The first ever Watershed Music Festival kicked off Friday with a stacked line up that mixed the old with the new. Saturday’s lineup featured more well-known names and a few very understated acts. This is the first country music festival of it’s kind to establish residency at the Gorge Amphitheater in George, Wash. Check out several reviews from today’s line up.
This 16 year old from Detroit, is currently recording her first EP, but is definitely turning heads and garnering attention. Paulina Jayne hit the Festival Stage at 2pm on Saturday, and although her crowd was sparse, she didn’t let that damper her spunky mood.
Her age and stage experience really shown through in the beginning of her set, as she explained and introduced each song a little too much. Her vocals in songs like “Not the Kinda Girl” and “Mississippi Girl” came across breathy and more-than-Britney Spears nasally. Jayne played her set with two acoustic guitars, which begged the question if she could manage being backed by a full band.
The best song of the set was “Times Like These.” This record garnered the most positive crowd response out of any others played. “Home” was another song that showcased a stark contrast in vocals to the earlier songs she presented. Her vocals here, were much softer as she commanded the audience’s attention.
Overheard in an interview, Jayne said of her “Umbrella” (Rihanna) cover, that she believes any song can be a country song. Her rendition worked and the crowd seemed to enjoy it as well.
Jayne will be starting the 11th grade this fall, but before heading back to the classroom to hit the books, she’ll be opening for Sheryl Crow next week.
Saturday’s performance by Scottish-born, Canadian-bred Johnny Reid, was his second stage set of the weekend, and it may very well have been one of the most excitable, high energy sets of the day. Reid has been coined the most sought after Canadian country artist, and it would be a surprise to see him not garner the type of following in the United States that he has already established up north.
Reid set the stage on fire by opening with his record “Let’s Have A Party.” Fans were immediately up on their feet rocking out to the country-soul artist despite lack of familiarity with his lyrics. Backed by a full band with two lovely background vocalists, the potential for Reid to serve as one of the main acts at a future US festival quickly became undeniable.
His heavy Scottish accent was an endearing factor to his storytelling between songs. It was an easy draw to passerby’s to stop and partake in the show. Reid sang several songs off his last album Fire It Up as well as some of his older hits. “Love Sweet Love” featured an incredible sax solo, and just before playing “Kicking Stones,” Reid shared about life as a father of three and how the record he was about to play is really the perfect way for him to introduce himself to new fans as a father, hard working man, and for them to get a feel for what he can do.
Reid had full command of his stage, utilizing call and response to really engage with his audience. Hands down, this was one of the best sets of the day.
SSG Music’s Melissa Daniels had a chance to catch Johnny Reid for an interview about his last album, time at Watershed and what’s next. Check back next week for that podcast.
Thomas Rhett, the 21 year old son of singer Rhett Akins, took the Main Stage Saturday afternoon and put on a rowdy show that had his audience dancing from start to finish.
With songs like “Honey You’re Killing Me” and his sexy tune dedicated to the ladies called “You Make Me Wanna,” Rhett had a welcomed control over his crowd. His records, despite not having been released yet, were easy to follow and pick up lyrics to sing along to. Thanks to YouTube, his devout fans were able to sing word for word.
Other songs of mention include the Lee Brice track he co-wrote called “Parking Lot Party.” “I’ve played this song in a forest and a field. But we’re actually in a parking lot, so I feel like that’s what were having right now,” Rhett said. He even broke down the beat at the end and had the crowd sing the chorus to Weezer’s “Beverly Hills.”
With drinks in abundance on the main stage floor, “Diet Margarita” was a fan favorite, as was the song Rhett wrote for Jason Aldean‘s new album “1994.”
The biggest treat of the afternoon came when an audience member requested Rhett to sing “Baby’s Got Her Buzz On.” “I don’t remember the last time I played this,” he said. But sure enough he told the story about a boy and a girl sharing a bottle of wine and what went down that night. Absolutely endearing and a shame it’s not going to be on his debut EP that’s due out at the end of August.
Rhett also played a special late night set on the Festival Stage after headliner Miranda Lambert finished off the night. Although he played a set smilier to his afternoon show, Rhett played “Kiss My Country Ass,” which was written by his father, Rhett Akins. He also invited some female audience members to dance on stage during “1994.” It was a sure crowd pleasure.
The Georgia boy inevitably closed both sets with his current top 15 single “Something To Do With My Hands.” As it’s the one song everyone knows, the crowd was in an uproar, and the sets finished on very high notes for both Rhett and the fans. He’s a cheeky crowd pleaser that resonates well with the younger crowds, thus there’s very little doubt that he won’t have a career that may even rival that of his father.
Matthew Shafer, also known as Uncle Kracker took the Rhapsody Acoustic Lounge stage Saturday afternoon. Along side a second acoustic guitar, Kracker sounded identical to his recorded songs, which is a positive for him, but maybe a little too boring for his audience.
Producing the single “My Hometown,” Kracker’s forthcoming album is due out later this year.
With a February release of their latest album, “Songs in the Key of Whiskey,” Seattle based band Guns of Nevada, put on a great set on the Festival Stage early Saturday evening.
They’re known for their Cowpunk, Americana sound, mixed with a little bit of outlaw blues, and that’s exactly what they delivered. Lead by front man Earle Thunders, the guys played a great set that, with the right following, could easily translate to a broader arena.
