Thursday, 25 August 2016

FESTIVAL REVIEW: Boots and Hearts 2016!

This year, Boots and Hearts Music Festival celebrated its 5th anniversary! 

Once again held at Burl's Creek Event Grounds in Oro-Medonte, the festival kicked off on a Thursday evening with a stellar line up for the kick off party. Usually reserved for Canadian talent, this year's kickoff party featured south-of-the-border headliner Jake Owen, who's currently tearing up the country charts with his latest hit, American Country Love Song. Not that Boots is forgetting about our homegrown heroes, Meghan Patrick, Tebey and Emerson Drive, followed by a late night dance party, also played the kick off party. The lineup for this year's kick off party was really impressive and set the tone of the entire weekend, solidifying Boots top spot of festival's of it's kind in Canada and giving just a taste of the excitement to come!
The 5th time must be a charm, because this year, Boots and Hearts had no interruptions  and curve balls thrown their way! The weather cooperated - I don't think we saw any rain over the entire weekend, which I'm pretty sure is a first for this festival. Rain gear stayed towed away in cars and none of the sets got postponed or canceled....a welcome surprise to both festival goers and organizers I'm sure! For the most part, festival goers seemed well behaved and lowkey this year. I didn't even see any penises peeing on fences - maybe our male concertgoers finally learned to use the portapotties...(and they say chivalry is dead!) and I didn't hear of any over the top antics this year either. It took us five years to get here, but it looks like we've learned to behave ourselves! A+ everyone!

The festival continued on Friday where the real star power shone bright. Early in the day, we saw the likes of Tebey, Cory Marquardt, Lindsay Broughton, David James, the Reklaws, Autumn Hill and Chase Bryant take the stage.
As the afternoon turned to evening, Tim Hicks took the main stage and Cam closed out the performances for the day on the Front Porch Stage. We have to note that we LOVED Cam. What a performer...she was amazing. This was our first time watching her, she sang effortlessly and honestly and really captured her audience. She is also seriously bubbly and adorable! Cam is definitely She's Gone Country approved. And if the crowd that gathered by the Front Porch Stage was any indication, Cam is also Boots and Hearts approved!

Next up was one of our old favourites (see, Faster Horses Festival 2014 and Boots and Hearts 2014), SAM HUNT! Sam was definitely our highlight of the weekend. Wow! He's amazing. We knew he had something special when we saw him back in 2014 playing side stages, and it's hard to imagine it's only been two short years since then. Sam Hunt took the main stage at 7pm on Friday and he seriously rocked the house. Most of the ladies attending the weekend's festivities made a point to get over to the main stage to watch Sam Hunt, and even losing a toenail couldn't stop his fans from smiling throughout his performance (For real, this really happened. We watched a girl walk with a bloodied flip flop to first aid to return 5 mins later with a bandaged big toe and a smile on her face ready to get back at it. Yikes!). He was my #1 pick of the weekend and I can't wait to see him again! Sam Hunt is an extremely energetic performer, constantly moving around on stage - at one point, Sam even braved the crowd, leaving the protected backstage area to run through the entire crowd (nervous security in tow!). Sam Hunt is truly adorable - totally handsome and charismatic, and he's not just a pretty face. He sang hit after hit and also did some amazing covers, showing off his songwriting chops (Keith Urban's Cop Car and Billy Currington's We Are Tonight are just a couple of the hits Hunt has written for others). Needless to say, it was great to see Sam Hunt return to the Boots and Hearts stage this year.

