Documenting the sounds of a city
“A couple of years ago, there was a situation where a busker got arrested downtown, for busking,” recalled Cody Lanktree, director of HamiltonSeen, a promotional company that seems to involve itself in all things media creation, marketing and design.
“The musicians of Hamilton were all, ‘Oh, we can’t have this here. This is a place where music happens and artists are loved. How could this happen here, of all places?’” said Lanktree about the public response to the busker’s arrest.
Lanktree, like many others looking to set injustices right, created a Facebook group, which he called “Busker Crawl.” More than 80 musicians performed on James Street, he said. The City ultimately changed its bylaws to allow busking.
The public reaction to the busker’s arrest seem to show that music is a (perhaps surprisingly) significant part of Hamilton’s identity – significant enough that Lanktree has decided to make a documentary about the city’s music scene.
Lanktree’s film, Seen – A Document(ary) of the Hamilton Music Scene, almost didn’t happen.
“I was considering leaving Hamilton,” said Lanktree.
“A relationship had ended, and I was thinking maybe this is my time to take a step out into something else, and I was thinking about making travel documentaries,” he recalled. “I was looking at prices to fly to the Philippines. I’d gotten that far, and it was way too expensive, which was part of my decision not to leave yet.
“I realized that I’d spent the last three and a half years here in Hamilton making a lot of really great friends in the music scene, and I was like, ‘I should do something with that before I go,’ and this is me doing something with that before I go,” said Lanktree, who was quick to modesty.
“I don’t want to say that I’m giving something back or anything like that. That would be kind of silly.”
Today, it seems like the Internet has made the idea of a local music scene seem outdated; will we really have another Seattle grunge explosion?
Lanktree believes that local scenes will always be important.
“In Hamilton, if you go to any show, half the audience is musicians, so what could more directly influence you than the people that you’re seeing every Saturday night?” he said.
“There’s an immediacy related to how direct your relationship is to something. If the woman that you love writes a beautiful song for you, that’s the greatest song you’ve ever heard.”
There’s been big support of Lanktree’s film from Hamiltonians, and on June 30, a group of the city’s musicians played a fundraiser show at the Casbah for Lanktree’s documentary.
“There was just a certain point last Saturday night at the fundraiser I looked around the room and I recognized half the people there, and just thought that the rest of these people are here because they believe in what the music of Hamilton is. Very rarely in life do you get opportunities to be filled with hope about what it is that you want to accomplish.”