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* 2008 Downtown Hoedown Drew a Record Crowd on Saturday and a Smaller Crowd on Rainy Sunday *
PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com
A record crowd was on hand for Saturday at the Downtown Hoedown. The entrance to the festival had to be closed for the second time ever before Trisha Yearwood's performance.
DETROIT -- The Downtown Hoedown was a great time. However, we would have enjoyed it more if we would have been respected by WYCD, WMG Entertainment and the security personnel. On Friday, three members of our Web Team were escorted out of the festival unfairly. We didn't have a media credential. Why couldn't they just come and attend the festival anyway? I think WYCD forgot that the Downtown Hoedown is a FREE, festival that is open to the public. Why were three members of our Web Team singled out from the rest? I witnessed a security lady say on her walkie "anyone with AmericaJR.com is not allowed to be here."
When I asked security why we couldn't be there, they refused to answer. We were not causing any harm or creating a disturbance. We just came to take pictures and conduct interviews with regular people. I was about to get a picture with one of the Hoedown artists, Rissi Palmer, and I was already standing next to her. I gave my camera to her agent so he could take a picture of us. Some security lady put her hand in front of my camera and said "he's not allowed to be here."
I believe WYCD and WMG Entertainment should respect those who are offering positive press coverage of their festivals. All we have ever done is help to try and encourage more people to make it downtown for the premier country music festival in the world. All we have done is posted the schedule and other pertinent information that people need to know ahead of time.
Friday, May 9th: The Downtown Hoedown was held one week early because of the Academy of Country Music Awards show, scheduled for this Sunday. On Friday, attendance was light in the afternoon then it got packed in the evening. Many people were glad to see the stage set-up return to its original configuration. The main stage was located on the upper level of Hart Plaza with the lower stage in the lower bowl area.
Jason Michael Carroll was the first national act to perform. It was great to see him again. Carter's Chord made their first performance ever at the Hoedown. They are a new group composed of sisters Becky, Emily and Joanna. Carter's Chord's latest single in "Different Breed." American Idol finalist Phil Stacey performed for his very first time at the Hoedown also. His debut self-titled debut album was released in April with the hit single "If you Didn't Love Me."
Rissi Palmer was the first to perform on the national stage on Friday. She is one of a select few African-American singers in the country music genre. Next up was the country band Lady Antebellum. Those guys were amazing. Even though they are new, they sound like they've been around for 10 years or more. Hillary Scott is the daughter of country artist Linda Davis, and Charles Kelley is the brother of pop artist Josh Kelley. I was able to get an autograph from the band. I am really looking forward to seeing Lady Antebellum again!
Jewel performed next on the main stage. She has made the transition from a pop/rock artist to a country one. Her first country album is scheduled to be released in June. Jewel sang her hit single "Stronger Woman" and many others at Hart Plaza. It was nice to see her for the very first time.
Hometown boy Josh Gracin returned to the Hoedown as headliner on Friday night. He returned for the third year in a row. Gracin looks as if he lost some weight from the last time I saw him perform. My favorite part of his performance is when he goes through the audience as he sings a song. I could hear his voice but I didn't know where it was coming from. When I turned around, Gracin was right behind me. I quickly got my camera and took some pictures.
Saturday, May 10th: This was the busiest day off the three. Maybe because the weather was nice and most people were off work. Hart Plaza was full in the afternoon and it got so full they had to close the entrance at around 8 p.m. It was the second time the Hoedown had to close its doors. In 2007, the Hoedown also closed its entrance on Saturday night.
The first band I saw was The Drew Davis Band. Those boys came out and they were rockin'. The crowd loved them. They sounded really good. Next up was Lee Brice. It was my second time seeing him -- the first was in 2007 at Arts, Beats and Eats. His debut single was "She Ain't Right." Brice's current single is "Happy Endings." He wrote Garth Brook's #1 single "More than a Memory."
