In the heart of the city, country took over. The Budweiser County Fair brought country music, BBQ, beer and more to King Street West, and country fans were there to soak it all in while they soaked up the sun.
The two day festival featured a list of rising stars on stage, and paired with the food, drinks, games, line dancing, pie eating, bull riding, and general good times, we’re calling it a win for Toronto and the live music scene in the city.
We were at the County Fair on Saturday, and to say there was a lot going on would be an understatement…
★ Line dancing lessons popped up between sets all day, with beginner, and more advanced dances being taught to the crowd. It was awesome to see the combination of men and women, in everything from flip-flops to broken in cowboy boots.
★ The mechanical bull was a hot spot all day, with some entertaining rides – and a contest that saw male and female winners take home tickets to Boots & Hearts 2017.
★ The pie eating contest was a hot mess of cherry pie filling and crust all over contestants, the table, and the ground… but it was also awesome.
★ There were well deserved lineups for food, including the pig roast by Chef Kevin Castonguay and the hot dogs from Chef Stephen Payne.
MacArthur Clark took the stage first with a stripped down set of tunes that showed off his rich voice. With sweet, sad, true, and real notes that come from good singer/songwriter music.
The Peterborough, ON native is strong on stage, and songs like Blinded rang through the early afternoon crowd with the kind of soul that MacArthur Clark is known for to their fans. And, the cover of Cash’s Ring Of Fire was an excellent end to the set, offering a personal take on the classic song, and a dedication to Travis Berlenbach’s dad made it extra special.
Kaitlin Kozell took the stage after a break for line dancing and festival fun. And along with her band, they filled the King Street West space with the country sound we’ve heard from her at events like Boots & Hearts and Steak Stock in the past.
Songs like Highway 28 and Right As Rain gave the crowd a taste of who the singer is and what she does. Kaitlin’s crowd work was also great, with a great highlight leading into Incognito. Her request for a little help from the crowd if the form of a baseball cap lead to one dude tossing her his Detroit Tigers lid, which probably looked better on her than it did on him.
Kaitlin Kozell is one to keep your eye on… trust us.
After another break for line dancing, food, games, and the search for shade, Natasha Zimbaro hit the County Fair stage, accompanied by her band and some awesome silver balloons displaying her initials.
Natasha’s energy was a perfect fit for the late afternoon crowd, with some pep in her step, and her songs, she let her strong voice and solid performing chops show everyone what she has to offer.
Tracks like Cardboard Box (now available at CMT Canada) and Obvious, as well as her covers of Rascal Flatts’ Riot and Mötley Crue’s Home Sweet Home, rang across the space, and made new fans out of the Toronto country fans.
As afternoon turned to evening, Jesse Gold took the County Fair stage, and the combination of his guitar picking + his accompanying guitar picking + and the songs he brings to the stage, he put on a show worth seeing.
The vibe reminds us of a Jack Johnson or Ed Sheeran – acoustic picking, sweet words, and the kind of music that you’re very comfortable listening to. The Electric/Acoustic hybrid on the stripped down set brought an interesting and appreciated feel, and songs like Lake Girl, and Chris Stapleton’s I Was Wrong were the hook Gold needed to grab our attention and make us take note that we’ll be seeing more of him in the future.
As the dinner hour passed, the beers continued to flow, and the pie eating and bull riding contests were wrapped – The Reklaws prepared for their turn on the stage.
The Hometown Kids, duo had been seen at the County Fair all day in their position as hosts, but in new outfits, with amped up energy, and their entertaining vibes turned up to 11, Jenna and Stuart hit the stage with their band, and put on the kind of show that we were hoping for.
The downtown Toronto crowd was given everything they hoped for as the brother/sister act rang through their set of originals and covers, allowing even the most casual of country fans to get in on the action.
We got to hear The Reklaws jam out to originals, Wish You Were Beer, Boys Don’t Cry, Last Call, and their current single, Hometown Kids – and they sounded great doing it. And when they dipped into their bag of tricks for covers of Shaggy’s Angel, The Steve Miller Band’s The Joker, Rihanna’s Four Five Seconds, Sum 41’s In Too Deep, and Kip Moore’s Somethin’ ‘Bout A Truck – there were jumps and sways and singing along all throughout the County Fair.
And with an awesome little acoustic medley that had everyone singing along, the Budweiser County Fair got to hear Stuart and Jenna slip together clips of Snapback (Old Dominion), Better Man (Little Big Town), Body Like A Back Road (Sam Hunt), My Church (Maren Morris), and H.O.L.Y. (Florida Georgia Line). We love a good medley, we love country music, and we loved this little addition to the set.
We know we’re going to see The Reklaws again soon, you will too.
And we’re already looking forward to next year when the Budweiser County Fair comes back to Toronto. See you there.