Smokestack Festival & Concert Series Burns With Love of the Blues

Article Contributed by Sarah French P… | Published on Thursday, April 6, 2023

Steeltown has long been a flourishing and legendary music city, and that tradition continues with the city’s latest live music event, Smokestack Festival & Concert Series. Taking place May 26 & 27, 2023 at Bridgeworks (200 Caroline St. N.), the new event property, a stellar line-up of some of the best and brightest on the Canadian blues scene, is the result of a collaboration between local label and events producers Sonic Unyon and award-winning Hamilton bluesman Steve Strongman.

Speaking about the new event, Sonic Unyon’s Tim Potocic is enthusiastic. “We always look forward to working with Steve and are excited to be doing so again on Smokestack. This also takes us full circle, in a way. We produced the Hamilton Blues & Roots festival and concert series 2013-2015, have staged countless concerts with JUNO-calibre roots and blues artists, and have been featuring an all-star blues revue as the capstone of the annual Supercrawl festival since 2017. Smokestack is the next chapter in that decade-long story.”

Steve Strongman, who headlines the series’ opening night, is similarly stoked. “I’m thrilled to be a part of bringing a blues- and roots-based music festival to Hamilton,” says Strongman. “There is a hugely supportive music community here and they deserve to have the world-class entertainment that Smokestack will bring.”

Supporting Strongman are artists synonymous with Canadian blues music: Ottawa’s swampy blues-rock trio MonkeyJunk (winner of 23 Maple Blues Awards, two Indy Awards, a USA Blues Music Award, and a pair of JUNOs) and Toronto’s Hogtown Allstars, headed by Downchild Blues Band alumni Chuck Jackson, Pat Carey, Gary Kendall, Jim Casson and Tyler Yarema with Maple Blues Band alumni Teddy Leonard and Howard Moore (who can collectively lay claim to more than 20 Maple Blues Awards, five JUNOs and numerous international blues and jazz music awards).

Performing on night two of the festival are three artists synonymous with “Northern Americana” music. JUNO-winning headliners Whitehorse (two-time Polaris Music-prize nominees and seven-time Canadian Folk Music Awards nominees) close Smokestack as part of their tour for  I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying, which finds the award-winning pair venturing deeper into classic country touchstones than ever before, a move that is both a homecoming and an evolution of their sound. Opening the festival’s second night will be Bywater Call, a powerhouse seven-piece Southern soul/root/rock band, and JUNO-nominated alt-country songwriter NQ Arbuckle.

SMOKESTACK DAY 1: Steve Strongman / MonkeyJunk / Hogtown Allstars

SMOKESTACK DAY 2: Whitehorse / Bywater Call / NQ Arbuckle

WHAT: Smokestack Festival and Concert Series

WHERE: Bridgeworks (200 Caroline St N, Hamilton, ON L8R 0A6)

WHEN: Friday, May 26 and Saturday, May 27 / Doors 7pm, Show 8pm daily

TICKETS: $40 (plus fees & taxes) available via or