Lasso Montreal 2022 photos

Ici c’est country: Montreal swoons over Lasso’s Southern charms

“Cowboy hats, boots and denim loudly announced that even though it was the same old Parc Jean-Drapeau, there was no mistaking that we were here for Southern comfort.”

They say clothes make a man, and in the case of the inaugural Lasso country music festival at Parc Jean-Drapeau last weekend, clothes can also make the band and music fan.

What an artist is wearing usually isn’t too important, but in the case of the oft-delayed Lasso — originally set to kick up dust in 2020 before moseying down the calendar — style immediately separated it from the preceding Osheaga and îleSoniq fests. Cowboy hats, boots and denim loudly announced that even though it was the same old Parc Jean-Drapeau, there was no mistaking that we were here for Southern comfort. The music blurred lines more than the clothes.

Two major questions loomed over Lasso and were largely answered from the jump. Yes, urban Montreal, home of bike paths and wine bars, can chug Coors and scream along to songs about trucks parked in cornfields with the best of them. By the end of the umpteenth song about cracking open a cold one over friends and heartbreak, the fishing boat or back of the pickup can become a metaphor if you need it to be.

Artists usually hit the stage from the plane or bus with no idea where they’ve landed. Country music stars, who have radio and sales charts coursing through their veins, seemed a little more aware that this wasn’t a decades-old rodeo but a potential new market to conquer.

That gets us to the second part. From my vantage point, politics were kept at home and common ground was found at the beer tent Interac machines. I did see one American conspiratorial t-shirt faux-pas, but his pouty face indicated he likely wasn’t getting the attention he was hoping for.

And the only contraband witnessed first-hand at Lasso wasn’t anything ingestible or mind-altering: someone had spurs attached to their cowboy boots. Beware if you get too close in the pit.

Here’s how the weekend shaped up.


A gent in a cowboy hat hopped on the metro with me at Jolicoeur and proceeded to down two bottles of Corona. How’s that for table-setting?

James Barker Band

James Barker Band Lasso Montreal
James Barker Band at Lasso Montreal 2022. Photos by Cindy Lopez

I missed rap-crossover artist Blanco Brown and his DJ setup but arrived in time for Kawartha Lakes act James Barker and his full band of rollicking rockers. If modern country can trace many of its roots to ’90s alternative rock, the Ontarian was clearly connecting those dots, dropping Rage Against the Machine and Maroon 5 covers into his set to an approving audience. Started the weekend trend of acts where the backing drummer and at least one guitarist looked like they came from rehearsal for their metal bands.

Tenille Townes

Tenille Townes Lasso Montreal 2022
Tenille Townes

Another Canuck from the ROC, this time further west in Alberta. Townes has been making her hay in Nashville most recently though, having worked with some big names in the biz. One thing country stars are not timid about is namedropping who they’ve collaborated with. Just like how you might unexpectedly find yourself in a mosh pit at a punk show, every so often the crowd would part at Lasso and a spontaneous line dancing procession would form. Get stepping or get out of the way.

Old Dominion

Old Dominion Lasso Montreal 2022
Old Dominion

After Ashley McBryde cut through the island with her tales of Southern woe, Buffett-lite multi-songwriter collaborative effort Old Dominion eased the growing crowd into their folding chairs. (Yes, there was a specific “Zone Chaises” section.) There’s big money in selling carefree living, and the bearded Virginia boys make it look simultaneously effortless and surgically precise, all to a video backdrop of whiskey pours by the bonfire. There’s been a few tributes in the city to late Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins, and they opted for “Learn to Fly” before returning to the nautical life on alibi party starter “I Was on a Boat That Day.” Singer Matthew Ramsey stretched himself into rap flows on the verses, but then again, there’s always been a “y’all” in “yes, yes, y’all.” Current day genre-bending country pop in a nutshell. 

Dierks Bentley

Dierks Bentley Lasso Montreal 2022
Dierks Bentley

Marred by spotty sound in the earlygoing, the big name Arizonan righted the ship before too long. If Old Dominion are the sound of the late 2010s, Bentley is the rallying cry of the solemn post-9/11 days. Not to say he’s overly serious – quite the opposite, he was such a convivial frontman he allowed his wunderkind backing guitarist and fiddle player to upstage him and was totally cool to play supportive harmonizer. He seemed content to tout his colleagues since, as he put it, he’s already got a jangle in his pockets thanks to us. But he also pointed out the days when he was playing for peanuts in dank clubs on Broadway, and that sort of institutional memory is pivotal for a fresh festival like Lasso looking for true country bonafides. His cover of Charlie Daniels’ bluegrass epic “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” with McBryde was an authentic way to ring in the new event. Eventually, Bentley was singing about “sittin’ on the couch watching TV all day long” and it felt like there was more living to do back in the city, so night over.


