The neighbourhood of James Street North in downtown Hamilton seems like a place in transition. It is a mix of run down businesses, vacant, boarded up storefronts, and vibrant shops, cafés, art galleries and fine dining from a variety of cultures. Just off James St N is Artword Artbar, described as “an arts hub, live music venue, artists’ hang-out”. In this unassuming brick building there is an open mic every Wednesday night. Owners Ron Weihs and Judith Sandiford make it a welcoming, familiar feeling place even on the first visit. The open mic has existed in different forms for about a year, becoming a regular event about 4 months ago.
This particular night was sparsely attended – as people came and went the house peaked at about 12 people. Ron added his fiddle to more than one piece and Judith’s poetry had an improvised bass and guitar accompaniment. I should mention that the desire to “sit in” and collaborate in this crowd is strong and if you don’t want freelance musical partners adding unexpected dimensions to your songs you need to be direct. There is a lovely baby grand in the corner for any keys players and a sound system to plug into.
I think this little establishment deserves a larger audience – all genres of music and spoken word are welcome.
[Artword Artbar, 15 Colborne St, Hamilton, every Wednesday 8-11 pm]