It sure was a scorcher at this year’s Trackside Music Festival in London, Ontario — and we don’t just mean the weather. Thanks to some of country music’s brightest stars, both local and beyond, Western Fair District was on fire Canada Day weekend.

Day 1

Kicking off the festivities, Lucan’s Julia Haggarty got things rolling with a high-energy set of some of her original tracks, including Overthinking You — her first to hit country radio, including spins on a number of stations including Country 104, and CBC Country.

Julia Haggarty @ Trackside – Photo: Bill Woodcock

Next up, Jojo Mason brought the soul with a string of hits from Red Dress to Edge of the Night, and Good Kind of Love — even throwing in a little No Diggity for good measure. While Jojo may have still been getting over a nasty case of strep throat, the showman sure didn’t show it — giving it his all throughout the set. Rumour has it Jojo may just be coming out with a new project in late summer or early fall, combining his love of soul and country music — we can’t wait to see what he has up his sleeve this time.

Jojo Mason

Jojo Mason performs during Trackside Music Festival – Photo: Bill Woodcock

For those in the know, Emerson Drive is a force to be reckoned with, and they proved it once again in the Forest City. Known for hitting the Top 5 on the Billboard charts with their first two singles, I Should Be Sleeping and Fall Into Me, the Alberta boys threw out hit after hit, including their latest, Just Got Paid, and the fans just couldn’t get enough.

Emerson Drive performs during Trackside Music Festival – Photo: Bill Woodcock

Making their Canadian debut, Lanco hit main stage like a hurricane. Belting out a number of selections from Hallelujah Nights, including their mega-hit Greatest Love Story, which they saved until last, the Nashville natives held the adoring crowd in the palm of their hands from minute-one. The love was clearly mutual as frontman Brandon Lancaster reached out and plucked a Canadian flag from the crowd before donning it as a cape for the beginning of the set — much to the approval of the ever-growing sea of fans.

LANco performs during Trackside Music Festival – Photo: Bill Woodcock

Throughout the day, over on the Side-Track Stage, hometown girl Sarina Haggarty, Kingston’s Abby Stewart, Kansas Stone and Kentucky Rails pumped up the crowd for the headliners  — drawing their own steady flow of admirers.

If you’ve never seen Dean Brody live, you’re really missing out. Hitting the stage with a set list packed with hits from Bush Party to Dirt Road Scholar, Deaner put on a show like only he can — complete with sweet dance moves and a smattering of his signature camo to boot. Lamenting the Prime Minister’s (or JT as he called him) poor decision to not “legalize the stuff” on Canada Day, Brody admitted he may have condoned a little smoke now and then — much to the approval of the London crowd. Man, does Brody know how to bring down the house.

Dean Brody performs during Trackside Music Festival – Photo: Bill Woodcock

Wrapping up the night, Dierks Bentley burst onto the scene, epic beard and all — and to put it mildly, the fans went nuts. No stager to the Forest City, though it had been a while since his last visit to Bud Gardens back in January of last year, the Mountain High man was firing on all cylinders Saturday night. Belting out every note of the 18-track set, the superstar gave it everything he had and then some, treating fans to a barrage of favourites like Free and Easy (Down the Road I Go), Somewhere on a Beach, and I Hold On, before wrapping it up with Drunk on a Plane. 

Dierks Bentley performs during Trackside Music Festival – Photo: Bill Woodcock

Dierks Bentley performs during Trackside Music Festival – Photo: Bill Woodcock

Day 2

For those lucky enough to get to the Western Fair grounds nice and early (1:15 p.m. comes a lot quicker on the second day of any festival, we swear), Runaway Angel definitely set it off right. Fresh off their latest release, Hard to Get, the trio had the crowd singing along in the sun with Witness, Run Angel Run, and so many more.

With his debut EP ready to drop less than a week later, Sarnia’s Eric Ethridge pulled out all the stops, keeping the energy high throughout his set, which included crowd favourites Liquor’s Callin the Shots, Makin’ Me Crazy, and his brand-new single, California. No stranger to the Trackside main stage (he was the first artist ever to play the fest back in 2016), Ethridge played it up to the sea of red and white, no doubt soliciting an army of new fans along the way.

Eric Ethridge performs during Trackside Music Festival – Photo: Bill Woodcock

Turning heads with a sound that seamlessly mixes roots, classic and modern rock, Midnight Shine’s music is said to be anchored by eloquent lyrics and heartfelt vocals that share a glimpse of life in the far North. Hitting main stage with their latest record in tow, High Road, which came out in spring of 2018, the band powered through the set, which featured a number of tracks including Heart of Gold, Velocity and Leather Skin.

Sunday’s Side-Track Stage featured London-transplant Patrick James Clark, Nicole Rayy, Jessie T, and Five Oceans, who just may have drawn the largest side-track audience of the weekend.

If anyone can’t think of a better way to spend Canada Day than by listening to Tim Hicks crank out his true-north anthem Stronger Beer, we sure would like to hear it. Heading into the night, Hicks sure did get loud in London, rocking the main stage like only he can, slinging out dozens of favourites including Here Comes the Thunder, Hell Raisin’ Good Time, and Stompin’ Ground. It was also a day to test out some of his newest tracks, fresh off his recently-released fourth album, New Tattoo, on their first live audience. Needless to say, the crowd at Trackside didn’t mind one bit.

Wrapping up the weekend, American heavyweight Dustin Lynch bounded onto the scene, polishing off one hell of a night indeed. The Current Mood cowboy brought the house down with a high-voltage spectacle and string of hits from She Cranks My Tractor and I’d Be Jealous Too, even throwing in a little O Canada before fireworks lit up the sky as the weekend’s grand finale.

Dustin Lynch performs during Trackside Music Festival – Photo: Bill Woodcock

Dustin Lynch performs during Trackside Music Festival – Photo: Bill Woodcock

A huge thank you to the amazing teams at Budweiser Gardens, London Music Hall, Western Fair and Live Nation for putting together such an amazing event. We can’t wait to see what next year has in store.

Story – Whitney South

Photos – Bill Woodcock

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