Summer is definitely on its way, and that means big country tours are, too.
From stadiums to county fairs to any old shack with a stage, country artists will be crisscrossing the continent with your summertime soundtrack — not to mention a reason to let loose and fill a few “Red Solo Cups.” No matter where you live, you’re probably not far from a chance to see your favorites.
Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw will see how many points they can score with fans in NFL stadiums, Eric Church is practicing 12-ounce curls and Sugarland is rolling from town to town with no idea which songs they’re going to play. And there’s plenty more where that came from.
Here’s a look at 12 country tours sweating it out with fans for the summer of 2012.
Aldean and Luke Bryan have been getting chummy on the My Kinda Party tour for months now, but they’re not ready call it quits yet. The Georgia natives and official BFFs have a big bag of hits to choose from this year, including fresh picks like “Drunk on You” and “Fly Over States.” Their next show together will be May 10 in Peoria, Ill.
Bentley is calling the open road “Home” all summer, and the Eli Young Band have already moved in for the month of May. After that, Bentley’s on his own for a run of festivals and fair dates, at which point he may actually be “the only one who wants to have fun tonight” — except for his loyal fans, of course. Your next shot to catch them is Saturday (May 5) in Indiana, Pa. Just keep an eye peeled for unruly “Crazy Girls.”
Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw
The Brothers of the Sun tour promises to be the largest party of the year. That’s because every stop along the way includes a NFL stadium full of tailgating country fans. Chesney and McGraw’s friendship goes back many years to before they were superstars (after all, you’re not really friends with someone until you have a run-in with the law together), and this trip is sure to have its memorable moments, too. Don’t miss out when it begins June 2 in Tampa, Fl.
Church reached two career milestones this year; his first No. 1 album and his first shot as an arena headliner. The Blood, Sweat and Beers tour is already in the streets, and Church will bring his aggressive sound to Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena Friday (May 5). Brantley Gilbert has been opening the shows so far, but he’s splitting at the end of May. Then the “Drink in My Hand” singer continues on with Lee Brice, Blackberry Smoke and Jon Pardi for select dates.
No summer is complete without a Toby Keith tour, especially this year after the surprise success of “Red Solo Cup.” Starting June 14 in Salt Lake City, you can salute everyone’s favorite plastic container on the Live in Overdrive tour with Brantley Gilbert, who’s doing his best to prove the title of his first No. 1, “Country Must Be Country Wide.” Concert dates for the pair are lined up all the way through Sept. 22 in Boston.
Owning every city they’ve stopped in on the Own the Night 2012 World Tour so far, Lady A plan to keep American fans “Dancing Away” until the end of June when they start the European leg of their roadwork. Darius Rucker and Thompson Square will help them get the party started Friday (May 5) when the tour continues in Worcester, Mass.
Miranda Lambert travels with Chris Young and Jerrod Niemann for her On Fire tour through the end of June, but that’s not all. She recently announced her side project, the Pistol Annies, will be joining in for a set of their own each night. Be on the lookout for some “Hell on Heels” during these ladies nights. The trio of Lambert, Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley are not known for playing nice. The tour resumes May 10 in Omaha, Neb.
Paisley figured his Virtual Reality World Tour would give country fans a much needed escape, but now it looks like he’s not ready to jump back into the real world. He’s extending the tour all the way through October, giving opening acts The Band Perry and Scotty McCreery more time to figure out a way to prank him and more chances for fans to see his unreal guitar playing up close. You can leave the world behind starting May 18 in St. Louis, Mo.
As one of country’s most celebrated groups, Rascal Flatts know you don’t reach the top on your own. For their Changed tour, starting June 15 in Hartford, Conn., the Flatts boys are bringing along some friends, and they’re all groups, too. Little Big Town, Eli Young Band and newcomers Edens Edge will start the shows and hopefully take advantage of the large audiences. You can bet the best way to experience this tour will be with a group of your own.
Shelton may seem like he’s all fun and games on Twitter and The Voice, but when it comes to touring, the reigning ACM male vocalist is all business. Well, partly business. In his defense, it’s hard to be serious when you’re surrounded by rides, games, food, beer and people having fun at fairs and festivals. Shelton will do his best to keep the good times rolling starting June 9 in Winsted, Minn., for the Winstock Country Music Festival.
Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush are always pushing creative boundaries, and this summer they’re heading out with a special concept tour. The In Your Hands tour puts fans in the driver’s seat by letting them pick all the songs the band will play. Fans just vote online and, voila, Sugarland will play your request. As you can imagine, this has made for some interesting set lists, including deep cuts that hardly ever get played in concerts. Your next chance to play DJ comes May 22 at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles.
Toward the end of summer, Underwood will be winding her way across North America on her Blown Away tour featuring up-and-comer Hunter Hayes. The “Good Girl” from tornado alley and the “Storm Warning” singer hope to rebuild rather than destroy, though, since Underwood has pledged to donate $1 from each ticket sold to the American Red Cross for disaster relief. The Blown Away tour starts Sept. 14 in Manchester, N.H., but if you can’t wait that long, head to Bayou Country Superfest in Baton Rouge, La., on May 26.
Think of the Country Throwdown tour as a music festival on wheels. Up-and-comers and legendary stars alike travel to the fans, instead of the other way around. Last year, Willie Nelson headlined with Jamey Johnson, Randy Houser, Lee Brice and a stable of young songwriters. For 2012, Gary Allan takes over with Justin Moore, Rodney Atkins, Josh Thompson, Sunny Sweeney and others. The really cool thing is that they play in smaller markets, and fans won’t have to throw down a whole lot of cash. The tour kicks off May 18 in Gulfport, Miss.