Dierks Bentley took the main stage to close out the evening on Friday, playing hits from his latest album, Black. Dierks is also a Boots and Hearts veteran, playing the festival back in 2013 when he was promoting his Riser album. Bentley made his time in Canada count - on a day off the night before, he played a surprise show at local country bar, Boots and Bourbon, with the James Barker Band, much to the delight of the fans in attendance (She's Gone Country was there!) It was a pretty neat experience for both fans and I'm sure Bentley himself, playing for a small intimate crowd of 100 to over 25,000 the next night!
Saturday afternoon got off to a slow start - the campers took a little while to emerge from their tents after what was probably a long night of partying on Friday! Kicking off the festivities on Saturday were the Boots and Hearts Emerging Artists Showcase, Madeline Merlo, JoJo Mason, Miss Boots and Hearts, Raquel Cole and Great Big Sea frontman Alan Doyle with his band the Beautiful Gypsies. A pretty solid afternoon lineup!
Rolling out the evening festivities was Aaron Pritchett, who closed out the Front Porch Stage performances on Saturday. Aaron Pritchett is also one of our faves - he is sweet, charming and funny...and has an impressive roster of hits he played for the crowed. We recently had the opportunity to interview Aaron Pritchett. Check it out here!
Up next on the main stage was Canadian talent, Dean Brody. It was interesting to see the crowds start arriving in thrones, finally mustering up the energy to get back at it again and venture out of the campgrounds by early evening!! Brody played all of his hits for the crowd before the evening's headliner, Blake Shelton took the stage. Shelton's career is on fire right now and many were hoping that his new girlfriend, Gwen Stefani might make an appearance. Stefani is also currently on tour and played a show in Toronto just a couple of days before! Alas, their schedules did not link up enough for the couple to sing their duet at Boots and Hearts! Blake Shelton is also a Boots and Hearts veteran, playing the festival back in 2014.
Sunday kicked off with performances from Jordan McIntosh, Jason Benoit, River Town Saints, Jason McCoy, Lindsay Ell, Dylan Scott, Jason Blaine and Diamond Rio.
Closing the festival was Chase Rice and 2012 Boots and Hearts veteran, Tim McGraw!
-Sweet Corn!! OMG this is my #1 highlight from the festival this year. Is that sad? It was so good I don't even care. Hope to see this back next year cause if so, you'll know where to find me!
-Freezies. Ok I'm beginnig to see a recurring theme here with my priorities. But come on.  25-30,000 people out in a big field in the sun for 5 days and see just how popular your freezie stand is. Whoever thought of this is a genius, especially at $3 a pop. 
- Line ups this year weren't an issue, at least for my Boots and Hearts experience. Easy in and out, no big lineups for any concessions. A win!
-The weather!! Organizers can't control mother nature, so we've gotta give her a big thumbs up for this one!
-Organization. This year, Boots and Hearts was pretty smooth sailing for us. YAY!
-Sam Hunt!

-The musical lineup. Other than a couple of standouts, the lineup was pretty repetitive with not as many big names this year. While we LOOOVE our Canadian musicians and all the love they got this year, we can usually count on Boots and Hearts to bring all the big names to Canada. Its usually a great balance between Canadian and American artists, and this year, was very heavily Canadian...not that we're complaining, know.
-We missed the printed maps! It seems Republic Live decided to forgo printing the little Boots and Hearts booklets we've come to love in the past to drive more traffic to their app. We totally understand the reasons why they would do this, but nonetheless, I missed my souvenir map booklet!
-Cashless system. A pretty good idea, but we're putting this in lowlights due to the communication of this new feature, or lack thereof. This issue may not be the same for all festival-goers, I can really only speak for myself on this one, but I read through all materials sent to me to prep for the festival this year (ie: media packages), and was not aware that you couldn't use cash anywhere on site. This was slightly inconvenient as this miscommunication had us ping-ponging back and forth to load our wristbands after the fact. And when you really want a freezie and are about to get one, it's definitely disappointing to learn you have to leave empty handed, walk across the entire festival to the other side to get the finances sorted, then walk back. We'll definitely be better prepared for next year though!

Thanks to Boots and Hearts and Republic Live for having us once again!! We love our Boots and Hearts weekend and look forward to it every year!

More Boots & Hearts photos after the cut!!

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