To say that we’ve been anticipating the 2017 Festival Country de Lotbinière for a while would be a massive understatement. We’ve been watching this festival develop from the sidelines and hearing stories about the country crazy crowds in Quebec from our friends the River Town Saints and Cory Marquardt so when the opportunity finally arose for us to actually make the trip east to the village of St. Agapit it felt like forever before this weekend finally arrived.
After a week of hot sunny weather the weekend approached with a forecast of rain and lots of it…we were determined to make it to St. Agapit and make the best of an incredible opportunity to take in a new festival in a province where we have never covered anything before.
By the time we had arrived at our hotel the worst of the rain had passed so we took some time to get settled into our rooms before making our way down to the venue about 7 km away from where we are staying.
The afternoon rain put things a bit behind schedule but the crowds took advantage of the delay to start a parking lot party that would’ve made Lee Brice proud. I walked past a group that was jamming out on their guitars while others danced, it was literally the most country thing I’ve ever seen.
We made it into the venue just before The Washboard Union’s pre-show concert in the VIP tent and had a chance to grab one of the best poutines I’ve ever had. Going into this weekend’s event Tim Hicks is the only artist on the lineup I have seen live before. I’ve heard amazing things about both The Washboard Union and Alee from team members who have seen them perform in other regions.
As I mentioned earlier, the Washboard Union put on a short pre-show concert for the VIP ticket holders and media and I knew immediately that they were something special. Think ZZ Top but country with about a million more times the energy of BFG and Dusty Hill. The pre-show was a tease and I was looking forward to catching the full show on the big stage.
Edmonton’s own Alee was first up on the main stage and had the task of warming up the crowd that had braved about an hour delay, caused by a lot of rain earlier in the day, and was ready to party. And boy did Alee bring it.
Alee started her set slow, much like a workout, you don’t want to jump right in for fear of hurting something. Ever so gradually she increased the tempo and raised the energy bar just enough to keep the crowd with her.
There’s a certain elegance to what Alee brings to the stage, whether playing the guitar or the piano or just standing in front of the mic without an instrument she just looks like she belongs there.
Alee took the crowd through her best known songs but the moment that stood out for me was when she stepped into the spotlight front and centre stage and absolutely nailed Deana Carter’s “Strawberry Wine”.
I had the chance to chat with Alee for a few minutes at the end of the night, look forward to a more formal chat this summer at Boots and Hearts…perhaps we’ll even subject her to 20 Questions LIVE.
One thing that continues to blow my mind is how we run into fans, readers and supporters at festivals all over Canada. Even here, right outside of Quebec City, I cross paths with a fan who made sure she came and said hello. Just knowing that people like Donna are tuning in and loving what we do is motivation enough for us to keep doing it.
Continuing the western Canada theme for the night were Vancouver’s own the Washboard Union. A minor mic malfunction didn’t stop this powerhouse group from raising the energy meter really really high.
These guys were one of the most incredible live country acts I’ve ever seen. Their style is classic country with a modern bluegrass twist and a dash of classic folk rock.
Over the course of their, roughly, 90 minute set they cranked out some of their biggest hits including “Head Over Heels”, “Maybe It’s the Moonshine” and, of course, their current single (just released this past week) “Our Time to Shine”. But they didn’t leave it at that, it’s not uncommon for artists to cover each other when performing live so it wasn’t a huge surprise to hear them cover Jon Pardi’s “Dirt on My Boots” or even Dean Brody’s “Bounty”…the surprise came when they covered Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls”. I’m a diehard Queen fan, they are, to me, the greatest band to ever walk the earth after the Beatles and to see another artist pay such an incredible tribute to them was incredible.
Washboard Union capped off their set by blowing the crowd away, again, with an incredible cover of yet another one of my favorite bands’ songs…”Seven Bridges Road” by the Eagles. The harmonies in this song have to be bang on for it to work as it’s sung a-capella at the start and boy did these guys ever nail it. The crowd loved every second of it as the energy peaked during the performance.
The Washboard Union is honestly a new personal favourite, many had told me how amazing they were before tonight but now that I’ve witnessed them perform for myself I’m already looking forward to the next opportunity, and so should you.
Sunny skies and warm temperatures return for Saturday at Festival Country de Lotbinière but the lineup is sure to give you “Chills” because it’s Game On to “Shake These Walls” and have a “Hell Raisin’ Good Time”. If you thought the party on Friday night was crazy, something tells me St. Agapit has never seen a party like Tim Hicks and the James Barker Band are bringing into town. If you’re in the area today and looking for a guaranteed good time $30 will get you in the door. For more information visit http://countrylotbiniere.com
More photos from day 1