We spent the morning of day 2 wandering around the arena, taking in what other things it had to offer aside for the live music. There was plenty to do. From a great classic US car show to traditional games like Cornhole and Horseshoe, we had great fun killing some time. The festival really gave you your moneys worth, with axe throwing on offer too as well as various events like hotdog and wing eating, cowboy Olympics and barn dancing.
I also just wanted to take this opportunity to speak about how fantastically organised this festival was. It had such a warm and friendly atmosphere throughout, with plenty of families bringing their kids and dogs. There was a place for kids to play and a whole field closed off where the dogs could be taken to run around. And because there were bins everywhere the place was so clean. I’m so used to rock festivals being just music and that’s it and generally the crowd littering more, so being somewhere like this was great.
As we were wandering around we caught Benjamin Francis Leftwich on the Front Porch. Hearing a British person performing at the festival was a little odd but he did a good job. He had a cool folk vibe to his acoustic singer-songwriter presentation. It fit in well with the rest of the music there. Honestly, I feel bad for not knowing him beforehand as he seems like a pretty big name. Much like Kevin Daniel, he was a slower, stripped-back way of opening the day for us. It was the perfect way to set the scene.
Next up were one of my highlights of the weekend, Everette. I could have watched them play all day and was so glad they did two sets across the weekend (more on the other later). This one saw them far too early on but on the Front Porch, which felt like a perfect setting for the duo. Opening on crowd (and personal) favourite ‘Dang the Whiskey’, the two whisked through a far too brief set of their greatest hits, and a couple of brand-new ones thrown in for good measure. They held the crowd’s attention throughout and are another that are going to be the future of the genre.
Then we had the awesome pleasure of seeing Jess again. This time it was at a more intimate setting of the Buddy’s Good Time Bar stage. While playing a muchly similar set, it was nice to be able to sit down and see everything a little better and relax, instead of bouncing around and singing. The Good Time Bar had a pretty chilled out feeling all weekend. There was little crowd interaction, just appreciating the music, and that’s exactly what we all did here.
We headed back over to the Interstate stage, this time for an Irish band called Hudson Taylor. I had them circled on my app as ones to check out but couldn’t remember why. I’m so glad I did. They put on maybe one of the best performances of the weekend. At least on parr with a couple of the bands from Sunday.
The brothers fronting the band again put in their all and had the talent to back it up. And of course their band did their part to perfection too. It’s another act that I feel disappointed in myself for not knowing, especially given that I generally love the alt-folk kinda sound they play. They also had that pop edge to them that reminded me of the 90s US pop rock bands like Hanson and Matchbox Twenty. Whether it was their older hits or tracks off their 2022 album, they performed it all amazingly and the crowd loved every second. They have a new, big fan in me! Hopefully they come back nearby soon!
We finally headed over to the mainstage for the first time that weekend to see the amazing Seaforth. Being such a big name, I’d heard a couple before. But have to admit, I wasn’t that fussed on track. They brought it live thought, and more than won me over. It’s all very polished and pop, right down to the Sean Kingston samples, but it was good to watch live. The guys are consummate professionals and I’m honestly shocked they haven’t broken out over here massive already. ‘Good Beer’ is a catchy, poppy, radio-baity hit and I have found myself humming it a bunch over the last few days.
We went for some food and caught the back end of Camille Parker on the Front Porch. She was okay, but even more pop than Seaforth. It didn’t quite fit with the feel of the festival in some ways. Then it was back over to main for Cassadee Pope.
One of the most rock artists of the weekend, Cassadee leaned into that distinction with a set that wouldn’t seem out of place opening for P!nk or Orianthi. Obviously her formerly being the vocalist of Hey Monday influences her current sound a fair bit, which is great. It was definitely my sort of pace and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The band did a great job and the crowd were surprisingly into it quite a bit. She threw in a Monday song or two with the more country tracks. But, honestly, tracks like ‘Tomorrow Night’ would have fit right at home with her old band. It’s rare to hear so many genres blended together so effortlessly, and it made for one hell of a set from Cassadee.
Brandy Clark was up next with an almost completely different set and sound. Having a lot more of a traditional country setup with a double bass and other strings, it was a more chilled out set that seemed to perfectly bridge the gap between Cassadee and the nights headliner. Tracks like ‘Get High’ and ‘Big Day in a Small Town’ of course went down a storm. The crowd were clearly, for the most part, big fans of her work. She’s got such a stage presence and swagger, as well as a great back catalogue, that you’d expect her to have been going much longer than she has been. I’d love to see her again, and may have to soon.
Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives to close out the night. Yep, that’s right, MARTY FUCKIN’ STUART LADIES AND GENTS. And, for a guy in his 60s and who has done it all, the guy did not disappoint one single bit. Whether it was playing his fantastic own songs or diving back into his history of playing and collaborating with other artists with covers of ‘Ring of Fire’, ‘Wipe out’ and ‘I’ve Always Been Crazy’, he and the Superlatives smashed it all out of the park.
Due to being a very late bump up to headliner due to Chris Young having to drop out due to Covid, he brought on some fantastic guests too. Whether it was Andrew Coombs, Sunny Sweeney or Kezia Gill, each made it count and you could tell they had a blast. Oh, and did I mention that each of the other three band members had their time in the spotlight, fronting for a couple of songs each (all of which were great, by the way). This was as masterclass and a history in country and bluegrass music and I was hooked from the start to the very end. What a fantastic way to close out the night.