Concert Reviews

The Country Fest Delivers Music and a Lot of Fun

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I’ve said it before, but The Country Fest at Clay’s Park Resort in North Lawrence has become a summer tradition in Ohio. Sandwiched between Memorial Day and Independence Day, the three-day event is one that Country fans look forward to like a holiday and plan far ahead to attend, and the eighth year was once again one not to miss.

The festival kicked off on Thursday with up and coming artist Kane Brown. The crowd at these earlier shows is always a little smaller and builds as the day goes on, but Brown’s fans were as vocal as any screaming from the moment he hit the stage. Cam followed wearing her signature yellow and it seemed that the sun radiated though her golden locks as she danced her way up and down the stage. Granger Smith hit the stage and the yells of Yee Yee filled the air. His legion of fans were just as vocal singing along to his hits including “Backroads Song.”

The headliner on Thursday was Jake Owen who has performed at The Country Fest before. He first appeared behind his Pink Flamingo stage drop on his “Beachin'” stage set. He emerged in jeans, a sleeveless denim shirt and bare foot, as always. Owen’s effortlessly worked the stage and the crowd, smiling as he made everything he did seem so easy.  His set covered his vast song list and with horn section in tow he added an unexpected version of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” adding in some Country Fest references during the song which only got the fans even more pumped up.

The weather on Friday may have started with a little rain, but that didn’t dampen the spirit of those who came to see new artist Dylan Scott. Scott has been working his way on the charts with his song, “My Girl,” and he often referenced his new wife during his set. Michael Ray was up next and not only brought out his hit songs and new single “Get To You” but added some humor when he encountered a couple celebrating their honeymoon at the event. He was kind, but did tell them since he wasn’t invited to the wedding, “Invite me to your next one,” which brought out laughter and apologies from Ray. Lee Brice was next to take the stage with his burly build and backwards cap. He delivered a fun and entertaining set that showed why he has had more than a half-dozen gold and platinum hits in the past five years like “I Drive Your Truck,”  “Hard to Love” and “I Don’t Dance.”

Justin Moore returned to The Country Fest for the second year in a row to headline the Friday night line up and gave it his all with his hits including “You Look Like I Need A Drink,” “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away,” “My Last Day,” and “Small Town USA.” Moore always seems to have a large amount of enthusiasm in his performances and wears his emotions on his sleeve during them. The crowd was definitely happy to have Moore back, singing along to every song like they were part of the show.

The Saturday performances kicked off with Drake White, who originally made a name for himself through his YouTube videos of songs that would lead him to his debut album, Spark. The barefoot and soulful singer worked the crowd along with his band The Big Fire. His hits like “Simple Life,” “Livin’ the Dream” and “Makin’ Me Look Good Again” are best when performed live and White proved that again. The Country Fest really drew on a wide array of artists, new and old, and when Travis Tritt began to perform it felt as though we were on a musical journey back to 90’s Country. Hearing Tritt sing songs like “Whiskey Ain’t Workin'” and “Put Some Drive in Your Country” with both young and old fans singing along was perfect. As we were starting to run out of daylight Randy Houser came out and sang “Runnin’ Out of Moonlight.” He performed his hits and then brought Drake White back out to perform an awesome cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man” that was just unbelievable.

As the crowd really started to build, so did the excitement for the closing night’s headliner, Blake Shelton who last performed at The Country Fest in 2012. With a long list of hits, Shelton kicked off his over two-hour set with “Neon Light” and continued with “All About Tonight,” “A Guy With A Girl” and “She Got A Way With Words,” during which he referenced his former wife Miranda Lambert. The comment may have been a little tongue-in-cheek humor for him, or done because he knew his current girlfriend Gwen Stefani was watching the show from the side of the stage. Shelton continued to work the stage like a pro and pulled more songs from his arsenal that started with his first #1 in 2001, “Austin.” As his set was closing out he brought up the emotion of the crowd again with “Footloose,” that he covered in 2011 for the film remake and ended with another of his #1’s, “God Gave Me You.”

The festival offers a lot more than just the artists and the music for the nearly 45,000 who attended this year. The fun starts if you camp at The Country Fest and get the whole TCF experience. Those that do hang out with friends and family, cook out and take in all of the outdoor activities at the host location, Clay’s Park Resort. Some campers go bare bones with just a tent and sleeping bag, while others have RV’s, full kitchens and one site, the LDMF group, even built there own dance floor where they could line dance every night. It’s a real friendly crowd, even if some may be slightly inebriated which is even more of a reason to camp.

Next year’s line up has already begun to be booked and was announced to those who attended The Country Fest during a special video before Shelton on Saturday night. We will be sure to bring you all of the news about artists when the are confirmed and released, as well as more about tickets that will be going on sale for The Country Fest 2018 in early August.

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