Country music festivals are at the heart of the summer season. Fans gather in the tens of thousands to watch their favourite performers and discover new artists. This year, Evenko, the company behind Osheaga and Heavy Montréal launched the largest country festival east of Ontario – Lasso – from August 12-13, with headliners such as Dierks Bentley, Kelsea Ballerini and Luke Bryan.
With more than 30 bands and artists spread across two stages in the midst of Parc Jean-Drapeau, Lasso utilized the format visitors of Oshega and Heavy Montréal would easily recognize as the main acts bounced between two stages in the main concert area. There was also a smaller stage nestled a little way from the main area, dedicated to newer and up-and-coming acts.
It’s a killer format for a festival with about 5-10 minutes between main shows, making the two days jammed packed with back-to-back action.
On Friday, Blanco Brown won over the crowd, accompanied by a DJ playing trap country, in addition to interpreting some pop classics, hip-hop hits and country ballads. The singer, who was new to many there, even took the time to serenade a few ladies by handing out roses. His rendition of A Change Is Gonna Come was worth the price of admission alone, but the crowd also enjoyed songs like Tennessee Whiskey and The Git Up.
The James Barker Band were particularly energetic as they performed their popular rock-styed anthems, but the biggest surprise was when headliner Dierks Bentley joined them on stage for a stellar rendition of their latest duet New Old Trucks. James Barker and the boys won this day hands down.
Ashley McBryde is a queen of Americana music. She performed songs mostly from her two studio albums, but injected some covers, including a sing-a-long version of Don Henley’s The Boy’s Of Summer. Old Dominion, led by the Matthew Ramsey, offered a thrilling performance, often finding themselves among the fans gathered at the front of the stage. They performed a balanced selection of hits from all their albums, and included a couple covers, such as the surprisingly good take on the Foo Fighters classic Learn to Fly.
Friday headliner Dierks Bentley gave a spirited performance of 24 songs, including an encore set of classic covers like Travis Tritt’s T-R-O-U-B-L-E, Shania Twain’s Man! I Feel Like A Woman and Cowboy Take Me Away from The Chicks, performed as the Hot Country Knights parody band. He was also joined on stage by Ashley McBryde, as well as Tenille Townes.
Saturday was a fun day packed with incredible performances. Local artist Brittany Kennell mastered the smaller stage with charm and grace, performing material from her new album I Ain’t A Saint. Ontario artist Tim Hicks enjoyed being on the main stage and jammed his show with the energy of a fast-moving freight train, getting the massive crowd singing with him in unison.
Breland comes across as the most promising of all the newer country artists. His style, stage presence and songwriting skills are making him one of the most astonishing performers to check out. The Montréal audience really took in his performance as he performed his hits Praise The Lord, High Horse, My Truck and Beers on Me, the song he recorded as a duet with Dierks Bentley and Hardy.
The Reklaws had a special guest, Nick Suzuki of the Montréal Canadiens, who took the stage to drink shooters, while Riley Green charmed with his classic country sound, culminating with a beautiful and touching version of I Wish Grandpas Never Died.
The highlight of the day was Kelsea Ballerini, who made her Montreal debut. Her energy, showmanship and performance was incredible. Performing mostly material from her albums kelsea and The First Time, it was a hit-filled set Canadian chart-toppers. Fans went crazy over the songs Hole In The Bottle and Peter Pan.
Saturday headliner Luke Bryan brought the party with a big light show and lots of energy. He bounced around the stage with big grins and pounding fists in the air all night. His performance marked the end of a killer festival with songs like Crash My Party, his latest Knock’ Boots and the mega-hit Country Girl (Shake It For Me).
For a first time festival, this was an amazing time. The experience of Osheaga and Heavy Montreal gave the organizers all the tools they needed to offer a world-class event of magnitude.
It returns for its second year on August 18 and 19, 2022. For more, visit https://www.lassomontreal.com.