Boys of Fall – It All Started With a Chat
Dallas Smith and Chad Brownlee are two of B.C.’s better musical success stories in the last few years. While chatting over beers a few years ago, they were discussing ways of thanking people in a positive way for part of that success. Out of that session came the idea of a benefit concert and Jrfm’s ‘Basics for Babies’ was the perfect match. It would help so many people who were a big chunk of the fan base, and work with local country radio that helped fuel that success. Now five years and five concerts later, this event funds the food banks for not just the lower mainland but now, the entire province. Everything ‘baby’ gets donated, all from an idea from the hearts of two of Canada’s biggest names in country music
Each year, the boys talk a couple of friends into helping out with a little acoustic set and this year’s surprise guest was local rising star Shawn Austin. Fairly new to country music and recently signed to Dallas Smith’s Steelhead label, Shawn is no stranger to the music scene having served his time in countless bars and clubs playing everything from rock to blues. Citing early rock influences like Led Zeppelin and Queen to more traditional guitarists like Stevie Ray Vaughn, John Mayer, and Keith Urban, Shawn’s sound is definitely country with a raspy-blues and gritty-rock edge that is catching ears across Canada. ‘Paradise Found’ and ‘Nashville’ are two hits that have this North Vancouver boy on his way.
The sold-out crowd at Redwoods golf course got a huge surprise when JJ Shiplett was brought out as surprise guest #2 after Shawns’ set. With a warm smile, a grizzled, ginger 5 o’clock shadow and moustache, JJ greets an audience that is for the most part unfamiliar with his voice that rasps of whiskey regret and conjures an image of smoke rising through a grimaced smile, one eye closed against its burn. It is the voice that grabs your attention and pulls you right in, smitten. ‘Darling’ Let’s Go Out Tonight’ makes instant fans. The rest is just gravy. The Calgary native can do no wrong with that voice. By the time he wraps ‘Something To Believe In’, people are already standing and cheering at an event that is usually a ‘lawn chairs and blankets’ kinda crowd.
Each year, Dallas and Chad alternate who will ‘headline’ and this is Dallas’ year so Chad Brownlee takes the stage next with a supporting acoustic band that is a blend of his own and Dallas’ bands. He is sporting a full beard and it seems to add a bit of country to his smile as he thanks everyone for helping support both the artists and the ‘Babies’. His music is certainly more familiar with this crowd and they sing along with hits old and new, including the just-released ‘Out of the Blue’. It goes over very well as all the girls rush the stage and swoon over him during the set. It’s starting to look like a rock show now.
Closing with Dallas
Dallas Smith is always the favourite with the crowd here. Even before he starts his set, he’s gaining more fans as he chats up a young lady and gives a birthday shout out for her. With ever-present stick of gum working, Dallas plays a mainly current setlist that is loaded with hits. Many off the current smash album ‘Side Effects’ are on everyone’s lips, at full volume. ‘Autograph’ had a special moment when a young couple announced their engagement that evening and Dallas had them come up on stage to dance during its performance. Big heart there, folks! It’s no wonder his fanbase grows by leaps and bounds. With every (numerous) selfie he takes for front-row fans, fist bump he gives to kids within reach, winks, smiles, it’s all endearing and hugely popular. Dallas has ‘given back’ more than he can ever know.
All in all, another fantastic evening of music in a very intimate setting for the best of causes, the babies. JRfm and the crew of hardworking volunteers make this event an annual summertime date-night. Check out the rest of the night from some more photos below.