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Tree Town Country Music Festival-2019

I was fortunate to be able to attend Tree Town for the second year in a row for Think Country. It was another fun filled weekend full of spectacular entertainment. I didn’t camp this year and I didn’t have my photographer sidekick, Bill with me, but, I made it work. It was a bittersweet year and one that I wanted to document as I went. So, I did just that. Read along to find out what fun was had and what’s in store for Tree Town in the future.

*Photo courtesy of Adam’s Travel Photography*

 

Friday: 11:30 PM

First night of Tree Town is complete and the weekend is off to a good start. There was going to be a big announcement tonight, and a big announcement it was. As I entered the festival grounds I noticed I wasn’t the only one getting there a little late. Other campers and other attendees were still strolling in for the evening ready to get their extended holiday weekend started. A lot of campsites were left bare. One could come up with many explanations for this. Campers hadn’t arrived yet, ticket sales are down, people are still attending but they aren’t camping. Whatever the reason, I knew it would have no impact on the entertainment that was ahead of us for the next couple days.

 

As I was walking into the concert bowl area, Morgan Wallen had already taken the stage. His song, “The Way I Talk” was echoing throughout the campground as I made my way in. I got inside and I noticed the crowd had already filled in quite a bit, which was nice as in years previous, artists who are earlier in the set may have had less of a crowd. Wallen didn’t have to worry about that tonight, that’s for sure. Sporting a longer mullet and a plaid cut-off shirt, he was keeping everyone engaged as he interacted with the crowd. He made a few passes on the catwalk to reach down and interact with fans, high-fiving and singing along with the crowd as they joined him on, “Whiskey Glasses”. What I didn’t expect next was to hear the beginning melody to the Linkin Park song, “In the End”. But, I did. Wallen entered into an assortment of songs that included Bon Jovi’s, “You Give Love a Bad Name”, “Use Somebody” by Kings of Leon, Fall Out Boy’s, “Sugar, We’re Going Down” and the always popular Def Leppard hit, “Pour Some Sugar on Me”. He then wrapped up his time slot by playing his first number one as a songwriter, “You Make It Easy” that Jason Aldean recorded, and his first number one on the radio, “Up Down”.

*Photo courtesy of Adam’s Travel Photography*

 

Knowing I was later for his set, it wasn’t long until his part came to a close. Lauren Alaina was up next for the night and there was an hour break between them. I started to do some wandering and bumped into a nice couple who had photo passes for the weekend. They had attended Tree Town in the past as attendees, but this was the first year they had media access for photos. Freelancing and figuring it out as they go, we all decided to take a stroll through the campground. We came across a group of campers that I had recognized from last year, and they weren’t the only group that seemed familiar. The ones I remembered were even in the same camping spot. Tree Town is more than just a three day concert for some, it’s almost like a family reunion of sorts. There was a game of Hammerschlagen about to take place, and we were invited to join in on the fun. That was interesting. Let’s just put it this way, I can confirm I am not great at Hammerschlagen. But, I definitely want to try it again. Once the game wrapped up it was time to head back into the concert bowl to see Lauren Alaina’s set.

 

Looking amazing, Alaina was donning some shiny leather pants that reflected every part of the sunset. She started her set with, “History” and then went into one of the songs off her first album, “Georgia peaches”. A song that pays homage to her home state. The song I cannot get out of my head from the night was her current radio hit, “Ladies of the 90’s”. It wasn’t too long until Morgan Wallen made another appearance on the stage when he came out to do, “Next Boyfriend” with Alaina. They flirtily went back and forth exchanging lines of the song on the catwalk. It was fun and it worked.

*Photo courtesy of Adam’s Travel Photography*

 

Dierks Bentley was the man of the evening, and it was very evident as the crowd’s anticipation grew as the evening went on. Honestly, the crowd size didn’t change much from the time I arrived to when Dierks Bentley went on, but the excitement level definitely escalated. “Burning Man” was the introductory song of the evening for him, and it gave everyone a burning energy for more. This hour and a half set would not decrease in energy anytime soon. The night was cooling off per typical Midwest spring evening, so it was good Dierks was there to keep the heat levels rising.