The Road Hammers were the first act to perform on the main stage on Saturday. They are a Canadian country band that made it's second performance at the Hoedown. The crowd went wild when those guys did a cover of "East Bound and Down." This band is amazing. They performed lots of songs including "I Don't Know When to Quit" and "Girl on the Billboard", their latest single.
In an exclusive interview with The Road Hammers, Jason McCoy said: "We just played a rockin' set at the Hoedown in Motown." When asked how the band got its name, McCoy responded: "We basically say anybody who makes a living on the highway or anything to do with the highway, you're a Road Hammer. We hammer the road. We're musicians. It doesn't matter if you're a salesman or a trucker, you can be a Road Hammer." The band has been very successful in Canada and is now focusing on building in their success here in the U.S. "We've got good friends with GAC, Great American Country, which is seen in 53 million homes," said McCoy. "We will be starting our TV series. It was aired in Canada. It will be broadcast down here starting June 12th at 8:30 Eastern time. Basically, it's an 8-part series. A documentary showing the band coming to America and starting out all over again. We're excited about that."
New country artist Fisher Stevenson performed on the acoustic stage. He just signed a record deal with Big Machine Records. Stevenson's first single is "No Tomorrow, Here Tonight." It was released to radio stations on May 12. Then, Nashville newcomer Emily West was the first artist to perform on the main stage on Saturday. She performed her debut single "Rocks in Your Shoes" and many other tunes.
In an exclusive interview with Emily West, the country singer told us her idol was Patsy Cline. "I started singing because of Patsy Line. There was something about her voice that I connected with." West tells us the story behind her new single "Rocks in Your Shoes." She said: "I got that title from my great grandfather. Apparently, he used to put rocks in his shoes before he went to go plow the fields. When asked about performing for the first time at the Downtown Hoedown, West responded: "It's gonna be such an amazing show. The people performing are heroes that I've looked up to since I discovered Patsy Cline. It's going to be a lot of fun. I'm just so honored to be a part of this cool show that goes on every year. I've seen pictures of it. I know it's freakin' huge."
Chris Cagle performed for his third time at the Downtown Hoedown. His last time there was in 2005. Cagle performed all of his hit songs including his latest "What Kinda Gone." The crowd really loved that one and was singing along with it. Little Big Town entertained the crowd next on the main stage. It was also their third time at the Hoedown -- their last time was in 2007. It seems like they have so many hit songs now. Karen Fairchild showed her support for the Tigers by wearing their jersey and Kimberly Roads showed her spirit for the Red Wings by wearing their jersey. It must have worked because the Wings won 2-1 that night. Little Big Town's latest album is A Place to Land and it was released late last year.
Trisha Yearwood headlined the Hoedown on Saturday night. It was her first time performing at the country music festival. It may have been her largest audience ever, too. The entrance was closed due to an enormous amount of people. You couldn't even move to grab something to eat or use the restroom. If you did, your seat was going to be taken. It was that full. Yearwood's latest single is "This Is Me You're Talking To" and it was released in January.
Sunday, May 11th: All I can say is rainy. It was cold and wet the entire day. Attendance was down because of it. However, a couple hundred diehard fans came to the Hoedown anyway. Sarah Johns was the first national artist to perform. She came on a little late and it was raining for her entire set. Johns performed her hit song "The One in the Middle" and many other tunes.
Next up was new country group Whiskey Falls. These guys are amazing. They have a southern rock twang in them. Those boys know how to entertain the crowd. Whiskey Falls performed their hit "Last Train Runnin'" and many other great songs. Two of the group members are from California while the other two are from Alabama so they call their hometown Calabama.
Jypsi was the next act to perform on the lower stage. It was their first time at the Downtown Hoedown. Three of the four members of the band came out wearing shorts. Maybe they forgot to check the weather forecast because it was cold and rainy. They looked great and the crowd loved them. Jypsi performed their hit "I Don't Love You Like That" and lots of other songs. The band is returning to the area with a performance at the 98 FM KCQ Free Music Fest, being held on June 21 in Saginaw.
