There was no better way to spend the Canada Day weekend than at Manitoba’s largest country music festival! Dauphin’s Countryfest (the site is nestled along the edge of Manitoba’s Riding Mountain National Park) is Canada’s longest running country music festival and this year the festival ran from June 29 to July 2. It was four days of amazing musical performances on the two stages I got to be at. Here are some highlights of that weekend.
The festival kicked off with some pretty nasty weather (numerous downpours of rain) but we were all under cover to enjoy the five artists that performed on the Bell MTS Stage on the hilltop.
The first artist I caught was Jason Kirkness. Along with his many hits, including “Take Your Picture,” he also performed a few well-loved covers. He had the crowd eating out of his hands for “Friends in Low Places.” There were loud cheers and lots of singing especially when he put the mic out to them to sing a few choruses.
I then watched Sykamore (for the first time) and was very impressed by her incredible talent. Her show was very emotional and raw. She has an amazing voice. Among many of the covers and originals she crushed, her 2016 ballad, “Houseboat” was my favourite.
Ryan Keown kicked it up a few notches with his set. Lots of great covers were done including his own rendition of the Black Eyed Peas, “I Gotta Feeling.” And when his fiddle player, Brenton Thorvaldson, played “Orange Blossom Special” the cheering was deafening.
The humble and genuine Jason Blaine with a “bad ass band” really got the crowd into party mode. His song choices were perfect for that night and his storytelling was heartfelt. He told a very touching story and said, “what you guys don’t know,” about his last time at Countryfest when he performed a song dedicated to his grandparents, “They Don’t Make ’Em Like That Anymore,” he took a picture of all the cell phone lights that were on and showed it to his grandpa, who died two weeks later.
Doc Walker finished off the first night with a stellar performance. They dedicated “Rocket Girl” to all their fans that have been with them since the beginning. Chris Thorsteinson and Dave Wasilyw stopped the band from singing just so they could hear their fans giving it their all back at them. It was amazing to hear.
I got to catch quite a few different artists on this warm and sunny day (and a bit cooler night). All the acts I caught were in the amphitheatre at the Club Regent Casino & Event Centre Main Stage.
Jason Kirkness was, once again, the first on my long list of artists to watch. Although his song choices were similar, this stage has a totally different atmosphere to it, so it was like watching a whole different show. His smile was infectious.
Meghan Patrick set the night off just right. She had everyone stomping along to her songs. They loved hearing “Still Loving You” and formed a bond with her when she sang, “I Won’t Drink.”
Let’s talk about happy and how we got to experience that with the boisterous Tim Hicks. From electrifying the house with “Got a Feeling” to making you feel warm and cozy with “Slide Over” Hicks always leaves you wanting more.
Grammy award winning singer, songwriter and virtuoso guitarist Keith Urban headlined Day Two to stunning adulation. He was brilliant and captivating as he went from mic to mic located in four places on stage and half way up the jam-packed amphitheatre so all his fans could be that much closer to him.
It was another great weather day for Countryfest with another fabulous line-up. I made it to both the Main Stage and the hilltop stage.
First up on the Main Stage was Songwriter’s Circle, sponsored by QX 104. We got to hear the stories and meanings behind the songs from Jason Kirkness, Steven Lee Olsen, Jake Mathews and The Washboard Union. There was good time teasing going on by host Wendell Ferguson.
Cold Creek County’s unique style and enthusiasm on stage all tie together to produce a powerful live show. Their harmonies rocked as they performed their hits including “Our Town” and one of the crowd’s favourites, “Till the Wheels Come Off.”
I made my way up to the Bell MTS Stage to catch Kendra Kay. From her originals, “I Take my Country” and “My Way” to her many covers, this young artist thrilled the crowd with her powerful yet refined vocals.
Back down to the Main Stage for the rest of the night, I was able to watch The Cadillac Three performing to a sold-out crowd. This band is a bit more rock than country with flavours of outlaw country and Southern rock mixed together to give them their own sound.
Eric Paslay was next. This exceptional songwriter also has some powerful vocals and proved it time and time again by performing the many tunes that he wrote for other artists. Add dancing to this mix and we all got to see one awesome show.
Superstar Luke Bryan headlined Day Three and he riled up the full house the moment he took the stage. Manitoba was “ready to rock and roll” and there was an immediate connection with him. From his infamous hip swaying to his moments behind the piano, Bryan made you jump out of your seat and start dancing.
More sunshine and perfect weather capped off Day Four of Dauphin’s Countryfest. It was another two-stage day for me and this weekend felt like it was over before it even started. I didn’t want it to end.
The day started off with the Hunter Brothers on the Main Stage. Fun loving, limitless energy and prairie sweetness is how I would describe this band of brothers (plus one). From their hit tunes, “Getaway” to “Long Way to Love You” to “El Dorado” they had the massive afternoon crowd hooked.
Quinton Blair was up on the hilltop so I made the trek there one last time. He’s the real deal in the country music world and he knows what to bring to the stage to engage with his audience. You don’t have to know his music to have a good time.
Madeline Merlo brought me back to the Main Stage. Everyone embraced her music and her because she has something so special. “Over and Over” was a hit with the crowd.
The sweetheart of Canadian country music, Jess Moskaluke, was the last female artist to hit the Main Stage. And she did so with a bang. The harmonies were spot on when she performed her latest single, “Kill Your Love.” The crowd was LOUD for Moskaluke!
The icing on the Countryfest cake was Johnny Reid. There wasn’t a better way to end this spectacular weekend than to have him as the final artist. Smooth, charismatic and a Vegas-style showman describe him best. He gave it his all for every single song. He loves what he does and shows.
Countryfest weekend was a time in my life that I won’t soon forget because of all the memorable moments that happened.
Check out these shots, and also our Facebook page for even more captures from this four-day event.