Saturday, June 10, 2017, was a great night for country music fans. It was the annual kick-off to all summer festivals/fairs in Manitoba – it was the Niverville Olde Tyme Country Fair Country Music Night. This fair never disappoints. And, this year, the Fair did something they have never done before; they brought back a band for a second year in a row. This was the first time in the history of the Fair that this has happened. The band that was brought back: The Washboard Union. I asked Entertainment/Main Stage Coordinator, Elaine Krahn, why they made that decision. Her really sincere response was (and the volunteers felt the same way),
“Because they warmed our hearts and are the nicest guys that I’ve ever dealt with. They are just that and we love their music. It’s like you grew up with them.”
First on the stage was Manitoba’s own and MCMA 2015 and 2016 Roots Artist of the Year, Quinton Blair. Along with being a remarkable singer-songwriter and human being, Blair is also known for his awesome storytelling during his performances. He really connects with the crowd time and time again. Saturday night was no different. During his ten-song set, the crowd was totally focused on what he had to say. I think my favourite story is the one behind the making of his single “300,000 Kilometres,” where he tells the story of a blue Mercury Topaz and the “mountains” of Manitoba. You also become mesmerized when you hear him sing. He just has that “somethin’ somethin’.” It was great to hear one of my favourites, from his first album, “Blues Man.” It’s such an upbeat tune you can’t help but dance. His song, “Time Keeps on Tickin’” is one the crowd responded to with cheers because, as he told them in a story leading up to singing it, it’s about finding hope and love in a small prairie town, a town close to Niverville.
One of the highlights of the set was hearing Blair’s fiddle player, Brenton Thorvaldson, perform the instrumental “Orange Blossom Special.” I don’t know if this song is one that you have to be from Manitoba to appreciate, but everyone sure had fun listening to it while dancing right along. And, to have help showcase a band member’s talent, well, that is who Quinton Blair is. He ended the set with his upcoming new single. “After They’re Gone.” Blair and his band know what to bring to the stage, they have a lot of fun up there, they enjoy performing together and that makes everyone in the crowd leave with a huge smile on their faces.
The second act of the night was none other than the “most dangerous country music group” (said with much humour from a highly regarded source), CCMA 2016 Roots Artist of the Year plus Rising Star as well as BCCMA 2016Group or Duo of the Year, Songwriter of the Year and Roots Artist of the Year, The Washboard Union. This sextet (Aaron Grain, Chris Duncombe and David Roberts) from Vancouver, British Columbia was so excited to be invited back to Niverville for a second year in a row and they wanted to show the audience how grateful they were to be back. They proved that gratitude and why they were asked back for a command performance with their 17-song set that was a slam-dunk. As soon as the first chords to “Maybe it’s the Moonshine” were hit, the crowd rushed the stage and the dancing and singing along started. You can’t beat their so very smooth harmonies, and their energy on stage was so infectious that it was given right back to them from the fans on the street.
The Washboard Union has such a big repertoire of songs that are great so they really don’t need to perform covers. I think what is great about this industry is that no matter who you are; you like to pay tribute to other country music artists. And, when you do justice to those songs, it makes it an amazing experience for the fans. Justice was done when these guys performed, to perfection, John Pardy’s “Dirt on my Boots,” “Great Day to be Alive” by Travis Tritt and a medley with Alabama’s “I’m in a Hurry (and I Don’t Know Why)” and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Of course, the pinnacle of the set was their final song “Shot of Glory.” When Duncombe announced that he felt there was one song left and asked if the crowd would do the band the pleasure of “singing you heart out for the next four minutes” and that they would need some help on this one, the crowd started chanting, as they did through most of the set, “Shot of Glory, Shot of Glory.” To end on such a high note must have a wonderful feeling for The Washboard Union.
Then, the stage became full. There were a lot of musicians on stage when Cold Creek County joined The Washboard Union to sing the national anthem to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday. What a celebration it was! Right after the anthem was performed, in pitch perfect harmony, a huge smoke bomb was ignited with so much coverage that you couldn’t even see the stage. Once the smoke dissipated, it looked like New Year’s Eve in Times Square from the swirls of red and white crepe paper. But, it didn’t end there. More long red and white streamers were blasted out and it was difficult to see the artists on stage but what could be seen was the biggest of smiles on the faces in the crowd. It was spectacular. What a superb way to wish Canada a happy birthday.
The final band on stage (and headliner) was Cold Creek County. These guys, on Sunday, June 11, won the CMAOntario Group or Duo of the Year Award for the second year in a row. Congratulations Cold Creek County on your win. This was the first time that Manitobans had the opportunity to check out new lead singer/instrumentalist, Ches Anthony, for this country rock band. He spoke of how he became a member and the crowd instantly accepted him for the great addition he is. The harmonies have been kicked up a notch with Anthony on board.
Cold Creek County’s high-energy 17-song set was amplified by the immense amount of fun they had when performing. They started off with “Good Thing We’re in the Country” much to delight of the crowd. By the time they got to “Beer Weather” everyone was hooked. They simply rocked it out. It was very cool to see The Washboard Union back on stage to help with Outasight’s “Do Something Crazy.” Once again, performing covers is something that this band also does well. From Bruno Mars’s “24K Magic” to Ed Sherran’s “Shape of You” to Ches Anthony’s stunning performance of Chris Stapleton’s “Tennessee Whiskey,” Cold Creek County delivered a brilliant and captivating show. It didn’t matter your age – they got you up dancing. The pinnacle of the night was when they performed their debut single “Our Town.” Their harmonies were spot on. And they killed it. The final song of the night was The Eagles “Take it to the Limit.” They did this one as an acoustic song and they did it tremendously. Drummer, Doug Oliver, left his perch to come down and play acoustic guitar for this one. Anthony left the stage to be with the crowd for a bit. This song was a great choice to end their set and the night. It resonated with every age group out there and it was powerful – it was the icing on the cake.
Niverville Olde Tyme Country Fair Country Music Night was once again a huge success.
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