I’m sure it makes sense from a business standpoint to start on Friday, but you can never truly feel a festival’s momentum until the Saturday crowds get a little sloshed. It might explain why all the country singers write about Saturday night parties and Friday nights are usually reserved for football under the lights. Another stray thought: I would love to know how much beer was consumed. Even at $12 a pop, I rarely saw an empty fist.

Matt Lang

Maniwaki’s own may have the advantage of being able to banter in French, but his band brought a chugging country rock sound that would’ve won everyone over regardless. Country music is belle et bien icitte, and artists like Lang are the reason Lasso can fill out a respectable undercard with local and Canadian acts. Lang’s band went hard, and before too long their metal pasts seemed ready to burst at the seams.


Breland Lasso Monteal 2022

The 27-year-old New Jersey native holds the rare distinction of being an artist that would’ve succeeded at any of the three summer fests. He’s enough of a party rapper to wow the IleSoniq crowd, has a melodic ear to fill an Osheaga stage with wall-to-wall hits and has just enough twang and truck-talk to impress the Lasso purists. His set might’ve been met with a little more skepticism due to his two-piece backing band and extended Nelly tribute (I mean, “Country Grammar” wasn’t subtle about its musical origins), but he won the day with his namedrops (Urban, Twain) and irresistible earworms. The “Hot Sauce” guy is hot shit, and a future superstar. And if his rap-inspired productions didn’t click, he threw down “Strawberry Wine” by Deana Carter, maybe the most pop-country cover of the weekend.

Riley Green

Riley Green Lasso Montreal 2022

Of all the higher profile acts at Lasso, Green was the least shined up for an international audience. The East Alabaman with brawny biceps was a country boy drinking from a lean cup on a soap box, and didn’t feel the need to swap out his opening song about standing for the flag (“Different ‘Round Here”) despite being in a foreign land. The rest of the set hit some familiar beats about working laborious gigs, hunting, fishing and downing beers, and his band may have been the sharpest of the bunch. Surprise surprise, Green revealed his bassist was a Montrealer. Felt like the kind of unvarnished country experience the city doesn’t get all that often.

Kelsea Ballerini

Kelsea Ballerini Lasso Montreal 2022
Kelsea Ballerini

At the other end of the spectrum was Ballerini, who saw the lane forged to the mainstream by Shania and Taylor and said, “I want that.” This was a pure Bell Centre pop spectacle, complete with illuminated stage platforms and wind machine blowing through her rock star locks. Ballerini has a booming voice and the crossover cuts to go beyond country radio, but will audiences follow? It takes a generational talent to do what Twain and Swift accomplished, and the unabashed pop productions with overdubs Ballerini has done recently might catch fire in conventional spaces, but to have a songbook that people can still sing a decade or three later is another story. For Lasso, it was a feast for the senses.

Luke Bryan

Luke Bryan Lasso Montreal 2022
Luke Bryan at Lasso Montreal. Photos by Cindy Lopez

The fest’s raison d’etre. Bryan took a chance with a Bell Centre headlining gig in 2016 and it perked up Evenko and Nashville to the possibility of modern country thriving in Montreal. Bryan was the first name announced for Lasso and told the crowd he had been waiting a few years to finally see it come to fruition. As a superstar, Bryan is maybe a couple of years removed from his black fitted dominating the industry. If country had its own indie sleaze phase, Bryan might’ve arguably been its leader — his sets are country, but rife with a type of geeky hip hop hedonism that’s fallen by the wayside. “Is anyone having sex in Canada?” he asked to giggles from the sobering up masses. He further showed his playfulness by noodling Shania and Bryan Adams tunes on the piano.

I mentioned earlier about the unassailable songbook of Shania. Just a couple of notes from Bryan got the crowd to sing all of “Man, I Feel Like a Woman” without backing. With Lasso 1.0 finally in the books, organizers can move on to the next and there’s a lot of potential out there, Twain or otherwise. Now that Lasso has proven Montreal is a country music town, the second step is to show the rest of Nashville that Montreal can be a country music destination. ■

For more on Lasso Montreal, please visit the festival’s website.

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