Corb Lund

On a scale of  1 to  10……. it was a 13!

By Don Graham

Three days in August in Burl’s Creek Park in Oro /Medonte, minutes north of Barrie, Ontario, will be memorable for more than just the incredible music. This was the 1st Annual CMT Music Festival put on by Kit Andrew with 13Entertainment in conjunction with CMT and any and all expectations were met and surpassed, in spades.

As advertised, the musical portion was stellar; complete with two stages, a smaller second stage and a huge stage, known as the “festival stage”, worthy of the superstar talent that graced it.

More on the performances later but first a little bit about the format of the event. As Kit Andrew explained pre-event, his aim was to create an experience that would satisfy the needs of a family; something for everyone was the mission! Mission accomplished! For the adults was of course the beer garden, open until 2AM no less, the great entertainment and lots of great food vendors. For the kids, a separate kids stage area with talent contests featuring  emerging young superstar in the making Naomi Bristow leading the way. Make note of her name, someday soon you will be hearing it everywhere!! Also for the kids was a Ferris wheel, bouncing castles and Jenny the Donkey, available to pet and feed.The food was typical country music fare including world famous Hank Daddy Ribs!

Kit AndrewKit AndrewVendors like Wild Wild West selling cowboy hats, shirts and belts, Motocross, Helicopter rides arts and crafts. A welcome touch was an onsite relief from all the walking in the form of Toronto based Deborah McKeown, The Massage Lady who, along with two other ladies, offered 10 minute in-chair massages to rejuvenate the weary music lovers. I have to say I took advantage of this service several times and it was awesome.

The CMAO booth was a busy one, manned by Board Members Julia Train and Jeff Sheppard. Bean bag tosses with prizes, fan memberships were sold, and tickets were won by Mike Doucette of Bracebridge – (Leann Rimes tickets) and Deb Stephens of Collingwood (Pam/Tillis/Lorrie Morgan tickets).

Now to the music. Kicking off the event was Hamilton Ontario natives Blind River, an excellent band reminiscent of Southern California country rockers Poco and early Eagles. Great songs and excellent vocals. Next, The Heartbroken were slick and soulful. Corb Lund and his Hurtin’ Albertans, kicked off the evening with his vast array of off the wall hits and dry humour. Great performer and engaging personality and a superb songwriter who has carved out a spot for himself in the country music market.

Next up the incredible Blake Shelton who grabbed the crowd by the shoulders picked them up and “showed ‘em how it’s done!!”  Blessed with a strong voice, confidence, smooth stage presence Shelton rolled through his hits and even threw in a cool version of “Play That Funky Music White Boy”. He owned the stage before the headliner Lady Antebellum took their turn for the finale of the night. For my money, Blake Shelton was the real deal of the day. ‘Lady A’ arrived to an enthusiastic, screaming crowd and delivered a smooth, slick hit filled show.

Saturday kicked off with Canadian sweetheart Jeff Shepard, Julia Train,Ryan Vandyk, Don Graham, Caitlyn TrainJeff Shepard, Julia Train,Ryan Vandyk, Don Graham, Caitlyn Train, who was scheduled to perform on the second stage but thankfully someone saw fit to move her to the “festival stage” where she belonged. Oram didn’t disappoint and put on a great show for the afternoon crowd, including her current hit “1929”.

Then came Georgia alt/country singer/songwriter Colt Ford, who got the audience going with his energetic show. Ford, a former pro golfer is an accomplished songwriter whose best know song is the Jason Aldean hit, ‘Dirt Road Anthem’. He also wrote ‘Chicken and Biscuits’, a song that Canadian country star Gord Bamford recorded.

Ronnie Dunn graced the stage next;  the consummate country performer. After years of being part of Brooks and Dunn, Dunn, like Blake Shelton, showed what decades of performing will do for you. He too owned the stage.

Kit Andrew, Len Gill, Kenny Rubin, George Coito; Courtesy of Randal PhotographyKit Andrew, Len Gill, Kenny Rubin, George Coito; Courtesy of Randal PhotographyEmerging Canadian superstar Dean Brody hit the stage running  and was an immediate crowd pleaser. His smooth style and great songs will keep the B.C. native in the Canadian fabric for years to come. I was standing by the merchandise table when Brody  made his way there for the meet and greet, where he stayed for over two hours. Also instead of sitting behind the table he elected to move the table and stand. I can’t help thinking he figured if the folks would stand for two hours for him to sign he would stand as well. Class act!

Sara Evans wowed the crowd with her hits, making way for Rascal Flatts, the scheduled main attraction. Over the years, the boys in Rascal Flatts have honed their craft to give a polished, high tech show that his fans loved.

Sunday, the final day of this spectacular event, was kicked off by The Good Family, featuring members of the iconic Good Brothers and Alt/Country shining stars, The Sadies.  Billed as ‘The Gospel Bluegrass Brunch’, The Good Family ‘ delivered the goods’ and got the crowd going with a collection of gospel songs as well as a few of The Good Brothers hits. Bruce and brother  Larry Good seemed at ease with Bruce’s sons Dallas and Travis of The Sadies and Bruce’s talented wife Margaret delivered strong vocals on ‘I’ll Fly Away’ among many others. Great kick off to the Sunday. Up next was Ryan Laird, who performed his current hit ‘I’m Your Man’, co-written with the multitalented Jason McCoy. Finally, country icon George Canyon put the icing on the cake with an energetic and fantastic show leaving the huge crowed satisfied and vowing to return next year for more of the same.

Joanne Smale, CEO, Planet3 CommunicationsJoanne Smale, CEO, Planet3 CommunicationsAll in all, The 1st Annual CMT Music Festival delivered what it promised and next year will be even better. Thanks also to Joanne Smale of Planet 3 Communications and her crew in the media tent for keeping us all fed and watered.

The estimated attendance over the three day festival was close to 30,000 people. Speaking to the exhausted but jubilant promoter Kit Andrew, he had this to say , “I'm exhausted physically and emotionally. The weekend was simply EPIC. The attendance was amazing. The people at the concert were incredible. Every morning at 6:30 a.m. I woke up and drove the camp grounds and met the people. They were simply amazing. It inspired me to do this again and again. The positive feedback we have received has inspired us to look forward to our 2012 festival,” says Kit Andrew, son behalf of his partners George Coito and Kenny Rubin of 13Thirteen Entertainment.

Stay tuned :).  See y’all next year !”