Entertainment Magazine

The Peaks the Perfect Venue for Calabogie Country!

Posted on the 02 July 2014 by Hendrik Pape @soundcheckblg
Calabogie Country Music Festival

Calabogie Country Music Festival

We’ve had the luxury of traveling to and attending festivals and events across the world.  When it comes to putting on an event there are a few key features you want.  Firstly you want a venue that is far enough away from most human population (ask Bluesfest organizers how many complaints they get each summer), second you want a venue that is large enough to contain thousands of (possible drunk) fans as they gather to listen to their favorite artist and lastly you want a venue that has decent acoustics.  Contrary to popular belief just because it’s outdoors doesn’t mean that the acoustics will be great, if the venue is too flat the sound will get lost.  Calabogie Peaks offers the perfect combination of all three.

We spent our Saturday at the Peaks as part of Brea Lawrenson‘s team for the Calabogie Country Music Festival.  What got my attention right off the bat was how well this event was organized.  Even though we were among the first to arrive at the grounds on Saturday everything was in place and running at peak (no pun intended) performance.

Sound checks ran as scheduled like clockwork (this is surprisingly rare) and when it came time for the music to start it did with no delays.  The backstage area was also one of a kind, surrounded by trees with tables for people to sit and plenty of shade and places to get out of the searing sun for performers and media alike.  Other times I’ve been backstage and there’s so much hustle and activity that artists don’t generally stick around to mingle but at Calabogie they did just that.

For me this was a pinnacle event in my career as a blogger, while I was backstage I knew everyone that was there and surprisingly they all knew me which was the coolest feeling in the world.  Chatting with artists like Bobby Wills and Amanda Wilkinson like we’ve known each other for years (well in Amanda’s case we kind of have as we met about 20 years ago while I was working backstage at the North Bay Heritage Festival where she performed with her brother and father as the Wilkinson’s).

The music was incredible too.  Starting with Rich Martel, an artist we had tried to find more information on leading up to the event but couldn’t gave us the opportunity to be really blown away by his incredible talent while he was on stage.  Some how we managed to miss him backstage but something tells us we haven’t seen or heard the last from him.  Here’s a clip of Rich performing John Lennon’s “Imagine”

Before Brea went on stage I finally had the pleasure of meeting young Abby Stewart and her family.  What an fantastic bunch of people backing this very talented young lady.  With a new single “Summer at the Drive In“, a weekend surrounded by superstars like Bobby Wills and Michelle Wright Abby now sets her sights on She’s the One at Ottawa Bluesfest.  We know that Brett Kissel and Brad Paisley are coming to Kingston this fall, why wouldn’t it surprise us if somehow Abby ends up on stage with one (or both of them). Unfortunately we were only at the event for the one day so we missed Abby’s performance on Sunday ahead of Michelle Wright but we know that that chance will come soon enough.  Although she’s got a fantastic team behind her already she’s another artist that we’d love to work with.

Being there as the newest member of Brea’s team was also a new experience for me.  I’ve covered hundreds of festivals and events all over Canada and the world but never have I had a vested interest in an artist that was on the stage, until now.  Calabogie Country was Brea’s first major festival and by all intents her dress-rehearsal for her upcoming performance at Boots and Hearts as part of the showdown.  It was fun watching her take control of the stage and feed off of the audience and I shared her emotion when the crowd started singing “Bottom of the Bottle” back to her which was incredible.

Bobby Wills took to the stage after Brea and delivered one of the best performances I have seen in recent history.  He clearly knew how to engage the crowd and get the energy level to reach it’s peak.  His performance came just days after his latest album was released so it was unlikely that many would have all of his new songs memorized yet but that didn’t matter.  One of his first hits “Somebody Will” (one of my personal favorites that I have actually used to inspire my own kids and myself) got the crowd pumped up.

 By now most of you know that I love to know the story behind the song and love it even more when an artist will tell that story on-stage.  Bobby did just that with the story of the song he wrote with Patricia Conroy, “Undressed“.  More specifically he told the story about what it was like when he went home to his wife after completing the song.  The biggest moment for Bobby came when the word “Geronimo” was sung into the mic, that of course being a key word in his latest hit “Crazy Enough” which also happens to be the title track off of his new album.  For all you eastern Ontario Bobby Wills fans you can catch him back in this neck of the woods in just over a month at the South Mountain Fair.   You can catch another one of the bands that we are working with, Blackwell, opening up for him that night as well so you are guaranteed a party!

Unfortunately I had to leave the venue prior to seeing the Small Town Pistols perform but not after taking some time backstage to chat with Amanda.  Amanda was shocked that out of all the artists backstage that night (Bobby Wills, Brea Lawrenson and Abby Stewart) the Small Town Pistols were the only ones that hadn’t completed the 20 Questions.  So watch for 20 Questions with Amanda and Tyler aka the Small Town Pistols coming up in the next few weeks!

Here are some highlights from the day, for a full gallery of pictures visit our Flickr album for Calabogie Country!

Click to view slideshow.

The only negative takeaways I have are, #1 that I wasn’t there for the full weekend and #2 that many of you weren’t there either.  It was disappointing to see how small the crowds were and I believe that the weekend was to blame.  Calabogie is a wonderful venue but it’s located about an hour outside of Ottawa.  Although we thought the lineup was top notch it was competing with artists like Aretha Franklin and Bobby McFerrin at Ottawa Jazz Festival as well as the massively popular Escapade Music Festival.  My advice to Calabogie, other than bring us on board to help build the brand, is to move the festival either back or forwards by two or three weeks.  The second weekend in June is still free of major festivals in the Ottawa region and the third weekend in July is the weekend after Bluesfest wraps up, this year it would be competing against the Log Jam Country Music festival in the Ottawa Valley but I think that Calabogie could hold that spot as it’s already more established and closer to Ottawa.  Either way we know that we can work with this event to help make it rise to new peaks (ok that pun was intended) hopefully we get the chance.

One thing is for certain, whenever the event is scheduled in 2015 put a big circle around it on your calendars.  You don’t want to miss it, we won’t!  As always watch our site for full information as it comes available!  If you want to checkout the venue for yourself don’t forget the Calabogie Blues Festival runs in August so be sure to check it out!

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