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This article was published 30/6/2018 (937 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
DAUPHIN — The term "torrential downpour" does not even come close to the amount of rain that hit Dauphin’s Countryfest Friday night.
The clouds loomed early in the evening, but it wasn’t until around 7 p.m. the sky opened up and nearly flooded the Selo Ukraina Site, where Countryfest is held.
But leave it to C-Fest attendees to take it all in stride; futile umbrellas were popped, flimsy ponchos were donned, shirts were whipped off (because who needs a shirt in a rain storm?) and instead of seeking shelter, many fans remained seated in the amphitheatre to "wait it out," even though it appeared it would be a long wait.
They were rewarded, however, with the night of music they were promised.
By the time the first of the festival’s big headliners for the weekend, Florida Georgia Line, took the stage just after 10 p.m., the rain had lessened, if only slightly, and the amphitheatre was packed with people ready to party regardless of the weather.
Kicking things off with Anything Goes, the band wasted no time showing off their elaborate stage set up, which included flame cannons and fireworks. What’s a bro-country show without a little pyro, right?
The band is led by the duo of Floridian Brian Kelley and Georgian Tyler Hubbard, and has been on a steady climb to country superstardom since the release of 2012’s Cruise, which quickly became one of the year’s biggest tracks. The song was downloaded more than seven million times — making it the first country song to receive the Diamond certification — and Cruise also held the title of best-selling digital country song of all time, sitting at No. 1 for 24 weeks, until it was finally surpassed last July.
The band played Countryfest once before, in 2013, less than a year after Cruise was released (they were actually booked for that fest before the hit was a hit) — so Friday night’s show was their long-awaited return.
But before they got to performing Cruise, which was expected to come later in the night, they dipped into some newer material, knocking out Colorado — from their 2018 self-titled EP — near the top of the set. You’d never know it was a new song, however, as the words were shouted back to them at full volume.
Both Kelley and Hubbard came out eager to mingle with the crowd, but didn’t waste much time with small talk, preferring to get right to point off the hop. The pair is energetic and infectious on stage, whether it’s just as vocalists, as they began the set, or with their guitars in hand, such as during That’s How We Do It Round Here.
At press time, Florida Georgia Line were just warming up as they were only a few songs into their one-hour set, but if things continued as they started, a full-blown party will have erupted before too long.
Prior to Florida Georgia Line, Dallas Smith braved the pounding rain and powered through a one-hour set that brightened up the mood both figuratively and literally, as thousands of fans piled into the theatre in ponchos that covered the entire colour spectrum.
This is the fourth Countryfest appearance for Smith, the former frontman of Canadian rock outfit Default, and it’s clear he’s a crowd favourite; fans were almost immediately on their feet — though they could have also been avoiding their soggy seats — and didn’t sit down again until he left the stage, screaming lyrics and busting moves the entire time.
Smith’s brand of country has a heavy rock influence, and definitely exhibits shades of his Default days — the singer even threw his previous band’s most successful song, Wasting My Time, into his set. His live vocals were impressive and he put on a solid show, not shying away from the uncovered front portion of the sopping stage. He spent most of his time up there, actually, interacting with — and getting equally as soaked as — his fans.
Earlier in the day, sunburns were the accessory of choice; the two previous sunny days seemed to have taken their toll on a lot of folks, some whose redness of their skin was so bright, it nearly matched that of the numerous Canadian flags donned to celebrate the holiday weekend.
Just before the storm rolled in, Grandview singer-songwriter Kayla Luky was up on the Bell MTS Stage, and quite a crowd had gathered either there specifically to hear her classic country tunes, or to take refuge from the storm. Luky is a wonderful performer with a smooth and aged quality to her young voice. Unfortunately, the drops began to pound so hard on the stage’s tin roof that she became pretty much inaudible, before stopping her set completely as the strong winds began to blow water into the stage area — she was drowned out.
Countryfest continues today with headliner Eric Church taking the mainstage at 10 p.m. Sunday night, Paul Brandt will close out the weekend. The rain is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.
Erin Lebar is a multimedia producer who spends most of her time writing music- and culture-related stories for the Arts & Life section. She also co-hosts the Winnipeg Free Press's weekly pop-culture podcast, Bury the Lede.