Buzz Buzz Buzzing – Tim Hicks at the 2014 CNE

Tim Hicks 2014 CNE HeaderFrom fronting the house band and hosting open mic nights at Grace O’Malleys in Toronto, to finding the top 10 on the country music charts on now regular basis – Tim Hicks has done a lot in his musical career.

Friday night we had a chance to sit down and talk with Tim before his headlining set at the CNE Bandshell to talk about getting to where he is now, what’s coming up, Boots & Hearts, and more… and then we went out into the crowd and watched the show, which delivered on every promise of entertainment that could have been given.

Tim Hicks 2014 CNE InterviewTim talked to us about those early days at Gracie’s playing rock one night, Irish music the next, but always mixing in country. Until some time in 2009/2010 when he decided it was time to go country all night, all the time. He still remembers the girl in the crowd coming up to the stage and asking with a scrunched up face, “Are you gonna play country all night?” and asking himself if it was going to work. But as time passed he started noticing that when the band would play a rock song the crowd called out for more country. He made the right choice.

I brought up Boots & Hearts, because I really didn’t have a choice. Hicks was incredibly grateful to the people at B&H who have put him on stage for all 3 years of the festival, including a great Saturday timeslot this year opening for Lee Brice and Luke Bryan on the main stage. He told us that he knows a year is going to come when they tell him that he needs to take a break from the line-up, but I got a sense that he’d love to be there every year. And when I asked if there was still a 50/50 chance we’d see him in Bowmanville in 2015, he was eager to say yes.

Tim Hicks 2014 CNE Side BannerNote: The humble and modest Tim Hicks came out in full force when he talked about how cool it was to hear Lee Brice and Luke Bryan shout him out for a job well done during their sets at Boots & Hearts. You can tell just by talking to him that this whole success thing hasn’t gone to his head, and he’s enjoying the ride.

That ride isn’t all smiles and beer and cheers from the crowd though. Tim told us that he’s still trying to figure out how to make being on the road work for his young family. He’s not shy about the fact that it sucks sometimes and that he asks other musicians like Dallas Smith about making it all work. But he also readily acknowledges that they’ve “won the lottery” when it comes to getting a chance to do what he loves.

Speaking of the road, Tim Hicks is getting ready to go out on tour with Dierks Bentley this fall and is super excited about it. He told us that he and the family got to spend some time with them the other day and it was a great start. He knows that this is a great opportunity for his career, and with his new album 5:01 doing well, it’s a great chance to get his music out to bigger crowds every night.

I asked Tim which 2 Canadian acts he’d love to bring out on a full tour with, and he was quick to answer…
 The Road Hammers
 Dallas Smith
And his American pick to join them, Blackjack Billy

Tim Hicks On Stage 2014 CNEI also asked about Tim’s thoughts on the state of Canadian country music and he told us that he feels like there’s a wave coming through the genre with new acts like Tebey, Jess Moskaluke, Mackenzie Porter, Kira Isabella, and Dallas Smith. He also said that acts like Paul Brandt are part of that wave with the music they’re making, using Forever Summer as an example (which is great because it’s a great song). He’s excited to be part of that group and from a fan’s perspective I can tell you that Canadian country music looks to be in great shape right now, and in the near future.

The fun questions came next and wrapped up our time with Tim Hicks.

Q. Kira Isabella, Mackenzie Porter, Jess Moskaluke, Lindi Ortega, and Terri Clark are nominated for the CCMA Female Artist of the Year, can you/ will you make a prediction for the award?

A. All 5 work hard at what they do and deserve a chance to win, and none would be a wrong choice – but Tim told us that it would be awesome to see Mackenzie or Jess take the stage to pick-up the award in Edmonton.

Note: We asked Brett Kissel the same question at Boots & Hearts and he couldn’t/wouldn’t give us an answer – and he apologized for it. But thumbs up to Tim for giving it a shot.

Q. If we looked at your iTunes right now who would be see as your 3 most played artists?

A. It was another quick answer. And while he told us he didn’t have any Rihanna like Brett, he does have Wings in his library. Here are Tim’s top 3 in no particular order:
 Eric Church
 Arc Angels
 Rascal Flatts greatest hits

Tim Hicks was gracious and humble and modest throughout our entire conversation, just like the good Canadian boy that he is, and we thank him for that. And when he came out on stage about 45 minutes later – he nailed it!

