With the rain threat passing the Capital Hoedown right by, it was a perfect night to kick-off Canada’s biggest country music festival last night. With crowds lining up two hours before gates opening, Ottawa was just as eager as everyone else to get the show going. Fans ran across Lebreton Flatts field to get as close as possible to the stage for the great first-day lineup: Mackenzie Porter, Tara Oram, Doc Walker and Kenny Chesney.
With the weather holding out, crowds steadily increased as travelers got into town and local fans got off work. The festival kicked off with Mackenzie Porter, one of the later additions to the Hoedown line-up. We heard her sound checking earlier, and her cover of the Dixie Chicks’ “Sin Wagon” had Ottawa up on its feet early on. A young girl who was raised on an Alberta cattle ranch, and may be recognized as the sister of former Canadian Idol winner Kalan Porter. While the young girl may not have been as experienced as the rest of the line-up, her talent and voice shined through and was an impressive start to the festival. We had the chance to meet MacKenzie before her performance, and she’s a down-to-earth, but talented, singer.
Tara Oram was next on the bill to help kick-off the Capital Hoedown. While she was running late and we did miss our interview with her, she was fantastic and knew how to take control of the stage the second she was on it. Wearing a dress similar to Carrie Underwood’s “Undo It” music video, her cover of “Twist” had the crowd laughing and dancing right along with her. An interesting choice was to take out one of her own original songs for a Sheryl Crow cover of “Strong Enough.” We heard some people in the crowd comparing her to Carrie Underwood, and the resemblance is pretty similiar – right down to the fashion choices. One thing I did miss was “Go To Bed Angry” which wasn’t performed live, however, her cover medley which included “Twist and Shout” had the crowd dancing and helped kick off the party atmospheer tha
Doc Walker seemed to be the second most popular act of the day, as the field was filling up to the estimated 15,000 – 20,000 persons for Kenny Chesney at 9 pm last night. While they mostly stayed to their specific spots on the stage, unlike Tara who took control of the entire stage and interacted with the audience throughout, the boys were still good and had the fans screaming. They were a good choice as the warm-up act right before the headliner Chesney. The Canadian group played their hits which most of the crowd surprisingly knew and sang right back to them.
The short break between Doc’s set and Kenny’s was when the field really started to fill up in both the General Admission and VIP C areas. VIP C is right in front of the stage, and standing room only. As his crew rushed to add-on the extra lighting and carpeting for his set, the crowd’s energy level (and alcohol level) increased even more. The VIP C section was packed and people were crammed right against each other. There’s no room to sit in that section, so be aware if that’s your seats: the view is great but your legs do get a workout!
The second the video screens showed some clips of Kenny’s hat on the beach with a Corona, the screaming began and didn’t stop until the end of his just-over-an-hour set. Kenny had the entire crowd in the palm of his hand, and he was all smiles throughout the entire show. While we couldn’t get a good view on the crowd from our spot, rumor has it that it hit 20,000 fans. I completely expect to double that today with both Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert in the line-up tonight.
Kenny sang most of his big hits, but he did skip out on a few noticeables: “There Goes My Life,” “Keg In The Closet,” “Don’t Blink,” “Shiftwork,” “Everybody Wants To Go to Heaven,” and “Down The Road” were obvious hits missing from his performance. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t fantastic: his headlining show included just Kenny and an acoustic guitar on his current hit “You & Tequila” which he dedicated to Grace Potter who wasn’t there last night.
Kenny was all smiles, even with the mix problems during his first song and a half where his vocals were completely taken over by his band. He brought the beach to Canada, and rocked his version of beach-meets-country the rest of the night. He was a hit, but would you ever expecting anything else from country’s touring king? Even a beach-ball thrown his way didn’t effect him from giving it all to the crowd. Nor did the plaid shirt thrown onstage by a male fan during “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problems.”
“Ottawa, you are looking incredibly sexy tonight,’ was how he closed off his single-song encore of “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy.” The first day of the Capital Hoedown was a party atmosphere, and Kenny Chesney made sure it stayed that way.