Set In Stone
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Set In Stone

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The best kept secret in music


"Hamilton Music Notes"


By Ric Taylor

2004: The year in Hamilton Music. Selecting highlights
are like choosing which offspring you like the best. But
we try. The following is a partial musing of some of what
made the year special in music.
Hamilton–raised producer/singer/ songwriter Daniel
Lanois, a recent inductee into the Canadian Music Hall
of Fame, led the local Juno nominees contingent
alongside Kazzer, Blackie and The Rodeo Kings (Tom
Wilson, Stephen Fearing and Colin Linden), Harrison
Kennedy, Jim Witter, video director Floria Sigis-mondi
and Finger 11.
This year, on the heels of the platinum success of their
recent eponymous CD, Finger 11 played a recent
homecoming gig to a capacity crowd. While fans look
forward to a new recording, it may be some time before
new songs are released. Still, their new single
“Thousand Mile Wish” will be featured in the new action
flick Elektra starring Jennifer Garner portraying the
Marvel Comic Book character of the same name.
“It’s weird when you put your songs in movies,” muses
guitarist Rick Racket. “I haven’t even seen that one, so
who knows—it might be bad, but it might be good, too.
It’s just a good chance for people to hear the music. We
saw some footage from the movie and it looked pretty
cool, so we thought it might be something we’d want to
put (‘Thousand Mile Wish’) on.
“We’re hopefully going to make a new record, but it’s
cool to have a song out there that people will listen to…
when they’re bored of that, we will hopefully have a
brand new album for them to listen to,” he adds.
“Everybody would love for us to put out a record by next
summer, but we don’t know. We just take our time
making a record, making sure it’s exactly what we want.
“I’m not into just putting out music just to put it out there.
We don’t want to just grab a few more record sales and
feel like we didn’t do the best. We’ll put out a record
when it’s ready, and hopefully it’ll be out sooner rather
than later—but we’ve taken a long time for our records
After developing a name as Hidden Value, Steve Green,
Nic Armstrong, Dave Colontino and Greg Restivo
became Set in Stone and released their debut in August.
They were commissioned to perform Hamilton’s
Commonwealth 2010 Bid theme, “Go Beyond,” live at
Copps Coliseum in front of 4,000, an honour on par with
their 2004 win for Song of the Year with “Don’t Worry” at
the international songwriting competition supporting
VH–1’s Save the Music Foundation).
Celebrating locals during Hamilton Music Scene 2004,
the inaugural Hamilton Music Awards honoured some of
the best.
Best Rock Recording and Songwriter of the Year
awards went to Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, whose
Tom Wilson co–hosted the festivities. Melissa
McClelland won Best Female Artist for her Orange/
Universal debut Stranded in Suburbia and Video of the
Year with “Jaded,” while Best Male Artist went to Ray
Materick for Life and Times. Ten–year–old Briar Mary
received the nod for Vocalist of the Year, while veteran
Daniel Lanois won Record of the Year for Shine. The
Dofasco Lifetime Achievement Award was bestowed
upon Jackie Washington, while FluxAD took home Best
Alternative Recording, The Reason took Best Punk,
Harrison Kennedy took Best Blues, Fred J. Eaglesmith
took Best Country and Junior Boys took Best Dance/
Electronic Recording of the Year.
The Marble Index won Best New Artist/Group of the year
with their eponymous Universal debut, as well as the
People’s Choice award for Local Group of the year.
After spending the year touring in support of their new
CD (even opening for The Pixies), The Marble Index are
spending New Year’s in Halifax playing The Forum with
Billy Talent then jetting off for a return trip to England in
January. Their first gig in Nottingham will be presented
by influential music rag NME.
In 2003, Sonic Unyon breathed new life into Edgar
Breau’s earliest Simply Saucer recordings. This year, the
label helped distribute Breau’s first recordings in well
over a decade. The solo debut, Canadian Primitive,
while the bipolar opposite of his neo–punk psychedelic
recordings, offered a refined and personal approach to
Breau’s newfound leanings, mixing psychedelic,
Appalachian and folk musics.