Here’s Tim’s setlist from the CNE Bandshell

Tim Hicks Smoke 2014 CNEHere Comes The Thunder
Stand Up
Buzz Buzz Buzzing
So Do I
Hell Raisin’ Good Time
Dust And Bone
Hands Up
A Little Drinkalong
Got A Feeling
She Don’t Drink Whiskey Anymore
Stronger Beer
Get By
Encore: Free Bird

Thanks to Trish for the pics both backstage and of Tim’s set. Check out more from Friday night and more at her blog HERE!

Stay awesome!
Tim Hicks 2014 CNE BandshellTim Hicks Backstage 2014 CNE

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Caffeine & Big Dreams – Kira Isabella at the 2014 CNE

Kira Isabella 2014 CNE HeaderFriday night wasn’t our first chance to see Kira Isabella – but it was the first time that we were able to make it happen. And I am really glad that we did!

From the moment that the 20 year old from Ottawa took the stage in her strapless Johnny Cash top, sparkly hot pants, black tights and awesome boots (I’m going to go ahead and call it Outlaw Glam) she was into the show, ready to go and the crowd was in for a treat.

Kira Isabella 2014 CNEEarly in her set Kira made me a very happy country music fan when she played Real Good Radio, I’ve had a soft spot for that song since the first time I heard it on the my radio. The early part of the set also included Shake It If Ya Got It, which will be a song that Kira can play for the next 15 years to get the ladies in the crowd dancing – and I’m sure she will.

Note: The set also reminded me that I owe Kira Isabella a big thank you for her help a few months ago. We were at the Rock N’ Horse preview night and in an intense moment of trivia, with the entire bar staring at me for my own question – Kira rescued me when my mind went blank and I could only remember 2 hits by the great Dolly Parton. So here is me saying thank you again to Kira for mouthing “Jolene” at me!

Ms. Isabella has some serious pipes and belted out her first single, Love Me Like That, followed by her latest hit, Quarterback. There was a lot of singing along at her request – but it was going to happen anyway.

Kira Isabella 2014 CNE Side Banner 1And then she blew us all away with a killer medley that started with OneRepublic’s Counting Stars, moved into Johnny and June’s Jackson, then Magic’s Rude, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s classic Fishin’ In The Dark and then, out of nowhere, but with a warning that we might not be ready for it, Kira Isabella started rapping Macklemore’s Can’t Hold Us – and she nailed it. I love live medleys and Kira’s was a good one.

The set wrapped up with a track from her upcoming album Caffeine & Big Dreams (coming October 14, 2014 – check your iTunes) co-written by Canadian Deric Ruttan, Gone Enough – video coming soon to CMT. And last for the night was Hey Love, another from the new album, that after last night I’m excited for.

Great job by Kira – and thank you to Trish for the pics, you can see more from Friday night on her blog HERE!

Stay awesome!
Kira Isabella Band 2014 CNEKira Isabella 2014 CNE Bandshell

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Where’s The Love? – Hanson at the 2014 CNE Bandshell

Hanson CNE Bandshell 2014If you had told me 17 years ago that someday I’d go to a Hanson concert and then come home to write about it, I’d have called you crazy.

But here I am.

Thursday night Taylor, Isaac and Zac Hanson took over the CNE Bandshell stage and made it theirs. The largely (but not exclusively) female crowd started popping for them even before they came out to play, screaming every time the preview video clip would Taylor Hanson CNE 2014 Torontocome on the screens at the side of the stage. And when they did come on stage – Damn! The cheering and screaming crowd was standing immediately, from the front, all the way to the back of the benches.

The set started with Fired Up and continued with a mix of new and old material including Where’s The Love, Penny And Me, and A Minute Without You. Each song drew a louder reaction, with singing and dancing and hand waving included on every track. Over and over Taylor called for the crowd to shake it, and they did. All night.

About half an hour in the boys left the stage briefly and came back out to play a short acoustic set that didn’t stop the fans from cheering, but certainly got them engaged in the singing. The 3 song intermission included…

Instagram via @amaaandamc

Instagram via @amaaandamc

• Madelaine
• Strong Enough To Break
• With You In Your Dreams

Did I hope that MMMBop was going to part of that acoustic bit, maybe. But it didn’t break my heart not to hear it that early.

Note: The Seasons, who opened for Hanson on Thursday night, did a great job with their half hour on the Bandshell stage and shouldn’t be forgotten. They were endearing and adorable and played and sang like they belong on stages all over the place. Job well done.

After the acoustic instruments were put away the brothers Hanson got loud again and played the rest of their hour and a half set with all kinds of energy – that was matched by the audience every step of the way.

