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The Inaugural HullabaLOU a Country Success
Although the inaugural HullabaLOU Music Festival held at historic Churchill Downs on July 23-25 was a financial nightmare, to country music fans, it was a HUGE success. With more than 65 acts from a kaleidoscope of musical genres from pop to bluegrass, and from rock to R&B, there was a healthy representation of country acts throughout the entire festival. With the fact that the festival began at one o'clock on a Friday afternoon, most country fans missed the opportunity to relive the glory days of "Kiss You All Over" band Exile and enjoy newcomers Gloriana, best known for "Wild at Heart." However, by the time Dierks Bentley took the main stage at 7:40 pm, country fans had taken Churchill Downs by storm and reveled in highlights like "Free and Easy (Down the Road I Go)," "Sideways," and "Down to the Crossroads" with accompaniment by Sam Bush. And for those fans who stuck around for the headlining act, 80's hair band Bon Jovi, they were treated to a very special surprise as Bentley joined lead sing Jon Bon Jovi to perform "Wanted Dead or Alive" with the legendary band during its encore. The two sounded so natural together, Mr. Bon Jovi should consider a duet with Bentley much like his smash duet "Who Says You Can't Go Home" with Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland a couple years ago. The two have chart-topping chemistry.
On Saturday of the festival, country music owned the HullabaLOU main stage as Sara Evans, Jason Aldean and Kenny Chesney ruled the roost that evening. Although fans were surprisingly sparse for Evans' 50-minute set, the Missouri native gave it her all as she performed hits like "Born to Fly," "Suds in the Bucket" and "I Could Not Ask for More," as well as some new material from an upcoming album. I'm afraid lack of radio presence in the last couple years due to personal drama has hurt her career, so here's hoping the crooner will hit it hard with the next record and re-establish herself in the country forefront. With smash hits like "Big Green Tractor" and his recent "Crazy Town," it was a win-win situation for booking Jason Aldean on the main stage as he kept the crowd pumped, clapping their hands and stomping their feet throughout his 75-minute set, which led up to the Saturday evening headlining act, Kenny Chesney. I'm not sure if the HullabaLOU festival planning committee and promoters are prophetic or not, but they struck gold when they booked Chesney for this event during a year that he has taken a sabbatical from touring with the exception of a few festivals. Fans screamed, whooped, hollered, swooned and nearly passed out from the heat and the excitement of Chesney as he performed summer favorites like "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems, "Young," "When the Sun Goes Down," "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy," and "Summertime." Fans were also treated to two surprise covers performed with Jason Aldean: Steve Miller Band's "The Joker" and Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Gimme Three Steps." With HullabaLOU providing the stage, it was a rare treat to see Chesney perform raw without all the usual stage antics of slick video productions and flying over the crowd. The music was emphasized, not the tricks.
Sunday's artist lineup was especially memorable for native Kentucky country fans as the "Coal Miner's Daughter," Butcher Holler, Kentucky's own Loretta Lynn and Pikeville, Kentucky native Dwight Yoakam brought their music to the fans. Surprisingly, Lynn was loved, respected, revered and given the rock star treatment from fans old and young alike as she wowed the crowds with hits from her illustrious career, from her very first single, "Honky Tonk Girl," to "Don't Come Home A'Drinkin'," "Fist City," "Blue Kentucky Girl," "You're Looking at Country," the patriotic heart-breaker "Dear Uncle Sam" and, naturally, her signature autobiographical "Coal Miner's Daughter." The crowd adored Lynn so much that I imagine the adoration could only be topped if the late, great "Man in Black," Johnny Cash were alive and playing to the crowd.
Yoakam turned up the hillbilly-rock meter several notches as he tore through numbers like "Turn It On, Turn It Up, Turn Me Loose," "Guitars, Cadillacs," and his Buck Owens-inspired anthem, "Streets of Bakersfield." And speaking of Yoakam, here's where one of the biggest faux pas of HullabaLOU reared its ugly head. Too often, artists from similar music genres were performing at the same time. With Yoakam's set starting during Zac Brown Band's show on the main stage, you can guess where the majority of country fans were — rocking out to the current radio-friendly ZBB. Fortunately for Yoakam, the die-hard classic country fans cheered the singer/actor on. No fault to ZBB for the scheduling conflicts, but Mr. Brown and the boys wowed the anxious crowd from the HullabaLOU main stage with hits like "Toes," and their infectious smash debut "Chicken Fried." And for country fans who stuck around for Sunday headliner Dave Matthews Band's show, they were treated to two surprise covers with Zac Brown: Willie Nelson's "Funny How Time Slips Away" and Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower."
Despite the fact that the first-ever HullabaLOU Music Festival got rave reviews from the 78,000 fans drawn to Churchill Downs throughout the weekend, the event overall was a financial disaster. The festival predicted a loss of $2 to $3 million, but when the numbers were crunched, the total loss was $5 million dollars, being blamed on the likes of low ticket sales due to extreme heat and a declining concert industry. Being its first year, naturally there was an unavoidable hefty price tag to purchase all new stages and sound equipment for the festival. Despite the large financial loss, fortunately for music fans, there WILL be a 2nd Annual HullabaLOU Music Festival in 2011, although the dates, length of the festival and talent lineup are all susceptible to change from this year's event.
