On a blustery and balmy Thursday evening, it was clear that the crowd in attendance for this Road to Cavendish was undeterred by a little rain. The line of anxious patrons stretched down Cunard Street, snaking towards Brunswick Street well past the entrance to The Seahorse Tavern. Upon entering the Marquee Ballroom, there was a robust crowd of music fans ready to party.
In addition to this being the kick off of the Game On! Tour in celebration of the latest release from the James Barker Band (JBB), it also marked the first major tour for these three acts. The other interesting fact was that the JBB were not the only act on this tour heralding their new album, in fact the Halifax crowd were able to snag a copy of Meghan Patrick’s sophomore release Country Music Made Me Do It a day before it was officially released.
Kicking off the evening was BC-based Jojo Mason, an artist that is no stranger to these parts, as he recently performed at the Lower Deck. Needless to say, the crowd was fired up and ready to party with Mason as he launched into his pop-fueled country set. It was a set that consisted of a couple of covers, and a healthy dose of Mason’s latest album Both Sides of the Bar, including the stellar tune “Something to Wrap My Heart Around”, “That’s My Jam” and “It’s All Good”. It was great to hear Mason tackle the Zac Brown Band smash hit “Chicken Fried” and the Blackstreet classic “No Diggity”. It was refreshing to see the singer-songwriter genre bend a bit, and was more surprising to see him drop a little beat boxing on the crowd to wrap his set. It was a great way to get the crowd primed for Meghan Patrick and the James Barker Band.
As it was a show slated to start at 7:30, and didn’t kick off until 8, it was clear we were off to a rocky start, and it got a little awkward when it was time for Meghan Patrick to hit the stage. Things seemed to be moving smoothly, as the lights dimmed and Patrick’s band strode on stage and started plugging in, only to then realize that things weren’t as they seemed. The crowd was a bit surly (think angry Care Bears), as the drinks had been flowing and the Marquee temp was nearing sunny Summer day status. The band milled about, unsure about what to do, but eventually the technical difficulties were cleared up and the show carried on without further issue.
Then in walked this blonde firecracker who proceeded to put on one of the most engaging and energetic sets I’ve seen in quite some time. Somewhere between Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood is the best way to describe Patrick’s sound, as she is sweet and salty. You can certainly hear that devilish lilt in her voice on tracks such as “Bow Chicka Wow Wow” and “Hardest on my Heart”. It was more the tracks such as “Country Music Made Me Do It” and “Be Country With Me” where her vulnerability shone through, and was mesmerizing. While Patrick might only be celebrating the release of her sophomore release, her authenticity and talent will certainly keep that sophomore jinx at bay. While I may not be a “Country” guy, I am a fan of great music, and Meghan Patrick certainly made me a fan on Thursday night at the Marquee.
It was time for the final changeover of the evening, and the stage crew pulled a ton of gear from the stage in preparation for the James Barker Band, and unveiled a handful of LED screens which would be used during the headline set. Needless to say, it’s been a bit since I have seen a show bring this much gear along for the ride. Then the four-piece Ontario country act James Barker Band hit the stage to great fanfare. It’s not hard to see why the room was jammed with a largely female contingent of country fans, as the JBB are a good-looking group of guys (James Barker reminded me a bit of a clean-cut Jax Teller), who seem to have a great sense of humour amongst themselves. Their tunes would be well suited to a beach chair and a beer, as they strike me as a summer band. I know I’m not in the band’s target demo, but some of their tunes I dug quite a bit. But following Meghan Patrick’s fiery performance was an unfortunate place to be in, as it would be hard to eclipse her performance.
As the JBB broke out “Living the Dream”, I made my way to the back of the room to escape the sweltering conditions at the edge of the stage. From there I watched the band perform another tune as I made my way out into the tropical Halifax evening. It was a great night of music at the Marquee Ballroom, and I can’t wait to see what else lies ahead on the Road to Cavendish.