Hamilton: the city of feeling

By Micah Van Dijk

Kiss screamed Detroit Rock City. The Clash lamented London Calling. Frank Sinatra crooned New York, New York. Will Smith boasted about Miami. Could Hamilton be a city that is unique enough to be captured in song?

Some may fear that a song about Hamilton could be dreary, embarrassing, and even worse: boring. Whatever the fears, a couple of artists have taken the risk of capturing the current feeling of Hamilton and it’s citizens.

The verses of the song begin with the quiet suburbia around Lime Ridge Mall and are followed by a siren-filled description of Barton Street. In both these scenes, the citizens are restless and desiring more. They are looking for something to give them hope, to wake them up, and raise them to life. Matthew McKenna, one half of Ash & Bloom, explains their first impression of Hamilton.

“We both moved to Hamilton for university believing the misconceptions of the time: Hamilton is stinky, rough, ugly and that’s it. Once we finished school, we’d be off for greener pastures.” However, during their four years of forced citizenship in Hamilton they experienced a transformation. “But the longer we stayed, and the more we looked around, the more we found things to love about Hamilton. The little buzz neighbourhoods that everyone knows about (Locke St., James N.) are charming and exciting. The arts scene is exploding with this creative embarrassment of riches! The nature is breathtaking…trails and waterfalls everywhere! And there are people doing beautiful selfless things for others.”

After university both members of Ash & Bloom chose to settle in Hamilton to be fed by the things with which they fell in love and to also contribute to the city. They sing:

Here in this town there’s a feeling
Deep in the ground, hear it breathing
Whispering loud, it’s revealing
Seeds in the crowd of believing
Weary of patiently waiting
Hands in the clay, strong and shaping
Seeing one day in their dreaming
Here in this town there’s a feeling

(Lyrics from ‘Hamilton’ by Ash & Bloom)

As the feeling grows in Hamilton, defining questions enter everyday conversation. Are we a city of a casino? A city of all-day GO-train service? A city of a new waterfront development? A city valuing social programs? A city of an NHL team?

Many of these defining questions are contentious among Hamilton’s citizens and the old attitude would be to cynically admit defeat. Only in Hamilton would we miss opportunities and mess up decisions that could help the city. However the new optimistic feeling in the city brings along a new attitude. The attitude is revealed during the final words of the song when Ash & Bloom repeat “Anything can happen in this town!” This new attitude transformed Locke Street, Ottawa Street, and James Street. This attitude will transform Barton Street, Concession Street, and all of other streets willing to dream.

This attitude started SuperCrawl, opened Nations Fresh in Jackson Square, and recently the Mustard Seed Co-op. And most important, this attitude is attracting people to live and dream in this city. Las Vegas: The city of sin. Paris: The city of love. Hamilton: The city of feeling.


Ash & Bloom are a duo from Hamilton, Canada who’ve been collaborating together for over 10 years after meeting at Redeemer University College. Both were born elsewhere but have settled with their wives in the Hamilton area because of the “feeling.” They released a self-titled EP in November 2013 and they’ve just released a full-length album featuring the song Hamilton. www.ashandbloom.com


micah-van-dijk-music-2014Micah Van Dijk was born and raised in Hamilton and is currently completing a Masters of Popular Music Studies from the University of Glasgow in Scotland. Over the summer, he will complete is dissertation asking the question: “How do popular musicians perceive the industrial aspects of live performance?”

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