It was the best of country, it was the worst of country. At least that's what some folks will say after spending four days and nights at what is most certainly the biggest country music and camping event of the season. Cooking, concerts and mega-karaoke, which arrives in an 18-wheeler with a fold-out stage and a built-in recording studio. Five bucks buys you a homemade tape.
Country Thunder, they're calling it, running Thursday, April 25, through Sunday, April 28, in Queen Creek (go to www.countrythunder.com for details), and it's the 11th annual event of the sort. Last year it drew 150,000, and when you consider the sort of year Alan Jackson is having chart-wise (and that he'll be performing Saturday night), it's likely that this year's event will be even bigger.
Folded up in this four-egg western omelet is Brooks and Dunn's Neon Circus and Wild West Show package tour, which takes the main stage all day Sunday, and features comedian Cledus T. Judd, Chris Cagle, Trick Pony, Gary Allen, and Dwight Yoakam, in that order, followed, at the end, when most little punchers ought to be hittin' the trail -- or at least the sack -- by Brooks and Dunn.
Dwight Yoakam promises to be a standout performer, which is saying quite a bit when you consider who he's following, and when he was interviewed by phone a few days ago, somewhere in South Dakota, he mentioned that he's having a great time and actually preferred to open, as it were, for Brooks and Dunn. "This is a knockout tour," he said, sounding just a tad weary, which is when Yoakam happens to be at his best.
"And as far as I'm concerned, it doesn't hurt," he added, "that Panic Room is doing so well at the box office." Yoakam, of course, is referring to his role as a major homicidal creep in the current Jodie Foster film. When I asked Yoakam if he was on the path to becoming the new Peter Lorre, all he could do was chortle ominously while whining through his sinuses.
The Country Thunder concert folk promise to have many Porta Potties, lots of kid stuff, licensed saloons, and every other conceivable amenity, so comparisons with Woodstock are odious. Therefore, it's absolutely necessary to make a few: When asked whether people ought to avoid the brown acid, Yoakam replies with a laugh, "Better they should duck the green barbecue -- it's a killer."
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