Calgary Stampede 2015: That’s a wrap, but let’s recap on the music

July 21, 2015

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And so ends another raucous 10 days of the Calgary Stampede. The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, and annual spectacle of western traditions, drew over one million visitors, including music lovers en masse.

While there were the rodeos, horses and cowboy hats—literally everywhere—there were dozens of solo artists and bands to boot, culminating into one of the largest music festivals in Canada.

NMC spent the duration of Stampede taking in shows at Nashville North and Coca-Cola Stage. Below are some of the highlights.

Nashville North

Nashville North is probably the rowdiest stage on the Stampede grounds, hosting cowboys and cowgirls looking for a good time and an endless stream of country covers and beer tubs filled with Bud.

But in-between those country covers are original tunes from some hardworking bands that see the Stampede as a chance to build their audience and maybe make it big, launching a career that grows into a Saddledome gig down the road.

Nashville North is part beer tent and part barn dance, which has daily performers doing multiple sets a day, including evening headline slots.

Alberta’s own Drew Gregory was in the middle of his first set of the day when we wandered in. With his mesh back hat and tight band, he covered new country classics like “Redneck Girl,” and his song “The Way I was Raised” off his sophomore album of the same name.


The Bellamy Brother performing “Redneck Girl.”

Next up was Trinity Bradshaw, a petite raspy-voiced singer from PEI, who has opened for Shania Twain and won the 2014 Boots & Hearts Canadian Emerging Artist Showcase. She belted out songs from her latest album Open Skies, and got the small daytime crowd moving.

Trinity Bradshaw at Nashville North

Trinity Bradshaw at Nashville North

When we returned a few hours later, Bradshaw was on her third set of the day, still exuding the same energy. Now with the room full to the brim and dancefloor jammed, she danced, sang and made a large tent feel more like a raucous roadhouse.

With the swelling crowd and the sun setting, it was time for ‘90s country idol John Michael Montgomery to take the stage. Montgomery is a Grammy nominee and a country star, with over 16 million records sold, but like his hardworking openers, he too began his career playing in juke joints and bars in Kentucky.

John Michael Montgomery “I Love the Way You Love Me.”

Playing many of his hits, including “Life’s a Dance”, “I Love the Way You Love Me” and “I Swear,” his powerful ballads seemed at contrast with the party atmosphere, but his rich and strong voice carried the crowd away, and when he remarked that it was good to see “Lots of country music fan in cowboy hats” the tent howled.

— Mary Kapusta

 

Coca-Cola Stage

“I used to be the one watching from there,” Calgary-bred singer/dancer Kiesza shouted to the crowd at the Coca-Cola Stage. “This means something.”

Indeed, it was a full circle moment for the performer, whose long-take video for “Hideaway” and coinciding debut album, Sound of a Woman, propelled her into terrestrial spheres in 2014, drawing acclaim from international tastemakers, such as BBC 1 and Rolling Stone, followed by a few JUNO Award wins in 2015.

Kiesza’s star-making video for “Hideaway.”

Wearing black lipstick, a western-inspired plaid shirt and handkerchief around her neck (it was Stampede, after all), Kiesza erupted onto the stage with her two backup dancers, opening with the house music-inflected “The Love.”

Kiesza was born with ‘90s dance music—and MuchMusic’s Electric Circus—in her DNA, winking to forbearers, such as Love Inc., CeCe Peniston, and Robin S, with some Madonna-inspired voguing thrown in for good measure.

Kiesza at Cola-Cola Stage

Kiesza at Cola-Cola Stage

If her singing and dancing chops didn’t already impress you, then her walking handstands on the bass-dropping “Take U There” definitely did.

Jockeying between those high-energy gyrations and her equally powerful vocals, a stripped-down version of Haddaway’s 1993 dance hit “What is Love” seemed to provide a much-needed chance for the singer to catch her breath.

Perched on a stool, Kiesza showed off her talents as an instrumentalist, playing keys for a few numbers, before reaching her smash hit closer, “Hideaway,” to a frenzied roar from the audience. And like everything she touches, it was a welcome dose of nostalgia.

