Words & Photos by Lisa Pikaard
Pop-Break Live: Farmborough 2015: Luke Bryan, Dierks Bentley & Rain
A mix of old and new country acts took to the stages of FarmBorough this past weekend for a three day music extravaganza that proved that New York City is in fact country strong.
The first annual FarmBorough country music festival took place from Friday, June 27 through Sunday June 29 on New York’s Randall’s Island. First impressions of the festival were that this was going to be a fun and relaxed weekend with a lot of live music, USA chants and beer. There was a giant inflatable slide, swings and alcohol everywhere. There were craft beer stations, the Malibu Beach House, a Tito’s Vodka trailer, FlipFlop wine station and a This Bud’s For You beer area on top of all the regular stands selling drinks. The food was phenomenal with local vendors like Hill Country Barbecue, food trucks and so much more to be had and everything was reasonably priced.
The food, drinks, atmosphere and music combined to put together a solid musical weekend. The only issue people seemed to have was the mud once the rain fell. The festival moved platforms around to make walkways but they could only do so much. People started abandoning flip flops in the mud because they were getting stuck so badly. Other than the rain, you couldn’t ask for a better weekend.
Day one seemed to be the day of the cover song, day two proved to be the day of rock and roll country and day three was the day of Luke Bryan. Each and every day there were country superstars and up and comers vying for your attention and no matter what time it was, someone was performing on either or both stages.
Day one the Main Stage had a fantastic lineup: Canaan Smith, RaeLynn, Maddie & Tae, Joe Nichols, Kip Moore and Dierks Bentley. The Next From Nashville stage’s lineup was: Leanne Weiss, Courtney Cole, Tucker Beathard, the Cadillac Three, Chris Stapleton and Jon Pardi. The hardest part of the day was deciding who to see because the stages were far enough apart where the sound did not clash but too far to just pop back and forth while artists were constantly overlapping.
The highlights of the first half of the day were RaeLynn and Maddie & Tae. RaeLynn started the set with her song “Boss” and it’s evident from her carefree and playful attitude that she is associated with Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert. She gained fame by competing on Team Blake on The Voice. RaeLynn has as much fun as they do. The funniest part of her set was when she covered “All About that Bass” and she’s probably the tiniest girl ever. For those in the audience who do not watch The Voice or know her singles “God Made Girls” or “For a Boy,” she may have been new but she seemed to win everyone over. She has the most approachable attitude and a contagious smile.
Maddie & Tae kept to the day one trend of doing a cover song or two by doing a beautiful cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide.” The two women have a wonderful harmony about them but watching an audience of New York City guys singing Maddie & Tae’s biggest single “Girl in a Country Song” at the top of their lungs in the middle of a Friday afternoon was the best part of their set. Although people were singing and dancing all day it is evident that New York is new to country. Maddie & Tae said they wanted to get the whole audience dancing and singing so they started to play “9 to 5” by Dolly Parton. While people seemed to know part of the chorus, they didn’t seem to know much more. Overall their set was a strong one and the crowd really wanted more of them.
While RaeLynn and Maddie & Tae are new to the country music scene, country music staple Joe Nichols brought us classic country. His career spans over a decade and has any hit songs but he was a sight to see on day one because of his country version of “Baby Got Back.” Nichols was told many times in his career that he is too country for country so no one was expecting a Sir Mix A Lot song. Nichols actually said that he covered this song “because that’s the kind of jackass I am.” His music is certainly country but his newest single, “YeeHaw” is a dirty song that the New York crowd loved. He also, of course, played his hits, “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off” “Sunny and 75” “Gimme That Girl” and “Yeah” as well as a few older songs for a nice mix.
Kip Moore is another artist that is often thought of as “too country” but no one had a problem rocking out to his biggest hit, “Beer Money.” Moore has no filter and the funniest part of his set is when he started yelling at someone in the crowd to put her phone away. He said told her “you’re not going to die. How many selfies have you taken today?” She said three and his response was “Three means 20. How many of ya’ll are sick and tired of looking at some girl [taking selfies]? Stop that shit today. I’ll break that selfie stick. I’m messing with you. Not really but I am.” He has no boundaries with the crowd and it was great. The last three songs of his set were the best, a cover of “Stand By Me,” “Something Bout a Truck,” and “Free Fallin.”