 

The big announcement of the night was that this was going to be the last year of Tree Town held on Memorial Day weekend, as it has been since it started back in 2013. Starting in 2020, Country Thunder will take over and host Country Thunder Iowa. It will still be in Forest City, but it will be held the second weekend of June. Dierks made a comment during his set that next year Country Thunder would be taking over and that was awesome because those guys really know what they are doing. The crowd cheered in agreement, but I’m still curious if people are happy about this change or indifferent. I plan on asking tomorrow as I cruise my way around the campground and chat with attendees.

*Photo courtesy of Adam’s Travel Photography*

 

It was his first outdoor concert of the season and he didn’t disappoint. He announced that he would be the bartender of the evening and proceeded to cover some of his biggest hits, “Somewhere on a Beach”, “Black”, his current single, “Living”, “Riser” and “I Hold On”, to which the fans sang back the chorus to him in unison.

 

It had been a long day for me and I had a bit of a drive yet, so I was one of those people who jetted out a little early. I wanted to make sure I was rested so I didn’t find myself doing that the next two nights as well. Night one was definitely great, and it will be interesting to see how the rest of the festival goes with the news that this is the last official Tree Town.

 

Saturday 12:50 PM
Day two at Tree Town is underway and the weather couldn’t be any more beautiful. I just got a chance to sit down and chat with Stephanie Quayle who’s opening up the day here in just a couple hours. Not a stranger to Forest City, Iowa she is excited to play at Tree Town for the first time.

 

After visiting with Stephanie I headed down to the campground amphitheatre to catch a bit of the human foosball tournament going on. Yes, I said human foosball. People that were participating looked like they enjoyed it, and Stephanie Quayle herself joined in on the fun.

 

3:30 PM

Made it back to the festival grounds for the evening shows. I was happy that I would be able to see all of the performances tonight, especially with such a great lineup.

*Photo courtesy of Adam’s Travel Photography*

 

First up for the night was the lovely Stephanie Quayle. She came out with the same energy she had when I met with her, just slightly amplified so it could reach everyone who came to see her. The crowd was smaller because she was the first performance of the day and that seems to be the norm at Tree Town, but that didn’t change the size of the show she put on. She’s started out with, “If I Was a Cowboy” and Jon Pardi’s hit, “You’re the One I want”. Shortly after she sang a few songs a fan shouted out, “Winnebago!” She replied with, “Oh, you know that’s going to happen!” She sang a few other songs and then she jumped in to the song that had to be sung, “Winnebago”. I asked her what inspired that song and she said when she heard it she knew she had to record it. She grew up RVing and it just seemed to fit. Personally, I think the Winnebago company is pretty lucky that a person like Stephanie Quayle stumbled upon a song called, “Winnebago”. Forest City was lucky to have her perform last year at the annual Winnebago rally, and hopefully it won’t be her last time doing it either!

*Photo courtesy of Adam’s Travel Photography*

 

Next up was Brandon Lay. Not a complete newcomer to country music with the popular song, “Yada Yada Yada”, hitting radio last Summer, but still freshly making his way. This was his first time at Tree Town, but he had heard about it before from other artists. I spoke with him earlier in the week, ahead of the festival, and he said one of the reasons he was excited to play is because, “we know how to put on a show in our part of the country”. I would have to agree with him on that one. During our chat, when I asked him if there was any other part of Iowa he would like to visit, he mentioned he’s a huge fan of old tractors and things like that. Iowa is known to have a few of those things. Fast forward to Saturday during his set he asked if there were any truck fans in the crowd. He started listing off the different brands, Ford, Chevy, Dodge, all followed buy cheers of those who supported their own brand. I may have noted that my personal favorite, Chevy, did get the most cheers. Then he went into singing his song, “Long Necks and Short Beds”. Followed by, Eric Church’s, “Drink In My Hand” and then of course, “Yada Yada Yada”. Showing off his diverseness just a bit he did also play the Eagles’, “Take It Easy”, and ended with Matchbox Twenty’s, “3 AM”.

