel Lanois continues to ride Brian Eno’s coattails well into 2015.
Turning away from the mediocrity of the festival product, even the attention that Supercrawl brings the city is one-dimensional. In the past couple of years it seems like every entrepreneur that read about Toronto professionals migrating to Hamilton invested in the area with profit being their end goal. One only has to look at one of Hamilton’s most Instagrammable buildings for signs of this, with a portion of the Lister Block’s ground floor having recently become home to Wendel Clark’s Classic Bar and Grill. The former Toronto Leaf is one of many retired athletes to invest in an obnoxious eponymous sports bar and is certainly guilty of beating a white knight drum.
In a recent interview with The Hamilton Spectator, Clark said, “We want to be a part of the downtown and trying to help bring life back to the city and help get people downtown. You want to keep life going and people down there. It enhances the city, and hopefully we can help be a big part of that.”
While dissecting a shoddily-worded sound bite from a former hockey player might be considered poor form, the sheer generality of Clark’s intentions and the unvaried demographic of old white people that I’ll call Tommy Bahama-wave baby-boomers I’ve seen there whenever I’ve walked by is worrying. To think that thirty dollar steaks are going to in any way enhance the city is more than a little arrogant, and detracts from the more important work to be done throughout the Hamilton community. If you’re in need of a watering hole, just go to The Brain.
With the imminent arrival of the new Liuna GO station just down the street and the unfortunate promise of more disappointing Supercrawls to come, James Street is in danger of emulating Westdale in its snobby catering to the “well-meaning” upper classes.