With a Dad who took his family along on bluegrass band tours, Mary Kennedy knows a thing or two about a good country music show. And her review of this year’s Downtown Hoedown in Detroit was nothing short of a rave.
“I love the set-up they have here (at Comerica Park),” she said Sunday. “Craig Morgan was great, I can’t say enough good things about Jake Owen, he just kept playing in the rain, putting on such a great show for everybody. You could just tell he didn’t want to leave the stage.”
The same could be said for lots of artists at Hoedown, a 31-year Detroit tradition, which saw thousands of people walk onto the grounds of Comerica Park to see headliners Jake Owen, Uncle Kracker and Joe Nichols, along with Craig Morgan, Emerson Drive, Drake White, Phil Vassar, Casey James, Charlie Worsham, Blackberry Smoke, Rachel Farley and many more. Dozens of performers were spread across three stages set up like a country street fair in the heart of Motown.
Sunday brought Aaron Lewis, Gunnar & The Grizzly Boys, Phil Vassar and Joe Nichols to the main stage, with a wide range of country styles and songs, including a soft and mellow performance by Lewis, who notably is also the lead singer of heavy metal band Staind; Gunnar & The Grizzly Boys were a crowd favorite, with Gunnar Nyblad rocking the stage like a country Jim Morrison, garnering Twitter love and smashing a guitar on stage.
“Sure is nice having a little extra elbow room on the main stage,” Nyblad said, referencing their past appearances on the smaller stages.
Phil Vassar has a reputation for putting on a high-octane show and he brought it to Hoedown, throwing himself across a baby grand piano while running through his biggest hits, “Another Day in Paradise,” and “What I Love About Sunday,” playing hackey sack with one of the beach balls surfing through the crowd, taking requests from the crowd and joking every chance he got. One girl, caught in an unfortunate crowd-surfing fall, got this: “Ho, down,” Vassar said, to the roaring crowd’s delight. He catered to the Detroit crowd with Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock ‘N Roll” and hit a high note with Billy Joel’s “Piano Man.”
— Rob Stone (@RobStoneRadio) June 3, 2013
Joe Nichols mixed new hit “75 and Sunny” with crowd favorites “Gimme That Girl,” “Let’s Get Drunk and Fight,” and “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off.” Then he did something few would expect.
“I’ve always been a big fan of traditional country music,” he said, name checking Merle Haggard, George Jones and George Strait.
And he launched into a traditional country version of “Baby Got Back,” strumming and crooning, “I like big butts and I cannot lie, you other brothers can’t deny when a girl walks in with a little bitty waist and a round thing in your face, you get sprung.” He moved onto “Yee Haw,” and kept going for a full 90-minute set.
So what did the crowd think of everything they saw this weekend?
Diana Pierce brought granddaughters, Kallen, 11, and Hannah, 5, to spend the day Sunday. “I love this,” Pierce said, snapping pictures of the girls making goofy faces in their best Hoedown gear. And most couldn’t visit just once. A.J. Ansley of Belleville came Friday and Sunday , saying both days were “fantastic, awesome — great.”
John Batzdor of Wayne has come to the show every year for the last six years, and said 2013 ranked among the best. The setting at Comerica Park seemed to be a crowd pleaser.
“I’m so glad to Detroit coming back, and so many people out here just having a great time,” Kennedy said. “We need more things like this.”
— Christy Strawser, CBS Detroit