Unfortunately, it seemed a pattern that all of the Festival Stage acts were deprived of a real crowd. With a stacked line up on the main stage and set times that overlapped one another, it seemed an unfortunate consequence to have these guys deprived of the crowd they could have used to really amp up the energy.
The band played their song “Amelia, Please,” and covered Waylon Jennings “I May Be Used.”
Overall, Guns of Nevada, with their rock and roll edge deserved to have a bigger crowd than they did. It was a set others should be sad to have missed.
It had been six years since her last studio album, but Sara Evans has come back better than she’s ever been with her 2011 album Stronger. Her Saturday evening performance was nothing shy of powerful, energetic, and emotive.
Known as one of the most compelling female vocalists of her generation, Evans opened with her classic “Perfect.” She packed out the Main Stage floor for the first time that day, and from the get-go shared a special connection with her audience that gave a unique glimpse into the emotions that come along with several difficult years of life, love, and a very messy high profile divorce.
Evans performed the Rod Stewart cover off her recent album “My Heart Can’t Tell You No.” The sting of hurt was clear in her eyes, marking the unparalleled quality few artists can translate on to the stage as effortlessly and compelling as Evans can.
Following the Stewart cover came “A Little Bit Stronger,” of which Evans noted has been the single to have the most impact on her career and fans than any others she’s produced.
“Suds in the Bucket,” “Born to Fly,” and “Colemine” were among some of the favorites of the set. Finishing off with “The Only Difference,” Evans delivered the most compelling performances of the festival.
As the classic country throw back, Tracy Lawrence, took the stage, energy and expectations were equally high for this performance. With a long line of classic country tunes dating back to the early 90s, it was an honor to be in the presence of one of country’s greats.
Lawrence played several of his mainstays; “Texas Tornado,” “If The World Had A Front Porch,” “I See It Now,” and “Sawdust on Her Halo.”
Coming off the high of a powerful performance by Sara Evans, it was a little bit of a tough transition for some to get into the slower, more laid back mood that Lawrence brought to the table. His performance seemed to resonate most with the older crowd who was familiar with his rich history.
Other songs of note included “Sticks And Stones” and “Stars Over Texas.” Naturally, the two-steppers and slow dancers were out in full force. Lawrence maintained the middle of the road energy from start to finish throughout his set, and although his energy delivered a bit of a dip after Evans’ performance, it may very well have been the perfect break before the crowd rallied for Miranda Lambert.
To wrap things up, Lawrence played his 2006 hit “Find Out Who Your Friends Are,” the 1996 classic “Time Marches On,” and tied it all up with “Paint Me A Birmingham.”
She really is the “Fastest Girl In Town.” Miranda Lambert takes the cake as the pièce de résistance for the Watershed Festival thus far. And although she’s a huge fan of her husband, Blake Shelton who is set to take the stage as Sunday’s headliner, she said, “Tell my husband I was great. He’s good, but I have boobs so I win.” Classic Lambert right there.
The stage lit up with a montage of famous women to the tune of Beyoncé‘s “Run The World (Girls).” The notion set the tone for the night before Lambert took center stage and belted out “Fastest Girl In Town.” She rocked the crowd with high energy hits like “Kerosene” to get the night started.
Lambert really blew her crowd away as the most visually appealing performance, with an intricate light display, and correlative images.
Lambert slowed things down with a very emotional delivery of “Over You,” a song her husband wrote about the passing of his brother. She had the crowd sing the last verse, and had the look of admiration and appreciation for the support.
She egged the crowd on to get out angst with her when she she performed the hit single of her most recent album Four the Record, “Baggage Claim.” Lambert’s attitude is what makes her the strong, in-your-face powerhouse that she is.
Rocking a shirt that said “Mama Tried,” the Texas native really leaves everything out on the stage. Her aggressive nature translates into an energy that has yet to be matched at the Watershed Festival. Her crowd feels everything.
Lambert played a cover of Lady Gaga‘s single “You & I,” which was originally wrote to be a country song before Gaga sang it herself. Nothing was lost in the translation, and it seemed the entire crowd sang right along with her word for word.
Among other highlights, Lambert talked about her last experience playing at the Gorge Amphitheatre when she opened for Keith Urban. She dreamed of coming back as a headliner and that Saturday night proved to be a dream come true for her.
“Only Prettier,” “Famous In A Small Town,” and “House That Built Me” were among some of the fan favorites. Lambert had full command of the stage and really used its entirety to her advance.
As the stage went black after performing “Gun Powder And Lead,” white spotlights emerged before Lambert took over once again with her first ever number one single “White Liar.” Just before leaving the stage before her encore of the Joan Jett cover “I Love Rock And Roll,” Lambert paused, staring out at the audience. A close up shot on the side stage monitors allowed the entire venue to see the pure pleasure in her eyes as she took it all in.
Miranda Lambert is country music’s reigning Female Vocalist of the Year, as endowed by both the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association. And after her edgy, rock solid delivery on the Watershed Main Stage, there is no arguing with that.
Those artists who are not mentioned above but also played today included:
JON PARDI – This California native had his debut single, “Missin’ You Crazy,” drop earlier in 2012. He’s known to be rowdy and in your face.
THE RYAN LARSEN BAND – The NW band from Washington is known for their high energy during live performances.
ACES UP – Aces Up from Enumclaw, Wash. features that good old working man’s country music.
DUSTY 45’S – Frontman Billie Joe Hules leads this Seattle based rockabilly band.