Instagram via @josiesavestheday

Instagram via @josiesavestheday

They played straight through to 10 with songs like This Time Around, Thinking ‘Bout Somethin’, If Only, and (bringing everyone to their feet in a moment of 90’s pop music nostalgia) MMMBop. I cannot sufficiently express the collective joy that the CNE crowd displayed when that song started. Hanson has been singing together since 1992 – they have 3 top 20 hits, countless fan favourites and are still on the road some 22 years later – but MMMBop still gets the loudest reaction from the fans who loved that song in 1997 and still do today.

The set closed with In The City which had the crowd shaking it once more – and proved that Hanson really did own that stage and the crowd for each and every one of the 90 minutes they were on it.

And when they left the stage – the fans called for more. So they obliged with a long, fun, surprising cover of AC/DC’s It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock & Roll). If you had told me that Hanson would close the show with a cover and given me 1000 guesses, I’m pretty sure none of them would have been AC/DC. But those boys played it hard, sang it loud, and gave everything they had left.

Instagram via @tiffany0806

Instagram via @tiffany0806

After the music there were thank yous and bows and waves and all of it made Hanson seem a little more grounded and thankful than many acts. It was nice. And a terrific way to end a concert that surprised me from start to finish.

Would I see Hanson in concert again? I don’t know. But like I said, I never thought I’d see them even once in the first place.

Stay tuned for more from the CNE before it closes down for another year…

Stay awesome!

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Welcome to the Neighbourhood – Float Toronto Now Open in West Queen West

Float TorontoJust this week a new self-care service opened in Toronto – and they can’t wait to see you.

Located on the south side of Queen Street West between the Gladstone and Drake Hotels, Float Toronto is the newest addition to the Toronto holistic health scene and it is already seeing their 5 deprivation tanks filling up with appointments daily.

Homer Deprevation TankNote: When Trish first told me about Float and the tanks I immediately thought about Homer and Lisa and their misadventures in the tanks on The Simpsons. So if that’s what you were thinking, you’re not alone!

We chatted with Jesse Ratner-Decle about Float Toronto, what made them open up shop, how it all works and why floating is so good for everyone.

For Jesse it all started in 2011 with his first float. Living in Vancouver (his hometown) at the time he and his step-brother drove an hour and a half to a home operated Chinese massage and holistic medicine shop with a tank in the basement. And as it says on the Float website – “Many people fall in love with floating after just one experience in the tank – we’re no exception to that rule.”

Fast forward to summer 2014, the opening of Jesse and co-owner Sean Lavery’s own shop, which just happens to be one of the largest on the entire east coast.

Yes, Float Toronto was slated to open 2 months ago but, as they do, things happened. We pointed out that they have already built a great community in social media using Instagram, Twitter and especially Facebook to spread the word. Jesse told us that Facebook has become an important tool to share information about the centre as well as floating and the benefits that it provides to people.

Float and BoltNote: Jesse also wanted to pass on a big thank you to everyone who has supported Float Toronto as they have prepared to open the centre and bring floating to the people of Toronto at their new Queen West home. He also wanted to extend a thanks to Bolt Fresh Bar for being awesome neighbours (across the street) and for being extremely helpful in every aspect of opening up the centre. A quick look at Float Toronto’s social media will show you that there’s a lot of love between these 2 local businesses. They’ve also had great support from other floating centres and the floating community, especially Float On in Portland who have been a great resource for Jesse and Sean.

So, what is floating and what’s going on at Float Toronto?

What Is FloatingFloating takes place in a sensory deprivation tank filled with salt water. With no distractions, music, people, conversations, phones, tablets or anything else that we’re so used to being part of our every waking hour, floating gives you the chance to stop and reset – it’s the ultimate disconnect.

Here’s the breakdown of a 90 minute session at Float Toronto.

Sessions are split into 3 sections…
1) 10 minute shower and prep period.
2) 60 minute float.
3) 20 minute shower and wrap time.

Rooms are supplied with fresh towels for every session and showers are stocked with body wash, shampoo and conditioner. Jesse pointed out that in the pre-float shower it is best to use a fragrance free product, and then in the post-float shower you can go ahead and use something that makes you smell pretty and feel fresh. Float Toronto is currently using Dr. Bonner’s products, which are cruelty free – and will make you feel fresh and pretty.

And to answer ours (and probably your) next question – yes Float Toronto is very sanitary.

After a session the room and tank are out of order for a full 30 minutes while the room, tank and shower are wiped down with a cleanser and the water is filtered from the tank.

Float Toronto Instagram 1Here’s how it works: The water is drained completely out of the tank and through a particle filter, then through a UV light that kills all bacteria that could even think about being in the water. The water is also treated with hydrogen peroxide to ensure that it is clean and safe and healthy for every floater who enters a tank. Each tank goes through 3 to 5 filtration cycles in the 30 minute break and is primed and ready to go at 93.5F for the next session.