Sugarland Heading From the Stage to the Courthouse
Sugarland kicked last month's Kentucky State Fair off with a big bang on Thursday, August 19, and members Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush could be in for a big bang themselves come November. The duo will meet the third original group member, Kristen Hall, in a federal court trial in Atlanta, Georgia on November 15. Hall left the group at the end of 2005 and has sued her former bandmates for $1.5 million, claiming she has been denied her one-third share of launching the successful band. Nettles requested the lawsuit be dismissed, but the request was rejected by a judge. This trial will determine when the Sugarland trio partnership began and ended and clarify the ownership of the band's trademarked property. The duo's "Incredible Machine Tour," current hot single, "Stuck Like Glue," and Incredible Machine CD hitting stores next month just may be raising money to pad Ms. Hall's pockets.
Keep reading for updates in upcoming months as the trial begins and progresses.
Farm Aid Celebrates 25 Years
In 1985, country music's "Redheaded Stranger," Willie Nelson, realized that our nation's farmers and family farms were struggling to stay afloat, so he decided to do his part to lend a helping hand and make a change. Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp organized the inaugural Farm Aid benefit concert in Champaign, Illinois on September 22, 1985 and raised more than $7 million for American farmers. Since that first benefit concert, the nonprofit Farm Aid organization has raised more than $37 million "to promote a strong and resilient family farm system of agriculture," thanks to its three founding members, fellow board member Dave Matthews (who joined the founders in 2001) and hundreds of music artists who have donated their time and abilities throughout the years.
The "Farm Aid 25: Growing Hope for America" benefit concert will be held Saturday, October 2 at Miller Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In addition to the four Farm Aid board members, Kenny Chesney, Band of Horses, The BoDeans, Robert Francis, Norah Jones, Amos Lee, Jason Mraz and Wilco's Jeff Tweedy are scheduled to perform. Tickets for this event are already on sale and prices range from $39.50 to $97.50. Tickets can be purchased online at www.tickets.com or by calling the Milwaukee Brewers' box office at 414-902-4000.
My hat's off to Willie, John, Neil and Dave for their support of America's farmers!
Jimmy Wayne Finishes Charity Walk
>"Paper Angels" and "Do You Believe Me Now" country crooner Jimmy Wayne was in and out of the foster care system as a youngster, finally being adopted at the age of 16. To help raise awareness of teens who are released from the foster care system out into the world because of their age and to raise funds for the cause, Wayne decided to walk 1,700 miles from Nashville to Phoenix, Arizona to raise awareness of this serious epidemic of many foster care youth being forced to live on the streets. Wayne began his "Meet Me Halfway Walk" in Nashville on New Year's Day and finally reached HomeBase Youth Services in Phoenix on August 1, despite the fact that he fractured his right ankle walking down the side of a mountain near Mesa, Arizona. To celebrate the completion of this journey, Wayne performed a free concert at Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill in Mesa.
Great job, Jimmy, and thanks for your dedication to help America's youth!
Country Makes a Splash at Teen Choice Awards
When the 2010 Teen Choice Awards were handed out in Los Angeles on August 8, country music made quite a splash, in particular with Taylor Swift. Although she was in Japan during the ceremony, Swift accepted four awards via satellite. To no one's surprise, she captured the Choice Music: Female Country Artist award; her "Fifteen" earned her the Choice Music: Country Song award; her Fearless CD earned the Choice Music: Country Album title and she was honored with the Choice Movie: Female Breakout award for her role in Valentine's Day, alongside teen heartthrob and her on-screen high school love interest Taylor Lautner. Keith Urban garnered the Choice Music: Male Country Artist award and Lady Antebellum was named Choice Music: Country Group.
Congratulations, Taylor, Keith and Lady A!
Country Baby Boom
It seems like the country music community is continually expanding at a rapid rate due to a baby boom among country artists. "Rain Is a Good Thing" singer Luke Bryan is the latest artist to contribute to this baby boom, as he and wife Caroline recently welcomed their second child into the world. Son Tatum "Tate" Christopher Bryan was born August 11 in Nashville, weighing in at 6 lbs., 8 oz. and measuring 21 in. When speaking of Tate's birth, Bryan recently stated, "Nothing like coming home after an eight-day run and having an early surprise like this! Such an amazing day for me and my family. We are so blessed to have another healthy baby boy." The Bryans also have a two-year-old son named Thomas Boyer "Bo" Bryan.
Dierks Bentley's family will be expanding in the near future as daughter Evalyn Day, who will be two in October, becomes a big sister. Bentley and wife Cassidy are expecting their second child in December. He says, "We're so excited that our daughter Evie is going to get a baby sister or brother for Christmas."
Josh Turner's brood is rapidly growing as he and his back-up singer and wife Jennifer are expecting baby #3 early next year. The Turners love big families and are excited to welcome a baby brother or sister for their two sons, three-year-old Hampton and one-year-old Colby.
Congratulations to the Bryans, Bentleys and Turners!
Well, that's it for another month and another summer. Here's hoping you enjoyed the summer, heard some of your favorite country artists perform live at the Kentucky State Fair and that everyone's back in the swing of things since school has resumed. Always remember: "Keep your boots shined up and your hat on straight, ‘cause country music is comin' your way."