Rainmaker Festival concerts return full swing on May 26 and 27 welcoming a fresh roster of talent and thousands of urban cowboys and cowgirls eager to party.
Whether you are into country or rock, this year’s concert series has a surprisingly diverse range of talent. Friday night is traditionally rock night, and this year organizers are taking a nostalgic trip down melody lane hosting an exclusive lineup of tribute artists. And on Saturday night, the big country hoedown, organizers are delivering an all-female lineup.
Friday Rock Concert
BC/DC, Dreams: The Ultimate Tribute to Fleetwood Mac, Five on the Side, The Commercial Allstars
Headling a night of 20th century rock is BC/DC, performing a tribute to AC/DC, an Australian hard rock band that became an overnight sensation in the 70s and 80s. In a nod to the AC/DC, BC/DC was born at a bush party in 1990.
More than 1,000 gigs later, the rockers have redefined the meaning of tribute bands even gaining an iconic status among AC/DC diehard fans. Their secret is a toolkit of solid songs and the charm of comedy. In a sample of tongue-in-cheek bravura, BC/DC even claims the songs they sing are their own, and they’ve “heard of some BC/DC tribute band from Australia.”
Slightly younger, Dreams: The Ultimate Tribute to Fleetwood Mac, was formed in 2005. The six players were already performing a successful ABBA tribute band and decided to expand their set list.
“I have a Stevie Nicks sound, and I’m a big fan of Fleetwood Mac. We all are. We’re a bunch of old hippies and it was a good fit for us,” said Trace Masson, who is from Vancouver.
Other musicians include Mario Parente (Lindsey Buckingham), Rachael Chatoor (Christine McVie), Todd McGarvey (Mick Fleetwood) and Ray Doucet (John McVie).
“We try to sound as authentic as possible even down to the clothes we wear. We’re very good imitators. Mario even plays the guitar like Lindsey and Lindsey was a finger player rather than a pick-player.
Five On the Side is instead one of Edmonton’s top party bands. They’ve performed for 17 years and established themselves as Top 40s groovers. The fivesome mainly play corporate events. But the outdoor Rainmaker gig opens them to a new demographic. Unlike corporate events, the band will select a mashup of rock, pop and country that caters to festivalgoers.
“We pride ourselves on being interactive. We are fully wireless. We take the party to people and go out in the audience. We’re the only one that does that. And we have a familiar and well-rehearsed repertoire with a high-energy party atmosphere,” said drummer Justin Kowalevsky. He is joined by lead singer Sarah Kowalevsky, guitarist Kent Shores, keyboardist Nick Belma and bass player Derek Vokins.
Opening the concert as a warmup act are The Commercial AllStars, a group of handpicked Edmonton musicians performing memorable dance numbers from the 80s to the 2000s. The brainchild of Mike Dinger, these seasoned musicians perform the music from today’s hitmakers alongside rock classics.
Rock Night at Rainmaker Festival takes place Friday, May 26. Tickets are $30 per person and are available online at www.rainmakerevents.ca/Home
Saturday Country Concert
Jess Moskaluke, Nice Horse, Olivia Rose, Taylor-Rae
Jess Moskaluke, the marquee artist at Saturday’s country concert, is on a roll. On May 12, the platinum-selling artist released her latest single, Heartbreaker, a classic breakup anthem. Two weeks before that, she released a video for her January 2023 release Not What Ya Think.
At Canada’s country festivals, the multiple award-winner is known for her big voice, pop-infused hooks, sonic versatility and ability to draw big crowds. In the public eye for more than a decade, Moskaluke is full of pride at leading an all-female country concert.
“It’s tough. It’s harder for women in country. There have been a lot of instances that make it more challenging. For instance, women tend to get fewer plays on radio. Just the fact we’re talking about it is good. It’s an issue we need to face,” said Moskaluke.
Traditional promoters are more reluctant to place women as the lead act believing females cannot attract big crowds. Moskaluke counters the myth providing details of her successful 2022 Mapdot Tour.
“It was statistically proven I sold out more than half the venues I played in.”
During her 90-minute act, she will be accompanied by guitarist Bruno Hebbes, guitarist Will Hebbes, guitarist Brenner Wall, bass player Karl Shewchuck and drummer/percussionist Rich de Silva.
“I’m super-excited. We’re going make it a party and we’re going to make sure it’s high-energy so everyone is dancing and singing.”
Nice Horse is one of Canada’s most talked about fast-rising talents. Recipients of two Canadian Country Music Awards, Calgary’s female foursome draw crowds at the high-profile festivals. They include Boots & Hearts, Cavendish Beach Music Festival, Country Wild Festival and Calgary Stampede.
The kick-ass foursome, Brandi Sidoryk, Katie Rox, Tara McLeod and Krista Wodelet, have released an EP and a full-album since launching Nice Horse in 2015. Like Moskaluke, they believe country music’s male-dominated industry makes it difficult for women to climb the glass mountain.
“The festival’s all-female bill is a rare place to be. But I don’t think it should be rare. We’ve paid our dues. We play good music, we take pride in our reputation and we’re four strong women,” said Sidoryk.
A rarity in the industry by virtue of their numbers, Nice Horse’s on-stage show packs a punchy attitude.
“On a scale of one to 10, our attitude might be nine,” said Sidoryk, bursting into a laugh. “We have attitude, but it’s always with a sense of humour.”
Edmonton-based Olivia Rose will also get a chance to strut her stuff at an earlier slot. Raised in Elk Point, the songstress has practiced her craft since the tender age of 10. Growing up she learned to put feelings on paper by listening to influential singers such as Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Miranda Lambert and Taylor Swift.
“As a kid, I’d write stories and came up with different scenarios. By the time I was eight or nine, I was playing guitar and putting my stories into song. I loved doing it so much, I kept writing songs,” said Olivia Rose.
For the young singer-songwriter, good storytelling is at the heart and soul of music.
“I write stories with modern lyricism. But I like to produce the songs with traditional instruments like steel guitar, fiddle and banjo.”
She has released a series of singles including Put It Like That which received more than 127,000 streams.
Opening the program is Taylor-Rae, an Alberta singer now living in Nashville. A second-place winner at the 2022 Boots & Hearts Emerging Artist Showcase, her breakthrough single, Are You Still Up, garnered nearly two million streams.
Tickets for Rainmaker’s Country Night are $40 at www.rainmakerevents.ca/Home.