We asked Jesse about floating and how often people should float and if there’s a too much. The short answer to that last part – no. He told us that it really is like practising anything else, the more you float, the better you’ll get at it. You will find positions that you like. You’ll be able to get into the frame of mind you want to be in. The relaxation and calm will come easier. And you will enjoy your float more and more.

Note: Trish floated on opening night Monday and has already booked her 2nd float. She can’t say enough good things about the experience of being in the tank and told Jesse that it exceeded her expectations.

Speaking with Jesse it’s easy to see that he loves floating and everything that goes with it. In his own words, “We want to share floating with people and we really mean that.” He also told us that one of his favourite things is seeing the looks on people’s faces when they come out of the room after their float. He knows how well this works for the people who choose to make it part of their life, and he wants to spread the word that it can work for anyone who is interested.

Float Toronto logoFloat Toronto is currently open 5pm to 1am Monday – Friday and 11am to 1am Saturday & Sunday – and if you think that floating is for you… you should probably call or pull up the online schedule now because slots will be filling up fast and if the early returns are any indication – it’s going to be like that for quite some time. Weekday hours will be extending in the future, stay tuned to Float Toronto’s Facebook for details.

Thanks again to Jesse for the chat and for being so cool with Trish and I when we stopped by.

Check out Float Toronto online at these links…

Website: float-toronto.com
Online Schedule: floattoronto.floathelm.com/booking
Facebook: www.facebook.com/FloatToronto
Twitter: twitter.com/float_toronto
Instragram: instagram.com/float_torontoFloat Toronto Jesse Ratner-Decle

Float Toronto Room

via Float Toronto on Facebook

Float Toronto Tank Room

via Float Toronto on Facebook

Float Toronto Front Desk

via Float Toronto on Facebook

 

 

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Drinkin’ Buddy – Gord Bamford at the 2014 CNE Bandshell

Gord Bamford 2014 CNE HeaderSaturday night at the CNE Bandshell we got to see Tebey perform and get the Toronto crowd into some country music. But he was there on a mission – to warm up the crowd for a man who has won himself 16 Canadian Country Music Awards and turned become a true star in music, Mr. Gord Bamford.

We saw Gord just a few weeks ago at Boots & Hearts but weren’t able to see the whole set because of the schedule – but Saturday night there wasn’t anything taking me away. And I’m glad because I dug the set and all 20+ songs that he performed.

Gord Bamford On Stage 2014 CNEFrom the start of the set it was clear that he was happy to be up on stage – and it made sense when he told the crowd (much to my honest surprise) that it was his first ever Toronto show. This is a dude who has opened for Reba, but he had never played in Toronto. Blows my mind.

Bamford started strong with I Would For You, Life Is Good, Farm Girl Strong, and Is it Friday yet, his pacing was excellent and had the crowd engaged. But it was a small group of fans that really got more than they bargained for and offered the highlight of the show.

Early in the show Bamford looked out at the crowd and pointed out a young fan with a sign and told him to hold onto it for later. And when later came that little boy, 3 of his other little dude friends and a small girl were all lifted up onto the stage. Bamford spoke with all of them and flipped through what ended up being a scrapbook that the little boy had put together, entirely dedicated to Gord Bamford’s life and career.

Gord Bamford Young Fans 2014 CNE BandshellWith the kids on stage Bamford sang Little Guy (written for his son) and stood with the boys while he did. But that wasn’t the end of it. The little girl’s sister was in the crowd and upset that she wasn’t up with her, so Gord had her lifted up and he pulled the 2 little girls away from the group to sing My Daughter’s Father (written for his 2 little girls) with them in the spotlight. It was incredibly touching and had me choked up.

As mentioned, the set was packed with more than 20 songs, most of which I knew the words to sing along to – and I wasn’t the only one. There were a bunch more just like me, and some who knew more words than I did. And as the set wound down with When Your Lips Are So Close, Stayed Til 2, and Blame It On That Red Dress the cheers stayed loud and happy.

Gord Bamford even gave the crowd and extra bit of love with an encore built of 3 awesome covers: John Mellencamp’s Small Town, Train’s Hey Soul Sister, and Alabama’s If You’re Gonna Play In Texas.

It was a solid set front to back… and if given the chance, maybe on his upcoming small venue tour, I would love to see him on stage again.

Thanks to Trish for the pics – she’s got a bunch more that you can see on her blog HERE!

Stay awesome!

Gord Bamford Kids 2014 CNE BandshellGord Bamford 2014 CNE BandshellGord Bamford and Band 2014 CNE

 

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