*Photo courtesy of Adam’s Travel Photography*

 

High Valley was the third act of the night, and one that I have to honestly admit I heard most of from the side of the stage and kind of from a distance. I found myself conversing with others about the upcoming changes to Tree Town. It’s unfortunate the conversations happened then, but the conversations I did have, I found very informative and insightful into the situation. One particular person that I spoke with, is one who has attended the last couple years at least as a fellow media attendee. This person has attended many music festivals. All are definitely not the same, and he feels that this change is necessary for Tree Town. One big thing people are wondering, is why the date change? There are other music festivals in the area going on then, so the hope is that there won’t be too much conflict. There’s a lot of buzz going around the festival grounds about the upcoming changes, and it will be definitely interesting to see how it all plays out. As my conversation came to a close so did High Valley’s set and I could hear that they sang one of my personal favorites, “Make You Mine”.

 

Tracy Lawrence was the fourth act of the night, and he is just country through and through. I was a little surprised to see a lot of the younger fans not only show up and watch him, but sing along to his songs and appreciate his music. It’s been my experience at some music festivals, Tree Town included, when more classic country artists perform the younger crowd sits them out. Not in Tracy Lawrence’s case, he had everyone’s attention. Rightfully so as he sang his older hits, “Good Die Young”, and “Texas Tornado”. Along with a couple songs off of his new album set to be released August 16, which included his most recent single, “Made in America”. There’s a lot of people that like to think that country music is dead, but thankfully Tracy Lawrence and artists like him prove that to be false. He uses plenty of fiddle and other acoustical notes and twang in his classic country sound in his old music and his new that goes to show country music is still around, and it’s not going anywhere.

*Photo courtesy of Adam’s Travel Photography*

 

They say they save the best for last, and they definitely did not undershoot that by putting Mr. Jake Owen last tonight. He brought the energy and he never let it go. He rocked that catwalk like he owned it. He was donning a purple and teal western shirt that added to his charm on stage. The audience was engaged and everybody was exchanging energy throughout his whole set. It may have helped that he opened with his super popular, “Down to the Honkytonk”. That song alone had everybody going, but then he kept the momentum going with, “Ain’t Here to Talk”, “American Country Love Song”, and “Days of Summer”, and the hits just kept coming. He jumped to a newer song off his latest album called, “In It” and then he switched to a song he has with Kid Rock called, “Grass is Always Greener”. A fun song you can imagine isn’t about the grass in your front yard. The only time the energy ceased during his time slot was when he physically left the stage for a few moments for a short break before a planned encore. Thankfully he came back out and closed out the show with, “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys” and “I Was Jack”, all while signing autographs and shaking hands of hopeful fans lining the stage.

 

I think it’s safe to say that day two was a success. It should be interesting to see how they decide to close out the last night of the last Tree Town tomorrow night with Toby Keith as the headliner. Ironically, he headlined the last night of the first year, and now he’s headlining the last night of the last year. It’ll be a bittersweet day, but that doesn’t mean it can’t go out on a high note, so here’s to hoping it does!

 

Monday Morning:

It’s a rainy Memorial Day Monday here in Iowa as I reflect on the last day of Tree Town. Fans are on their way home and vacating the fest grounds as they do, and luckily the rain stayed away for the actual festival. We couldn’t have ask for a better weekend weather-wise.

*Photo taken by Katie Marker*

 

Jimmy Allen opened up sunday’s shows. It was a warm one in that sun on the stage at that time, but the crowd kept growing despite the heat. He was amazing at interacting with the fans while he was singing. Stopping to snap selfies even though he was still singing, signing things, and shaking all the hands he could. He even paused between songs a couple times to introduce Iowans to a Nashville staple. The “holler and swaller”. Everyone with a drink seemed to enjoy that one. He shared that he lived in Nashville for 10 years before he got anywhere with his music, and based on his performance last night, he worked hard those 10 years.

