ACM Party For A Cause – Day 1
By Dave England
“I’m sorry but I don’t appear to have your tickets” is probably the last thing anyone wants to hear when they have travelled 4500 miles to Dallas. Well apart from immigration telling you your documents don’t appear to be in order and could you follow me please, but that’s another story. Standing at the Will Call window with the faint sounds of Eric Paslay, possibly singing about Friday night, wafting past 1st base down to where we were stood, appeared to be all I was going to hear. After giving her my confirmation email showing my tickets were to be collected from Will Call and a five minute wait whilst she spoke to her supervisor, she returned with “There doesn’t appear to be anyone from the ACM’s here” without the slightest hint of irony. Eric Paslay turned into Cam, I thought she was singing “Half Broke Heart” which would have been apt, or maybe I’m just imagining it as I write this, the song from her recent EP fitting the scenario perfectly.
With Think Country on the case collecting her media passes we thought the situation would be resolved, there must be someone from the ACM’s in there, it’s their show! Nope, there really wasn’t anyone in there. Not to be outdone, Think Country managed to track down a telephone number for them. After a couple of calls we were instructed to walk around the baseball ground towards the convention centre. Step outside the Will Call area, turn right and walk round in a clockwise direction. Of course what everyone failed to mention was the way that Party For A Cause was set out, it completely blocks the path. This meant that you had to walk all the way back around. With Think Country flashing the badge, a golf buggy appeared and we were whisked to the Arlington Convention Centre. By this time Dan & Shay were singing about summer and being 19. Finally we had arrived, the tickets were there and a few free copies of the ACM Awards CD’s were to be had. A quiet word from Think Country over the hassles we had getting here also meant we were given 4 free tickets to the All Star Jam, which was just as well as I didn’t manage to get one.
Walking back up towards Globe Park with Six Flags Over Texas behind you, the AT&T Stadium over to your right and finally having tickets in your hand it certainly felt like we had arrived. With the stress of getting the tickets it meant the only thing we could do was obtain beer. Walking through the 1st Base gate, you were hit with market stalls selling everything you need, whether that was something to wear, eat or to drink. Grabbing a beer we wandered outside to the two stages. A huge heavily populated rolling lush grass bank led down to the Party stage with the smaller Ram Lone Star stage just off to the right housed on concrete. Kelsea Ballerini was just finishing “Yeah Boy” with a little fan singing backup before finishing her set with the very lovely and very catchy “Love Me Like You Mean It”. With a pop-country vibe and summer on its way, I expect to hear more from her this year and you can read a review of her EP elsewhere on the Think Country website.
With two stages in operation and fans walking between the two it seemed the best place to stand was right at the top of the bank which, by sheer coincidence, was where the bulk of the beer sellers were stood. Next up on the Party stage was Kristian Bush, one half of Sugarland. This is a difficult one for me as I whilst I do like Southern Gravity, which is also reviewed on this web site, I would rather have a new Sugarland album instead of him and Jennifer Nettles flying solo. Kicking off the set with his current single Trailer Hitch, the sun beaming down, some great company and our ACM koozies wrapped round a nice cold beer you thought the day couldn’t get better. Never have I been more wrong. Apparently Bush did play “Baby Girl” from Twice The Speed Of Sound though but I must have been buying beer at that point!
The one I was mainly looking forward to seeing on the Friday was Cole Swindell and judging by the reaction of the crowd, so were they. With his self-titled album peaking at number 2, a hand in writing some huge songs from “This Is How We Roll” to “Get Me Some Of That” and currently touring with Jason Aldean this is a chap who is going to be around for some time.
He has a natural ability when it comes to interacting with a crowd. It helps that part of your set includes the brilliant “Ain’t Worth The Whiskey”, “Chillin’ It” and “Hope You Get Lonely Tonight”. Big sing-a-long numbers, giving the audience a chance to raise their beer to “those saving our asses overseas”. With one album out Swindell would be perfect for a spot at Country to Country in 2016.
After all that drink it was time to grab a bite to eat. As we manoeuvred into the concourse the sound checks for the evening’s entertainment had started. Listening to Brooks & Dunn followed by Reba belting out her current single whilst queuing for a Philly Cheesesteak was slightly surreal.
By the time we got back outside The Josh Abbott Band were finishing and it was time for Montgomery Gentry. With their first new album in three years, Folks Like Us, we were treated to a few new songs as well as some old classics including “Where I Come From”. They might be the old boys on the block now but they were certainly having a ball up on the stage.
The time ticked on though and the outdoor stages started to shut down, it was time to move into Globe Park itself. It hadn’t started to rain as we took our seats waiting for Alabama, Luke Bryan and Reba. Then it started spitting, so the ponchos came out, and then it started to rain harder, much harder. A warning came over the speakers which asked everyone to move inside as a storm was on its way. Making our way back inside the thunder rolled. Sheltering in the concourse with everyone we watched the massive storm blow in, lightening turning night to day.
Two hours later and with no sign of starting we had to make a decision. Globe Park is a fair distance away from Dallas itself and with people leaving in their droves to catch the shuttles back we decided it would probably be best to go back, the storm wasn’t dissipating. Jumping the first available shuttle and barreling down the interstate with the thunder and lightning appearing to follow we hunkered down and rode out the storm. We kept everything crossed for better weather for day 2.