Carrie Underwood Keeps Focus on Music at Gulf Coast Jam

Dierks Bentley, Blake Shelton Also Headline Florida Festival

Panama City Beach, Florida — Although she usually favors formfitting attire, Carrie Underwood arrived onstage Friday night (Aug. 29) at the Pepsi Gulf Coast Jam decked out in cowboy boots, short denim shorts and a flowing white top which had people wondering if she was trying to conceal a baby bump.

The whispers in the crowd of 13,000 were confirmed Monday when Underwood posted the announcement on Twitter that she and husband Mike Fisher are expecting their first child.

But the main focus of the three-day festival was clearly the music and the heat index that peaked at approximately 110 degrees.

In addition to Underwood, Dierks Bentley and Blake Shelton were the other headliners at the second annual festival that attracted country music fans from 49 states. (What happened, Vermont?)

The music took place at two locations — an early daytime beach stage at a local pier and a main stage at Frank Brown Park. Dozens of artists took part, including Randy Houser, Cassadee Pope, Big & Rich, Jon Pardi, Lonestar, Casey James, Neal McCoy, Laura Bell Bundy, Trick Pony and Blackjack Billy.

Even after sunset, the Florida heat and humidity affected everyone, and the country stars were no exception.

“Somebody turn on the AC!” Underwood joked. “And I thought Tennessee was humid. I’ve fixed my hair for you three times today.”

Her set featured hit singles and album cuts from her American Idol-spawned career. In introducing “Some Hearts,” she noted, “My very first song from my very first album. This song always takes me back to when I was just starting out and I had no idea what was going on around me.” She laughed, adding, “I still feel like that most of the time!”

Bentley was the main event for Saturday night’s 15,000 concert-goers. Armed with a red solo cup with a mixture of Mountain Dew and moonshine, he had everyone on their feet throughout his 90-minute set which included his biggest chart-toppers and even the Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer.”

With the opening notes of “Drunk on a Plane,” Bentley looked into the massive crowd to see a group of women decked out in garb just like in the video — complete with hats, sunglasses and moustaches. He pulled them one by one up to join him onstage to dance and even took a few selfies with them.

“That was completely random and so awesome,” he laughed as the crowd erupted.

The reigning CMA male vocalist of the year, Blake Shelton wrapped up the festival on Sunday evening with a record-breaking 18,000-plus in attendance. He ran through his extensive music catalog, including his brand new single “Neon Light,” and asked the show opener Cassadee Pope to join him for “Boys ’Round Here,” then brought Gwen Sebastian to the forefront to perform their recent hit, “My Eyes.”

After working his way through some of his current music, he asked permission to do “some of the old stuff.” The deafening sound of screams and applause was all he needed. As has been the norm during his current tour, a stagehand brought out a white cowboy hat complete with a sewn-in mullet styled like the one Shelton once sported. That fashion flashback remained on his head while he posed for photos and sang “Some Beach” and “Ol’ Red,” two songs he recorded long before he became a household name on NBC’s The Voice.

Although Shelton doesn’t seem to be getting tired of the small screen, he’s perhaps making a jump to a much bigger screen, as well. Two days before his scheduled appearance, festival organizers were informed that an IMAX crew would be filming a “Blake program” of some sort. More details on that will be coming soon.

View photos from the Pepsi Gulf Coast Jam.