The Rockin’ River Music Fest got off to an awkward start on Friday, August 8, but by the early evening’s headliners the grounds were packed with happy and friendly country-rock music fans.
The festival had advertised a 2 p.m. opening of the main gates but grounds set up put that back by more than two hours. The first act, Easy Money, played half of their set to an empty festival grounds before the lineups were finally admitted at 4:15 p.m. It was a relatively minor hiccup and it did annoy some of the people waiting in the line-up, however, things seemed to go smoothly after that.
The three locally-based opening acts, Easy Money, Austin Belle and Ray Gibson — along with the secondary stage acts, Appaloosa and Chris Buck Band — kept the tunes and the grooves coming as the crowd grew in size. When the main stage acts finished their sets the secondary stage acts would take over at the other end of the grounds. The music ran the gamut from originals to country classics by Johnny Cash to reggae-style covers of John Denver’s Country Roads to hard-hitting covers of ACDC — but it all seemed to be appreciated by the crowd.
Kudos also go to the security measures which made it a family-friendly affair for the many people who brought infants, toddlers and adolescents with them. New liquor laws meant alcoholic beverages could be consumed pretty much anywhere on the grounds instead of inside gated compounds by those who produced proper ID and were issued wristbands before being served. Over the course of the day this reporter didn’t see anyone abusing this new privilege or having to be forcibly evicted. This level of maturity was much appreciated by everyone.
The three headliners — Hey Romeo, The Roadhammers and Terri Clark — all displayed the talents that made them the Canadian music stars that they are.
Hey Romeo, from Alberta, are great players backing a wonderful singer, Stacie Roper, who is equally capable of heart-wrenching ballads and upbeat rockers. She also threw in some surprises such as a Motown classic.
The Roadhammers play the classic trucker and southern rock tunes of yesteryear, a side project for Jason McCoy and his Albertan friends, Clayton Bellamy and Chris Byrne. They certainly set the party mood for the crowd, which was whopping’ and hollering’ throughout their rowdy set.
Another Albertan, Terri Clark, now based in Nashville and a member of the Grand Ol’ Opry, closed the night in classic country style.
The festival continues Saturday, with Randy Houser scheduled to perform the closing set in place of Rascal Flatts (the band was forced to cancel after Rascal Flatts lead singer Gary LeVox lost his voice).