Country Concerts Ignite the Fourth of July

Willie Nelson, Reba McEntire, Darius Rucker, Kenny Chesney Among Those With Weekend Gigs

America is celebrating its independence, and leave it to Willie Nelson to host the biggest country concert of the holiday weekend.

Country artists will be performing from coast-to-coast, including events in New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Washington, D.C.

Nelson’s annual Fourth of July picnic begins with an opening ceremony Sunday (July 4) at 11 a.m. at the Backyard at Bee Cave, a performance venue located near Austin, Texas. The day of music includes performances by Kris Kristofferson, Ray Price, Asleep at the Wheel, David Allan Coe, Jamey Johnson, Johnny Bush, Kevin Fowler, Leon Russell, Los Lonely Boys, the Randy Rogers Band, Ray Wylie Hubbard and many others.

For those who prefer to celebrate in front of their TV set, Reba McEntire, Darius Rucker, LeAnn Rimes and Toby Keith will be appearing on three separate specials airing Sunday.

McEntire and Rucker will be in Washington, D.C., to join Gladys Knight, John Schneider and American Idol finalist David Archuleta on A Capitol Fourth, an annual PBS special airing live from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

Rimes will perform Friday night in New York’s Rockefeller Plaza for a prerecorded segment of the Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks Spectacular on NBC. Other performers include Justin Bieber and Enrique Iglesias.

Keith performs with the Boston Pops and conductor Keith Lockhart on the banks of Boston’s Charles River for the city’s annual Fourth of July event. CBS will air the performance as The Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular. It will be hosted by Craig Ferguson of The Late Late Show.

Vince Gill landed a particularly cool gig in Los Angeles as the musical headliner at the Hollywood Bowl’s fireworks spectacular. He’s stretching out the celebration with appearances Friday through Sunday.

Kenny Chesney won’t be working on July 4, but he’s set to perform Friday and Saturday at the Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. And the Zac Brown Band will be opening the show for the Dave Matthews Band on Saturday and Sunday at the Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, Wis.

Back in Texas, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra is featuring Ray Price and Roy Clark in concert Friday at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center. Also in the DFW area, the Randy Rogers Band will host the Saturday’s Stockyards Stampede in the Fort Worth Stockyards. Guests include Ryan Bingham & the Dead Horses, Radney Foster, Mark Chesnutt and, for those with non-country tastes, Everclear and M.C. Hammer.

Saturday in Houston, approximately 100,000 people are expected to attend the Freedom Over Texas celebration headlined by Pat Green with Little Big Town and Cowboy Mouth. A fireworks display takes place immediately after the concert in Eleanor Tinsley Park. In nearby Baytown, Texas, Joe Nichols will perform prior to a fireworks display at Bicentennial Park.

Robert Earl Keen, Jamey Johnson and Bruce Robison will provide a powerful triple-bill during Saturday’s show at the Whitewater Amphitheatre in New Braunfels, Texas.

In Nashville, Sunday’s celebration on the downtown riverfront will feature performances by Trace Adkins, Julianne Hough, Jessie James, Jaci Velasquez and the Nashville Symphony before a fireworks show. Hough will also perform there Saturday night. Also in Nashville, the Grand Ole Opry will be presented Friday and Saturday at the Ryman Auditorium. Emmylou Harris performs both nights with Kathy Mattea making a guest appearance Friday and Wynonna appearing Saturday.

Just south of Nashville in Franklin, Tenn., Lorrie Morgan will headline a day of live music prior to the July 4 fireworks display. And to the west of Music City, the Loretta Lynn Ranch is reopening in Hurricane Mills, Tenn., after closing in early May because of flooding in Middle Tennessee. Lynn will perform there Saturday.

Elsewhere, Montgomery Gentry, Easton Corbin and James Otto are scheduled to perform Sunday near Gulf Shores, Ala., at the Amphitheater at the Wharf on Orange Beach. Phil Vassar is headlining Sunday’s festivities leading up to a massive fireworks display at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Stadium.

Near Chicago, several country acts are appearing at the annual Ribfest in Naperville, Ill. Friday’s lineup includes Julianne Hough, Jason Michael Carroll and Sammy Hagar. LeAnn Rimes performs Saturday. The four-day festival, which concludes Sunday, also features classic rock band such as John Kay & Steppenwolf, Eric Burdon & the Animals and Blue Oyster Cult.

Those are just some of the highlights. Check your local newspapers and radio station websites to find out what’s going on in your area.