ENTERPRISE, Ala. — The 2009 BamaJam Music and Arts Festival only ended Saturday (June 6), but Kenny Chesney is already announced as one of next year’s headliners. After Taylor Swift’s Thursday night performance closed out the first day of the three-day festival, Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn and Kid Rock were among the top-name talent performing Friday and Saturday.
Event organizer Ronnie Gilley claims 120,000 people attended Saturday’s concerts. And while Thursday’s rains transformed the festival grounds into one massive mud puddle, that didn’t slow down the BamaJammers the least bit.
After the LoCash Cowboys opened Friday’s show on the main country stage, Aaron Tippin arrived onstage to sing his hits — and to build toys. During “Working Man’s Ph.D,” Tippin pulled out an air horn and then began assembling a bicycle while he sang. Calling the LoCash Cowboys back to the stage, he presented the bike to a Marine to forward to Toys for Tots. Tippin’s set list included “You’ve Got to Stand for Something,” “I Got It Honest” and “There Ain’t Nothin’ Wrong With the Radio” and cuts from his latest work, In Overdrive.
Anyone who’s seen Charlie Daniels perform, knows he remains one of country music’s most energetic performers even at age 72. Opening with “Drinkin’ My Baby Goodbye,” he strummed and picked his way through a slew of hits including “Simple Man” and “Long Haired Country Boy.”
Sharing with the crowd his experiences performing for our troops, he said, “This is a special tribute for all the folks who have ever been in uniform,” and then led the crowd in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. After performing one of his favorite gospel songs, “How Great Thou Art,” he was soon changing the dynamic somewhat by roaring into “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” before leaving the stage.
After a quick set change for the bands, Randy Owen was standing onstage and, without wasting a moment, burst into the huge Alabama hit, “If You’re Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band).” Squeezing in as many hits as he could during his hour and a-half set, the rained on, muddy audience was treated to “Old Flame” and “Born Country,” among many others. Serenading his fans with “Feels So Right,” Owen closed with another classic from his former band, “My Home’s in Alabama.”
When Owen finished his performance, the countdown to Alan Jackson began. A huge video screen on the stage counted down the seconds until he appeared and opened with “Gone Country.” From there, “Small Town Southern Man,” “Blues Man,” “Who’s Cheatin’ Who” and “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” all followed. Along with George Strait, Jackson is one of the few artists who simply rolls from one song to the next with a minimum of talk and onstage antics. And like Strait, Jackson totally makes it work.
Heidi Newfield, Trick Pony’s former lead singer, kicked things off Saturday afternoon with “What Am I Waiting For,” the title track of first solo album which spawned the hit, “Johnny and June.” Totally familiar and comfortable on stage, her set was a mix of her former group’s hits and songs from her own album.
Pat Green arrived his typical style, strolling out in jeans, a T-shirt and bare feet singing “Carry On,” “Baby Doll,” “Feels Just Like It Should” and his latest single, “What I’m For.” Green invited Newfield and Randy Houser (who played on one of the smaller stages later that day) to join him on a rowdy rendition of the Waylon Jennings hit, “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way.” After turning “Wave on Wave” into a crowd singalong, he was waving goodbye.
Luckily for the Saturday crowd, the lineup was amazing enough to keep minds off of the fact that temperatures had risen to 90 degrees by late afternoon. And Jason Aldean helped create that diversion while turning in a performance that included hits such as “Amarillo Sky,” “Why” and his new single, “Big Green Tractor.” The sun was beginning to set as Aldean played his exit tune, “Hicktown.”
Moving into the moonlight hours, Gary Allan greeted the BamaJam masses and gave them what they came to hear — hit after hit, including “Nothin on but the Radio,” “Learning How to Bend” and “Best I Ever Had.”
Brooks & Dunn followed, hitting the stage with “Cowboy Town.” With their video screen and countless hits from their lengthy career, the duo’s time on stage seemed to come and go all too fast. With the last notes of “My Maria,” they were gone, but were called back for an encore they used to great effect by singing two of their earliest hits — “Brand New Man” and “Boot Scootin’ Boogie.”
With only one act to go on the main stage, the BamaJammers were all but ready for the festival’s closing act — Kid Rock. Hitting the stage with “Rock-n-Roll Jesus,” he crossed the rapidly-fading lines that divide genres.
“I’ve been in Alabama for a few days now,” he continued as he held up an Alabama helmet with antlers — one that apparently was taken from Hank Jr.’s home. “He doesn’t know it yet!” Rock bragged.
The third annual BamaJam will be held June 3-5.View photos from the 2009 BamaJam Music and Arts Festival.