With the release of her third solo CD All Of Our Names,
it’s no wonder Sarah Harmer is more of a regular on
Letterman or Ellen than in her old stomping grounds.
Still, she played one of the year’s stand out concerts at
Hamilton Place, bringing in tow the likes of Mike O’Neill
(Inbreds) and our own Julie MacDonald (Flux AD).
“They’re my dear friends and I’m a huge fan of all of
their own music and musicality,” said Harmer during her
area return.
Growing up on the Niagara Escarpment north of
Burlington and spending the last 15 years in Kingston,
Harmer came to fame with her band Weeping Tile. It was
a personal Christmas gift recording of cover songs for
her father, however, that helped bring her to
international success. After the indie success of Songs
for Clem and her 2000 breakthrough You Are Here,
Harmer has blossomed her ideas on relationships from
the personal and specific to a more cosmopolitan
viewpoint, broadening her philosophical spectrum.
Songs meander and wisp along in delicate poetry, but
with a hopeful purpose. The album’s title, taken from a
line in the epic “Dandelions in Bullet Holes,” is a rallying
cry however subtle or subdued.
“It’s a bit more observational and more panoramic than
my last record,” muses Harmer. “You Are Here came
from some real direct, pinpoint experiences, and this one
is more of a collage. I like the idea that it’s everybody’s
world and no one is any more important than anyone
else and the world is really run by human beings. So, I
wanted to think about the idea of a lack of separation
between ‘us and them.’ It’s a song about the state of the
world right now, and it is a call to action a little bit.
With the tour focus on major auditoriums, Harmer made
two other special returns to Hamilton in recent memory—
first to The Underground in 2003 to help pay personal
tribute to local fave Mayor McCA (CA Smith), then again
in 2004 to help act on her growing activism for a local
environmental cause.
“I always wanted to know where Red Hill Valley was
because I had heard about it for so many years,”
explains Harmer about her outdoor performance in
support of preserving the nature space. “Music can go
anywhere and it was an honour to play there and a real
moving experience for me. It’s devastating what’s
happening in the Red Hill Valley, but people are still
keeping their spirit and the community alive even in the
face of that rubble.”
And though it’d been a while between full concerts in
the area, Harmer was thrilled to be returning to Hamilton.
“When I was just a little girl I sang with the Bach Elgar
Children’s Choir in Hamilton and we performed Carmen
on the stage of Hamilton Place,” recalls Harmer. “I vividly
remember that, and it was really exciting. Maybe at the
time I thought I might be an opera singer, but I had no
idea I’d be able to write some songs and come back and
put on my own show.”
Singer/songwriters performed strongly throughout the
year, with Matthew Barber, Annette Haas, Dave King,
Mary Simon, Warren Muzak, Aaron Wrixon, Frank
Luskins, Shy Violet, Katie Caron, Bill Culp, Famous
Framus, Jeremy Fisher, Rob Szabo and the supergroup
collective Ladybird Sideshow (featuring Melissa
McClelland, Erin Smith, Janine Stoll and Lisa Winn) all
releasing CDs.
The definitely different Flattstreet, Paul Tobey, Chantal
Chamberland and Sarena Paton weighed in on the jazz
front, while modern rock offerings from Idle Sons, Marr,
Neoprene, Strat, Unborn, Underwhelmed, Dave Harvey
and Modern Ruins, Full System Tilt, Chris County, The
Perennials, Walkers Line and The Fifties showed how
our clubs rocked.
Country veteran George Fox released a new CD and
book, while punk legend Coyote Shivers worked in
movies (along side Motorhead’s Lemmy Killmeister) and
released a double–CD of acoustic and electric
Hip hop flourished with the likes of Fresh Pro and Dr.
Heat, while punk was prolific in an assortment of
variations during 2004, including CDs from The Vapids,
Jersey, Pantychrist, Die Hard Losers, Non Passive
Resistance, Break For Change, The Full Blast, The
Spicolis, Perfect, Undecided For Now, The Racket, The
Pettit Project, The Responsibles, Joyride, and The
Lorrainas. You could find metal from The Cursed,
Rosesdead, Threat Signal and 80 Proof Burn, as well as
the near–indescribable indie rock of Waxmannequin, BA
Johnson, Sailboats Are White, Canary Mine, Suffocate
The Stars, Vile Richard and cartoon rockers Sons of
