WEFest 2011 - Detroit Lakes, MN 8.6.11
We headed up to Detroit Lakes this weekend for the last day of the three-day country music festival WEFest, mainly for a repeat performance of our gal Miranda Lambert (and the Pistol Annies), and we had an amazing time! We’ve driven further and in worse conditions just to see Miranda (South Dakota through an ice storm) so we figured we couldn’t let the opportunity pass us by. As the first trip to the notorious WEFest for either of us, we knew to brace ourselves for a wild time, and we weren’t disappointed.
Look for a full recap of our experiences soon, but until then — enjoy our photos! I won’t lie, you can’t really see a dang thing on stage from where we were sitting back in the steerage section, but there are some funny photos of Muss from the K102 Wakeup Crew dancing with Hawk on the Barn Stage during Rocket Club’s “I Can’t Dance” at the close of Saturday night!
What an awesome weekend!
WEFest has a notorious reputation in Minnesota. In high school, it was the place to go for a weekend of underage frivolity. In college, it was Minnesota’s answer to Florida’s spring break. After three summer festivals, we still weren’t prepared for what awaited us in Detroit Lakes. As you can tell by our photos, WEFest is quite the experience. The giant stage hosted some of the biggest names in contemporary and classic country music from Brad Paisley to Willie Nelson, Sugarland to Jerrod Niemann, Blake Shelton to Miranda Lambert, Sunny Sweeney to Rascal Flatts… making the lineup one of the strongest of all of the festivals in the area. As the last festival of the summer season, we had experienced the full assortment from the supersized block party feel of Winstock, to the wild four-day affair at Country Fest, to the casual but fun Country Jam.
A sea of camper trailers up and down Highway 34 greeted us as we approached the festival grounds. We arrived with the expectation that it would be chaotic and uncontrollable, so imagine our surprise when we walked onto an empty and relatively small field on Saturday afternoon in time to see Rocket Club make their WEFest debut and start off the day on the main stage. There must have been a lot of people hungover (typical, but still a shame), but thankfully Rocket Club had an INCREDIBLE encore performance on the Barn Stage at the end of the night. The afternoon audience was sparse, but didn’t lack enthusiasm for the Minneapolis based rock infused country group. We don’t have enough kind words for this band, who no matter how small or large of crowd play at a 100% and are willing to go any distance to connect with their fans.
The festival grounds featured many more permanent buildings than the other fests and a restroom with plumbing (accessible to all). The main stage seemed a world away, separated from us in the general admission seating by numerous levels of reserved and VIP seating areas — leaving us to watch the video screens, which were smaller than those at Country Fest. Unlike Country Fest (which we figure is the biggest competition), WEFest has just one other side stage which featured a cash bar and canopy.
Easton Corbin took the stage after an embarrassing intro by the noticeably tipsy Emcee who called him Corbin Easton. As we just saw him two weeks before at Country Jam, the set hadn’t changed, but his vocals were stronger than previously with his voice breaking more under control. Darius Rucker transitioned the night from Corbin’s easy going traditional country to a bit more of a party mood for Miranda Lambert.
If we’re all friends, we’ll be honest that the reason that we made the four hour trek north was to see our favorite Texas girl, Miranda Lambert, and her gun slinging gals of the Pistol Annies. Miranda Lambert and the Pistol Annies blew everyone else out of the water —- and although we were so far from the stage, Miranda’s personable attitude and comfortable demeanor on stage mixed with her limitless talent showed the WeFest crowd why she’s the reigning female of country music. For the second time of the summer, Miranda didn’t disappoint us, confidently strutting the stage to “Gunpowder and Lead,” “Kerosene” and her latest hot single “Baggage Claim.” Unlike Country Fest, the WEFest crowd knew what it meant when three ribbon microphones were placed in the middle of the stage; it was time for the Pistol Annies. Their harmonies keep getting more vibrant and their energy more contagious each time we hear them. Their playful and neo-traditional approach to country was a nice change of pace for the WeFest crowd, and we can’t wait until they are able to do a full set of their own music.
Technically, Rascal Flatts was headliner of the festival, but for us Miranda Lambert was the closing act. LeVox and Co. provided the perfect soundtrack for people watching as we sat in the back bar called the “Barn” and watched the hoards of inebriated and uninhibited fans stumble about.
We closed down WEFest with Rocket Club from the front of the barn stage, even singing along to “Where There’s a Will” with Hawk (thanks guys!! :) ). RC was in their element during that show — and they performed like we’ve never seen them perform before!
We decided to go for the experience and a repeat performance of Miranda Lambert, but would suggest if you go for the music (like we do), it will all depend on the lineup. Next year’s announced acts Toby Keith, Alabama, and Jason Aldean will surely make for one heck of a 30th year celebration! If you go for the party, there should be no doubt in your mind that next August you need set your GPS to Detriot Lakes and head on up to WEFest for the largest and wildest party of the summer!
Aly and Beth
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