The road to Boots & Hearts 2017 officially kicked off Wednesday night in Toronto with an intimate night of entertainment provided by JJ Shiplett and Kelly Prescott. The night was presented by B&H, just a day after naming 20 new performers for this summer’s festival… a list that included both of the evening’s performers.
The small room at Burdock on Bloor Street West was filled with music lovers, eager to participate in both banter and sing alongs. And they were treated to both throughout the evening – a testament to both Kelly and JJ, and how they were able to give the Toronto audience exactly what they were looking for on a wintery mid-week night out.
First to take the stage was Kelly Prescott. Accompanied by Chad Murphy on guitar, and Linsey Beckett on fiddle, Prescott played well with the crowd in her opening set, cracking jokes and playing with the people before and between and every step of the way.
The set was sweet, and funny. Prescott’s voice was smooth and calm, but with just enough edge to make you want more of it and wonder if it was coming around every corner. She also summoned the feels as she worked through her set. Telling tales of love, loss, and family in her stories and lyrics.
We don’t know which day or stage we’ll be seeing Kelly Prescott play at Boots & Hearts 2017, but we know that we’ll have listened to her 2016 EP, Hillbilly Jewels (click here to listen on Spotify) enough to be able to sing along from the crowd.
Following Ms. Prescott, and headlining the night, was Calgary’s JJ Shiplett. Riding high on the January release of his new LP, Something To Believe In, Shiplett took to the Burdock stage solo with his trusty acoustic guitar to take on the crowd.
Form the first line of the first song, Darling, Let’s Go Out Tonight, the Toronto audience was ready to sing along with JJ Shiplett. And it was clear from his reaction that he was both pleased to hear it, and a little surprised. With just two weeks separating the album’s release date and the Road to Boots show, I’m not sure he expected the lyrical awareness to be there from the crowd. But it was.
That sing along atmosphere was amplified by JJ’s encouragement and constant calls for more voices, bigger and louder with every song as the set went on. In fact, to make sure that everyone had a chance to sing along, even if they didn’t yet know his own songs, Shiplett slipped in an acoustic version of Louis Armstrong’s What A Wonderful World – inviting everyone to sing from the first note to the last.
As much as the night was about JJ, and almost acted as a Toronto celebration of Something To Believe In, he did his best to make it about the folks gathered with him.
JJ Shiplett worked through nine songs and an encore on Wednesday night. And through it all he was raw, unfiltered and real… three qualities that his voice and his music exemplify and should be celebrated for. And his enthusiasm on this night was noted by all in attendance.
Before the set was over JJ remarked that he’s been told the 2017 Boots & Hearts crowd will be the largest he’s ever played for… and it will. And he joked that he’d appreciate all of us that were there to be in the front row in August forming a support group atmosphere.
We’ve got a feeling, that as nice an idea as that is, he’s not going to need it.
If you haven’t yet, listen to the album (click here to listen on Spotify) and get ready for JJ Shiplett at B&H this summer.
Road to Boots, JJ Shiplett Set List
✪ Darling, Let’s Go Out Tonight
✪ Am I Dear?
✪ Seeking Shelter
✪ Oh No Girl
✪ What A Wonderful World (L. Armstrong)
✪ Always For You
✪ Higher Ground
✪ Something To Believe In
✪ Loaded Like A Freight Train/I’m On Fire
✪ 4am (Our Lady Peace)