Hicks enjoys ‘closeness’

Between playing stadium shows, Hicks returns to Waterloo

Photo by Heather Davidson
Photo by Heather Davidson

When Tim Hicks and his band were rolling into Waterloo for their Friday night show at Wilfrid Laurier University’s Turret Nightclub, Hicks decided to take a different route.

“We were going to take a different exit coming in [from London], but I said, ‘Nah, let’s take the 85’.”

Hicks, who recently found his way into the major country circuit, wanted to see what the university town of Waterloo now looked like. As a University of Waterloo graduate, the country singer is no stranger to the area.

He used to play covers at McMullan’s every Wednesday and live on Phillip Street above a bar. He was known as “guitar guy” and played in what he described as “chicken wing bars” before releasing his EP in 2013.

Even his band manager, John Morley, is a Waterloo graduate.

“I lived around town, I used to hang out at Phil’s and all that and Monday night wing night. Man oh man, it was so nice to drive in today,” Hicks said after his sound check Friday afternoon.

Hicks also saw a lot of his favourite bands play at the Turret, including Sloan, Big Wreck, Spirit of the West and Great Big Sea, which made playing there more exciting for him and his band.

When it came to show time, Hicks and his band blew away the sold-out Turret. Taking the stage around 11 p.m. to the crowd chanting, “We want Tim,” the band immediately found their place starting with “Hell Raisin’ Good Time” from his first album, Throw Down.

Their sound, behaviour and attitude were light-hearted, fun and natural — what Hicks said his approach to his music has been.

Even when there were issues at the beginning of his set with frequency, Hicks made a joke to the crowd before brushing it off and continuing the song.

Hicks then took time in the middle of his set to record a video that he uploaded immediately to his Twitter and Instagram, while grabbing fans’ phones and taking selfies from the stage.

Despite playing in a smaller venue than what Hicks and his band are used to when on tour with the likes of Dierks Bentley, the group still enjoys the smaller university concerts. What stands out to them is the closeness of club shows, where you can reach out to the crowd. Hicks and his band took advantage of this, as there was no barricade between the Turret stage and the front row. He consistently reached out to fans, keeping a fun demeanour.

“It’s one of those things where we get excited because we know the crowds are ready to party,” Hicks said. “The joke in rehearsal was that we could get up and play the telephone book and we’re still going to have a great time.”

“That’s the kind of crowd that we’re used to playing to. We come from playing covers in bars where people are rowdy and drinking and ready to kick it.”

Hicks switched up Friday’s set list to adhere to the university crowd. He kept the hits from both albums which include “Buzz, Buzz, Buzzing,” “Got a Feeling” and “Here Comes the Thunder,” while throwing in his first ballad, “She Don’t Drink Whiskey Anymore” to slow down the tempo. He threw in a Luke Bryan cover of “Country Girl (Shake it For Me)” and finished his show with an encore cover of “Summer of ‘69’.”

“I never had a set list when we played in bars, I just like to really feel out the room and the crowd and get a gage on what peoples’ energy is so I know what to call out,” Hicks said. “If I knew [a song] was going to set everyone on fire, then I was playing it.”

As an artist who found himself right in the middle of the changing country genre at the perfect time, Hicks’ comfort level on stage and with his songs made him an influence on the Turret crowd.

And before leaving Hicks’ old home for the next stop on the tour, the band made sure to make a stop at Mel’s Diner for some post-performance breakfast.


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