Then it was time for Dierks Bentley to take the stage and he was phenomenal. He was the perfect opening night closer because he is a hit machine; it’s actually bewildering how many hit songs that man has had. He blew through song after hit song starting with “Sideways” followed by “Am I the Only One,” “5150” “Tip it on Back” “Every Mile a Memory” and “I Hold on” and those were only the first five songs. He, like the rest of the artists of the day, threw in a cover, Taylor Swift’s “Welcome to New York.” The crowd fed off of his energy and ended the first night on a high note. There were line-dancers, people sliding down the giant inflatable slide until the last note of Dierks’ set, beers were being drunk, and good times being had by all.
The rain came down and the mud became out of control but the crowd did the only thing they could do, embrace it, dance in the rain and jump in the puddles. The most fortunate artists of day two though were those playing the Next From Nashville stage because it was under a giant tent. The Next From Nashville stage’s lineup was: Seth Alley, David Fannig, Striking Matches, Dallas Smith, Wade Bowen and Sturgill Simpson. The Main Stage’s lineup was: Mickey Guyton, Brandy Clark, Charlie Worsham, Dwight Yoakam, Justin Moore and Brad Paisley.
David Fanning is best known for having turned a Justin Timberlake track into a country tune but his set was one of the most fun of the day. When Fanning performed his current single, “Doin’ Country Right,” it was the first time that day that the entire crowd was singing and dancing with an artist in the Next From Nashville tent. His rock and roll vibe, catchy songwriting and sexy voice combine to create a sound that is easily one of the best coming out in country radio today.
Striking Matches’s had a following even without the rain because of their performances on the TV show Nashville. Sarah Zimmerman played the guitar with a fervor and skill that is out of this world. She could definitely play guitar for any rock or country band she wanted to. She blew me away. The band may look young but its sound is polished.
Dallas Smith kept the rock and roll flowing with his set. Not many people seemed aware of Smith’s previous musical career but seeing him live, it’s hard to ignore. Smith has been the frontman for the Candian rock band, Default, best known for its hit song, “Wasting My Time” for years. His gritty rock and roll voice brings a depth to his country sound that just exploded and reverberated through the Next From Nashville tent. He has a great sound that is a crazy hybrid of country and rock and roll. The rain had that tent packed so he had a full house to perform to. The highlights of his set were his hit songs, “Wasting Gas” and “Tippin’ Point.”
Brandy Clark had the job of keeping the crowd in the rain by the main stage and her voice is just mesmerizing. With great covers like “Better Dig Two” and her personal music, the crowd braved the weather.
Charlie Worsham started to perform as the rain really started to fall hard but he stood out in the rain rather than hide under the cover of the stage and ended up soaking wet for his troubles but no one seemed to mind. He actually said that his hands were numb but he kept playing guitar through it all. The numb fingers still appeared nimble and he sounded great.
The crowd stayed outside throughout and after Charlie Worsham’s set because next to take the stage was Justin Moore. The lineup originally had Dwight Yoakam before Justin Moore but the festival flipped the two performance slots and did a great job making the crowd aware of the switch. Justin Moore seemed to be the last act that a lot of the crowd was willing to brave the weather for and they were rewarded. He said that he felt bad that we were in the rain and he didn’t have to be if he stayed on the stage so he did his entire performance in the rain on the catwalk. He actually destroyed a microphone in the process. In the middle of “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away” his mic went out and they had difficulty even getting a second one to work but the crowd took off singing at the top of their lungs so not a note was missed. The end of the song was a beautiful moment. His respect of the crowd in the rain seemed to have moved him and the lyrics to the song created quite possibly the best moment of the day.
Unfortunately for Dwight Yoakam, the wind started to kick up and people feared a potential disastrous storm coming so many people ran and hid inside the Malibu Beach House and the Next From Nashville Tent at this point. He played despite the dwindling crowd, increasing winds and the hard falling rain and earned a lot of respect from the crowd.
