Beautiful weather was key for the 20th annual Chicago Country Music Festival. In addition to the unseasonably warm streak, a new Millennium Park location, retooled layout and “perfect price” proved pivotal for the success of this year’s fest.
Although the ever-changing character of country music, combined with the vast opinions of what “country music” has become, proved to be a bit challenging for festival organizers. All in all, the festival’s mass-appeal style lineup perfectly blended pop country with honky-tonk, bluegrass, southern rock, cajun and even some traditional folk music.
Although the downtown festival does come equipped with plenty of beer, songs about whiskey drinkin’ and the occasional iconic camo/cut-off wearing fans, being a free public-event with, to some extent, an educational and cultural element to it, the two-day festival appeared to accomplish what it is supposed to do. Please the masses for both die-hard and non-country fans alike.
CMA Songwriters’ Series
While sort of a secret gem of the fest, the CMA Songwriters’ Series again proved to be a hit. The host of the traveling series, Bob DiPiero, truly organized a unique spread of musicians for its return to this year’s fest.
Joining DiPiero, to his stage right, was Kix Brooks from the famed duo, Brooks & Dunn, and singer/songwriter David Lee Murphy, a Illinois native, who is probably best known for his 1995 hit “Dust on the Bottle” but most recently has been crafting songs for artists like Kenny Chesney (Living In Fast Forward) and Jason Aldean (Big Green Tractor).
To DiPiero’s stage left sat siblings Kimberly, Reid and Neil Perry, best known as The Band Perry. While the collective song power of Brooks, DiPiero and Murphy far outweighs the Perry’s newly established beginnings in the genre, the trio did bring a bit of much needed instrument diversification to the stage. Reid Perry backed with the electric bass and Neil Perry following up with the mandolin.
It’s not often you’ll find a such a group of diverse songwriters join on stage – or on stage at all for that matter
Main Stage Lineup:
While it seemed like most of the pre-festival mumbles and moans were directed towards the main-stage lineup, those opinions didn’t appear to reflect in attendance. Both Friday night’s Gretchen Wilson, Clint Black and Saturday’s Love & Theft, Jake Owen and Jewel bills seem to still pack the Pritzker Pavilion. Granted the festival is a free, un-ticketed event so it would be unreasonable to assume all of the evening’s attendees were die-hard country fans but it’s nice to share the love when we can.
2010 Chicago Country Music Festival Photo Gallery :: Story continues below.
no images were found
The Tented Entertainment:
Logistically, the festival was well prepared and less spread-out in comparison to years past. Fortunately, it wasn’t required this year, both the Americana and the Best Buy Honky Tonk stages were tented in preparation for a 2009 style deluge. While it’s always a lose-lose situation when any festival runs with concurrent lineups, at least the stages were near adjacent to each other, unlike years past.
Catching a talented cover-band can be fun to sing along with but the one thing I really enjoy the Chicago Country Music Festival for is the fact they really seem to do their homework when booking local acts. Every year, the side-stage lineups feature some of the best local artists and, or original musicians. The ability to catch a handful of these up-and-coming acts over the two-day festival is really an awesome feature for both fans and, of course, the artists. Best of all, it appears that the Mayor’s Office of Special events tries their best to not double-book an artist. I don’t believe any of the side-stage entertainment that played this year was on the ticket in 2009.
As budget cuts and new leadership loom in our City’s government, at this point, it will be amazing if we’re able to celebrate the 21st annual Chicago Country Music Festival. While country music might not have the history like blues and jazz in Chicago, as this festival proves, Chicago is truly country music’s “second city”.
On behalf of Country Music Chicago, I applaud the Mayor Richard M. Daley and the City of Chicago for being such a strong advocate for the genre, by providing one of the only free, two–day country music festivals and we can only hope in 2011, we’ll be able to again bring the best in country music to sweet home Chicago.