by Scott Roos
photos by Deanna Roos of Contingent Colours Photography
This past Saturday, Dec. 11th, the Gord Bamford bus docked in Birch Hills to play the second stop on his "Kick COVID In the A**" tour. Bamford, a country music scene stalwart who grew up in Lacombe, Alberta, brought along fellow artist Duane Steele as his opener. Bamford had only played a handful of shows since the onset of COVID - concerts online and a few drive-in shows. He's a small town guy at heart, and relished the opportunity to give back to the small towns slated for stops on this tour.
"I've missed the people. When you get to go out and play music for a living it's a job that I think 95% of us would tell you that we love every day we wake up and go to work. It's something that we love to do," Bamford told NSMZ in a telephone interview in the weeks leading up to the Birch Hills show.
Bamford prides himself in the self sufficiency of his band and crew. The sound, lighting and video presented during his set were top notch. Bamford provided a "big venue" entertainment experience to the capacity crowd in Birch Hills which was estimated to be around 280 people.
"I'm lucky to be self contained with production and lighting and video and all that sort of stuff. That's kind of been my business model for years. We have all the means to get out and play anywhere: from a small town hall to a big music festival to an arena," explained Bamford.
"I believe that fans are fans. It doesn't matter how many are there. They're fans of your music. They want to come watch you so then it shouldn't matter how big your venue is or what the venue is. We're just going to to work. That's our job."
During his set, Bamford and his very capable band cycled through several of his more anthemic singalong songs including the recently released single "Drink Along Song" as well as "Is It Friday Yet?", "Drinkin' Buddy" and a whole host of others. The crowd, for their part, dutifully sang and grooved along to many of these country rock stompers and seemed elated to have an artist of Bamford's calibre on stage in front of them. The mere appearance of Bamford in Birch Hills was essentially the event of the season. The troubles of the past 18 months of COVID began to melt away allowing the audience to engage in a partylike atmosphere as the night wore on. There was a lot of excited chatter and smiles abounding.
Steele, provided a more low key approach as an opening act to contrast Bamford. Accompanying himself on his acoustic guitar, Steele, an industry veteran himself, played a short but inspiring set to warm up the crowd that included his biggest hit "Anita Got Married" as well as a reverent cover of Gordon Lightfoot's "If You Could Read My Mind".
At the end of the evening, the Birch Hills Civic Centre proved to be a suitable venue for an artist of Bamford's ilk. Bamford's team, for their part, provided the expertise required to give the music starved fans something to talk about for quite some time. If this tour stop is any indication, Bamford is already in game shape after what was likely a long a frustrating layoff for himself and his crew. Kudos to Bamford for giving the town of Birch Hills some much needed respite from woes of COVID if even for just a few short hours.