It’s a Fundraiser
Jamie and Chris Ruscheinski started fundraising when their mother was sick with breast cancer way back in 1999. After losing their mom, The Property Twins decided that they didn’t want other families to go through that kind of pain so they started fundraising. In the last sixteen years, they have helped raise over $1.8 million for various cancer-related causes in the lower mainland. “Preferring flip-flops and tank tops over high heels and bow ties”, the idea of a country concert was more their style of fundraising event. ‘Gone Country’ has been a huge success every year and this year’s lineup promised an even bigger payoff. Run completely by volunteers, this year’s event goal was to raise $366,000. Some of the signage keeps everyone focused on good times like on that says ‘We have not had one fight in five years…Don’t be that guy!
It’s a Concert
The lineup this year included some of Canada’s favourite artists and a couple of up-and-comers that are working their way there. The first artist to get the sold-out crowd going was local country boy Dave Hartney who started cranking out great covers on the side stage in the scorching sunlight. Dave had great energy despite a crowd more interested in checking out all the vendors, food trucks and various booths for cancer awareness. He would get a second chance to impress a little later though.
Danielle Marie was the first to take the main stage. She and her band had more than enough energy to get the crowd’s attention. Danielle possesses a voice that delivers passion, hints of pain, and promises unsaid desire. A set filled with hard-rocking country and softer love songs hit the audience just right. Their response showed the future is bright for Danielle Marie.
Dave Hartney returned to the side stage for a second, explosive set of harder hitting songs that finally got the dance floors busy. Great backing band of local musicians behind him that show just how deep the talent is out here. Dave finished the set with his single ‘Party Lights’. Very impressive! Next up on the main stage was Me and Mae, another local group with huge potential. Last year’s winner of the CCMA’s spotlight talent competition, this band blew me out of the water. A very dynamic group with theatrical flair and two engaging co-frontmen (persons?) in Caitlin Canning (vocals) and Shawn Meehan (vocals/guitar). Seriously fun to watch and each song brings something unexpected and hypnotic.
It’s a Party
Keeping the momentum going is critical in festival concerts. Fortunately, veteran country-blues singer Karen Lee Batten takes the helm and takes it up another notch. Karen is the only performer to have graced the Gone Country stage every single year since its inception, and there’s good reason…she is dynamite! And to top that, she brought her own horn section this year so that bluesy sound just exploded off the stage. Like her heart-shaped glasses, Karen has a lot of love for this event and for the fans that have enabled her to be able to give back. She puts her whole heart into her performance as well, especially her favourite Motown numbers.
By the time the next artist hits the stage, the crowd has filled the front of the park right up to the stage barrier expecting even more. Jojo Mason came crashing out in a red Blue Jays hat and shades, looking like a country version of Drake, and lays out a faced-paced, high-energy set. The main difference between the seasoned veteran and country music’s recent newcomer is not confidence or quality on stage, it’s that Karen is used to the glow of the limelight, and Jojo is still a little in awe of it.
Either way, Jojo is finding his way into the crowd’s heart. One thing they both have in common was the same lead guitarist, Juno nominated Darren Savard (of Dallas Smith’s band). Man can he play! The more you watch and listen, you notice ‘The smile‘. It is hard to miss because it’s always there. He’s having so much fun doing this and tells the unknowing in the crowd about how he soul-searched for a new career after a back injury ended his hockey career and that finding country saved him. You’d smile too. He romps through a set that now contains a few of his own hits including one in the top five on Canadian country radio ‘Something to Wrap Your Heart Around’ and the crowd is groovin’ right along.
By the time Tim Hicks is ready to close this party down, the crowd is in full party mood. Heavy fog accompanies Tim on stage and he emerges at the front microphone to huge cheering from the masses.
After an opening number, he gets the crowd to give yet another loud F*ck Cancer cheer and then slides into ‘Slide Over’, his current #1. Everyone is singing now and few are thinking about cancer, or fundraising, or anything but good music and good times with friends and family.
So Tim kicks the fun up a little more by releasing about 50 beach balls off the stage into the crowd. It’s bedlam but looks so cool! When Tim finally gets to ‘Stronger Beer’, his anthem song, the evening has slipped away into the record books with over $520,000 raised for cancer research and the Canuck Place Children’s Hospice in Abbotsford. And that sign about not being that guy can say six next year. To learn more about the fundraising efforts of the team, check their website at twinscancerfundraising.com.
Review and photos by Tom Paillé.