Oro Station, Ontario, Canada was the place to be this weekend for any country music fan. The first annual CMT Music Festival went off without a hitch, with thousands upon thousands of hardcore rednecks and country fans jam-packed into the fields to hear the best of what country music had to offer. The three-day festival featured superstar acts like Lady Antebellum, Rascal Flatts, Blake Shelton, Sara Evans, Colt Ford, and even Ronnie Dunn. With early estimates of nearly 10,000 fans a night at Burl’s Creek Family Park; there’s no way this festival doesn’t return again next year.
The music festival kicked off with a performance by Hank, who unfortunately were forced to play before gates were open to the public. The die hard hillbillies packed at the entrances to try to race for their spots did hear them, and the second the gates were open there was a rush of people running to get their spots by the main stage.
Friday’s headliners of Lady Antebellum were opened by funnyman, and their friend, Oklahoman Blake Shelton. Opening with “All About Tonight,” the screams started the second he stepped on the stage and wouldn’t stop until 2 minutes after his set was finished. He knew how to interact with the audience, and Blake made sure he’d walk the entire stage throughout his hour-long set which featured hits like “Hillbilly Bone,” “Austin,” “Some Beach,” “God Gave Me You,” “Honey Bee,” “Kiss My Country Ass,” and even a mash-up featuring “My Prerogative” when he was talking about the music his family used to listen to. Just as funny as he is on tv, Blake was a fan favorite and his “100% Pure BS” shirts were everywhere the next two days. Surprisingly, Blake did not perform “The Baby” or “Don’t Make Me.”
Lady Antebellum had packed the field to almost full capacity in the general admission area. Their set featured their big hits “Need You Now,” “Just A Kiss,” and new single “We Owned The Night.” They even surprised fans with Hillary’s version of Sara Evan’s “Stronger” which she was one of the writers for, as well as a new song they tested out called “Friday Night” which they will have on their new album “Own The Night” in September. Fans were packed right up against the barricade for their show, with signs and arms raising up in the air anytime one of the three band members would look their way.
It was a fantastic way to kick-off the first night of the first ever CMT Music Festival here in Ontario, Canada.
Saturday’s line-up started early but somehow fans got back up and forced themselves to get over early for Tara Oram and Colt Ford. It was my second time this month to see Tara Oram live, but this time on a much bigger stage. She was switched from the second stage to the main one last minute, and her fans ran to see her on the large stage which featured a catwalk. She had sold her personality to the crowd, interacting with one fan that had pizza and asking for a slice, then asking another fan dressed in just overalls if he was wearing anything under it. She was cute, and once again the Carrie Underwood comparisons were popping up in the crowd.
It was Colt Ford’s birthday Saturday afternoon at his show, which his drummer, Rick, made sure to announce to the crowd. The country-rapper had the crowd sing Happy Birthday to him as a cake was brought out from backstage. He had quite his own bunch of fans out in the crowd who were rapping right along and dancing to “Chicken And Biscuits” and singing right along to “Dirt Road Anthem” which was made popular by Jason Aldean. Colt actually filmed the crowd during the later song to send to Jason to show him Canadian fans singing their song.
Ronnie Dunn was one of the highlights of the entire festival. The country music legend who was one half of the Brooks & Dunn powerhouse held his own onstage… but you wouldn’t expect anything else. He actually played an extended set for the crowd, not wanting to leave and telling his band “one more” three times during his encore. Not only did he play his hit solo songs “Bleed Red” and “Cost Of Living,” but he opened up the Brooks & Dunn hit list for “Cowgirls Don’t Cry,” “Red Dirt Road,” and “Ain’t Nothin’ Bout You” which the crowd ate right up. Ronnie joked all night that he didn’t “know how to use the stage” since no matter where he went, people would scream for him to go to their side. I’m still not sure why he mostly plays opener sets now as a solo artist, since he proved on Saturday that he can do just fine headlining on his own without Kix Brooks.
Dean Brody was the Canadian act opening up for Sara Evans and Rascal Flatts Saturday night. There was nearly a two-hour break between Ronnie Dunn and his set, so fans took the chance to ride the Ferris Wheel, check out the donkey mascot in the kids zone, or grab one of the many choices of food from the vendor tents at the festival. There wasn’t a lack of activities for fans to take-in during the three-day party, and even hair feather extensions were available at two different tents.
Dean Brody hit the stage right after fans were able to recharge and get ready for an amazing Saturday night in Oro Station. the “Dirt Road Scholar” is up for multiple Canadian Country Music Award nominations this year, including Fan Choice which is voted on by fans. Ronnie Dunn is a tough act to follow no matter who you are, but the British Columbia native handled it well, and the country music fans were singing his songs right back to him. The only thing wrong with his set is that he stayed at the back of the stage, so the fans near the catwalk were frustrated on not being able to see him.
Sara Evans is another artist that I was lucky enough to see live earlier this month. The superstar waved to her fans all night long, and even blew kisses to a few lucky boys in the crowd. While everyone was enjoying her old hits, she got the most applause and reaction when she started the introduction to “Stronger,” a song she describes as a gift from God that fell in her lap. It was her first single in a few years after Sara had decided to put her career on hold and stay out of the spotlight while she got her personal life in order. She seemed generally shocked at how loudly the fans were singing the words right back to her.
Rascal Flatts had the largest, and biggest effects of the entire festival. With a screen that had shown LED images all night, three doors opened to reveal Joe Don Rooney, Jay DeMarcus and Gary LeVox to the screams of 10,000 fans in the field. They covered all their hits, and made sure to interact with the entire audience and moving around to each part of the stage for each song. Fans were dancing in the crowd to “Fast Cars & Freedom,” “Life Is A Highway,” and the opener of “Why Wait.” Sadly, their set skipped the super popular “I Melt,” “Easy,” and fan favorite “Backwards,” but it was impossible to notice until after the show. The boys knew exactly how to work an outdoor stage and were the best performers of the festival. Fans who weren’t fans of the richest group in country music in 2010 were quickly changed into one at the end of their set.
While we usually love to live-tweet and live blog at concert and festivals, we were unable to do that this time around as cell phone towers were jam-packed and calls and Tweets were not getting through. While there was internet provided for media, it wouldn’t stay up long enough to let us live Tweet on the spot. Sorry about this!
Were you at the CMT Music Festival? Let us know who you loved in the comments!