*Photo taken by Katie Marker*

 

Lindsay Ell was next and I was most excited to see her. Not only is she a huge proponent for girl power and showing that girls rock too, she’s a phenomenal guitar player. I kid you not, she leaned backwards on her legs, completely horizontal and flat with the ground, and played her guitar for a solid few minutes. That takes so much skill but she makes it look so effortless. She was wearing some army camouflage patterned pants and was playing her familiar rainbow guitar. It’s a guitar she takes with her just about everywhere, so it must be a favorite. The electricity that this girl brought while playing guitar the whole time is insane. I don’t know think she performed a song without playing guitar the whole night. If you haven’t seen her live, I’m deeply sorry for you and you need to fix that very soon. If you haven’t heard of her yet then you need to fix that first. You’ll be glad you did!

*Photo taken by Katie Marker*

 

Next up for the night was another man that knows country music and he does it well. Trace Adkins, who hovers over most without a cowboy hat came out in his classic black cowboy hat and black t-shirt. That low bass voice of his could be felt in the back of the concert bowl. I spent the rest of my evening back there and make no mistake, the bass was working fine. He was another artist that many younger fans usually don’t hang around for, but in his case too, they stayed and sang along with some of the more well known hits of his like, “Songs About Me”, “Rough and Ready”, and “Hot Momma”. Being it’s Memorial Day weekend here in the United States, where we remember the soldiers who didn’t make it home, Trace did his beautiful song, “Arlington” to which the whole crowd stood together during, and then his also very patriotic, “Still a Soldier”. Loud applause began after those two songs followed by a small, “USA” chant.

 

Speaking of patriotic. Did I mention who the headliner was? Toby Keith. Like him or hate him he’s done a lot for our military and he will continue to do so, and for that I thank him. He had red, white, and blue lights illuminating him on stage and he, like Trace, stood tall with his big white cowboy hat hovering over the rest. I’m not really sure if it was because it’s Memorial Day weekend or because that’s what his show is always like, but he really kept the patriotism alive by opening with, “American Ride” and “Made in America”. In the middle he played some of his other recognizable songs be it older like, “Wish I Didn’t Know Now” or “Wanna Talk About Me” to some of his newer songs like, “I Ain’t as Good as I Once Was” or “Red Solo Cup”. Then he wrapped up the evening with more American themed tunes, “American Soldier” and of course “Courtesy of the Recd, White, and Blue”. During the last song he invited two ladies up on stage representing “Heroes of the Fallen” who had lost family in combat and he let them finish off the line, “we’ll put a boot in your ass it’s the American way!” It was definitely a moment appreciated by all and an incredible way to end the festival!

 

Tree Town 2019 is a wrap and I guess Tree Town Music Festival is a wrap too! Here’s to many Tree Town memories and new beginnings! Onward to Country Thunder Iowa in 2020! Watch the website and all of the socials for artist announcements, concert information, and ticket sales.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Katie Marker
Hey guys! My name is Katie and I’m from up north in Minnesota. I was born and raised in the south east part of the state, with roots in upper Iowa and the surrounding Midwest areas. My first concert memory takes me to the MN State Fair where I recall seeing Travis Tritt. I don’t remember my age, but I do know I was young. At that young age a concert seed was planted and it’s been growing ever since. I like all varieties of music, and if you were to take a look at my playlist you’ll see evidence of that. There’s everything from today’s pop music, rock and roll classics, to hard metal rock, and of course country. That’s always what I come back to and what feels like home, literally and figuratively. My grandparents were the lovers of country music, so I mostly heard it from them when I was younger. Growing up I was the “family rebel” in that I enjoyed country music, as most everyone else in my family that had interest in music, didn’t necessarily have interested in country music. Thankful that I went against the grain and followed what felt right. Country music has not only been a type of music I enjoy; it’s been an outlet for me and something that was there for me when I needed it most. I’m super stoked to be a part of the Think Country team! Country music and music in general has brought so many wonderful people into my life. Those meetings have turned into friendships, which have turned into a family of sorts. I love writing and expressing my thoughts, and I love music. Being able to mix the two and enjoy what I do and to work with Think Country in the process makes it that much more meaningful. Music is an exciting thing and I can’t wait to see where it takes me next!
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