Concerts Show Fan Fair Diversity

Radney Foster introduced “I’m In” during his Saturday afternoon (June 16) performance at Fan Fair as “a hit for me in the alt. country world and a hit for The Kinleys in the commercial country world.” Then he added, “I kind of like both.”

This year’s revamped Fan Fair, which shifted to a long weekend and moved from the Tennessee State Fairgrounds to downtown Nashville, has expanded to include a richer assortment of performers from both major and independent record labels at a greater variety of venues.

Saturday morning and afternoon concerts by Foster, Billy Gilman , Jessica Andrews , Connie Smith , Jim Lauderdale , Hal Ketchum , Kevin Gordon and Hayseed Dixie, a novelty act that gives bluegrass treatments to AC/DC songs, demonstrated the wide range of country music styles represented.

The winner of the Discovery Award at Wednesday’s (June 13) fan-voted TNN & CMT Country Weekly Music Awards, Gilman performed with Andrews at the Tennessee Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park. Gilman and Andrews delivered four songs each, fronting the same band. The show teased their “=29 Tour” (named after the sum of their ages before Gilman turned 13) which begins Sunday (June 17) in North Platte, Neb.

Gilman opened the double bill, performing “Little Bitty Pretty One,” “I Wanna Get to Ya,” “There’s a Hero” and his breakthrough “One Voice.” The tourmates each have two albums out. While Gilman skipped songs from his latest CD, Dare to Dream, Andrews’ set featured all new material: “I Don’t Like Anyone,” “Karma,” “Helplessly, Hopelessly” and her signature “Who I Am.”

A few hundred adults, teens and children turned out for the show, which was staged at the alcohol-free “Family Zone,” a new Fan Fair attraction that includes a carnival, barbecue contest and other family-oriented activities. Admission was free and open to the public — not limited to Fan Fair registrants — though few locals seemed to be on hand.

A dozen adults sporting Gilman T-Shirts and dubbing themselves “BillyHeads” were there to cheer on their favorite singer. Living in different parts of the country, they connected through an online message board devoted to Gilman and first met personally this week at Fan Fair. Jim Chapman, a 44-year-old Franklin, Mass., resident, said he is drawn to the positive messages in Gilman’s songs and believes the singer is a good influence on his 13-year-old daughter, who didn’t make the trip.

The teeny-bop of Gilman and Andrews was a contrast to the show simultaneously taking place at Riverfront Park on the west bank of the Cumberland River.

The nine-act show consisted of artists that are favorites among fans of alternative country, Americana or what concert emcee Billy Block refers to as Western Beat.

Block booked names for the show who appear at his weekly roots music series at Nashville’s Exit/In, but the thousands on hand didn’t have to be connoisseurs of alt. country to recognize many of the tunes.

Those who didn’t know Lauderdale by name were familiar with his songs. His set included originals made famous by George Strait (“Don’t Make Me Come Over There and Love You”), the Dixie Chicks (“Hole in My Head”) and Patty Loveless (“You Don’t Seem to Miss Me” and “Halfway Down”).

Grand Ole Opry star Smith performed her 1960s hits “Once a Day,”
“Burning a Hole in My Mind,” “I’ll Come Running” and “Cincinnati, Ohio” before thanking God for the beautiful weather and closing with the gospel evergreen “How Great Thou Art.”

Foster opened with “Just Call Me Lonesome,” one of his biggest solo hits, then reached back for ’80s Foster & Lloyd favorites such as “Crazy Over You” and “Texas in 1880.”

Ketchum’s half-dozen songs did not lean on the hits, but his 1992 smash “Past the Point of Rescue” drew an enthusiastic response.

Block poked fun at the Country Music Association’s new slogan — “Country. Admit it. You love it.” — suggesting a more appropriate one might be “Country. Admit it. You miss it.” He was suggesting a void of traditional roots and twang in today’s dominating country-pop music — the very kind performed by Gilman and Andrews a few blocks away.

View the Bicentennial Mall and Riverfront Stage Photo Flipbook