What an absolutely amazing weekend. The first annual Windy City LakeShake Festival was an overwhelming success, despite frequent challenges from the uncooperative Chicago weather. The main stage lineup featuring Dierks Bentley, Brad Paisley and Florida Georgia Line could not have been better and the Next From Nashville stage, featuring country music’s up-and-coming stars, was packed with talent.
First of all, I have to give credit to LiveNation President of Country Touring, Brian O’Connell. He gave us a quick tour of the grounds before everything got underway and I have to tell you, he busted his ass to make this a first time success. The festival grounds were underwater from a week of Chicago rain and they shipped in 75,000 square feet of concert floor to keep the fans out of the mud. The bathroom lines were virtually non-existent, the food and merchandise vendors were great and no matter where I was standing, I had a great view.
The most important aspect of a country music festival is the performers hitting the stage and LakeShake took off like a rocket from Day 1. The Next From Nashville stage featured the daughter of hometown US99.5 DJ Ramblin’ Ray, Cheyenne Rose, along with Austin Webb and JT Hodges, among others.
Canaan Smith was the first act to take the main stage and definitely started the show off right. He rocked his hit single, ‘Love You Like That,’ his drinking anthem, ‘Hole In A Bottle,’ and even performed a great cover of Nick Jonas’ ‘Jealous.’ An opener needs to get the crowd excited for what’s to come and Canaan Smith executed that flawlessly. Country’s rising female duo, Maddie and Tae, took the stage next and continued right where Canaan Smith left off. They had the crowd belting out their smash hit ‘Girl In A Country Song’ and their current single ‘Fly.’ Cassadee Pope carried the momentum right on into Kip Moore.
If you know anything about Whiskey Riff, then you know that Kip Moore is one of our favorites artists to see live. His show is pure electricity from beginning to end and LakeShake was no exception. He took the stage with the title track from his upcoming album, ‘Wild Ones,’ and never let off the gas until he was done. Moore mixed in a cover or two including the Ben E. King classic ‘Stand By Me’ and slowed it down, just enough to catch our breath, for ‘Hey Pretty Girl.’ Every time we’ve seen Kip Moore perform, he has lived up to his name and left us wanting exactly that…more.
Finally, Dierks Bentley took the stage and for the next hour and half, Northerly Island rocked so hard it almost sank. Dierks played hit after hit of classics and plenty of new tracks from his number one album ‘Riser.’ With the beautiful Chicago skyline in the background, Dierks Bentley completely blew me away. His stage presence and raw energy are matched by few in the country music industry. He has fun every time he takes the stage and the crowd feeds off of it. The highlight of the night, however, was all the people that Dierks brought on stage with him. First, he challenged a guy in the audience to a shotgun contest, where he destroyed this poor fellow who didn’t even finish it. He then brought out his tour mates Maddie and Tae and Canaan Smith on stage to perform a song with him, and he also had a little visit from the Stanley Cup winning Chicago Blackhawks. When he brought the cup out, the entire crowd lost their minds in celebration. To see Dierks wearing a Hawks jersey and hoisting the cup was a pretty special moment for all the country music fans of Chicago and according to Dierks, “one of the best nights of my life.”
All in all, I don’t really have the words to describe how epic a night this was. The music was amazing, the crowd was amazing, and that last picture was amazing. We met a lot of cool people, drank a few beers and had the time of our lives. Only 361 days until next year and I’m counting every one of them.
Whiskey Riff is the most entertaining country site…ever.