Country on the River to showcase a wealth of talent
By Caitlin Bittner with Correne Martin
As local residents know, it is once again time to put on their cowboy boots and hats and head out to the Country on the River grounds for countrified fun.
On Wednesday, July 31, the campground gates are expected to open at noon, with the festival gates opening at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 1, for the free night of Country entertainment. The first concert kicks off at 5 p.m. and the evening rounds out with headliner Chris Cagle taking the stage at 9:30 p.m.
Although last year’s Friday concerts began with a traffic jam, this is expected to go more smoothly according to event coordinator Scotty Sheckler. “Last year we ran into problems with the camping registration system, but this year we’ve stream-lined the process; it’s all online.”
Country on the River has added more 4-wheelers, gate wristbanding, more security to monitor the event and a bigger stage. Additionally, the size of the gravel in the walkways has been decreased, more vendors have been added, plus one additional beer tent.
As always, Country on the River plans on drawing a big crowd. “We’re expecting anywhere between 18 and 23 thousand.”
Only a few days remain before the event takes place, but that does not mean the activity is winding down, especially with the summer stormy weather being a major factor. “It will be held rain or shine, but if there’s a serious thunderstorm, that’s when there could be delays or problems,” said Sheckler.
Another huge factor, Sheckler explains, is the attitudes of the performers when they arrive. “You never know how they’re going to be when they get here or if they’re going to get here on time.”
That said, Sheckler is nevertheless excited to see all the acts. “I’m probably most excited about Big and Rich. I’ve seen them before, but they have such a great stage presence. They’re so high energy.”
Taking the Country on the River stage second on Thursday night will be one of country music’s up-and-comers Chris Janson.
Janson has recently become the interest of country fans with his new single “Better I Don’t.” With as much energy as the music he writes, Janson said he is ready to kick Thursday night up a notch.
“Audiences can expect fun and excitement like a rollercoaster. [On stage] I go into a different place; it’s incredible. I’m like an athlete getting pumped up,” said Janson.
Janson has already had a small role in the Neil Young concert film “Heart of Gold,” which garnered an audience of Young himself, Rob Reiner and members of the band Guns N’ Roses. Wowed by the reception, Janson had a confession to make. “If I could share the stage with anyone, it would would be the original Guns N’ Roses; they’re energy is just incredible.”
Although he’s played with names like Lynyrd Skynyrd and Hank Williams Jr., the singer remains modest. “I’m so blessed and extremely humbled with the opportunities I’ve had. My fan base has some serious and hardcore followers. I am most grateful to them,” explained Janson.
Janson plans to thank his fans with the release of his new album. “I just finished the album, so it won’t be out until later this year or early next.”
Janson is the writer of his own music, as well the co-writer on some bigger projects such as Tim McGraw’s “Truck Yeah.”
As for the inspiration, Janson cited his own life. “I write true to heart and to life, taking it day by day; it can be happy or sad. It’s truly all over the board.”
Eli Young Band
With their new single “Drunk Last Night” blowing up the airwaves, the Eli Young Band is coming to Country on the River ready to party.
“It’s gonna be a great time. We’re excited,” said James Young, the band’s lead guitarist and background vocalist. “Our goal is to rock the stage and have fun.”
Young said the band’s fifth album, which is due out this fall or by early 2014, is anticipated to be a more “up-tempo, party record,” yet their smash hit, “Drunk Last Night,” is finding a place on fan playlists right alongside their most familiar tunes, “Crazy Girl,” “Even If It Breaks Your Heart,” and “Say Goodnight,” among others.
“Every once in awhile, we find a jewel of a song and we fall in love with it. Just like ‘Crazy Girl,’ this was one of those songs. We had to record it,” Young said.
The grass roots, garage band sound of the Eli Young Band is gaining attention across the genre of country music. The four-part band includes Young, Mike Eli on vocals and guitar, Jon Jones on bass guitar and Chris Thompson on drums. They’re a simple group of Texas guys who met during their college years, and now 13 years later, their crazy-good story has evolved into a crazy new level of success—without a single lineup change.
Currently on tour, the Eli Young Band is enjoying their summer with the likes of Kenny Chesney and Kacey Musgraves in arenas across the country, as well as Eric Church in stadium concerts.
“This tour has been amazing. To be doing what we love every night with some very talented and excellent people has been just an awesome experience,” Young stated. “To be able to tour the world and see our fans in the crowd singing our songs, there’s no better feeling in the world.”
Lonestar is a name all too familiar to country music fans. “We’ve been around for 20 years,” commented Michael Britt, lead guitarist.
While a few of those years may not have included original lead singer Richie McDonald, Britt said the band is glad to have him back for their newest album “Life as We Know It.” Britt says that fans can expect to hear the song “Amazed,” as well as material from their new album. “
The band is also glad to be out performing together. “It’s what we live for,” said Britt. “There’s no wall between us and the audience. We like to have fun right along with them.”
Sometimes, however, the fun seems to involve other country music stars like Brad Paisley. “We used to prank each other,” said Britt, chuckling at the memory.
“One time, we put live minnows in his water during a performance,” laughed Britt.
The prank sadly was bested by Paisley’s retaliation. “He threw 100 ping pong balls out onto the stage during one of our’s, and had a man in a towel walk across the stage.”
Even though Paisley is not slated to be at Country on the River, fun and energy are two things Britt promises will be brought to the table.