Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Dauphin weekend 'absolutely fantastic'

Countryfest's music lineup as hot as balmy weather

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2With the temperature reaching a high of 29 C in Dauphin Sunday the word "hot" may have been heard a lot, but it wasn't always with reference to the balmy weather. More often than not it was about the music!

Irwin said, "We've got about 50 different bands here and all world-class acts like Bachman & Turner, Ronnie Dunn and the show the Zac Brown Band put on was absolutely fantastic. They are just superb musicians and the show is really tight and the audience were treated to two hours of pure musical ecstasy!"

The Zac Brown Band totally wowed everyone with their flawless set packed with extended instrumental breaks and quality covers (ranging from Van Morrison's Into the Mystic and Aerosmith's Sweet Emotion to CDB's Devil Went Down to Georgia and Marshall Tucker Band's Can't You See). ZBB is the real deal -- a real band who play and sing better than any country act on the road today.

Ronnie Dunn proved he doesn't need Kix Brooks to put on a killer show. Canadians Aaron Pritchett and Aaron Lines proved they were no slouches either. Newcomer Justin Moore was also a crowd pleaser. Sunday headliner Reba was just getting ready to hit the stage at deadline following Chris Cagle.

Meanwhile, Kansas-bred Jerrod Neimann found time to enjoy the same atmosphere as many who attend the festival each year. "First thing I did was grab the guys off the bus and I said let's go party with these folks in the campground. I'm from the Midwest and Canada and the Midwest are very similar. The proof is in the puddin', we went out there and had a great time."

Neimann's performance (complete with horn section) reflected that party attitude with some popular covers and new material from his forthcoming album (due Oct. 2) alongside hits like Lover, Lover and What Do You Want.

Other standout performances came from New Brunswick-based Waylon devotees the Divorcees, Saskatoon's haunting Deep Dark Woods, former Road Hammer Clayton Bellamy, Montreal rockers the City Streets, Winnipeg blues-rocker Romi Mayes and songsmiths Mike Lynch and Joel Stewart who joined with Charlie Major, Aaron Lines, Bellamy and host Wendell Ferguson.

The Battle of the Bands winner this year was Weatherly of Sudbury, Ont. while the 730 CKDM Dauphins Countryfest Talent Contest winner was Leanne Pearson. Maxine Peters was first runner-up. Chantelle Enns received honourable mention.

Along with a variety of food and shopping options, other attractions included beach volleyball, Chris Without the Hat, helicopter rides, a mechanical bull, a Texas hold 'em poker tournament and the Axe Women Loggers of Maine.

As far as attendance goes, Irwin said it was about 12,000 paid daily as the festival finished a little ahead of last year's figures, even though they had a slow start this year.

He went on to commend G4S security. "They do a great job keeping everybody safe. You get 12,000 people up here you're gonna have a couple of troublemakers and they throw them out. It's a very mellow, fun, safe place to come and have a good time."

According to the RCMP, as of Saturday morning most citations were for speeding and open liquor, and there were three assaults and one disturbance. A 23-year-old Brandon man was arrested for impaired driving at the site after a vehicle he was driving ran into a parked car. Charges of impaired driving and driving over .08 are to be laid and he is to make his first court appearance in Dauphin July 10.

Early Sunday evening, Tara Oram summed it up: "Isn't this the best damn frickin' festival ever!"

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 2, 2012 D4

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