The Band Perry, Easton Corbin, & more Country Thunder 2014 4/11/14
Country music fans in Florence were surely pleased with the way their weekend kicked off last night. Friday marked day two of this year's annual Country Thunder festival, and the night's lineup featured up-and-comers Mary Hoffman and Cassadee Pope, along with seasoned musicians Sawyer Brown and chart toppers Easton Corbin and the Band Perry.
When I arrived at Country Thunder, there were campers set up in every direction and thousands of people wandering the festival grounds, browsing vendor booths like Stetson and Jack Daniel's. Finding my first beer was an unforgiving and daunting task in the high afternoon heat, but after going through all the avenues for alcohol, I could settle in.
Cassadee Pope moved around the stage singing tunes from her album Frame by Frame, and interacted with the crowd in a chipper energetic voice between songs. After playing her first Top 10 single, "Wasting All These Tears," Pope thanked the fans and then KMLE for being one of the first radio stations to play her music.
Before Sawyer Brown began its set, the band stood on stage for a short Q&A, where it was announced that they hold the record for most Country Thunder appearances. When their performance began, it was clear they were the act with the most experience.
Singer Mark Miller may be showing his age after more than 30 years of performing, but he can still get a crowd into their show. And I'm sure I wasn't the only person laughing at the Beach Boys attire Miller chose to wear. From the white pants and bright shirt, to the woven fedora, he was rocking it.
A fiddle player somewhere on the dark stage teased the crowd around 7 p.m. when the lights went down. Short bursts of country melodies piqued the wandering fan's interests and people began to gravitate toward the stage. Soon after, an announcer walked out to introduce the next performer of the night -- Easton Corbin.
Sporting a t-shirt and jeans, Corbin took the stage with his band mates and an acoustic guitar slung over his shoulder. He looked extremely young and yet has a rich, seasoned country voice a la George Strait or Garth Brooks. In fact, the way he carried himself and the songs he performed all felt very veteran-esque, and speaking of George Strait -- Corbin nailed it when he broke out with the chorus of Strait's "Check Yes or No," to the crowd's delight.
Corbin's overall show was entertaining and exciting, while encouraging plenty of drinking and partying, which is perfect for the Country Thunder setting. A completely hammered girl standing directly behind me kept insisting to everyone around her that we all needed to pay attention because, "He is a lyrical genius." She then attempted to shout every lyric he sang at the top of her lungs. And we all know how unpleasant drunk girl scream/singing is.
From "It's All About Tonight" to "A Little More Country than That" and "All Over the Road," Corbin's array of hit songs kept the entire crowd dancing and in high spirits leading up to the headlining act.
By the time the Band Perry's performance was ready to kick off, Country Thunder attendees were packed into the main stage standing grounds tightly. Even with little to no room to move around, the guys still found a way to break out a swing dance or two-step routine with their ladies -- even if it meant plowing over other patrons.
Kimberly Perry along with her two brothers, Neil and Reid, charged out onto the stage as the brightly lit screens behind them welcomed the trio to Arizona. The giant video screens on either side of the main stage, which had streamed all the evening's performances, came back to life, making it easy for people all around the festival grounds to get a glimpse of the band. The three musicians were bouncing around and full of energy as they wasted no time before tearing into their 2013 single "Done."
Kimberly's voice is every bit as fantastically smooth and powerful in a live setting as it is on their records. She showed off those vocal chops during an onslaught of hit songs to open the show while she danced around and flipped her hair. Her crowd draw is equally as powerful -- they filled the silence in between songs with monstrous roars and cheers and shouted every word to "You Lie" at her command.
Partway through their performance, Kimberly told the crowd that one thing she has learned about Arizona is that there are "a lot of free spirits out this direction." The audience loudly agreed, and after all three siblings took turns telling the fans about being judged in the past, they encouraged everyone to always be themselves and stay free before playing "I'm a Keeper."
Their stage energy never ceased throughout the evening, and the highlight of the performance came toward the end of their set when they dedicated the song "Pioneer" to America. They led into it with an instrumental rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" and closed the song out with Kimberly transitioning into "Amazing Grace." Soon after their patriotic celebration, they threw in an awesome cover of "Fat Bottom Girls," just to spark the crowd into dancing again.
After playing the hit "Don't Let Me Be Lonely", the band left the stage, but every show has its encore and the Band Perry is no different. They soon came back for two more No. 1 singles, "If I Die Young" and "Better Dig Two."
Last Night: Country Thunder 2014 in Florence, AZ
The Crowd: Country fans as far as the eye could see. With the recent heat wave this week, there were lots and lots of bikinis parading the grounds. ... But the problem with that: way too many shirtless bros peacocking around with their muscles flexed.
Overheard in the Crowd: A young girl, who appeared intoxicated and had a GoPro strapped to her head, shouted to her friends, "I'm going in." Her footage may be on YouTube soon. Stay tuned.
Also Overheard in the Crowd: Multiple young girls sweet talking guys into buying beer for them.
Personal Bias: Call it my own ignorance, but I was shocked at how many country hits that I've heard on the radio are actually from the Band Perry. I guess I never put it together.
Tricked by a Redneck: As I wandered the grounds, I ran across a man in a motorized wheelchair with a confederate flag mounted on the back. He sat there toting his beer can high in the air and when a friend of his passed by he stood up and walked over to give him a hug.
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