Much of the Sound Check team, myself included, has converged on Burls Creek this weekend for one of the most important events in the history of our organization, Boots and Hearts.
Although Sound Check has been well represented at this event over the past two years this is my first time back since 2013 and my first visit to the new venue Burls Creek and boy what a difference. The checkin process was seamless and getting to and getting setup at our campsite took virtually no time at all and the campsite itself is located in a secure compound dedicated for media and it’s located a very short walk to the media tent on the grounds which is very convenient.
So we arrived on site close to 6:30pm on Thursday evening and quickly got setup and ventured into the venue to get our bearings. If you’ve never been to Boots and Hearts at Burls Creek the first thing you notice is the sheer size of the property, it’s huge. To put it in perspective media camping is located adjacent to Highway 11 and Camping Plus, the closest campground to the festival grounds, is a 30 minute walk away.
By the time we made it to the Front Porch Stage, where Emerson Drive were just wrapping up their set and Jake Owen would be headlining shortly thereafter, a massive crowd had already assembled. Now I’ve never been to the Kick-Off Party before but talking to people throughout the night it was clear that this was by far the largest crowd they had seen in the 5 year festival history. Unofficial numbers put the crowd in attendance at just over 30,000 just for opening night.
Friday the extreme heat continued but that didn’t stop us or the thousands of fans from converging on the festival grounds for another day of incredible music. Our day started with a visit to the Fan Fair to catch some of our friend Tebey’s set before heading to the Main Stage to catch my good friend, and fellow North Bayite, Cory Marquardt. If you’ve never seen Cory live this man knows how to put on a show, from his rockin’ hits like Don’t Count Saturday Night and Smartphone to his slower ballads like This Man Cory had the crowd pumped up from start to finish. He even had some hometown support with a group of guy near the front chanting North Bay, North Bay as Cory rocked the stage. Do yourself a favour and if you see Cory coming to a town or city near you GO!
After Cory it was off to the Front Porch Stage for Lindsay Broughton. I first caught Lindsay at Boots and Hearts way back in 2013 where she performed throughout the weekend on a small stage surrounded by bales of hay in the Lug tent. At the time I took notice of a talent in development and knew that she would be one to watch…fast forward 3 years later and, once again, I was right. Lindsay has honed her skills very well over the past three years and delivered a powerful, classic-rock infused, performance moving her up on my list of ones to watch. Lindsay took the time to record a Boots Session with us on Friday watch for it coming up soon.
After Lindsay we took a short break and returned to the campsite for lunch and to batten down the hatches for an incoming thunderstorm, luckily for us the storm just grazed the venue and failed to dampen any spirits or cause any delays.
We returned to the venue just in time to catch the SiriusXM The Highway’s Music Row Happy Hour with Sam Hunt, Tim Hicks and Dierks Bentley. We couldn’t stay long seeing as my personal favourite country music duo, Autumn Hill, was due to hit the Main Stage and there was no way I’d miss them. I also first discovered Autumn Hill just prior to Boots and Hearts in 2013 and have been a diehard fan of them since then, the best part is that over the years I’ve had a chance to meet and get to know both Mike and Tareya and they’re two of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. I’ve seen them a number of times now and have yet to see a bad performance.
Following Autumn Hill, we stuck around for another anticipated performance by my good friend Tim Hicks. With a new album coming out in September, available for pre-order here, Tim didn’t waste anytime getting to his newest single “Stompin’ Ground” and by that time a massive crowd had already filled the main bowl area and as we made our way over to catch Cam on the Front Porch stage you could see the crowd continued to pour in from the outlying campgrounds for the acts yet to come, Sam Hunt and Dierks Bentley.
We were among the first to arrive at the Front Porch stage for Cam but as her set went on and the crowd swelled it was clear that anyone who wasn’t certain whether or not they had wanted to see Cam had decided to take the leap and go. None of us would be disappointed. To be honest I enjoyed Cam’s set so much that she became my favourite performer of the weekend so far! Things got a bit emotional as she performed her smash hit “Burning House”, at one point Cam even said that this was the loudest she’s ever had her song sung back to her. Being able to witness special moments like that is another special thing about what we get to do here at Sound Check. Every artist is on a journey from emerging to superstar and watching the moments where an artist transitions into a star are special and priceless. Cam took some time to chat with Corey before her set yesterday be sure to check our social media pages for highlights from that interview.
After Cam’s set we took a break to checkout the massive selection of food available and listened to Sam Hunt while we ate, following Sam we walked the venue for a bit and listened to some of Dierks Bentley before turning in for the night and catching the fireworks from our campground, phones, chargers and our own batteries all needed recharging after a hot but amazing day that we won’t soon forget.
Much cooler weather in store for the second half of the weekend with some even hotter performances still to come with tomorrow’s stars vying for their shot at stardom starting today at noon with the Emerging Artist showcase followed by performances by Jojo Mason, Madeline Merlo, Alan Doyle, Aaron Pritchett, Dean Brody and headliner Blake Shelton. Stay tuned we may even have a contest at some point this afternoon.
Stay tuned more photos coming later today…