Plenty of bikers and music lovers are ready and waiting for the Great Canadian Bike Rally to return to Merritt next week, and Brickhouse lead singer Rob Bracken is no exception.
Bracken says he is eager to return to Merritt and perform on the rally's main stage for the second straight year.
"Everybody in the crowd is on our side."
In addition to their main stage show, Brickhouse will also perform at the rally's after party at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena.
Along with Bracken, the Vancouver blues group consists of Neil Cruikshank on guitar, Johnny Edson on drums, Ray Keesh on bass, Oldrich Zitek on saxophone, and Darryl Havers on keyboard.
Cruikshank is currently on hiatus from the band, meaning that former member Todd Taylor will hit the road to Merritt and fill in on guitar.
Brickhouse has been nominated for a West Coast Music Award and was named Best Canadian Band in any genre by Real Blues Magazine in 2004.
Asked when the six-piece group first formed, Bracken says, "I don't like to say 18 years, but I guess it's been that long."
Despite that worn-in familiarity, Bracken seems confident that Brickhouse will blow the audience away.
"The set is going to be unstoppable and on fire."
He also promises new material for those who caught last year's performance.
"There are a number of new songs, a couple of covers.
"There's a couple of really new originals."
Bracken fondly recalls Brickhouse's rally show in 2011, when the band played before Trooper, one of the headline bands at the Great Canadian Bike Rally. He remembers the friendly and intimate atmosphere among the artists.
"We opened up for Trooper…I was talking to those guys and I thought they were roadies," he says with a laugh. Bracken says he did not realize they were the headliners until Trooper was called onstage.
"I also got up with Colin James, who is a friend of mine."
That atmosphere extended to the audience, Bracken adds.
"You could've felt the love and the energy in the crowd.
"Even in this outdoor event, it was so wonderfully and pervasively happy."
Bracken says that the band first met the Great Canadian Bike Rally's entertainment co-ordinator, Stuart Emslie, when they performed at Iron Mountain Music, a venue formerly owned and operated by Emslie.
From there, Merritt became a standard stop whenever Brickhouse was in the Interior and the band was happy to play at the rally when Emslie called again, Bracken says.
"It was always part of the road tour we would go through.
"They've become fast friends of ours."