Friday nights are good for parties. Country music is good for parties. Canadian Music Week is good for parties. Now, go ahead and put all three of those things together and you’ve got yourself a red hot night, and we were there.
On Friday at Boots & Bourbon Saloon on Queen Street East, we hung out with artists, industry, and a heap of fans as 5 acts hit the stage, headlined by the James Barker Band as they celebrated the release of their brand new EP, Game On. The room was packed. There was excitement and positivity and adrenaline in the air… and on stage there were smiles and laughs and sweat and songs from start to finish.
In sports it’s common to hear someone say that they need to leave it all on the field/ice/court/whatever. On Friday night it was the same deal, everyone that performed, from Dani Strong to The Reklaws to Dan Davidson to Andrew Hyatt to JBB at the end, left it all on stage. And we saw it and appreciated the hell out of it.
Side Note: There were some awesome entertainers in the room to check out this show… we think we saw all of them, but maybe we missed a couple. Here’s our list: Jess Moskaluke, Washboard Union, Leah Daniels, Kris Barclay, Ben Hudson, Karli June, Vanessa Marie Carter.
Dani Strong kicked off the show, in her Maple Leafs t-shirt, openly cheering for the home team to pull out a win. She was excited, entertaining, and exactly what we know her to be on stage. Dani is one of the happiest and funniest performers we know. This woman loves to play, and as the opener she did a fantastic job of greeting the early crowd and setting the tone for the night.
We recommend checking Dani Strong out in person and online – where you might just catch her playing and singing in the bathroom on a pretty regular basis.
Following Dani, much to our personal delight, were The Reklaws.
Stuart and Jenna have been on our radar since day 1. And it was exciting for us to see them on stage with new songs, strong voices, an energetic performance, and the same charisma we know and love.
It had been a while since we’d seen the sibling singers, so it was extra special to see the growth in their game. And to be able to talk to both of them, and find out just how excited they are about the new music was the cherry on top. With their label (Universal) behind them, and the crowd response to their set on the Boots & Bourbon stage, we’re sure that we’ll be seeing and hearing more from The Reklaws sooner rather than later.
High five, hugs and good jobs to Jenna and Stuart.
In the middle of the bill, all the way from Alberta, was Dan Davidson. And he made his presence felt and earned a warm welcome from Toronto country music fans.
With radio hits like Found and Barn Burner to share, Davidson brought sing alongs to the crowd and looked like he absolutely loved every minute of the action. With his full band firing on all cylinders, the sound pumped perfectly through the speakers and moved through the room. People danced and sang and cheered – and it was certainly a momentum builder at the mid-way point of the party.
Side Note: We were lucky enough to see half of Nice Horse up on stage singing with Davidson. They sounded great, added to the show, and made us want to see all of them doing their own thing on the spotlight.
The energy that Dan Davidson brings to the stage is undeniable, and his experience with Tupelo Honey shines through in his performances. But it’s also pretty clear that he’s found a home in Canadian country music… and that you’ll be hearing a whole lot more of him before long!
Second to last, in the “get y’all ready for the headliner” slot, was a late add to the party plans. Andrew Hyatt, fresh off his killer performance at The Phoenix on Tuesday night, hit the Boots & Bourbon stage like a force of nature.
Side Note: I talked to Andrew about the set on Saturday night and he told me that it felt like the old punk shows that he went to as a teen. The crowd brought it, and he felt like he should have been looking for a rafter to hang from.
The crowd was on fire, Hyatt’s band The Good Intentions were loud, tight, and locked in, and Andrew poured his heart and a gallon of sweat into his set. The Sudbury native pulled the Toronto crowd in and gave them what they wanted and all he had. With MGR (Me And A Girl And A Radio), Livin’ The Dream, Love Drunk to get folks singing along, there was no denying the power and fun of the set.
Side Note: Hyatt also gave us a surprise by bringing up Alee to sing her top 20 hit, and their co-write, Moonshine. It was a fun moment, and it’s a great song.
And when Hyatt got to his newest release, She Ain’t You, there were goosebumps in the room. The power of the lyrics, the feelings, and how he presented it all in one piece were outstanding and impossible for me to quantify because I am all in on this song.
With a new album coming in May, and a summer that looks to be full of stage time, Andrew Hyatt is going to make noise. Be ready for it.
Rounding out the night, celebrating the release of their debut, and blowing the roof off of the joint, was James Barker Band.
The boys were on fire – excited about the day, excited about the show, and full of everything we’ve come to know about them. These dudes like to play music, they have fun doing it, and it’s plastered all over their faces.
From the right side of the stage to the left we watched 5 play, sing, and smile their way through their set. And the fans on the floor were all in, singing along to radio hits Just Sayin’, Chills, and Lawn Chair Lazy – as well as a pretty sweet little cover of George Thorogood’s Keep Your Hands To Yourself.
Since winning the Emerging Artist Showcase at Boots & Hearts in 2015 there has been no stopping these guys. And with the release of the Game On EP, upcoming tour dates all over the country, and the backing of their label (Universal) there is no telling just how high the ceiling is for the James Barker Band.
Side Note: It’s been cool to see the evolution in the boys since their big win as well. From the get-go they had talent that we could all see, but the last year and a half has given them a chance to get tighter, smoother, and has turned them into the kind of live performers that country music fans are going to line up to see for a long time.
Seriously, seeing these guys in 2017 at Boots & Bourbon for Canadian Music Week may have been the last chance Toronto had to get that up close and personal.
And they enjoyed it!
— Universal Music CA (@umusic) April 22, 2017