I got an email from the Harmony Festival Inc. asking if I wanted to cover the inaugural concert celebrating Santa Rosa’s first “Country Music Barbecue” festival with Dierks Bentley, Luke Bryan, and Thompson Square, Pete Stringfellow, and McKenna Faith. I must admit I’m not a huge country fan but felt it was important to open up to all kinds of music and photography opportunities. I researched the artist and sampled some of their music. I’ve always been a fan of live music and have so much respect for artists who can get up on a stage. Being a writer it really helps me support an artist when they write their own material.
I arrived to the event to see huge lines of people waiting to get inside the gates. Luckily today I not only had a media pass but had a VIP Pass, so I was able to get right in and start taking atmosphere shots of the Fairgrounds. We were greeted by girls in Cowboy Hats and blue jeans. from Country radio station Froggy 92.9 who sponsored the event. The layout was similar to the day before. There were various booths set up with everything from barbecue to souvenirs. I walked the grounds and started heading to the stage. The crowd entering the Sonoma County Fairgrounds was made up of all ages. I saw more people in baseball caps than cowboy hats. There were families, boyfriend- girlfriends,and friends with their blankets and signs.
The show began with a set from Ukiah, California artist McKenna Faith, who recorded “Sugar and Spice,” her debut 10-song CD, in Nashville last October. She had an amazing amount of energy and her deep soulful voice made her seem years beyond her. You can definitely see how some of the modern country stars who influenced her, but still brings a new and refreshing sound to her music. McKenna set was followed by sets by Pete Stringfellow, and Thompson Square. Stringfellow, another California native signed autographs and even signed a pair of Cowboy Boots for fans.Thompson Square arrived just in time after a flight delay and delighted the crowd with some of their favorites. This husband and wife combo obviously had great chemistry together, and also delighted the crowd with covers.
The next act Luke Bryan , is someone I feel could be the next major male country star for years to come. Out of the 7,500 fans in attendance I saw more of his fans than any of the others combined. Luke Bryan’s latest CD ‘Tailgates and Tanlines’ Debuted at Number 1 Country Album charts and number 2 on the Top 200 chart. Number are great but it’s the live show that will tell the longevity of a career. The front of the stage area was full of female Luke fans. One of them went as far as writing a marriage proposal with a sharpie on her arm. Luke hit the stage with full force and had everyone singing along. He was a really good showman and had great stage presence. His set featured songs from his debut CD “I’ll Stay Me” along with songs from ‘Tailgates and Tanlines’.Top selling country singer Dierks Bentley, closed out the festival with another crowd pleasing set.
The event was really fun to attend and to photograph. The only downside was not being able to photograph the meet and greets with the artists. I was was permitted to shoot 2 songs from the front stage area (photography pit ), but having access to that area made it all worth while. Most concert shoots are from the soundboard which is usually in the back of the floor far away from the stage. One thing this event proved, was that country music has a home in the wine country. Next week I’ll be heading off to Los Angeles, where I will be photographing Janet Jackson at the Greek Theatre.