Kid Rock, Kenny Chesney successes
Following electrifying sets by Jason Aldean, Blake Shelton and Eric Church is a tough order. Not many in Nashville could've topped Friday's bill at WE Fest.
That's why the country festival's organizers looked outside of Nashville and country music altogether for a headliner.
Kid Rock was man enough for the job.
Or more than man.
Rock kicked off his set with "Rock & Roll Jesus" at 10:45 p.m.
If you think that gives the rocker a messiah complex, well, the 40,000 music fans on their feet were ready to follow the charismatic entertainer.
Kid Rock got his start in hip-hop before making it big during the nu metal boom. But his musical roots run deeper as he showed in "Son of Detroit."
"I like to play Hank Williams records as loud as they will rock," he sang, or rather, yelled.
Kid Rock got some help from Fargo-raised background singer Shannon Curfman, who can add "dancer" to her already impressive resume.
Jason Aldean fired up the crowd with a 90-minute set of amped-up country.
Guitar-driven tracks like "Johnny Cash" and "Big Green Tractor" had the crowd roaring. The heavy rhythm of "She's Country" paved the way for Kid Rock's big beats.
After Church's electric set, Shelton set the tone for one of country's biggest parties with his anthem "It's all About Tonight."
The singer noted that many looked like they may have had too good a night on Thursday and were fighting hangovers.
"This is clearly not the first day of WE Fest," he said.
He proposed an antidote for what ailed them -- more country music.
"Talk about a bunch of drunk rednecks," he said looking at the crowd, beer in hand. "Finally a crowd I can relate to."
Kenny Chesney closed out the three-day festival Saturday night with an energetic set of summer party anthems, like the openers "Beer in Mexico" and "Keg in the Closet."
Anyone who hasn't seen Chesney (between Fargo and WE Fest, he seems to be through at least every other year) was likely won over by his heated performance at the end of a muggy day. By "Big Star," the third song in, he'd broken a good sweat moving from one end of the stage to the other.
The previous act, Dierks Bentley, had the energy to headline and bounced across the stage to tunes like "Feel That Fire," "Lot of Leavin' Left To Do" and "Sideways."
The girls in the crowd especially appreciated the curly-haired country crooner, and he appreciated the girls in "little white tank tops" by singing "What Was I Thinkin'."
Gretchen Wilson was the only solo female on the WE Fest lineup, but she was more than tough enough for the late afternoon crowd, opening with her anthem, "Here for the Party."
WE Fest, of course, is all about partying, and Wilson dedicated "There's a Place for the Whiskey" to the crowd. A couple songs later, she cracked open a bottle of Jack Daniels and took a pull before "Walk on Water." The bottle came back later for "All Jacked Up."
Joe Nichols tapped the party theme earlier in the day.
"We'd like to get everybody drunk by the time Kenny Chesney gets onstage."
With six hours to go and the temperature in the 80s and humid, chances were good that was going to happen. The odds improved even more when he played his hits "Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off" and "Let's Get Drunk and Fight."
n While Brad Paisley, Sugarland and Rascal Flatts have all signed on for next year, emcee Tom Katt said WE Fest was working on signing Carrie Underwood and the Zac Brown Band. He added that the Eagles and Jimmy Buffett were on his wish list.
n Kyle Weets didn't sing a note, but he got a big round of applause when he proposed to his girlfriend, Amy Amenrud.
On stage between the sets of Shelton and Aldean, Weets got down on one knee to pop the question.
"Everything just faded away," he said when asked if he was nervous about proposing in front of thousands of people. "I didn't see anyone but her."
Backstage a few minutes later, Amenrud said she was still stunned.
"I can't feel my legs," she said.
The couple, from Evansville, Minn., met two years ago at WE Fest, the first time to the event for either.
n If this year's lineup seemed a bit younger than last year, it was. By a bit. The average age of touring performers this year: 34.5, nine years younger than last year's 43.73.
The oldest artist last year was Ronnie Dunn of Brooks & Dunn at 56. The youngest was Taylor Swift, then 19. This year, the old-timer was Eddie Montgomery at 46 and the youngest was Cheyenne Kimball of Gloriana at 21.
n WE Fest organizers said attendance was in line with previous years, estimating attendance was well over 40,000.