The concept of music festivals in the U.S. lagged far behind those of Europe, where it has been an institution for decades.
But in recent years, festivals have become part of the American musical fabric. The idea gained a tremendous amount of traction first in rock. That was not a surprise given that country tends to lag behind and not blaze the trail. I'm pretty much putting the Country Music Association Music Festival in Nashville in a different category of festival.
Bonnaroo in Tennessee and Coachella in California have been big time fests that attracted a lot of attention and fans. Bonnaroo has hosted some country acts over the years.
But the country end has been mushrooming in recent years, thanks in large measure to Live Nation, which has been active in launching country music festivals. Among them are the Faster Horses Festival in Brooklyn, Mich. and the Watershed Festival in Quincy, Wash.
The Stagecoach Festival in California has been on the musical map since 2007, put on by the same folks who operated Coachella.
At the end of this month, Live Nation will hit the Big Apple with FarmBorough with key players Brad Paisley, Dierks Bentley and Luke Bryan set to headline. The New York Times reported that the fest is slated to sell between 40,000 and 45,000 tickets over the weekend.
Which leads me to this past weekend and the Windy City LakeShake Festival in Chicago. The 3-day fest drew about 35,000 people with headliners Bentley, Paisley and Florida Georgia Line. To be honest, the Festival didn't attract any acts that are on the more traditional side except for Paisley. He brought his usual top shelf performance with a lot of excellent guitar picking.
While the line-up wasn't perhaps ideal - at least to me, although the young college age crowd seemed to thoroughly enjoy the final day - the idea of the festival is an excellent concept. The fest enables music fans to take in a lot of music in a short amount of time while providing the chance to see artists already making a commercial dent. If a festival goer hadn't yet had the chance to see these artists yet, all the more exciting.
Like many fests, the LakeShake had a second stage of mainly unknown artists. Kelsea Ballerini did close out the Next From Nashville stage on Sunday night, and she was not among the unknowns. The Tennessee native drew by far the largest crowd of the day. Having a big hit single like "Love Me Like You Mean It" helps.
The second stage afforded fans to hear from a bunch of up-and-comers like Logan Mize. It's always fun to hear artists who may (or may not be) the Next Big Thing. Not everything ought to be about those with hits under their belts.
Bottom line, if you have a chance to go to a festival, it's worth it. Be exposed to new sounds and artists, not just your faves. Be part of the action and support country music.