Monday, August 1, 2011

Country Jam USA (Part II)

continued… (from Part I)

If skipping a concert were a crime, one too many Country Jam-ers would have been hauled off to jail Friday afternoon for missing another band we’re proud to say hails from Minnesota, Rocket Club. The band didn’t warm up the stage, they lit it on FIRE! We have seen RC play a handful of times this summer, and they never disappoint. 

Frontman Chris Hawkey worked the stage with more vigor than some of the national acts (we’re looking at you Josh Kelley and David Nail) and got the hungover crowd up on their feet. Rocket Club is at home on the giant festival stage, and their music belongs cranked up and pumping through those speakers. We may or may not have lead a sing-a-long to their summer single “North Country” in the miles-long Meet & Greet line, impressing the new Wisconsin Rocket Club members. After playing a long set on a hot summer day they stayed to meet, greet, autograph, and take photos with fans until the JaneDear Girls came to the stage — we wish other artists would take the time to do this! It means the world to fans, and says so much about the band.

Do you remember the band Sweethearts of the Rodeo? No? Neither do we, and that’s exactly what we want to do after seeing The JaneDear Girls, forget them. The girls came out in their expected costumes, Suzie in her 50’s “Leave it to Beaver” housecoat and Danelle in an overly accessorized getup she yanked off a highschooler at the mall. Scarves in July? Really? Although we have heard their album and basically knew what to expect, they fortunately didn’t actually play much of their own music. In addition to their two singles “Wildflower” and “Shotgun Girl,” the set also included painful covers of Jason Aldean, Dixie Chicks, Weezer, Queen and a jumble of 80’s songs because they are “Eighties babies!” What?! So are we… but that’s no excuse to torture Wisconsin. We do give them some credit for playing their own instruments, but they need to slap whoever advised them to talk to the audience like they are the ringleaders at a circus, and dress like the clowns at one for that matter.

If we didn’t make enough fools of ourselves during Rocket Club’s opening set, we turned the volume up to “boy band fan-girls” when Little Big Town arrived. Looking gorgeous and fashionable as always, LBT graced the stage just as the sun set, which perfectly set the mood for their chilling four-part harmonies, edgy country style and vivid southern storytelling. I’ve never failed to be completely impressed by Little Big Town. We spent the entirety of their set in front of the stage dancing like crazy and singing back every lyric to Phillip, Jimi, Kimberly and Karen.

The highlight of Little Big Town’s set was when the band decided to give Wisconsin a taste of traditional bluegrass stylings and broke it down for a few songs which included “Wounded,” “Welcome to the Family” and their “Gaga-grass” cover of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.” Their popular web series “Scattered, Smothered and Covered,” named after the hangover special at the Southern staple Waffle House, are videos of the band putting a countrified spin on pop music hits. The Gaga episode has 30k views on YouTube [link] and even earned them a mention on Perez Hilton’s website [link]. They spent about half of their time on stage performing songs from their latest release The Reason Why, while bringing back our favorites like “Bones” and “Good As Gone” from in our opinion one of the best albums (“of all time!”), The Road To Here.

We weren’t sure what to expect of the only female headliner of Jam, but we were blown away by Martina McBride. Martina is the voice of modern female country music and has been dubbed by many as the “Celine Dion” of country. Her incredible soprano voice Friday night not only proved her merit for every female vocalist nomination she’s earned, but her demeanor on stage showed how incredibly unpretentious of an artist she is.

The highlight of the set was Martina’s legendary 1994 hit “Independence Day.” As red, white and blue streamers shot from the stage, her sincere delivery brought chills to the sweltering crowd. After LBT’s set, Beth predicted they would return to the stage for a collaboration with their good friend Martina. Not many other artists would allow for this, but Martina’s sweet nature shone through as she warmly welcomed her friends of Little Big Town back on stage to sing a cover of Linda Ronstadt’s “When Will I Be Loved.”

Comparing Martina’s performance to Carrie Underwood’s, which we had recently suffered through at Country Fest, was simple: Martina sings for the audience, while Carrie sings at the audience. Although Martina’s repertoire is filled with mostly vocally sweeping ballads, the audience was much more responsive to Martina than the Fest crowd was to Carrie.

Aly and Beth

to be continued… (Part III

Rocket Club set list: Gonna Rain / Where There’s A Will / Running Away / One Of These Days / Little Pink Houses (Mellencamp) / I Can’t Dance / Holdin’ On / Madison / Dig Down / One Thing Beautiful / North Country

Little Big Town set list: Little White Church / Little More You / Bones / Why, Oh Why / Runaway Train / Bring It On Home To Me / The Reason Why / I’m With The Band / Wounded / Welcome To The Family / Born This Way (Gaga) / Can’t Have Everything / All The Way Down / Good As Gone / Heartache Tonight (Eagles) / Boondocks


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