The last time we heard from Moist, it was 1999 and the term “alternative rock” was beginning to go out of fashion. Reforming in 2014, Moist released Glory Under Dangerous Skies, featuring, “Mechanical,” their first single in over a decade, and also the night’s opening number.

Every bit the showman, frontman David Usher spun his body in jerking motions allowing his arms to move freely, then stepped onto a guard rail, keeping balance by holding the hands of some awestruck fans in the front row as he sang into the audience.

Moist at Cola-Cola Stage

Moist at Cola-Cola Stage

With both new and older tracks resonating with fans, the 70-minute set careened through much of the band’s catalogue, from Silver’s 1994 title track to Mercedes 5 and Dime’s “Breathe,” even diving into some of Usher’s solo material with “Black Heart.” This was a show for the hardcore fans.

In the over 20 years of Moist’s existence, not much has changed musically or otherwise, including Usher’s excellent head of hair. But more importantly, the band hasn’t lost their connection to their fans.

Concluding with “Resurrection,” the group returned for three encores, and those who made it to set’s end were rewarded with the biggest hit of the lot. As hoards of fans devotedly mouthed all of the words to “Push,” Usher smiled back in appreciation, graciously thanking the crowd before exiting the stage.

“This song’s about liquor and regret,” said July Talk’s whiskey-soaked vocalist Peter Dreimanis as the chords of “Blood and Honey” rang out.

“I don’t suppose you know anything about that, Alberta? chimed singer Leah Fay, as the rowdy Stampede crowd cheered in approval.

July Talk at Cola-Cola Stage

July Talk at Cola-Cola Stage

July Talk have been riding high since the release of their self-titled debut in 2012, which garnered them glowing reviews and a 2014 JUNO Award nod.

Their brew of alternative blues and rock ‘n’ roll is best served with a cold can of beer, and with the boozy crowd already a few in, the energy was palpable.

Fay prowled across the stage, twisting her mic cord around, and whipping her green-streaked hair back and forth, as the sexy riffs of “Summer Dress” pushed the audience to feverish heights.

July Talk at Cola-Cola Stage

July Talk at Cola-Cola Stage

The sweetly cooing Fay hugged Dreimanis and playfully put her hands over his eyes, displaying the childlike chemistry between the two singers, all while intermittently using the front row security guard’s bald head as a prop. If having fun counts for anything, then that was worth the ticket price alone.

— Julijana Capone

 

More photos of Calgary Stampede 2015

  • Calgary Stampede 2015

    Credit: Julijana capone

  • Calgary Stampede 2015

    Credit: Julijana Capone

  • Calgary Stampede 2015

    Credit: Julijana Capone

  • Calgary Stampede 2015

    Credit: Julijana Capone

  • Calgary Stampede 2015

    Credit: Julijana Capone

  • Calgary Stampede 2015

    Credit: Mary Kapusta

  • Calgary Stampede 2015

    Credit: Julijana Capone

  • Calgary Stampede 2015

    Credit: Julijana Capone

  • Calgary Stampede 2015

    Credit: Julijana Capone

  • Calgary Stampede 2015

    Credit: Julijana Capone

  • Calgary Stampede 2015

    Credit: Julijana Capone

  • Calgary Stampede 2015

    Credit: Julijana Capone

  • Calgary Stampede 2015

    Credit: Julijana capone

  • Calgary Stampede 2015

    Credit: Julijana Capone

  • Calgary Stampede 2015

    Credit: Julijana Capone

  • Calgary Stampede 2015

    Credit: Julijana Capone

  • Calgary Stampede 2015

    Credit: Julijana Capone

  • Calgary Stampede 2015

    Credit: Julijana Capone

  • Calgary Stampede 2015

    Credit: Julijana Capone

About the Author

Julijana Capone

Originally from Winnipeg, Julijana is NMC’s senior publicist and the managing editor of Amplify. In addition to her role at NMC, she is the founder of Light of Day Publicity, a company she formed to promote the work of emerging Canadian artists.

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