It was Thursday night in Ottawa and football fans from across Canada have started to descend on the Nation’s Capital for the biggest sporting event in Canadian Football, the Grey Cup. But first fans will put their rivalries on hold for a few nights to let their hair down and party together at the Grey Cup Festival. First up Country Night led by JUNO Award winner Jess Moskaluke.
The crowds took their time coming into TD Place last night and many missed one of the most talented rising country / roots artists we’ve seen in a long time, JJ Shiplett. Hailing from Calgary, Alberta Shiplett wasted no time setting the mood by telling the crowd he’s a Stampeders fan and that they had a bit of an upset last year which worked out in Ottawa’s favour. But whatever the upset it looks like the Stampeders are set to turn things around this year with another visit to the Grey Cup, this time facing off against the Toronto Argonauts.
Shiplett, who was discovered by Johnny Reid, put on an incredible performance, as he does every time we’ve seen him live, with songs from his debut album Something to Believe In and an incredible cover of The Tragically Hip’s “Grace Too”. His hits “Something to Believe In” and “Darling, Let’s Go Out Tonight” had the crowd singing and dancing along.
Following Shiplett was a band that’s no stranger to us at Sound Check Entertainment but one I personally only saw for the first time this past summer at the Festival Country de Lotbinière in St. Agapit, Québec, The Washboard Union. This trio from Vancouver has seen a ton of success in their short existence and it’s no secret why. Their harmonies are on-point, and David Roberts can play the washboard like no one else I know (for the record he’s the only person I know that can play the washboard). There’s just something about the energy and excitement that these guys bring to the stage that makes you want to tap your toes and get out of your seat.
The most shocking thing about the Washboard Union was that last night was only their second time playing in Ottawa…this needs to change as these guys deserve some stage time east of the GTA as well. Rocking a hot new single and with a new album due out at any time these guys are on the verge of a major breakthrough, they say it best in their current single…it’s their time to “Shine”. If you’re in Eastern Ontario and didn’t make it out last night you can catch The Washboard Union tonight in Kingston where they’ll be playing at the Ale House, you can find tickets to the show here.
The star of the show was one of the brightest Canadian female country artists, JUNO Award winner, Jess Moskaluke. It’s a rarity these days to see female country artists, Canadian or otherwise, get top billing at an event so seeing Jess in the headliner slot tells me there may be a shift coming. With so many incredibly talented female artists to chose from I expect we’ll see more and more female fronted festivals in the near future. We caught Jess this summer at Boots and Hearts which was one of the strongest performances we’ve seen out of her to date, until last night. Jess had full control of the stage and, with a number of Saskatchewan Roughrider fans in the crowd, you could tell she was at home at a football themed event.
With a brand new album, Past the Past, which is not even a month old Jess had plenty of material to keep the show going and the crowd hoping. She cranked out all of her hits from “Good Lovin'” and “Kiss Me Quiet” to “Take Me Home” as she wrapped up her set she brought the Washboard Union back on stage for a joint rendition of her single, not Carly Pearce’s as I so incorrectly tweeted last night (human mistake and I’ll be the first one in line to laugh at myself for it, it happens haha), “Cheap Wine and Cigarettes”. My freudian slip has spun off to a suggestion by our friends at CISN Country 103.9, in Edmonton, that someone make a mashup of Carly’s singe “Hide the Wine” and Jess’ “Cheap Wine and Cigarettes”…I can’t wait to see what comes out of that…”Hide the Cheap Wine and Cigarettes”.
It was an incredible night filled with incredible performances by equally incredible artists. We can’t wait to do it all again tonight with Sloan, Reuben and the Dark and Dwayne Gretzky.