by Jerri Starbuck
It was another epic year for iheart Country festival in Austin at UT’s Frank Erwin Center. Six years in a row have built this event into a festival staple. With music legend headliner Tim McGraw, the show drew fans from all ages. Regulars Little Big Town and Florida Georgia Line rounded out the headliners. There were also tons of great rising new artists including Lauren Alaina, Morgan Wallen, and Tenille Townes. The daytime village was another great fun festival free for the public and benefited from the last minute weather improvement- Austin had been experiencing a very wet and rainy April and start to May. The day of the show the storm cleared out and the sun returned.
(photos Diego Donamaria)
The evening show was again hosted by Bobby Bones (yes, Dancing With the Stars!), a top iHeart radio personality who brings the show to life each time he comes. He performed a fun set with his band The Raging Idiots too.
The night kicked off with popular Luke Combs doing a long set including hit “Hurricane” that had girls running in from the concourse singing all the words. Next up was Chris Janson who engaged the crowd often shouting, “OMG Austin, are you ready for this?”. He performed a great set including his popular “Drunk Girl” and a really cool cover of Billy Joel’s Piano Man.
Grammy winners Dan and Shay played a huge set, which of course was topped off by their smash hit “Tequila”. We especially loved the huge sound of their set with 3 backing guitars plus vocals. They played a funny video of a robot explaining how to activate your flashlight on your mobile prior to hit “Speechless” (which they also recently performed at Joe Jonas’ Vegas wedding). We love that they bring out the Nike and athletic wardrobe for their set.
Next up, it was all about girl power -the Guitar Pull- with the threesome Lauren Alaina, Tenille Townes, and Caylee Hammack. It was a fun set, with some of the only female artists at the festival this year with the highlight by far, their cover of Shania Twain’s “Man! I Feel Like a Woman”. We heard there would be show surprises and were hoping for a Twain appearance on this on one.
Bobby Bones and his Raging Idiots had jammed a great set while combining his host duties and giving some lucky fans in the nosebleeds an upgrade to floor seats- a night those fans will never forget. He kicked off the set with new song “The Emoji Love Song: with some super fun videos in the background. He also surprised fans with a visit from special guest Lo Cash who joined him for a song. The set highlights were “Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” and a fun version of “Jesus Knows” and started by saying ‘There are lots of shady people that think noone’s watching-but Jesus knows”. We love their retro letterman sweaters and high energy they bring their performances.
Old Dominion, who we were fortunate to catch at last year’s CMA festival in Nashville brought a spark to the evening with their epic beards and lead singer Matthew Ramsey carrot tattoo. They started with a cool video with mountains and beaches and nature and singing hit Life is Short “Make it Sweet” then going into crowd fave “Hotel Key” and a new song “One Man Band” with slower, mellow vibe.
Country faves and multi-Grammy winners Little Big Town launched their set with Pontoon, then mega hit “Better Man” with crowd singing “I just wish you were a better man”. Then a new song and hit “Girl Crush” then a really cool red, moody lighting for intro to “I Feel no Shame”. They played a long set of hits and we love the new single “Daughters” and the message of empowerment. Happy to see women on the stage (it was a light year) and their sparkling outfits and boots that twinkled throughout the venue.
The crowd was partying and revved up by the time Florida Georgia Line hit the stage with their big hits. Clad in head to toe denim and lots of tattoos, they jumped into “Colorado” and “Cruise” but also new song that seemed to catch on fast, “Y’all Boys”. They played more hits including “Meant to Be”- hoping there would be a surprise appearance by Bebe Rexha- and “Simple” and bringing Morgan Wallen on stage for a song. Really cool background videos played constantly throughout the set. They closed out their high-energy set with their legendary pyrotechnics and smoke. The duo says the crowd always feeds their energy when performing.
Headliner Tim McGraw closed out the party with an epic set showing off his very tan skin, tight jeans, and killer physique that he attributes to a new diet and exercise regimen. Of course he wore his legendary black cowboy hat. He jumped from one end of the stage to the other, then off to the side to get close with each section of the Erwin center and also jumping into the crowd and hand shakes and selfies throughout. He played hits, “Truck Yeah”, “All I Want” and tons more. The set seemed a tad short, we were hoping for an hour long set but it was closer to 30 minutes. Some of his mega hits were missing but most didn’t seem to mind. He said he hadn’t been back in several years and thanked iHeart Radio for inviting him back. He said ” There are some great, great artists in country music today”. It was his birthday week which included a vacation and a concert at the NFL draft party in Nashville and he ended it in fashion here in Austin.
Daytime performers included Lauren Alaina (returning from last year), Michael Ray, Russell Dickerson, Morgan Wallen, and Lo Cash. The day show is just outside the arena and runs for a few hours just prior to the doors opening for the indoor evening main show. It’s a cool free event with lots of fun food, drink, and giveaways too. Some lucky fans got free tickets for the evening event too!
You can see all our photo galleries from the festival including the red carpet photos here.
Find us on Twitter and Instagram.