The inaugural Big Barrel Country Music Festival kicked off on Friday June 26, with a wide-array of new and old country artists ranging from superstars like Blake Shelton to classic rock vets Lynyrd Skynyrd, to outlaws like Billy Joe Shaver and Yallternative hero of the moment Sturgill Simpson.
Day 1 highlights:
Headliner Blake Shelton wowed the crowd with his hits and entertained with his funny “Blakeisms” for well over an hour and a half, playing everything from his first No. 1 “Austin” to his latest smash “Sangria.” The entire set was one big sing-a-long. Two of my favorite moments was when Shelton performed recent hits “My Eyes” and Lonely Tonight” back to back with Gwen Sebastian whose voice sounded so strong and sweet. Shelton is an all-around great performer and this set was perfect.
Country crooner Chris Young wooed the crowd (especially the ladies) with all of his hits as well. He played everything from “Voices” to his latest single “I’m Coming Over.” “Neon” and set-closer “Tomorrow” were certainly highlights, but the entire performance was top notch.
The charismatic Jana Kramer spent much of her set playing new songs including her tremendous new single “I Got the Boy.” Naturally the crowd erupted for her two biggest hits “Whiskey” and her biggest hit “Why Ya Wanna.” This was my third time seeing Kramer and I have to say, this was by far the best of the prior performances. Her voice was strong and she had a fun energy about throughout the set.
My most anticipated performance was by Yallternative country music savior Sturgill Simpson. Dude was awesome. “Some Days” was ramblin’ fun and “Life of Sin” was rousing. Simpson’s poignant cover of When in Rome’s “The Promise” was transcendent, as was the trippy “Turtles All The Way Down.” His set was everything I imagined it would be and more.
If you’ve ever done a festival where sets overlap, you know you can’t see everyone. I was able to catch bits of Wade Bowen, Hooray for the Riff Raff, Whiskey Shivers, Joel Crouse, Jackie Lee and Billy Joe Shaver (who at age 75 can hang with the kids) and they were all in fine form.