Guest blogger Ashley Triance-Haldene is an avid country music fan and Addicted’s new country music correspondant
When Nadia approached me asking if I’d like to cover CMT Music Fest being held on July 8th & 9th at Bingemans Park in Kitchener, I jumped at the chance. As a lifelong country music fan I was beyond excited to see some of these acts, including headliners like Kip Moore, Eric Church and the Zac Brown Band, and it had been quite a few years since I had immersed myself in the country music festival scene.
On Friday July 8th, my fellow country loving friend Julia and I hit the road for Kitchener. Once we got settled at our hotel (we decided to opt out of one of the several on-site camping packages that were offered) we made the looooong (and $50) taxi ride to Bingemans. We thought maybe our hotel location was an oversight on our part, however en route we didn’t see one other hotel along the way. Camping was suddenly seeming like the better option…(*Note for next year)
The gates opened around 3:30PM and there was already quite the crowd lined up, eager to get in. Luckily security was quick and painless and we were in in no time. The energy on the grounds was fantastic. It was a beautiful afternoon (pffff…. what’s this ‘severe thunderstorm warning’ you were going on about, weather app?) Julia and I wandered the grounds, getting a feel for the lay of the land. There were free water bottle fill up stations (LOVE this!), booths with sponsors such as Air Miles, Tito’s Handmade vodka, Schick, Rockstar Energy, Jim Beam, Nescafe, Molson Coors & Mott’s Clamato. Promotional teams were all around giving out free merch like bandanas and sunglasses.
Julia and I caught the set of Meghan Patrick who did a great job of getting the crowed psyched for the artists to come. As Kip Moore was a top priority for me, Julia and I decided to seek out some food while The Brothers Osborne played our evening mealtime soundtrack. ‘Market Lane’ held food trucks from local food vendors including Southern Ontario Smoked BBQ, 50 Pesos, The Spinning Spudster, Kisko Freezies, The Frequent Fryer and many more. By the time we were finishing up our meal, the sun was gone and some seriously dark clouds were starting to roll in (hmmm…ok, maybe these weather apps are on to something after all…). The event was to be held rain or shine, but about 20 minutes before Kip Moore’s 7:50 set time, a call was made to postpone the show. The threat of lightning and thunder was too great – the grounds had to be evacuated for everyone’s safety. Announcements over the loudspeaker were continually being made to direct everyone to the exits, as well as advising festival goers to continually check social media for updates as to if (and when) the show would continue. Around 10:30pm the decision was made to cancel the show. Though sad I wasn’t getting to see Kip Moore or Eric Church, my crew decided to seek refuge and drown our sorrows at a local country bar where Toronto’s Boots & Bourbon favourite Brad James just happened to be playing! All was not lost, as he even did covers of the artists we were all missing *tear*
Julia and I welcomed Day 2 with as much enthusiasm as the day before, but much more nervous about the weather as it looked like it was going to be a wet day. Fortunately, we lucked out and stayed dry.
One of the refund options from the night before was that those people who had purchased only Friday tickets were able to be admitted into Saturday’s shows free of charge (which was very generous). I think it was due to this that Saturday suddenly felt a hell of a lot busier than Friday had. We were pretty much in a constant lineup – food, drinks (be prepared for a 20-30 minute wait if you’re looking to enjoy a tall can of beer, or vodka lemonade!)
Despite the craziness of the crowd, we got to enjoy fun performances by Kira Isabella, The Road Hammers, Cold Creek County (I went to high school with their drummer, so that was pretty cool – Hi Doug!) and Tom Cochrane.
The highlight of the weekend definitely had to be the Zac Brown Band. While familiar with their music, I’ll admit I haven’t been their biggest fan. My opinion of them has totally changed after that Saturday night concert. They are very talented musicians, often having up to a 12 piece band playing onstage with them (I’m talking your usual drums, bass & guitar but also fiddle, ukulele, banjo, mandolin, brass, as well as fabulous backup singers). They played all of their great songs and also did some amazing cover songs. You should have seen their awe and joy as the crowd danced and sang along to every one of their songs – they definitely have a loyal fan base. They played a fun show from 8:35 until 11pm, when it all wrapped up and we headed out – or back to the country bar if you were me J.
While the biggest disappointment was missing Friday’s headliners (Thanks again, Mother Nature) I can only hold out hope that they’ll be invited back next year and I’ll be in the middle of the crowd at CMT Fest, singing along to Kip Moore’s “Somethin’ ‘Bout a Truck” or Eric Church’s “Talladega” in my wannabe country singer southern drawl.
*photos by Ashley Triance-Haldene