With the birth of so much talent, so many new bands
and countless CDs, the year was not without loss.
The passing of The New York Dolls’ Arthur Kane,
Johnny Ramone, Ray Charles, Rick James, Laura
Branigan and BBC1’s John Peel reeled the international
musical community. Unfortunately, Hamilton lost
skateboarding and hardcore music fanatic Phil Fader
(with memorials and tributes pending in January) as well
as Hangar 18 producer and musician Ray Dalan
(Hangar 18 continues making music with the likes of
Kelly Grrrl Armstrong and Tim Gibbons). Studios and
labels became even more adventurous in 2004. Amp
records released MainMan: A tribute to Dee Dee
Ramone as well as Mickey (Forgotten Rebels)
DeSadist’s debut solo effort after nearly 25 years of
writing and recording.
From the avantgarde Velouria Caywood (set to play the
screenings of Jandek on Corwood premiere) and Ape to
the more light hearted Flamingogos, WolfBeat Records
rocked to the beat of a different drummer.
Skin pounding/guitar wielding Flamingogo Wylde
Swanda (also known as Katie Iarocci) also released her
eclectic, intricate and beguiling psychedelic solo debut.
Compilations included tunes from Steel City Music,
Hamilton Music Scene, Spring Music Festival, The
Staircase Theatre and Red Hill Valley—Keepers of the
Sacred Flame, as well as recent Christmas compilation
albums from Valley View, and Steel City Studios.
2004 saw reunions from every decade. Bobby Hebert’s
’60s R&B pioneers The Jameson Roberts Blues Band
reunited, while The Suicide Dates recreated the music of
The Dream Dates with Career Suicide players
honouring the music of the ’70s punk legends. Seventies
hard rockers New Toiz partially reunited as Wrongfully
Dismissed for a special cancer benefit, and even ’80s
roots rockers The Crawling Kingsnakes reunited this
past year.
The boys in Dodger toured with Skye Sweetnam and
hung out with Britney Spears—and lived to tell about the
Kitchens and Bathrooms imploded at the end of 2003
but this year, Phil Williams and Adrian Murchison return
with a new band, The Inflation Kills, and a new label, Tik
Tok Tik Tok Music.
Electronic CDs were incredibly diverse, veering from the
sublime to the near offensive from the likes of Hypnotech
3, Stemms, Transient World, Spell Gate, Junior Boys,
Orphx, Tekniq and Ofnsvornge. Anne Sulikowski’s
Worthy Records has innumerable electronic, ambient
and experimental recordings worthy of exploration.
It’s easy to recognize that local electronic music is
slowly growing into international proportions.
This year Dan Snaith, or Manitoba as he was known to
his international fans, had to change his name to
Caribou following a trademark infringement motion
prepared in the U.S. by New York’s Handsome Dick
Manitoba, lead singer of The Dictators. Unphased,
Snaith’s recent homecoming this past year in support of
the tremendous Up In Flames was a capacity gig that
illustrated the newest more organic incarnation of
Manitoba’s music. The new name will obliterate all
associations with the old, and his first effort as Caribou,
tentatively titled The Milk of Human Kindness, will be
released worldwide through Domino in North America.
We have barely celebrated the ending of this year and
there are many albums in virtually every possible genre
tentatively set for release in the 2005, including discs
from Bird Rentals, Delusions of Grandeur, Tiny Bill Cody,
Martin Verrall, Teenage Head’s collaboration with Marky
Ramone, HEAD|PHONE| OVER|TONE, Trickbag, Blitz
Cliq, J.P. Reimens, Field Guide To Words And Music,
Sheanderthals, Sam Lawrence 5, Screwtape, Alive And
Living, Hunter Eves, Scotty Campbell, Pailface Boogie,
Cities in Dust, Cadillac Bill and the Creeping Bent, The
Battleship, Ethel, Escape Goats and many more.
And while View featured a cover story on the bid to save
the now crumbled Tivoli Theatre, local organizers Jasper
Kujavsky and Bob Lanois are in the final stages of their
bid to bring the Canadian Music Hall of Fame to
Hamilton’s recreational waterfront. The final two cities in
contention represent a classic rivalry, with this being
perhaps the title match in the “David and Goliath” battle
between Steel Town and Hog Town.
With a pending decision in late January, perhaps this
listing of only some of our collective talents will help
further cause The Powers That Be to realize that
Hamilton is where music lives. - Viewmag

