If you build it, they will come.
Buckeye Country Superfest, which took place at Ohio Stadium over the weekend, was two years in the making and the first concert announced to take place in the ‘Shoe in twelve years.
The stage took three days to build. The next two days will be spent tearing it down.
But the weekend in-between was full of 90,000 concert-goers, wearing sundresses and shirts sporting kitschy phrases like “Country Junkie” and “This is my Hangover Shirt.” There were cowboy hats and “John Beer” hats. Most of all, there were cowboy boots in every style and color. Footwear typically reserved for a Thursday at Nyoh’s was in full force for the festival.
The lineup included big name country acts such as Rascal Flatts, Blake Shelton, Keith Urban and Kenny Chesney. Chesney was the only leading act who came out wearing a cowboy hat. The majority did not wear cowboy boots. The majority did however wear personalized Ohio State football jerseys, paying homage to the Buckeye part of the fest.
The fest did not take place in a grand open field in the middle of nowhere. There weren’t any tents or bonfires. There were minivans and cases of beer from GoCo in the ‘Shoe parking lot. The 90,000 couldn’t roam as they pleased, instead confined to their seats on deck A, B or C.
Acts like Parmalee and Tyler Farr wore a lot of black clothing and their music had a driving force sounding more like rock ‘n’ roll than Conway Twitty. Cassadee Pope — winner and Blake Shelton’s mentee on season three of “The Voice” — sounded like she could still be fronting her pop-punk band Hey Monday.
The apparel and atmosphere didn’t scream country. But it was country to the bone.
Country is being sweet to the ones you love. Blake Shelton is the ultimate southern gentleman. Shelton took the stage after blasting his wife Miranda Lambert’s hit “Somethin’ Bad.” He then crooned about pleasing his woman by “Doin’ What She Likes.”
Country is having a good time with friends. Cole Swindell is more “frat country” than he is “down home country.” His songs, particularly “Brought to You By Beer,” capture every party I’ve been to at OSU better than they do summers I’ve spent down south. He performs with a coy smile and exuberant energy that makes you forget the predictability of his lyrics because he’s working the happy crowd so well.
Country is talent. Keith Urban showcased his skill in playing guitar through extended instrumentals in his songs, eventually laying down on the stage floor to play like a rock star — which he is.
Country is vacation. Kenny Chesney’s set gave off a distinct Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville” vibe with videos of coastal islands and a proclamation of “No Shoes Nation.” When performing his hit, “American Kids,” a video played of teenagers in a Ken Kesey-esque bus traveling out west.
Country is pride in where you came from. Rascal Flatts welcomed Urban Meyer, his wife and the national championship trophy to the stage during their performance. Pride beamed from lead singer and Columbus native Gary LeVox as he held the trophy. That same pride was evident when he looked out to the hometown crowd when performing.
Hank Williams Jr. was correct when he sang, “country folks can survive.” Buckeye Country Superfest was going to happen next year — June 18 and 19, 2016 — regardless of how it went this year. But this weekend showed it will indeed thrive.