ENTERPRISE, Ala. -- Day one of the second annual BamaJam Music and Arts Festival kicked off on Thursday afternoon (June 4) here with a fantastic performance by Jamey Johnson. Or so I heard. Unfortunately, I -- and thousands of others -- missed his entire set while sitting in traffic en route to the festival grounds.
Photo Credit: Melissa Loncaric Miller
In addition to Johnson, Thursday's lineup included Luke Bryan, John Anderson, George Jones, Blake Shelton and headliner Taylor Swift.
Hopefully, the traffic snarls will ease for Friday and Saturday's shows. However, attendance figures for last year's BamaJam were well over 100,000, and this year is expected to be even bigger, with folks traveling from throughout the U.S. and at least six other nations.
Bryan, a Georgia boy, had no trouble at all relating to the Southern masses, wasting no time finding out the local team of choice -- Alabama or Auburn. (For the record, it was 'Bama.)
Bryan was rolling through his list of hits, including, "We Rode in Trucks" and "Good Directions" (the Billy Currington hit he co-wrote), when the black clouds came rolling in. By the end of "Country Man," those with umbrellas had them up while those without them were singing along in the rain.
Before long, Bryan announced, "It's gonna be getting dark soon," as the band kicked up "Fishin' in the Dark." The song became something of a metamorphosis that included Collective Soul's "Heaven Let Your Light Shine Down," back to "Fishin' in the Dark" and then into Brooks & Dunn's "Hillbilly Deluxe" before returning for the ending of "Fishin'" -- and all without missing a beat. He finished up his set with "All My Friends Say."
Even before Anderson took to the stage, rumors of a surprise guest began spreading through the crowd. As feisty as ever, Anderson belted out one hit song after another including, "I've Got It Made," "Money in the Bank" and "Straight Tequila Night." And before we knew it, one of Anderson's old friends, George Jones, greeted the crowd and proceeded into "He Stopped Loving Her Today" while Anderson provided guitar support and cheered along with the crowd.
"I learned a lot about this business from watching him," Anderson said of Jones. "He is truly a living legend."
Shelton, in all of his 6-foot-5 glory, was next on the main stage and joined the party with "The More I Drink," "The Baby" and his latest single, "I'll Just Hold On." Before even 15 minutes had passed, the Alabama heat had the Oklahoma native in a sweat, but it soon washed away by the on-again, off-again rain.
Not one to pass up the chance to sing a good song, even if he didn't write it, Shelton treated the crowd to Hank Williams Jr.'s "If Heaven Ain't a Lot Like Dixie," Conway Twitty's "Tight Fittin' Jeans" and even the "Free Credit Report Dot.com" song we all seem to know.
As security guards watched thousands of kids, preteens and teens started making their way to the front of the stage, the production crew was sweeping water from the performance area in preparation for the night's finale -- an appearance by Taylor Swift.
I must say, it was quite strange to see a huge production -- complete with a complex stage, wardrobe changes, a massive video screen and slew of dancers -- while looking into the mass of rained-on, shivering folks with muddy toes and flip-flop-clad feet.
With the white stage in place, the red curtains were lifted, revealing Swift's band all decked out in band uniforms. Dressed in the same style, complete with a hat, Swift appeared at the top of the stage singing her latest hit, "You Belong With Me." She approached the end of the catwalk while three cheerleaders helped create one of the most-photographed moments of the night as Swift revealed a sparkly dress she had hiding beneath one of those rip-away outfits she's becoming famous for.
Swift has transformed from a sweet, slightly shy gal onstage into a woman providing a solid hour and a-half of photo-op after hair-flinging photo op. There was no lack of feisty onstage banter, dramatic moves, wardrobe changes and drama in the form of videos, dancers and even a little furniture-throwing on Swift's behalf. (Was that a real chair she tossed?)
Not one to leave her fans without an encore, she finished the night off with her famous water-drenched performance of "Should've Said No." By the end of the evening, it was hard to tell the drenched country stars from their waterlogged fans.
The BamaJam Music and Arts Festival continues with performances through Saturday night with Kid Rock closing out the festival.
View photos from the 2009 BamaJam.