The Rally made its triumphant return to a euphoric crowd at Tim Hortons Field Saturday, which was packed with 25,000 ecstatic fans who congregated to sing along with Arkells at their biggest concert yet.
“This isn’t any show, this is Hamilton,” announced lead singer Max Kerman when The Rally countdown on the Jumbotron was over.
The frontman showed up in full Arkells attire, a fringe jacket with “Years” written on the back, referring to the concert’s opening song, “Years in The Making.” At the beginning of the show, Kerman set out a few ground rules for the evening to make sure everyone made the most of the experience.
“Rule number 1, you need to dance, you need to let the spirit of live music take over your entire body. Rule number 2, we gotta look after each other. This show only works if you are all having a good time. Rule number 3 is do not wait. This show was announced 843 days ago, it was cancelled, postponed and then cancelled again,” said Kerman.
In addition to the enthusiastic Arkells’ performance and sweaty fans on a scorching hot Saturday, a sweet and romantic surprise took place on the stage. Kerman invited a newlywed couple from the crowd for their first dance to “And Then Some.”
“This is a different kind of wedding dance,” said Kerman as the couple danced on stage. “This is a 25,000-people-singing-along wedding dance.”
The set list pleased every Arkells fan with a list of all-time favourites. “Years In The Making” “Leather Jacket” “11:11” and “My Heart’s Always Yours” sung by thousands of Arkellians in the crowd, at the top of their lungs. At a quick glance, one can say it looked like an open-air karaoke.
In an interview prior to The Rally, Kerman talked about the band’s connection with the fans. “They’ve been with us since the very beginning and this is where we cut our teeth. We played at all the clubs in town, we played at Mohawk and McMaster. There is a real familiarity with our music and what we what we’re all about. We are very lucky that the band met in Hamilton, and that’s where the band was born.”
On the big day, some fans lined up for hours to guarantee a spot close to the stage. Heather Jones, who camped out in line since 2 a.m. , made her own personalized cowboy hat for the concert.
“I spent quite a few hours on putting the feathers and attaching lights to it. I’m so excited for the concert. They are my favourite band, it took me 10 years to see them live for the first time and now that I have just keep going,” said Jones.
“Tony, you are my main boy. I’m so excited, it’s my third rally in a row, let’s go boys!,” said fan Trevor Peeters.
Earlier in the day, band members rode bikes with hundreds of fans from Gore Park to The Rally Market at Tim Hortons Field. A pre-show market also took place outside the stadium with food trucks, small businesses, charity organizations, Hamilton Flea (a curated collection of local artists) and a special merch collaboration with the Ticats.
The Rally opening act, JUNO and Polaris Prize winner Haviah Mighty won the hearts of the Hamilton audience with hip-hop beats from Brampton, dancers lifting up the crowd and some swag for the best dancers on the floor. “Positivity, inclusivity and pride,” said the singer as she left the stage.
Followed by K. Flay, the American singer whipped her blue hair to hard-hitting tracks and strummed strung a matching guitar. After an emotional speech about the recent overturn of Roe v. Wade, the crowd went wild with a wave of thousands of middle fingers in the air showing disbelief regarding The Supreme Court’s decision.
The final opening act, Mt. Joy graced the audience with familiar folk songs and got everyone dancing before the much anticipated Arkells.
At the end of the show Haviah Mighty returned to the stage for “One Thing I Know” carrying a pride flag with Kerman. For the encore, “Reckoning” “Gimme Gimme” cover by ABBA sang with Mt. Joy and “You Can Get It” featuring K-Flay.
There is no doubt Hamilton missed Arkells, along with other fans who flew across the country to experience what The Rally is all about — friendship and live music. Enjoying a festival on a summer day among thousands of people can no longer be taken for granted.
“Fever dream. Speechless,” said Arkells on Instagram after the concert.