by Chris De La Rosa
This year iheart Country Music Festival was held at the new Moody Center, a gorgeous, high tech venue on the UT campus. It’s a much more modern and crowd-friendly venue than the previous years’ venue, The Frank Erwin Center. For the most part, the weather held out which was fantastic.
After a jam packed day of events including the Daytime Village and red carpet arrivals, we were fired up to see how the show would go. It did not disappoint. As usual, the stage production and artist lineup were amazing. iHeart never skimps on doing what it takes to put on an epic show that has fans entertained from start to finish. This year’s line up included some fan faves plus newcomers: Parker McCollum, Luke Bryan, Kane Brown, Carly Pearce, Elle King, Sams Hunt, Justin Moore, Jordan Davis, Mitchell Tenpenny, Bailey Zimmerman. Some artists had also performed the Daytime Village.
The night kicked off with superstar Luke Bryan which was a great choice; we love it when they lead with star performers and then it keeps the energy going all night. Bryan started his set with favorite, “I Don’t Want This Night to End”! Switching between acoustic and electric, he continued to sing his hits through the years. He’s always very engaged with the crowd; at one point he grabbed a fan’s phone and took a selfie for them. Occasionally, he flung guitar picks into the crowd and grabbed another to continue playing! Throwing his hat backwards and waving, showing love to the crowd in the upper decks. Singing hits like “Country On” with the crowd singing along! Other hits included “One Margarita” , and Bryan ended his set with crowd fave“Country Girls”.
Singer-songwriter Priscilla Block came out and introduced newcomer Mitchell Tenpenny. He sang his hits including “We Got History,” “Drunk Me”, and “Truth About You”.
Bobby Bones Show radio personalities Amy Brown asked random questions to an audience member. While Lunchbox and Eddie introduced Carly Pearce. Thunder sounded and erupted the sold out Moody Center as she appeared wearing a pink-fringe mini skirt and a sparkly diamond microphone . She kicked off her set with “Diamondback” and continued with hits such as “Never Wanted To Be That Girl” and “I Hope You’re Happy Now.”
Elle King making her iHeart Country festival debut, began her set with hit “X’s and O’s.” A popular song amongst many genres of music including pop and alternative radio! King had played Willie Nelson’s tribute event at LBJ Library the night before and we were fortunate to be there. Check out our event coverage. King followed with favorites such as “America’s Sweetheart,” and “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home)”.
Sharply dressed Kase 101 FM personality Bobby Bones then came out and introduced Bailey Zimmerman for the “We’re All Country” Guitar Pull powered by Ram Trucks with a stripped down acoustic set that was joined on stage with Carly Pearce! Carly then surprised the audience by introducing the Brothers Osborne, country music duo consisting of brothers T.J. Osborne and John Osborne.
This year marks St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and iHeart Country’s 10-year partnership with this event. Amy Brown came back onstage with Ian, a 15-year-old St. Jude patient who received lifesaving treatment from the hospital after being diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2009. She then introduced buzz-worthy Jordan Davis.
Jordan, who won awards at the ACM’s a couple days prior in Frisco, Texas, performed his songs “What My World Spins Around,” “Singles You Up,” “Slow Dance In A Parking Lot,” “Next Thing You Know,” and “Take It From Me”. He also sang ,”Buy Dirt” stating that the song forever changed his life!
Justin Moore performed his set introducing newcomer Priscilla Block to perform ,”You, Me and Whiskey.” Moore also performed hits including, “Why We Drink,” “Til My Last Day,” “Bait a Hook” and “Small Town USA.”
Austin native Parker McCollum then hit the stage with his song, “To Be Loved By You” from his 2021 album Gold Chain Cowboy. He continued his set singing “Stoned,” “Handle On You,” “Pretty Heart” and ended his set with ,”Burn it Down” from his new album that just released the day before!
Country fave Sam Hunt (also at Willie’s tribute) hit the stage singing hits “23,” “Hard To Forget,” “Body Like A Back Road” and “Break Up In A Small Town.” He surprised the crowd as he made his way amongst them while singing one of his most popular songs, “House Party”! He made a circle into the crowd giving high fives and taking selfies with fans while bright colors illuminated the entire center and stage! We loved that he was so interactive with the crowd.
Then local KVET FM 98.1 radio personalities Wayne D, Tay, and Bama introduced the final act! A 2 minute countdown appeared on the screens and fire erupted from behind the stage and country star Kane Brown bounced onto the stage to end the night. He performed “Lose It,” “Like I Love Country Music,” “One Mississippi,” “Heaven,” “Bury Me In Georgia,” and “Good As You.” Confetti fell from the sky as the crowd cheered as the jam-packed festival closed out! But wait…Kane said “there’s one more song”.
The back screen then showed a tropical paradise including a waterfall and out popped his wife Katelyn Brown to accompany him with their single, “Thank God!” Looking into each others eyes while they sang, I could feel their love all the way up in the stands! A couple even slow danced in the isle in front of me It was a beautiful ending to what started out as a rainy muggy day!
Check out all our coverage from the event and other recent country music shows on Austin 101.