By: Julia Vodyanyuk

Country singer Aaron Pritchett fires up the audience at the Student Commons Theatre on March 20 for the CMT Hitlist Tour. Pritchett began the set before Doc Walker and Emerson Drive rounded out the evening.

Hundreds of country gals and fellas wearing their best cowboy hats, boots, and plaid filled the Algonquin Commons Theatre March 20 for the CMT Hit List tour featuring Tebey, Aaron Pritchett, Doc Walker and Emerson Drive presented by the Students Association.

The tour, which kicked off March 6, has received positive reviews from show-goers and has made stops in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario.

Some lucky fans who had VIP passes had the chance for a meet-and-greet before the show to get to know the boys of the bands and have merchandise signed.

Tebey, a little known artist from Burlington, Ontario who is only recently receiving much recognition, kicked off the show performing his hit Somewhere in the country. His intimate acoustic performance set the stage for the rest of the show.

Tebey’s laid-back set was in stark contrast to Aaron Pritchett’s high-energy performance. He got the crowd going with a rock-star style jump-off-the-drum set-platform, running around stage, and wailing his songs with passion.

Pritchett has worked for years on his on-stage performance. Performing to a student audience, songs like Hold my beer, The morning after the night before and Let’s get rowdy resonated with the crowd and had them ready for more.

“When you’re doing a full band show, it’s tougher because you’re trying to get the crowd in,” Pritchett said before the show, “but from what I know about this town, they’ll be up and getting crazy. I’ll try and drag them out of their seats.”

The following third act Doc Walker was next on stage. Their performance included impressive vocal harmonies and a laid back, folky feel.

Doc Walker had the audience on their feet when they performed their well-known single Big Wheel.

In contrast to their country-folk sound, Doc Walker decided to mix it up a bit and cover Beyoncé’s Crazy in love to which the crowd danced and sang along to.
Last up was the much-anticipated Emerson Drive. The band walked on stage, grabbed their instruments and started their set off with a crowd favorite, Believe.

Front man Brad Mates led the band through the set and made an effort to get the audience involve. The boys mixed it up on stage a little and had the crowd interact with them by having mini singing competitions.

“The idea of being able to get on stage and you can see everybody, you can see a face everywhere that you look. I feel like the connection you can make with the audience in a smaller setting like this is sometimes easier than it would be in a bigger venue,” said Brad Mates.

Cell phones and cameras lit up the crowd to capture the quirky happenings on stage.

Emerson Drive played a couple new and unreleased songs during their set, “New stuff is my favorite stuff to perform,” Mates said before the show, “We’re used to playing a lot of the other songs year after year after year, and it doesn’t get boring but it’s nice to give a new flare to a set list.”

Fiddler Dave Pitchette was the real star of the show as his contagious smile lit up the stage and his incredible east-coast style fiddle solo before the hit countrified soul had the crowd rowdy and stomping.

Pitchette and with the rest of the band were in their element all through their performance and finished their set with the favorite She’s my kind of crazy.
“It’s one of those songs where you don’t have to listen to it a bunch of times to figure it out, it’s got a catchy chorus to it, musically and lyrically throughout the whole thing you can listen to it once or twice and know the words,” said Mates.

As the band finished their set and walked off stage the crowd began begging for an encore. The chanting continued until every act was back on stage.

The encore performance had the energy of each act combined. The bands collaborated to play three more songs to the country-crazy crowd.

Pritchett and Mates each took a lucky audience member’s phone and recorded themselves singing on stage leaving a keepsake for the owners of the phones and adding a personal touch to their performances.

As the last guitar rung and the final cymbal crashed, the country stars took a final bow on stage, grinning from ear to ear. The cowboy hats came off, the stage strobe lights flashed one more time and the cheers ensued.

The CMT hit list tour wrapped up March 25 with a final show in Belleville.

“Everybody that’s out here from band members to crew, it’s a real treat to have that many people on the same page,” Mates said, “It goes by way too quick.”