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Country Alive And Well In Irvine!
Written by Laura Smith   
Wednesday, 23 June 2010 00:00

When I arrived at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, I should have known that the hats and boots were mandatory. I think myself and the other media were the only ones not drinking, partying, or sporting cowboy hats. If I wanted to however, there was no shortage of tents to buy hats. Sorry guys, not today. The one thing very noticeable aside from the cowgirls and guys partying, was the crowd size.

Surprisingly, this venue easily sold out for Fish Fest, Weenie Roast, but Country Throwdown – not so much.  I don’t think you can compare this to some other less then sold out shows recently at the venue. After all this is a musical festival, one people have never heard of. However, when Country Throwdown comes around next year – I can guarantee it will be sold out.


The main stage at Country Throwdown started off with the Lost Trailers who spent no time getting the crowd excited with… wait for it… a cover of Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours”. This 10 year old band with a great fan base will split up after the Country Throwdown tour and their other current tour schedule according to the magazine Great American Country.   Sad because it was obvious that this band had a lot of followers in this crowd. When they were singing “Holler Back”, “I’m A Country Man”, and “Longfall” while getting help from the audience who ate up every word.

When the Eli Young Band went on stage, the stadium was slowly starting to get packed. But the promoters decided to have a bit of fun and give everybody a “general admission” rule which let anybody and everybody sit anywhere they wanted till about 6:30 – and they did. All those in the lawn and loge came down to the orchestra – to see the Eli Young Band.

The Eli Young Band started off with the same energy that helped put this band on the Billboard top 40’s chart, 3 times. The energetic set started off with “That’s The Way” and “When It Rains” before continuing with a cover of Tom Petty’s “American Girl”. By now, most people in the stadium were standing up, with beers in one hand and cowboy hats in another just generally having a great time. Mike Eli and the band continued the set with “Guinevere”, “Oklahoma girl” and “Love Song”, singing the entire set with as much soul and passion as they started with.

Jack Ingram’s set was entertaining to say the least. There was a little bit of partying with friends and co-stars of the festival on the stage. And much appreciated crowd interaction – jumping in the orchestra area, while singing with the crowd, and giving away the boots on his feet with his song “Barefoot and Crazy”.

Eric Church came out and gave a stellar performance which included “Smoke A Little Smoke”, a song that got the entire audience and even some of the CSC Security guards excited – excited as in they now had to run around and try to find out where the marijuana smoke was coming from.  His exciting set list continued with songs like “Guys Like Me”, “Love Your Love The Most “ and “Hell on the Heart”.

Little Big Town started off slow before coming out like the rock stars they are. I think they had some distractions as fights were breaking out for who knows what reason during their set, but once security got things settled, the good vibes continued to flow. Mind you, Karen and Kimberly might be all glam, but they were about to jump in the pit to break up the drunk fight themselves! OK back to the concert. Even before they sang “Little White Church”, which got every guy and girl on their feet dancing and singing, they had the crowd’s attention. Their set included “Good As Gone”, “Boondocks” and “A Little More You”, all of which got some help as the audience was playing as backup singers. And a tiny surprise for all the fans in the orchestra – Autographs during the set! 

Jamey Johnson came out with more surprises then I could count. Starting off with Tonya Watts, a country girl with a bit of edgy rock to come out and start singing with Jamey on backup vocals. Then Heidi Newfield came out to sing a song write by Orange County’s own singer of the band Lit, Jeremy Popoff (Whom by the way is working on another album!) . The song, written by Jeremy, for his mother was played with the entire band and Jeremy himself was playing guitar.

After the few surprises Jamey admitted “I don’t really have a plan anymore, we are just  going to hang around and drink.” Little Big Town came on stage to help out, with Jeremy staying for a couple more songs before leaving. Jamey however didn’t need his entourage to help get people excited.  For most of Jamey’s hit song, “In Color”, the audience was singing while myself and Jamey were listening. For once the audience sounded sold out.

The Duo Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry that make up Montgomery Gentry was more then just “Wall Music”. For once, nobody was leaving during the last set of the festival at the Verizon wireless amphitheater. Why would they? Montgomery Gentry is a platinum-certified band with over 15 top 10 hits! They sang “My Town”, “Lucky Man”, “Hell yeah” and of course their other hits like, "Something to Be Proud Of" and “Back When I Knew It All” as part of their hour long set to end off the night of the first annual Country Throwdown.

All in all it was a fun day for country and music fans alike. Next year expect to buy tickets from scalpers if you aren’t fast enough to buy them online as it will sell out when people realize that this is the country festival to be at =).

Stay tuned for another report on the singer/songwriter features from the night.



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