Ashton Shepherd was the first national artist to perform on the main stage. She is one of the youngest performers at the Hoedown, at 21 years old. Shepherd performed her hit "Takin' Off This Pain" and many other tunes. Her debut album Sounds So Good was released on March 4, 2008. Next, I saw Nashville newcomer Artie Dean Harris perform on the acoustic stage. He is actually from Kentucky but he's in search of a Nashville label to sign him.
In an exclusive interview with Artie Dean Harris, the country artist said he knew he wanted to be a singer at 16 years old. Harris has opened up for many stars such as Darryl Worley, Gary Allan, Big & Rich and Phil Vassar. When asked which opening performance meant the most to him, Harris responded: "Gary allan and I have done several shows together. My very first paid gig I opened up for Gary Allan. That was kind of exciting also." Harris wrote a song that he performs regularly called "What's In Her Genes?"
He explains, "Well, that happens to be about a girlfriend of mine from a long time ago. She had a really nice mother that was attractive. Her dad actually was a football star in high school. I was actually in Washington D.C. when it happened on the road with Footloose. We were previewing there at the Kennedy Center. At that time, hanging out with my cast members and what not, you just get really creative when you're surrounded by so many other artists and talented people. I started writing songs. I saw a commercial with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and it was a jean commercial. He talked about how race car driving was in his genes. I thought that was a really catchy title."
Lonestar was the next band to perform on the main stage. It was the first time their new lead singer, Cody Collins, has performed in front of a Detroit audience. The crowd really enjoyed Lonestar and must really approve of their choice for new lead singer. The band performed all of its hits and some new tunes as well. Billy Currington was the next act to entertain the crowd. It was his first time at the Downtown Hoedown. The audience went wild when her performed "Good Directions."
Gretchen Wilson returned to the Downtown Hoedown as a headliner. In 2004, she performed her very first concert at the Hoedown and was one of the opening acts. Nobody knew who she was. In four short years, she went from a nobody to a huge star. There was two screens behind her that provided graphics as she sang. During a part of her set, Wilson turned toward the flag and sang the national anthem. Wilson performed all of her hit singles including "Redneck Woman", "Here for the Party", "Homewrecker", "All Jacked Up", "California Girls" and many more. Everyone loved her and she closed the Hoedown in style.
In an exclusive AmericaJR.com, we asked "what artist were you looking forward to seeing at the Downtown Hoedown." The choices were Josh Gracin, Trisha Yearwood, Gretchen Wilson and Jewel. Gretchen Wilson got the most votes with 96 or 41 percent of the total. Josh Gracin took second place with 53 votes or 23 percent. Trisha Yearwood received 52 votes or 22 percent and Jewel got the least votes with 34 or 14 percent.
We hope you'll join us for the 28th Annual Downtown Hoedown in 2009. Hopefully, we'll be respected by WYCD and WMG Entertainment then. We should be respected not only as a member of the Detroit community but also as a member of the Detroit media. We'll talk to you next year...
Related Story: Exclusive: Security Problems at the 2008 Downtown Hoedown
PHOTO BY JENNIFER VUONG / ©AMERICAJR.com
Marie, Brittany and George of Warren, Mich. had a great time at the Downtown Hoedown.
PHOTO BY GLORIA RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com
Jason Michael Carroll performs at the Downtown Hoedown on Friday.
AmericaJR.com's Jason Rzucidlo meets the guys from The Road Hammers.
PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO ©AMERICAJR.com
Gretchen Wilson closed out the Downtown Hoedown on Sunday night.
Return to the Downtown Hoedown section.
Detroit's Downtown Hoedown is known as the World's Largest Free Country Concert. The event is held each year at Hart Plaza along Detroit's Beautiful Riverfront bordering Windsor, Ontario. It is a three-day event featuring music, dancing and fun for all ages. The music portion is filled with local bands, newcomers and established artists.
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