Rain may have poured from the sky, but country crowds still poured into downtown Detroit this past weekend. Thousands of music fans flocked to the Motor City’s Comerica Park for the 31st annual WYCD Downtown Hoedown, a three-day festival that this year (May 31-June 2) featured 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 (see the full festival coverage).
The skies opened up all night Friday, leaving the fans who’d come to see Uncle Kracker, Drake White, Maggie Rose, Charlie Worsham, and others no choice but to dance in the rain.
White, who describes his music as “country rocking freestyle blues,” kept the crowd going with his debut single “The Simple Life,” while Detroit’s own Uncle Kracker, who delivered a feel-good set of his biggest hits, including his cover of Dobie Gray’s “Drift Away,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Smile,” “Good To Be Me,” and “Nobody’s Sad On A Saturday Night.”
During Saturday’s show, crowds poured back in to see such acts as Craig Morgan, Emerson Drive, Blackberry Smoke, and headliner Jake Owen, who each shredded the stage in their intensity.
Morgan showed the crowd what he loves about, in this case, Saturday, singing hits including “That’s What I Love About Sunday,” “Almost Home,” and “Redneck Yacht Club.” He also squeezed in a little “Life In The Fast Lane” from The Eagles.
Owen brought his “Summer Jams,” playing standards including “Startin’ With Me,” “Yee Haw,” and “Something About A Woman,” and interspersing them with new tunes. His wife Lacey Buchanan swayed in the Hoedown audience in a summer dress and sky-high heels, cradling their baby Olive Pearl, who wore a tiny pair of pink earphones.
Owen famously had a wardrobe malfunction at a recent concert, but despite the hopes of some in attendance, the man known for being barefoot in blue jeans managed to keep his clothes intact this time. The only wardrobe malfunction happened when Owen announced “A girl threw her thong already on stage.”
And to shake things up musically, Jake’s bandmembers swapped instruments and performed a loud, crowd-pleasing cover of the Beatie Boys’ “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)”
— Steve Wiseman (@stevewisey) June 2, 2013
Sunday brought Aaron Lewis, Gunnar & The Grizzly Boys, Phil Vassar, and Joe Nichols to the Hoedown’s main stage. The wide range of country styles and songs included a soft and mellow performance by Lewis, who also happens to be 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.
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, including”Another Day in Paradise” and ”Last Day of My Life.” He also catered to the Detroit crowd by covering Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock ‘N Roll,” and he 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 with that, 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 energy levels high throughout his 90-minute set.
– Christy Strawser, CBS Detroit