Terra Lightfoot: Live At The Ancaster Fair

Terra Lightfoot

Fresh on the heels of our recent recap about the headlining performance from Matt Mays at the 2022 Ancaster Fair, we turn our attention today to Terra Lightfoot, who co-headlined the show and very quickly raised the decibel levels around this small Hamilton suburb. Notice my blatant use of the term ‘co-headliner’ here, because in my humble opinion, not only has Terra earned such a distinction, but with a full hour-long set at her disposal, was definitely more than a mere opening act here.

With this being our first year of returning to regular live music events in the post-pandemic era, not once did we anticipate catching any particular artist on more than one occasion – but fate dealt us a lucky hand when it came to catching live music from Terra Lightfoot.  Earlier this year, we purchased tickets to see Matt Andersen perform in VA, who shortly after announced that Terra would join him as a touring companion and opening act.  We also snagged tickets to catch Tom Wilson’s “Mohawk Symphony” concert and fundraising event in Hamilton, and – you guessed it – Terra would be added to the bill as a guest artist.  And, of course, with just one week before the Muskoka Music Festival, who stepped in to save the day when the headlining act had to unfortunately withdraw from the event?  That’s right, you’re correct again – Terra Lightfoot.  

When we learned a few weeks ago that Matt Mays was headlining the Saturday night concert at the Ancaster Fair, this was an opportunity too good to pass up. Better yet, the stars would align once more, with the addition of Terra Lightfoot to this bill – presenting our fourth chance to see her perform again this year.  Terra may frequently share her popular tune “Stars Over Dakota,” but with all of these coincidental encounters, those stars seemingly shone in other places too – we really have been fortunate to enjoy “Stars Over Vienna,” “Stars Over Hamilton,” “Stars Over Gravenhurst,” and this latest gem, “Stars Over Ancaster” over these last few months. “And I’ll pray for the sun to take these stars away / And I’ll wait for you to tell me that you’re here to stay / To stay (tell me that you’re here to stay).

Terra Lightfoot

We arrived at the stage area in Ancaster as Terra (guitar/vocals) was preparing for her sound check, and were happy to see touring companions Eli Abrams (bass/vocals) and Glenn Milchem (drums/vocals) going through the warm-ups too – this meant we were getting the high-energy full band experience once more.  Managing to grab a quick conversation with Terra just before the sound engineer came calling, she nodded towards the keyboard set-up to her right, and informed me that Leith Fleming-Smith (from Matt’s band) would be adding keys to some of their tunes tonight.  Well aware of Leith’s immense talents, our excitement quotient was raised immediately when Terra added that this would be their first time collaborating on stage together.  Cue the nicely timed arrival of Leith for the sound check, it was impossible to leave the stage area, mesmerized instead by all four band members warming up with a couple of verses from “Slick Back Kid” (the ever slick and naturally talented Fleming-Smith adding keys on the fly). Yes, we knew that this was going to be another unforgettable evening.

An enthusiastic reception from the crowd greeted Terra (welcoming a popular ‘local gal’ home) and her band as they returned to the stage later that evening to kick off the show.  Equally enthusiastic, Terra was quick to address those that had formed in front of her. “Hello Ancaster Fair, if you look to your left, you’ll see a member of my family. If you look to your right, you’ll see another member of my family. If you look to the front, you’ll see us, and to the back, you’ll see friends,” she joked. “Every friend, every family member I’ve ever had is here tonight. It’s just like a wedding or a funeral…” And with Eli bursting in with a count of 1, 2, 3, should we have expected anything less when the opening instrumentation from Milchem, Abrams, and Lightfoot signaled the arrival of “Stars Over Dakota?”

Terra Lightfoot

After sharing a pair of cuts from her latest “Consider The Speed” album, along with a great rocking interpretation of “Drifter” from her 2017 “New Mistakes” album, Terra was eager to address her audience once more. “So, you know Matt Mays is coming tonight, right?  It’s so exciting, but we do have options right now” she shared, pausing to appreciate the feedback in return. “We can do the kind of rock show like we’re doing right now, which is absolutely fine. We can do that. But, you know, we can also amp it up a bit. If you guys want to go bigger, what I would like to do is to get it to a ‘9 out of 10’ rock show. We can leave the ’10 out of 10’ to Matt Mays, but I want to get to 9.”  As the crowd once again concurred, the trio launched into the breakthrough hit, “No Hurry,” and with minimal time to pause, continued with the bluesy single “Paradise.”

As Eli and Glenn departed temporarily from the stage, Terra shifted gears and shared a personal tale about the early days of her music career. “So, I came from Waterdown, Ontario. We know where that is because we’re at the Ancaster Fair. And then I moved to Hamilton, and I met this woman there who ended up being a really important person in my life,” she commenced, whilst adjusting the tuning on her guitar. “When I met her, I didn’t know what it was going to mean, but before I had any kind of music career, she took me out for dinner. She’s Hamilton’s own Miss Rita Chiarelli, an amazing blues woman who had a 16-piece band when she was 16, at a time when it was not even really that cool to even be a woman in a band. She’s taught me a lot, and to pay tribute to her, I’d like to play one of her songs.  This is one about being in prison, incarcerated, and she wrote it when she was volunteering in a prison down in the States making music with people who were incarcerated.”  And with a stunning fully-electric solo cover of Chiarelli’s “These Four Walls,” Terra not only impressed with her interpretation, but added an equally impressive blues guitar solo that was indeed amped up.

Terra Lightfoot

As her bandmates returned, Terra took time to formally introduce Leith Fleming-Smith to the stage, who surprisingly kept his contribution as a pretty simple accompaniment during Terra’s recent single, “The Only One Of Your Kind.”  But, as he quickly picked up on their chords and progressions, the beast we expected to see made his arrival, finding his groove and taking his prompts from both Terra and Eli.  By the time the band had progressed to “Hold You,” and headed into their closing number, “Midnight Choir,” Leith could have easily convinced anybody of being a long-time member of the band.  With his natural ear and talent to rotate in and out with the intensity of the keys, and with always-perfect (yet visibly haphazard) precision, I almost envied those in the crowd that had not borne witness to his stage presence until now. I recalled the first time I saw him perform as part of Matt’s live show, and felt the warm and fuzzies for those in the crowd who may not have been prepared to marvel something very, very special yet to come that evening following Terra’s amazing co-headlining set.  That’s right – Leith Fleming-Smith was just getting warmed up.

Set List:

  1. Stars Over Dakota
  2. Called Out Your Name
  3. It’s Over Now
  4. Drifter
  5. No Hurry
  6. Paradise
  7. These Four Walls (Terra Solo – Rita Chiarelli cover)
  8. The Only One Of Your Kind (ft. Leith Fleming-Smith)
  9. Pinball King
  10. Slick Back Kid (ft. Leith Fleming-Smith)
  11. Hold You (ft. Leith Fleming-Smith)
  12. Midnight Choir (ft. Leith Fleming-Smith)

The British guy that crossed the ocean and crash landed in central Pennsylvania (to quote Greg Keelor, “And I wonder what am I doing here?”). As the youngest of four siblings, exposure to music from a very early age nurtured my passion and appreciation for many musical genres. Continuing to discover some amazingly diverse and talented musicians based in Canada, I gravitate to live music experiences and remain devoted to spreading the word about such a vibrant music scene.

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