ACM Party For A Cause – Day 2
By Dave England
After the torrential rain of last night the sun dawned on Dallas and temperatures started to rise towards the 30’s. Music was due to start at 1245 on the Party stage, so we took the midday shuttle from Dallas. Both Globe Park & the AT&T Stadium are around 20 miles outside Dallas, so we rolled in Arlington with a few minutes to spare. Over on the RAM stage the Crackerbarrel chequers challenge had just started, headed up by Thomas Rhett & Jamie Lynn Spears. Essentially draughts but with people taking the place of the pieces. With Maddie & Tae starting I wandered down the grassy hill forgetting it would still be damp from the rain last night. One wet backside later, well two if you include the wife, the music started. Kicking off with “Shut Up & Fish” it’s clear these girls have got a big future ahead of themselves. The party pit at the front of the stage was already full and in full voice, especially when they launched into “Fly”. Closing the set out had to be “Girl In a Country Song”, released in summer of 2014 it was seen as an antidote to the male dominated country around. A brilliant number co-written by the girls with some very pointed lyrics and a great video, it was no surprise when it went gold. It’s a perfect crowd song and even the cowboy booted, Stetson wearing men sang along.
After knocking my beer over for the umpteenth time I nipped back inside to grab a couple of Texas Ranger ponchos to sit on, as well as a couple more beers. It’s probably worth stating at this point that I did have an awful lot to drink, so any inaccuracies with specific order of songs is solely down to my poor note taking. With Frankie Ballard starting I carefully put the poncho’s down and sat down, forgetting that a wet hill plus a piece of thin plastic meant slipping down the hill toboggan style! Very funny for everyone around us, but on the plus side I didn’t spill my drink this time. Looking like he’s stepped out of the 1950’s and with a rock n roll influenced album we were treated to the title track, “Young & Crazy” and “Helluva Life”. By the way, when you’ve finished reading this I recommend you head on over and have a read of the interview Annette did with Frankie Ballard whilst in Nashville this year.
I wasn’t going to stay for Sam Hunt, after catching him at Country to Country on the satellite stage and his acoustic session on the Sunday, only last month as I wasn’t overly fussed if I missed him. Veering a little bit too far into R&B territory at times for me, I started to get up. Just then the beer man appeared, sensing a theme yet?? and it seemed very un-English to refuse. As I opened the beer, Hunt opened his set with “Leave The Night On”. Right from the first note you could tell he was pumped for this. Buzzing the stage, working the crowd endlessly, high fiving & fist bumping everyone, even the big screens were getting dizzy keeping up with him. It was infectious and before I knew it, my beer was in the air at every available chorus. I could see the Party pit was rammed as always but as I looked up the hill it was pretty much wall to wall people all the way. As busy as Friday was, and I read reports of people taking over an hour to get something to eat, Saturday seemed to be twice as crowd with the grassy bank only starting to thin out as you got to the top where the red dirt started to show through. Finishing with “Raised On It”, a great little number on growing up, the crowd certainly appreciated his energy, cheering him all the way off the stage.
With Chase Rice due in 20 minutes or so, we wandered off to buy some merchandise before bumping into the Think Country team sitting at the Coors bar and eating their chicken tenders. Taking a seat with them, the temperature hitting the high 80’s, my farmers tan developing nicely and finding Stella Cidre on tap, I was really looking forward to seeing Rice. I’d been a fan since I discovered “Country As Me”. With “Ignite The Night” he has stepped more into the modern country category but there is still the nod to the old. It’s a great album and one that needs to be played loud. Opening with “Do It Like This” I was a little bit underwhelmed. Whether it was due to where I was standing or something else, his vocals seemed slightly off. Going into “How She Rolls” it was still the same. With Rice co-writing the monster hit “Cruise” it was no surprise when we got his version. I broke out a little impromptu dance in front of a slightly embarrassed wife, hand waving every time the word cruise was sung, I enjoyed it, not sure she did. Closing out on “Gonna Wanna Tonight” and the electronic intro’ed “Right Set Roll”, the strongest song on the album, I did fell a little bit disappointed. Still, I am seeing him again at the Route 91 Harvest festival in Vegas in October so it will be interesting to compare both performances.
Of all the acts I hadn’t seen live before Tyler Farr was up there with Cole Swindell as a must watch. He had a great first album and followed it up with a seriously good one. Second albums are notoriously tricky, but he hit it out of Globe Ball Park. You can find a full review found within this very website. Kicking off with C.O.U.N.T.R.Y, a boot stomping song of everything that makes up country, from Charlie Daniels to Jesus with John Deere green in between. Slowing the tempo down ever so slightly with “Whiskey In The Water”, which contains the wonderful line “She’s the moon in my shine”, he had everyone around me up and singing. Farr is never better than when he sings about loneliness and heartbreak. His voice has a nicely grizzled lilt which gives an almost tortured sound, so when he “bangs his fist against the wall” or when he sees “her taillights fade out…..and a guy walks into a bar” it’s him, you feel that he’s actually lived through that despair . Both “Withdrawals” and “A Guys Walks Into A Bar” are intimate songs, but work in a huge outdoor environment, they are that good. For his final number there was only one thing for him and us to do and that was to go “Redneck Crazy”. Looking round at the crowd I could see a there were plenty of women that would happily help him through any breakup.
Closing Saturday off was Kip Moore. After his stunningly good opening at this year’s Country to Country, he’s firmly become a favourite within my household. With his traditional ball cap and sleeveless chequered shirt he opened with “Wild Ones” from his new album. A slow builder which had everyone raising whatever they had in their hands. Like Farr before him, he has such a distinctive voice and really does the rock, country crossover exceptionally well. Going back into his first album we got the opportunity to go crazy “One More Time” before getting some “Beer Money”. With only one song left of the set, I knew we wouldn’t be getting “Hey Pretty Girl”, Moore wasn’t going to leave us on a down note, especially with the crowd still up for more. It meant that the only thing he could play was “Somethin’ ‘bout A Truck’. Another huge chorus for everyone to sing along to and Moore duly obliged by giving us the chance to sing it back to him.
Like the night before we had a bit of time to kill before the evening show started and as it was so nice we stayed outside chatting in the sunshine. I could see some clouds gathering in the distance but still thought it would be OK. Around 1900 we made the walk inside and went to sit down just behind the away dugout, brilliant couple of seats. It was just then that the heavens opened again. Leaving our seats to go back to the concourse the rained came down heavily than the night before. Once again sheltering under the main stand we watched as they put up the weather report for the Dallas area. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that shade on a weather map or ever heard talk of a tornado. Then the thunder rolled. Like the night before, people started leaving in their droves and we decided we would also get back to the hotel. We had the awards on Sunday to attend as well as scoring tickets to the after show jam, so as bad as it was to miss the evening at least we had some recompense. Walking outside we were immediately hit by the force of the wind, along with heavy driving rain. The traffic safety barriers were flying down the streets until they hit kerbs or trees. A queue had already started to form inside in the safety but being the stoic person I am, I insisted we queue outside, I wasn’t missing the shuttle back. Even the sound of the tornado siren didn’t move us.
At least the weather couldn’t effect the Awards, they were all inside.