Day #3 of Country Thunder: The classics galore!
Day Three , after a few very rainy days was a welcome reprieve as for the most part, the weather really did hold off. The day shone through out promising some classics as well as some new acts that are really shaking up country music, with Waterloo Revival and Tyler Farr! First up on the day’s schedule was Bad Country Roads who aren’t virgins to the Country Thunder experience!
They warmed up the crowd well with a set mostly curated of covers and won the crowd over as they went from hit to hit. The crowd seemed appreciative of the selection of songs! The standards were well covered including the count it, third time that ‘Earl Had to Die’ has made an appearance this weekend and the second time for ‘One Way Ticket’ by Jo De Messina. Either way, it was a good aperitif for a long day of classics.
Next up on the stage was the cult followed Bryan White, who started his career at the bright age of 20 back in 1994 and still continues to “have that phone ringing” as he quipped later on in his set. With his first Country Thunder being in 1998, he is no stranger to the festival and fans were screaming in thanks after every song. I came in to him playing the famous ‘Rebecca Lynn’ and the hits parade just kept going with “Love in the Right Place” and then straight into “I’m Not Supposed to Love You Anymore”.
As well as playing the classics White is known for, he also played a track off his most recent release, an EP that came out in 2014, “Amen”. Despite not releasing new music over the past few years , White is just one of those classic artists that can still continue to plays and be so well loved, being such a classic. As I was walking up the hill for a quick breather, I had to turn back around as per request, White was attempting ‘From this Moment’. Despite not having Shania Twain with him, he still made the crowd swoon with the classic that really gave him his deserved break.
I decided to catch the next band on the bill, Waterloo Revival, at their more intimate second performance at the Bungalow Cabana stage just after they jumped off the main stage. So upon return to the grounds, it was perfect timing to catch fellow legend Mark Chesnutt for a few tracks. Chesnutt is most likely the most traditional country artist we were going to find on this line up but he still is a treat for country lovers of all sorts. It is rare that someone gets to have that long of a career and Chesnutt still had his fans in attendance yelling after every song. As well as writing his own music, he is also a beloved songwriter for many other artists and was able to play some of those tracks as well, including ‘Brother Jukebox’ which was petty early on in the set.
When talking about his new record as well, which is aptly titled, “Traditional Country”, he quipped, “It’s only available to you if you like traditional country music”. Sure , Country music has changed a lot over these past few years but Chesnutt is one of those artists that will be forever a traditionalist and is much loved for it.
After watching Chesnutt for a bit, I jumped over to the Bungalow Cabana stage to catch the second set for Waterloo Revival that day. While most bands that played this stage stuck to this stage purely, with the exceptions of Ashley McBryde and Harry Luge who closed it out every night as well as playing the main stage Friday, Waterloo stuck it out to play two sets back to back and the crowd had followed them there. The Nashville-via-Austin band had a pop edge with still that classic country. The front row for the second stage was filled with girls aged 12 to 21 in great get ups, let’s be honest I was getting some fashion inspo, to sing and dance to every word. But these weren’t just girls who liked them when they had just played the main stage, there were even song requests from the crowd that the band fulfilled for the Cabana stage set , where they hadn’t appeared during the main stage set. When the song was requested though, the lead singer even said it was one of their favorite songs they had ever written with it being ‘That Damn I Didn’t Give’. After ‘Racing in the Rainlight’, I made a quick exit to trek down the hill before Tyler Farr took the stage.
Tyler Farr took party country to a new level Saturday night. While Sam Hunt held back a little bit, Farr let it all go! There were no boundaries here in the best of ways. Opening up with ‘Love by the Moon’, and quickly falling into ‘Whisky in My Water’, which is clearly this girl’s style, Farr had it rocking the whole set including his story times which included references to ‘redneck foreplay’ which he reads as mudwrestling. Clearly something he saw while adventuring into the GA campgrounds just like Brothers Osborne did the night before. He had no filter when it came to the stories to introduce each song and the crowd was eating it up. Just before he played ‘Damn Good Friend’. He asked the crowd who’s friend was passing out fist and in response proclaimed, “ This is a song I wrote with about a buddy who always passes out before me, Jason Aldean’. It was a great show but after the first two nights featuring a full band effort as the main support, it felt a little mellow in comparison.
The night’s headliner though, not so much. Toby Keith has been destroying those party songs for the last twenty five years. The set went back and forth from being super patriotic with the lighting even being purely red, white and blue lighting but then would jump back into other lights whenever he was tackling one of his more party vibe hits. It was pretty much a straight hit parade for Keith but as Bryan White said earlier, what other way would it be? All the mains were covered, and kept the crowd raising their hands in the air and singing all the words back at him! The one sorely missed track was ‘Whiskey Girl’ which was odd to me but I’m really glad I didn’t have that whiskey water as my beverage that evening . The rest was covered though, from ‘Whiskey for my Men, Beer for my Horses’ which even featured Willie Nelson on the big screen singing his parts to ‘Should Have been a Cowboy’ , which is celebrating it’s 25th year being out. He even mentioned, “Here’s where I’m gong to get real redneck on you” playing some of the most loved with ‘I Love this Bar’, and ‘How do you Like Me Now’. As well as himself putting on a great performance, he had a vey entertaining backing band who were consistently doing their own choreography as well as passing around a bottle of his mezcal at one point.
It was a great show performance wise and had a lot cheering for more. He took about a five minute break before the encore and no one was leaving , eagerly cheering ‘one more’ to ‘Toby Keith’ to ‘USA’ before he finally came out for ‘American Soldier ’ and ‘Red, White and Blue’. Pulling on to the stage many veterans for the encore and ending his set saying, ‘Fuck anyone who tells you you’re being too patriotic.’ Which is what Toby Keith is known for and even in modern times, won’t keep me from my professing of love anytime soon!