Day Three: The Capital Hoedown ends with a Party

photo credit: ERROL MCGIHON/THE OTTAWA SUN/QMI AGENCY

The final day of the second annual Capital Hoedown country music festival ended with a bang in Ottawa on Saturday night. With a day packed with stars and gates opening at noon, earlier by three hours than the first two days, country music fans in Canada’s capital were ready to party from the start. While the temperatures were hot and hard for some fans to take, it didn’t stop the fans from packing in to the general admission and VIP areas all day long, even after two nights of partying. And it really was partying: Friday night after the crowd was forced out of the park after Kenny Chesney, security found one fan passed out in a porta-potty.

The day kicked off right with Hoedown Showdown winners Wyatt introducing themselves to the crowd. The band won the chance to open up the final day of the Capital Hoedown with a contest that included a live competition in front of judges for who would get the line-up spot. The boys merged rock with country, and it was clear how excited they really were for the opportunity: they took over the whole stage and were all smiles even with the blazing heat. Their families were also in attendance at the festival, and watched proudly. The most memorable performance was their radio-friendly “Airplanes.” 

The next act was the Canadian twin-sister duo The Keats. The duo had performed for the Canadian troops overseas in Afghanistan, and gave a nice salute to the military in attendance on the weekend. The Maritime duo kept it all in the family as their brother and brother-in-laws were their band members. They had one of the funnier moments of the day: they created a YouTube video last year for Brad Paisley, “Brad Paisley Won’t You Take Us On Tour,” and they performed it live but changed it to “Rascal Flatts Won’t You Take Us on Tour.” They had the fans involved on that one, having the crowd shout it to Rascal Flatts hoping they’d hear them and listen.  Their harmonies were the spotlight of their performance.

Justin Moore was one of the acts I was excited to finally see live. I’ve had fans tell me how great he is at his shows, and how he always gets the crowd going. They weren’t lying. From the second he came out with his cowboy hat and all, he took control of the entire crowd. While he isn’t the most experienced of the acts at the festival, you really couldn’t tell. He’s a natural on-stage and knew exactly how to get the fans on their feet and singing along. He playfully changed the words around in “Small Town USA” to “Small Town Canada, eh?” but that wasn’t what I  found the coolest part. In an interview with us over two months ago, I told Justin about how the beer is stronger up here in Canada… something he brought up to get the crowd going. “Someone told me that the beer up here is stronger, y’all, so get your asses up!” If I wasn’t already sold by him trying to get two guitar picks to me (both got caught by the wind – and he apologized mid-song for the second one not making it) it was his memory and his genuine interest in interacting with the audience the entire set. I don’t understand how he was opening for Easton Corbin: he was much more entertaining and seemed to be the veteran on-stage. Justin’s performance was one of the best ones of the whole festival. The crowd had started to fill up five minutes before Justin’s performance, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see him back sometime soon in the capital.

Easton Corbin was an interesting choice for the Capital Hoedown. His brand of country music is made perfectly for the beach, and I wasn’t sure how fans up here would take it since we really aren’t a tropical destination. It looked like the crowd was perfectly fine with Easton coming to town: there were just as many Easton shirts as there were for Justin. His fans had packed the front row of the VIP C section, screaming for him the whole time.  The “A Little More Country Than That” singer  had the fans singing along to his biggest hit, and was lucky to have the temperature starting to cool down as his set came to an end. The biggest difference between his show and Justin’s show, however, is that Easton mostly stayed to the center of the stage while Justin used the whole stage to his advantage. That’s not to say that Easton wasn’t good – he was – I just don’t understand the line-up decision to put him after Justin Moore. Easton’s concert was still a fun, dance-a-long set. Unfortunately, it wasn’t one of the highlights of the festival because of all the other top names performing the same day.

Sara Evans was one of the most anticipated concerts of the entire Hoedown. The singer has had an amazing year with “A Little Bit Stronger” which had quickly become almost everyone’s favorite Sara Evans single of her career. She called the single a “gift from above that fell in my lap” when introducing it Saturday. The second she came out on stage she was all smiles. Her story might be one of the most interesting in country music this year: she’s having one heck of a come-back off of one single. “Stronger” was co-written by Lady Antebellum’s Hilary Scott after a tough breakup, and was easily one of the crowd’s favorites of the day: at times you could barely hear Sara’s voice over the 20,000-strong crowd singing every word at the top of their lungs. She also performed old favorites like “Suds In The Bucket” and “Blessed.”

Rascal Flatts had the most security set-up of the entire concert, including police officers backstage and in front of the VIP C pit. No other act had the same amount of security. The screaming started as soon as the DJ music was shut off, and didn’t stop throughout the entire show. Their stage setup included both the drums and keyboard set up on risers with LED lights that projected designs and images with each song. The three boys: Joe Don Rooney, Gary LeVox and Jay DeMarcus took center stage with a set of three drums that lit up with each hit of the drum stick. It was one heck of a way to get the crowd involved with the opening number of “Why Wait?”. They seemed the most comfortable of all three headlining acts with the stage, and didn’t look like they were missing the idea of a catwalk at all. The boys had quickly become the highlight of the festival with their humor, stage presence and special effects. The crowd knew every lyric to the hit songs they were pumping out, and constantly had LeVox’s mic held out to them to finish off the songs. If the volume was anything to go by, then Rascal Flatts were the number one act of the whole Capital Hoedown.

Even with a stage malfunction that included one of the side banners coming off, the three boys still had the crowd’s full attention: who never noticed the tour busses of Justin Moore, Sara Evans and Easton Corbin sneaking out while the Flatts boys were onstage. I don’t understand why Rascal Flatts never get the nominations they deserve as a group. This was the third time I’ve seen them live, (the first time outdoors and with as little special effects as they had), and they were still just as good as they are in the arena shows. If anyone deserves an entertainer of the year nomination, it’s this group, who gave 110% of themselves in their Ottawa show on the weekend.

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