"McMaster After Lives"

McMaster After Lives

McMaster graduate and former Marauder football player Nic Armstrong is hitting life head-on with his new job and his new band
Caroline Dobson

Music, sports, and a passion for people: Nic Armstrong is savoring life after completing his undergrad.

The name and face may seem familiar. That’s because although Armstrong graduated in 2002, he hasn’t actually left McMaster. Armstrong can be found working in the Alumni Advancement Office, volunteering as an announcer for basketball and varsity volleyball games, performing at concerts with his band, or inspiring young people in his work as a motivational speaker. This is one busy guy.

The friendly and extraverted McMaster grad relishes his current roles at McMaster and credits the people he has met at and through the university for his present day success.

"Success for me is found in terms of people," says Armstrong. He values the opportunity to influence and change lives in the same way the people he has met at McMaster have changed his.

"McMaster provides great opportunities. The number of people I have reached and connected with at McMaster has been unbelievable," says Armstrong.

As a former kinesiology major and all-star defensive half-back for the Maurauders, Armstrong has met many students, professors, and coaches who have supported and influenced him along the way. The most influential were, and still are, his friends Greg Restivo and Steve Green, former football teammates who, along with one more friend, Dave Colontino, helped Armstrong form their band, now known as Set In Stone. After changing their name from Hidden Value, the band has recently released their self-titled debut.

Ironically, the band got their big break when Armstrong suffered a back injury in his fourth year and had to take time out from football to have surgery. This allowed him to focus on the music scene and really promote the band. It was, as Armstrong thinks of it now, "a blessing in disguise."

Recently, Set In Stone was offered a recording deal, but decided to remain independent and promote their own music.

Today, Set in Stone is finding small-scale success with their new CD and are busy performing at venues around the province.

Despite this, McMaster is still the place they call home.

"[Mac has a] good vibe--a lot of people around the same age, a lot of energy," says Armstrong.

The band played to a packed crowd at the Marauders homecoming football game. Fans included family and friends, McMaster students, alumni and professors. "Even my old kinesiology profs have the album," says Armstrong.

Besides singing and playing the guitar and keyboard for the band, Armstrong is also an accomplished songwriter who wrote or co-wrote eight out of the nine songs on the CD. He also wrote the theme song for the 2010 Commonwealth Games Bid, which Hamilton lost to India in November of 2003.

Never one to take blessings and honours too lightly, Armstrong realizes his own good fortune. He also realizes that it has taken plenty of hard work, persistence, and growing up to get to where he is now.

"I’ve learned a great deal from being at McMaster. My experiences, especially outside of the classroom, have moulded and shaped me. I’m a little wiser and make decisions based not on emotions but on what is best for the situation."

Armstrong believes in learning from experience, a belief that drives his work as a motivational speaker. For the past five years Armstrong has traveled to places as far as Alberta to speak to audiences of all ages about finding power within themselves, and fulfilling their potential.

Today, Armstrong says he is leading a happy and fulfilled life but, like many graduates, there was a time when he was uncertain of where his life was headed.

"There was a time shortly after graduation when I had no job, no money, nobody, no place and no hope." But Armstrong persisted and, in time, was rewarded.

Today, he has learned not to place as much emphasis on future accomplishments. "The truth is that I used to put a great deal of pressure on myself to anticipate what would happen next in my life; however, as we all know--that is impossible. Now I make it a point to just enjoy the journey of life, learn as much as I can, work hard to pursue my dreams, and pray often."

In the future, Armstrong hopes to continue leading a creative life. "Everyday I make it a point to write something new--whether that be lyrics and music to a song, a comedic dialogue, a societal commentary, or a clever quote." Armstrong hopes this ambition to create will, one day, lead to success in the worlds of music, theatre, television, and film.

For now, however, Armstrong is content to focus on the band’s present success, and to enjoy his time working at McMaster. He remains optimistic for the future, whether or not it’s set in stone - The Silhouette


Debut self-titled album "Set In Stone" (August, 2004).


Feeling a bit camera shy


Home City: Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Musical Style: A mix of contemporary rock sounds mixed in with strong Alternative and Funky rhythms.

- Released debut (self-titled) album August 19, 2004
- Record contains 9 original tracks
- Performing LIVE since 2002
- Song of the Year Honour: The International songwriting competition (supporting VH-1’s SAVE THE MUSIC Foundation), selected the track Don’t Worry (Nic Armstrong) best-written song, 2004

- Received radio-play on Y108 (Hamilton), and 102.1 the EDGE (Toronto)
- Commissioned to compose and record the theme to Hamilton’s 2010 Commonwealth Games Bid
- Performed Bid theme, "Go Beyond” live at Copps Coliseum in front of 4,000 spectators and simulcast in Jamaica for Bid ceremonies (Nov. 13, 2003)
- Toured Western Canada: 40 performances spanning October & November, 2005