Day #2 of Country Thunder: Ladies who rock & heavy crowd interaction!
Country Thunder woke up to a whole lot of mud Friday morning but it didn’t slow anyone down. High off the first day of the festival, everyone was in good spirits. With the ladies who rock taking over for the day, I headed right out to see Runaway June who are no strangers to Country Thunder with their last visit being just last year. Despite the relatively early set time, this was not a sleepy crowd and the crowd was wowed from the beginning of the set. The first thought that came to mind was a country HAIM, which is never a bad thing. The band’s energy was addictive and screamed ladies who rock. With a seven piece band as a whole, the girls each had a guitar on hand! As I walked up to the crowd, they were blasting out a cover of Keith Urban’s ‘Somebody Like You’ and quickly moved into a set of originals with a well placed cover or two through out the set which isn’t the case for most bands that have been in those opening spots.
They quickly moved in to their original material with their first ACM nominated single “Wild West” , which the band says served tribute to John Wayne who happens to be one of the girls’s grandfathers, Heather Wayne . A favorite moment for me was when “I Can Buy My Own Drink” was introduced with ‘It’s a sassy song. We like to play sassy songs, especially this one over here.” The band was huge on crowd interaction, with lead singer Naomi Cooke constantly walking on the catwalk and signing autographs on cowboy hats and the like.
The trio are a group of songwriters who came together to form Runaway June and that talent is clear in the lyrics and quality of music. The rest of the set was rounded out by a cover of Sara Evan’s “Suds in the Bucket” as well as “Blue Roses” and their track, “Lipstick”, which was the fist track the band wrote together. And according to the girls, was the first track to break the Top 25 by a female trio in over ten years. Clearly, I left the set a fan of Runaway June and it set a great precedent for the rest of the day.
I took a brief break from the show but headed back real quick so I could catch the much anticipated amongst the crowd Ashley McBryde who slayed from the second she walked on stage. A big shout out to the ladies for controlling Country Thunder this day. McBryde came out swinging Friday, opening with “Girl Goin’ Nowhere’ “ and just continued to impress the crowd through out the set with her powerhouse vocals and no fucks attitude that had many a girl swooning in the crowd. Covered in tattoos with a band looking like they walked out of Warped Tour, McBryde brings a rock vibe not seen a lot this far into the festival. With her record being the highest selling for any debut record of 2018, it’s only clear that McBryde will be a show stopper soon. Really the whole set was a stand out but I mostly connected to ‘A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega’ as a highlight. The crowd roared after the ‘Dive Bar’ and the roaring didn’t stop through the rest of the set. McBryde’s rye humor with the crowd came out strong, especially including the quip to intro ‘American Scandal’ with “If you’re here with someone you’re not supposed to be here with. No one’s watching. Hug them and tell them you love them”. After saying a similar sentiment for those that were with someone they loved. Ending on ‘Tired of Being Happy, ‘ McBryde walked away from the stage being a true queen.
Just a little while after McBryde stepped off the stage, it was duo Brothers Osborne turn to show the growing crowd what they had to offer. The band was the first super flashy stage design wise for a main support act on the festival but was warranted as the crowd stated going nuts the second the band walked on the stage. They band opened the set with ‘Shoot Me Straight’ to a huge reception from the crowd and It just raged on from there. The band was the first of the weekend to exclaim their love for a little roughhousing before the show in most likely the GA camping area of the grounds, which isn’t exactly out of the normal for this festival. Lead singer , T.J. Osborne even saying, ‘We walked around and partied with a few of you guys and looks like you brought the party here but it’s not nearly as crazy in here as it is out there. Bring it .”
Alike to Runaway June, the band was all about the catwalk which continued to be a theme with the night’s headliner, Dierks Bentley, as well. With T.J. making a serious commitment to sign every hat thrown up at him and brother John going out on his guitar to do a musical medley instrumental style that included “Hey Jude”, it’s clear the band are natural performers. While the band promised more of the older stuff, they also delved in to some new tracks off the album the band just recorded. Apologies were made even throughout, though not needed by T.J., “I know everybody hates new songs” , playing ‘I Don’t Remember Me’ next.
The band finished it out with the second day in a row for “Earl Had to Die” by the Dixie Chicks which was covered yet a third time on Saturday. The band ended out their set with their smash , ‘Ain’t My Fault’ to huge rounds of applause as the crowd settled in For Dierks Bentley’s set.
Dierks Bentley has been killing the game since his first release in 2003 and has just continued to put out great records since. His set was well balanced with new and old tracks, be it the party ones or the more heartfelt numbers. An early favorite, and I’m sure for most girls in attendance, was “Different for Girls”, coming out in 2016. Bentley has always been known for his more party vibes but there have still been those tender songs that have kept girls loving him for the length of his career. As a proud father of three children, including two little girls, as well as being married to the same woman for the length of his career, Bentley doesn’t just write words to please the masses. It’s clearly genuine and something that people have seemed to always admire him for.
Still, as much as he has those heartfelt songs, he’s still just as loved for his party songs like “Somewhere on a Beach” and “Drunk on a Plane”, the former of which came petty early in the set. To huge applause and a mass sing along, mind you! The crowd was loving Bentley Friday night and he was reciprocating the adoration by constantly being on the catwalk in the crowd and not missing a note. His performance was spot on and he had the crowd in the palm of his hand. For his encore, we were treated to a trailer for “Dude Air”, the lap of luxury airline that clearly we’ve all been missing out on. For the encore, he came out clad in a full pilot suit with his sunglasses upside down which created some pretty magical reactions in the crowd around me. Be it the girls singing it to each other with a drink in hand to a dad dancing with his two young boys singing every word back to him, both of course clad in cowboy hats. Bentley’s set read as effortless and went off without an hitch being a perfect end to day two of this iconic festival.
Next up, a day of classics with Bryan White, Mark Chesnutt and Toby Keith to name a few. To supplement those, we have some fast growing newbies as well with Tyler Farr and Waterloo Revival. It’s going to be a great day !