Wrapping up the second night was country superstar Brad Paisley. His words perfectly sum up how everyone at the concert was feeling, “I don’t know if you got the memo up here or not but in the rest of the country, there’s a thing going on right now called summer and you should really check it out. It’s really cool. It’s warm and dry. Maybe next time but one way or another, we’re going to make the most of whatever season of the year this is tonight.”
The rain halted but the mud was everywhere. Despite that small hiccup, the show’s final day was quite possibly the most well rounded. The Next from Nashville lineup was Scott DeCarlo, The Railers, Seth Alley, Logan Mize and Ruthie Collins while the Main Stage lineup was Lindsay Ell, Cassadee Pope, Dustin Lynch, Randy Houser and Luke Bryan.
Scott DeCarlo is a New Jersey native who kicked off the final day of the festival. The best song of his set was his final song, a cover of “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy.” That finally got the crowd excited and involved.
The Railers wowed the crowd with both its originals and its cover songs. The band’s single, “Kinda Dig the Feeling” was on an episode of Nashville so people were singing along but we also got to hear a countrified version of Andy Grammer’s “Honey, I’m Good,” and the band threw in Simon and Garfunkel’s “Cecilia” in the middle of one of its originals and just seemed to have a great time on the stage.
Over on the Main Stage, Lindsay Ell’s energy had the crowd hyped from the first moment and Cassadee Pope kept that momentum flowing. Pope is best known as the winner of season three of The Voice and her hit song, “Wasting All These Tears.” The moment that won the crowd over though was her cover of the Eagles “Hotel California.”
Dustin Lynch’s performance of “Cowboys and Angels” was a moment that rivaled Justin Moore’s from day two by bonding with the crowd and getting emotional but he had an advantage. Lynch and Randy Houser are both currently on tour with Luke Bryan so this night progressed seamlessly and went on as just another tour stop for the Kick the Dust Up tour.
Randy Houser took the stage and had everyone singing his singles but no one can deny that the audience was just anxiously awaiting Luke Bryan. He did make the most of his time on stage though and “How Country Feels” and “Running Out of Moonlight” were both high points of his set. His songs are new but have that classic country vibe about them so country fans young and old really appreciate him.
Finally it was time for Luke Bryan, the main event of the weekend. Bryan was named the Entertainer of the Year by both the CMAs and the ACMs this year and he proved exactly how he earned that title. From doing shots on stage to waving around a bra that was thrown to him, he just has a blast and the audience loves him. Even his band is a sight to see. When the intro video for “Rollercoaster” started as a train climbing up a hill on a track his entire band has their hands up like they were riding the train.
Luke Bryan was the perfect closer for the weekend and no one was let down. He brought out a piano, a dock and even a pickup truck. There are no limits at a Luke Bryan show. A fan even brought in a mini bottle of Fireball whiskey which he promptly opened and threw back mid song. This man is the penultimate entertainer and I don’t think he has ever let a crowd down.
Overall FarmBorough is a weekend long escape from life that everyone should experience, country fan or not. The musicians all made sure to play original and covers in case the audience didn’t know who they were and no one can complain about the relaxed party atmosphere. Yes, like at every country concert, there are people drinking hardcore but no one appeared to be out of control and that is a victory in itself. You can bet that next year I will be right back at FarmBorough and so should you.
Lisa Pikaard is the music editor of Pop-Break who can be read reviewing and interviewing hard rock bands but her photo is secretly (or not so secretly now) on the Backstreet Boy’s Never Gone album booklet. Country, pop, rock, the genre doesn’t matter; she loves it all. Lisa also likes to dabble in book reviews and somehow convinced Monmouth University to award her a Master’s in English for writing a thesis called ‘Harry Potter and the Rhetoric of Terrorism.’ While her dream is to interview musicians on a daily basis, she is currently works as Group Sales Account Manager at Brooklyn Nets. Music, football and literature are her passions. Follow her on Twitter: @nygiantsnjgrl