Concert Review: Apathy, C.L. Smooth & More at The Cookout Festival in Hamilton, ON


The Cookout is a relatively new festival to emerge from the Steel City, Hamilton, Ontario, featuring barbeque cooking and live hip-hop music.  In just its second year, the 2014 edition of the festival featured D-Sisive, Saukrates, Apathy, and was headlined by C.L. Smooth performing his entire 1994 album, The Main Ingredient.  On top of these four headliners, there were also several local acts performing throughout the day, starting at 1pm at Club Absinthe in downtown Hamilton.  This would be my first time attending the festival, as well as this particular venue, and would be my first time seeing everyone on the bill except for Apathy and Saukrates.

I arrived at the venue around 7pm, and was greeted by a really nice atmosphere.  The entire party was happening outside of the actual club, with the local artists performing on the patio while the crowd relaxed with the barbeque catering from The Burnt Tongue and/or drinks from the bar.  While the burgers may have been overpriced for the size of them, they were really delicious.  I munched down a couple burgers and some alcohol while watching the opening acts perform.  There were so many of them that there was barely any waiting time between acts; the party just kept on moving.  Some of the notable openers included Wu-Tang affiliate Bronze Nazareth, battle rapper Arcane, and Yours Truly T.Y., who held it down once we moved indoors after the sun set.


After some final local acts, it was time for the main four headliners.  D-Sisive came on to do a set; I didn’t know any of his music, but it was pretty live as he made jokes about the Illuminati not allowing him to dance.  After him was Saukrates, who I had just seen perform in Toronto about a month ago.   His set was kind of similar to what he did in Toronto, except this time he brought D-Sisive back out on stage to perform “Wednesday (Remix)” with him.  These guys were all really humble, shaking hands with the fans during and after their performances.

Next up was supposed to be Apathy, but I guess a last-minute decision was made to let C.L. Smooth get on stage first.  I think this was an excellent choice, because let’s face it, C.L. Smooth did great things in the 1990’s but Apathy has a much more extensive catalogue.  There also seemed to be a lot of Apathy fans in the building, with a lot of Demigodz and Jedi Mind Tricks clothing being worn (shoutout to everyone who complemented me on my AOTP shirt throughout the night).  Apathy could actually be seen among the crowd, watching as C.L. Smooth took the stage to perform his 1994 album, The Main Ingredient.


I think the lateness caused some of the sets to be cut short, but C.L. Smooth still got through most of The Main Ingredient, performing hits like “Carmel City”, “I Get Physical”, “Searching”, as well as the title track.  He seemed really happy to be headlining a festival like this, twenty years after his last album with Pete Rock.  Even though he was doing The Main Ingredient album, he of course had to end the set with his biggest hit from his previous album, “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)”.  All these years later, he still performs his songs perfectly, only missing lyrics he wants the crowd to shout and not missing a step in his flow.  Once he wrapped up his set, he walked into the crowd and immediately began signing autographs.

Before Apathy got on stage, another opening act came out to do about fifteen minutes.  I guess he was on Apathy’s Connecticut Casual Canadian Tour, which was on its final stop here in Hamilton.  I forget what his name was (that’s what happens when you drink) but he had a solid live set.  Pretty soon Apathy got on the stage; it was my second time seeing him, as I had just saw him about a year ago with Celph Titled in Toronto, on their KILLmatic Tour.  Since then, he has released new material with both a group album with Army of the Pharaohs (which is one of my favourite albums this year), and his fourth solo album, Connecticut Casual.


Apathy came out repping where he was by wearing a Blue Jays hat.  He started things off with some older hits like “Stop What Ya Doin'” and “Shoot First” before getting into the new material.  Off the new album, he did “The Curse of the Kennedys” and “Back in New England”, telling us how the latter song is a true story.  I was hoping to see “Martha Moxley” and “Underground Chick” get performed too, but what he did between the new songs was also dope.  Obscure mixtape tracks got performed (like “It Takes A Seven Nation Army…”) and Ap separated the segments of his set by spitting some acapella verses.  The same unused verse he rapped off his phone last year was spit off his head this time, and then he got into a Demigodz segment.

Ap performed his verses from “Demigodz Is Back” and “Raiders Cap” off of last year’s Demigodz album, KILLmatic.  He also did “The Recipe” off his Honkey Kong album and then spit another acapella verse, this time from his remix/diss of Kanye West’s “Love Lockdown”.  Next was an Army of the Pharaohs segment, as Ap did his verses from the new “God Particle” and the classic “Battle Cry”.  He ended that segment by spitting his verse from “Spaz Out” acapella, and just like the rest of his set, didn’t miss a word.  Apathy’s set seemed to be cut short due to timing, as he quickly wrapped things up with “The Grand Leveler” off the new album, but stuck around to take pictures and sign autographs.  I was able to get a better picture than when I saw him last year (this time my flash worked) and I got a Cookout 2 poster signed.

Overall, The Cookout turned out to be an excellent event, and Club Absinthe proved to be a great venue for hip-hop shows.  One thing I noticed was that damn near every artist who got on stage gave shoutouts to Mookie from In Tha Kut Radio, who did an excellent job at putting together this event.  Emcees, DJs and beat-boxers all partied together as they took turns performing, and even the people who weren’t artists had a great time watching.  The atmosphere was great with the outdoor cooking and performances, and the inside of Club Absinthe had a good layout too.  I would definitely come back here for more summer hip-hop shows in the future.

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