Country Thunder was held in Florence, Arizona on April 6-9, 2017.
A fun time was had by all who attended. The weather was warm and sunny. It was a perfect weekend of great country music. More than 25,000 fans were present. A new performance stage, the Dierks Bentley's Whiskey Row, kept nonstop music going all weekend.
There was great country music entertainment from weekend opener Brandon Ray to Jackson Michelson, Terri Clark, LOCASH, and Chris Young. LOCASH made a surprise visit to one of the campsites and did an acoustic set and posed for selfies with the fans.
Dierks Bentley headlined day two of Country Thunder. Dierks is from Phoenix. He paid tribute to the Yarnell hotshot firefighters during his set at Country Thunder.
His encore with "Drunk on a Plane" was particularly noteworthy. During the encore, he made his entrance in an airplane fuselage wearing a pilot's outfit. The plane door opened and Jon Pardi and Maddie & Tae came out, joining the party. Jon Pardi and Maddie & Tae had sets earlier in the day.
Gunnar and the Grizzly Boys started the day on the main stage. The Michigan natives tore up the stage with their Southern rock styling. Runaway June are three female vocalists who brought their beautiful harmonies to Country Thunder. They performed more traditional country music than heard earlier. Their breakthrough single, "Lipstick," was the last song in the set.
Aaron Watson cut his teeth on Merle Haggard and George Jones. As a result Texas country honky-tonk was the order of the day. Songs in his set included, "Raise Your Bottle," "These Old Boots Have Roots," and "That's Why God Loves Cowboys."
Maddie & Tae were one of the few female country acts for the weekend. They were crowd pleasers all the way. They saved their playful, mocking bro-country stereotypes song, "Girl In a Country Song," to the end of their set. Jon Pardi bravely paved the way with his set placed immediately before Dierks. He covered Tom Petty's "American Girl" that got the crowd chanting.
Thomas Rhett, headlined Saturday night. He brought an audience member on stage to help him with Garth Brooks' cover of "Friends in Low Places." He even covered Bruno Mars' "24K Magic." The fans were ecstatic with his set.
The band, Dorado, opened the main stage earlier in the day. This is a new Nashville-based band that writes and arranges their songs. The ages of the band members range from 22-28 years old. Their vocal harmonies are so much like the Eagles that it raises the heads of anyone within listening range. We are sure to hear more from this band.
Ryan Hurd has found success writing hit songs for Dierks Bentley, Lady Antebellum, Tim McGraw, Maren Morris, and Jake Owen. But Ryan is not satisfied with being a hit songwriter and this is the second year performing at Country Thunder. He and his band delivered a lively set. He used some hip-hop to adorn some of the songs in his set.
Texas troubadours, Randy Rogers Band, gave a very pleasing set for his faithful fans. Frankie Ballard and Joe Nichols followed Randy's set. There seemed to be a fine line between country and pop with all of the performers.
The last day of Country Thunder was Blake Sheldon day and the fans were revved up to party with Blake.
LANCO started the day with a big bang. This is another band of singer/songwriters from Nashville. Their greatest asset is front man Brandon Lancaster who works a crowd in an effortless manner. They have landed a recording contract with Sony, so we will be hearing a lot more from them.
High Valley is a Canadian Duo of brothers, Brad and Curtis Rempel. However, Curtis was not present for the set. It seems his wife just had a baby. Brad entertained for both and he kicked it. Brad revealed during the set that he and his brothers grew up as Mennonites in Alberta, Canada.
Country Thunder had a good dose of old school country music with the Oak Ridge Boys. They even brought their old friend "Elvira" to the party. Tyler Farr was a master at working the crowd. He also acknowledged his respect for the military in the crowd. His set included his biggest hits "Redneck Crazy" and "Whiskey in My Water."
Blake Shelton put on a great show at Country Thunder. Blake invited the Oak Ridge Boys to join him during the set to recreate their guest appearance on the song "Doing It to Country Songs." From there they performed "Elvira" again.
Judging by the crowd's response, Blake Shelton must be the king of modern country music these days. That ended Arizona's version of Country Thunder for another year.
The festival included camping, the Electric Thunder stage each day for karaoke, line dancing with Line Dance Chance, silent disco, David Fanning, and HISH who closed out each night with his country-EDM experience! Country Thunder also had an exciting speed ride and slingshot, lots of shopping booths, and some delicious food at the food court.
We will see you all back at Country Thunder April 5-8, 2018. Make sure you check out the Country Thunder website for more details: www.countrythunder.com
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Spotlight On Country Thunder 2017 In Florence, Arizona
Photos by Glenda S. Paradee
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