Thursday, December 10, 2009

Is Hamilton the new Seattle?

I've had a few days to reflect on my trip down the QEW to Hamilton, for the Hamilton Music Awards. This City has had it's fair share of unemployment and heartache over the last decade, with massive job losses in their manufacturing sector. If you are like most people, your only view of Hamilton is when you are flying along the highway going over the Skyway Bridge on your way to Niagara Falls and the US Border, or on your way to Toronto. It is not a very impressive sight, unless you are in the steel biz. Dirty smokestacks and flames from coke ovens are like a throughback to another era. And maybe they are.

Hamilton is reinventing itself as an arts and music town. With the downtown core neglected and frankly mishandled by local government mis-steps, pricing of real estate is in the basement - a far cry from the high rents and exorbitant costs of Toronto living. So, artists and musicians are flocking to Hamilton - remaking the city. And the whole arts culture is thriving.

Thus the 8th annual Hamilton Music Awards. As host Tom Wilson tells it, many of Canada's musical talent are from Hamilton (including rock royalty such as Daniel Lanois). Lanois has a very nice converted warehouse on Wellington Street in downtown Toronto where he stays when in Ontario, otherwise he owns a house in Hamilton (near Tom’s house) as he always has. Hamilton is Daniel’s hometown. (he also has homes in L.A. and Jamaica). His mother, brother and sister all live in Hamilton. Lanois arrived in Hamilton from Hull at the age of nine with his family, went to school here and established their first studios here, recording with Eno and many others. He still comes to Hamilton a lot to see family and friends. Lanois was the second artist to be given a lifetime achievement award at the HMAs.

Check this clip out of husband and wife team Melissa McCelland and Luke Doucet. This fab couple have come back to Hamilton to live - make the trip down to the Hammer for a show or to see a gallery. You'll be surprised.

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