Arkells take Homecoming by storm

Hamilton band puts on an unforgettable show despite rain

Arkells on stage during their performance at the ReUnion Street Festival on Homecoming this Saturday.
Image supplied by: Supplied by Studio Q
Arkells on stage during their performance at the ReUnion Street Festival on Homecoming this Saturday.

Arkells felt right at home at Queen’s Homecoming.

The AMS held its second annual ReUnion Street Festival on Saturday night, which brought food, music and dancing to students and alumni on Union St. 

This year, the AMS hosted Hamilton rock-band Arkells for an unforgettable performance at the festival. The band performed at a large stage set up in the parking lot next to the Kinesiology and Heath Studies building. 

Their energetic show featured a lineup of upbeat singles from their most recent album, High Noon. 

Arkells opened the show with “Come to Light”, an upbeat sing along anthem, and closed with “Leather Jacket” — a song the band said was appropriate to play at Queen’s due to the signature faculty leather jackets sported by students and alumni. 

The band has experienced explosive success after releasing their first EP in 2008. Since then, they’ve released three albums and received three Juno Awards. But Arkells remain humble.

“We’ve definitely been spoiled with the way things have been going for us,” Arkells’ lead singer and guitarist Max Kerman said.

(Lead singer and guitarist of Arkells, Max Kerman, on stage during the ReUnion Street performance)

Kerman said the band enjoys playing for students, and it felt like a natural fit to play a concert in a university setting. 

“When we get asked to do these we’re pretty excited about it. And Queen’s is a legendary homecoming. I’ve never been to one,” Kerman said. “I love college towns. I love being around campus. I think that it keeps us young.” 

Kerman added that he recognizes how much students and student organizers appreciate their shows. From the first song to the last, the crowd of 10,000 students and alumni jumped and threw their fists in the air to the sounds of hard-hitting drumbeats. Hundreds of people screamed and sang along to the band’s lyrics. 

The crowd also showed their dedication to Arkells from the start when many of them sang along to Arkells first-ever single from their 2008 album, Jackson Square, “Oh, the Boss is Coming!”.

During the performance, Kerman told the audience that he remembers playing the song during the band’s first Queen’s show at Clark Hall Pub in 2009. 

He said he feels lucky to have fans that connect to all their songs — not just the singles. 

“It’s a measure of people being invested in the band,” Kerman said. “We’re lucky that we can play a bunch of songs, especially non-single songs, and people still sing along to them.” 

It’s unsurprising that so many students adore Arkells’ music, given that the band’s youth and experiences at school inspired many of their songs.

Their 2008 song “Pullin’ Punches”, for example, mentions Kingston in the lyrics. Kerman said the song is about something students know too well —  taking a four-hour Greyhound bus ride home from school. 

Kerman also told the crowd that the song “Book Club” was a tribute to Canadian summers, and to conversations had with friends while driving in a parent’s car. 

Arkells’ performance was almost cinematic, complete with pouring rain, Queen’s-tailored lyrics and song dedications. To top it all off, the band began performing their single “11:11” at exactly 11:11 p.m. 

The band gave an unexpected shout-out to the Queen’s Women’s Hockey Team, who won a game against Nippissing early in the day. They also invited Riley Morris, Sci ’14, on stage during their cover of Michael Jackson’s song, “Black or White”, to perform a rap in the song. Morris, who flawlessly rapped Jackson’s lyrics, was met with a roaring applause. 

On Oct. 22, Arkells sent out a tweet asking if there was anyone who knew the rap to Jackson’s song. When Morris replied saying he did, the band asked him to send a video as proof. 

“When you cover Michael Jackson’s Black or White, you have to nail the rap verse. We put out a call on Twitter, and Riley from Queen’s U delivered,” the band posted on their Facebook page along with the video of Morris’ performance. 

Kerman said he relishes creating moments that are meaningful for fans. 

“I love those kinds of things. That’s the fun of being in this band,” Kerman said. “That’s a memory that I’ll have forever that not a lot of people get to have.” 

Arkells graduated from McMaster with the ambition to pursue their music, but Kerman said he never thought the band would garner so much recognition. 

“We started the band in school and never really assumed that we would get this far. We started to see how far we could take it, and knew that we would have to get real jobs eventually.”

Even now, Kerman said, their success seems surreal. 

“We’re still waiting for the phone call saying: ‘Go get a real job, you lazy assholes’.”


A photo posted by arkellsmusic (@arkellsmusic) on Oct 25, 2015 at 9:08am PDT


A photo posted by arkellsmusic (@arkellsmusic) on Oct 26, 2015 at 10:58am PDT


A video posted by arkellsmusic (@arkellsmusic) on Oct 25, 2015 at 7:43pm PDT


A video posted by arkellsmusic (@arkellsmusic) on Oct 25, 2015 at 2:04pm PDT


arkells, Homecoming, ReUnion Street Festival

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