The road to Boots & Hearts 2017 made at stop in Toronto during Canadian Music Week, and we were there to take it in – and enjoy the party at the Boots & Hearts + KX Country Hot Shots Concert Series.
Country music fans started walking through the doors as soon as they opened. They made their way to the bar, the taco stand (the fish tacos with a touch of hot sauce were fantastic btw), and the stage to get ready for a night full of action.
With 5 talented acts on the bill, there was no shortage of singalong, shake-along, and snap-along moments.
The night’s lineup played out like this…
☞ Kris Barclay
☞ Kendra Kay
☞ Andrew Hyatt
☞ Drake White and the Big Fire
That opening slot, the one that Kris Barclay grabbed hold of with both hands, can be a tricky one. People are excited, but they’re already thinking about the headliner. People are ready to party, but they haven’t even finished their first drink yet. And still, Mr. Barclay made it his mission to get things started with a bang – and he killed it.
The energy pumped into his cover of Queen’s classic Fat Bottomed Girls, the sweetness in Good Wine, Old Vinyl & You gave everyone in the room a look at what Kris Barclay has to offer and what he can bring to the table – and what we’ll be looking for as his career moves forward.
With a Manitoba Country Music Association (MCMA) award for Female Artist Of The Year under her belt, Kendra Kay came into Toronto as a new face and voice to some, but not new to the game. Accompanied by her band in a plugged in, but stripped down set, Kay kept the party going with a mix of covers and originals that the Toronto CMW crowd got into.
Her cover of Here For The Party was a strong way to introduce herself to the crowd, and her own tracks, I Take My Country and Swinging Door did plenty to showcase her talent as a singer and a performer.
And, before the set was through, Kendra introduced the crowd to her upcoming single, My Way, which comes to radio and your ears in May. You’re going to like it. Trust us.
Right in the middle of the lineup, our listening and party pleasure – Andrew Hyatt took the stage and gave us exactly what we didn’t know we were hoping for from him.
We caught Andrew’s sound check and had were surprised to see so many dudes with guitars on stage with him. It was awesome – and certainly made the wait for his set exciting. And when he hit the stage, with his full band, plugged in and ready to go, it was time for a party!
From That’s How I’m Livin’ to Love Drunk to MGR (Me And A Girl And A Radio), Hyatt kept his energy at a 10, enjoying the hell out of the stage, his guitar, and the sound that his packed stage of instruments and instrumentalists were pushing through the speakers.
But before he was done for the night, Andrew showed off a song that’s been in our heads, on our minds, and all over the internet lately. She Ain’t You is already making an impact. It’s haunting, heartbreaking, beautifully crafted and performed… and while I have stopped myself from saying this a few times, I believe it could and should be for Andrew Hyatt what Workin’ On Whiskey was for Jessica Mitchell in 2016.
Following Hyatt, and keeping the energy up, was Edmonton’s Alee. With her guitar strapped on, Alee brough the crowd to her with sound and stunning look. Bad Habit, the title track to her brand new album (look for Bad Habit on Friday, April 21, 2017) made an instant impression. And performances of her current single When I Do, and one of my favourite all-time songs, Strawberry Wine did what they should have – made a whole lot of people very happy.
There are two notes in my book from the show that I feel need to be shared almost exactly as they’re scibbled down…
1) Smooth & sweet. Sassy when she wants to be.
2) She’s really, really good.
That’s what I wrote – and when Alee sang Moonshine, a track that I could easily put on playlists all day long, I felt as happy as I did during any point in the night.
Be ready for that new album, Alee is going places.
Last on the bill, in the headliner slot, and 100% worth the wait, was Drake White and the Big Fire!
All the way from Alabama to Canadian Music Week, Drake White lit the place up. As he was introduced and the Big Fire took the stage, the crowd got loud and as excited as they would have for any headliner. And when the music started, they sang and cheered from start to finish.
Tracks like That Don’t Cost A Dime, Story, and Heartbeat had the room buzzing – and had me looking at Drake White and thinking to myself, this is what an Alabama singer/songwriter would look like in a dream.
Drake White is an entertainer. He’s a performer. And he’s the real deal. Ask anyone who’s seen him and they’ll tell you that you need to see him the next time you have a chance. He’s a storyteller and a singer, he’s involved with the crowd, and he truly looks like he’s loving every minute of it.
And speaking of loving things… any time a country artist wants to share excellent covers of George Michael’s Faith and 4 Non Blonde’s What’s Up, I’m ready to love it, and I did.
Add in the chance to watch, sway, and sing along to Back To Free, Take Me As I Am, Makin’ Me Look Good Again, and Livin’ The Dream, and it’s fair to say that Drake White and the Big Fire were headliners in every sense of the word, and deserve every chance they get to play for as many people as they can shove into a room.
We can’t wait to see him at Boots & Hearts 2017!