Daisy dukes for miles; plaid, as far as the eye can see. No head without a hat (strictly of the trucker or cowboy variety), and no hand without a beer. The shorts are short, the tans are dark, and the curls are aplenty. No matter how many concerts I go to, there’s just something about the incredible geniality of The Country Music Festival. Whether you’re a fan of pop-country or enjoy the classic twang-tastic country roots, it’s entirely undeniable that a country music festival (ESPECIALLY in the summer) is one of the most enjoyable environments you’ll ever experience. Country is a genre that sounds amazing live, and the general happy (and waaaaaaasted) atmosphere that comes from it is unreal. Possibly the best part is knowing that you’re guaranteed to have an amazing time, because every country music festival has the following guarantees:
THE OPENER: You’ve been sitting through the opening acts to pump you up and feed you some good covers. You’ve been sitting in the in-between time where the local country station is pumping through the speakers for a few minutes now, and the anticipation is building. You waited in line and gotten everyone their beer, you’ve passed the point of no return for the washroom line, and already the crowd is buzzing with excitement. Then the radio cuts out, the lights dim, and everyone loses their mind as the band teases you with some music and harmonizing for a minute or so before blowing up the stage with one of their most popular, probably recent singles. And it was worth every second. (From experience: Rascal Flatts’ “Banjo” made the country crowd go WILD).
THE SUMMER SONG: Every country band has at least one summer jam. You know it’s coming, but when the first recognizable notes come to an unsuspecting crowd on a roll, the surge of energy blows your mind. There’s no denying that hearing Kid Rock’s “All Summer Long,” or Rascal Flatts’ “Summer Nights,” on a clear, crisp summer night isn’t going to make you go nuts. If it doesn’t, then you need to seriously loosen up. (From experience: the crowd during Lady Antebellum’s “Perfect Day” was absolutely incredible).
WHEN CROWD TAKES OVER: Hearing the chorus of the crowd sing your favourite lyrics while the band enjoys the show is almost as good as the band itself. Thousands of voices belting out a country anthem they all genuinely love is one of the most pure joys I’ve ever experienced. You can feel the passion in everyone around you, with every collective throat-wrenching scream. (“Fast Cars and Freedom” at Rascal Flatts was almost as intense as Lady Antebellum’s “Just a Kiss” or “We Owned the Night”).
THE MUSICAL INTERLUDE TO THE ENCORE YOU KNOW HAS TO HAPPEN BECAUSE THEY HAVEN’T DONE [insert song here] YET: We know Lady Antebellum won’t leave without playing “Need You Now,” Little Big Town will return for “Boondocks,” and Rascal Flatts’ hadn’t even hit “Life is a Highway,” but when the band leaves for that iffy bit of time where half the crowd is debating getting a head start on the rush, you MUST know to stay put. They’ll take a minute backstage to breathe, grab a drink, and enjoy the crowd’s cheers as they wait, then relieve you of your anxiety, and reward your patience with 3-5 more songs. Thank you, encore.
PRIDE AT IT’S FINEST: When your favourite band slips your city’s name into their songs, it’s to make you feel special. Sure, they probably do it for every place they play, but when the band you’ve been anticipating all night pulls out all the stops to let you scream for your city, you do it. There’s nothing like a stadium full of people proud of where they’re at. (You don’t know pride until you’ve been in Detroit when Eminem comes home. That may not be a country festival, but damn. The D can really bring it).
THE SHAMELESS CROWD: They’re all happy and beer-drunk, so nobody’s gonna judge you for spilling anything or everything, and everyone is dressed in some combination of the country concert uniform (denim and plaid, often paired with an overpriced T-shirt from the merch tents), so no one’s trying to outdo anyone—it’s one big shameless party. Girls strutting around in denim underwear and tied up cutoff tops roam the lines with their fake IDs, while confident cowboys with one too many buttons undone hit on everything that moves. It’s a vicious circle, but it’s fucking hilarious.
And a few bonuses:
THE LIVE IMPROV BITS: Those drawn-out soulful, natural country runs give me chills. You don’t get to hear vocals that genuine on any record.
THE ACAPELLA BITS: Knocking out the instruments one by one, stripping down the performance for a few key lines: absolutely my favourite part of live performances. Goosebumps. Every time.
THE ONE YOU KNEW WOULD MAKE YOU CRY: What, you expected to hear “God Bless the Broken Road” and “What Hurts the Most” and not get a little emotional? And the best part: nobody’s judging, just joining.
THE ONE YOU FORGOT ABOUT: Whether it’s one of their older songs, or just escaped your mind as you tried to mentally map out their setlist during the search for parking, the song that surprise-excites you is always a highlight of the night.
THE COUNTRY SONG: That song that exists solely because it’s super country (“Banjo,” “Pontoon,” etc.) and it pumps up the crowd.
THE BEAT: Go ahead, clap to your absolute heart’s content. If that’s the entire show, so be it.
This brings me to my final selling point on The Country Music Festival: it’s absolutely fucking awesome. That’s it. So go online right now, check your area’s summer lineups, grab some cheap lawn seats (that’s where the party’s at, anyway), and go nuts. What’s the season for if not a few sexy summer nights?