KSCS 96.3 FM's Country Fest
With Lee Brice, Tyler Farr, Dan + Shay, Canaan Smith and Jamie Lynn Spears
Verizon Theatre, Grand Prairie
Saturday, December 12, 2015
What could reasonably be called the five most random country music acts came together Saturday night at Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie for 96.3 FM KSCS's Country Fest. It was the first time that Dallas' "New Country" radio station had held the festival, so some bugs were to be expected. But the show was far from sold out, they played the same three songs between each set, and freakin' Lee Brice was the headliner.
At the opposite end of the night, Jamie Lynn Spears was the freakin' opener. Everyone’s favorite teen-TV-star-turned-teen-mom, Spears is trying to make a comeback with country music. The only woman performer of the night, Spears did all right for herself. It’s impossible not to compare her to her older sister (Britney, if you didn’t know) in the way she walks, talks and uses her hands while singing. Even her deep singing voice brought up some serious nostalgia. Spears sang her first single, "How Could I Want More," as well as some new songs she’s working on.
However, Spears gave everyone familiar feelings during “Miss Mississippi.” She introduced the song by pointing out her famous-ish father in the audience and then apologizing to him for the song because she's really a Louisiana gal. Then about halfway through the song, she transitioned into the chorus of her older sister’s “Oops I Did It Again.” It was an exciting 15 seconds for everyone in the room before she effortlessly went back into the song about falling in love with a Mississippi boy.
Maybe the most surprising part of Spears' set came when she revealed she was a co-writer on Jana Kramer’s “I Got the Boy,” a song she sang for the crowd. The downfall, however, had to be the sound. I don’t know the Spears family dynamic, but ol' Britney could stand to spare Jamie Lynn a few bucks to hire a sound guy who knows it should be less acoustic guitar and more vocals.
Then came Canaan Smith and, with just one set change and a swap of artists, the entire atmosphere of the venue changed. While Spears sang behind a mic stand about boys and love, Smith went full force. There were smoke machines and drum solos and electric guitars and a waving American flag. If you hate country music, then Smith is probably everything you hate about the genre. Think Sam Hunt meets Eric Church. He occasionally did that singing-quickly-turned-talking thing Hunt is known for and his voice was raspy like Church's. He did enough to get the crowd excited for the act following him, which was probably about as much as you could hope for.
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That next act was none other than Dan + Shay, who without a doubt delivered the best performance of the night. The country male duo is best known for their hits “19 You and Me” and “Show You Off.” Their stamina was impressive as they ran up and down the stage, performing to every audience member in the venue, all without missing a note. There was no chit chat between songs or excessive guitar or drum solos — so, basically, it was yet another 180.
Dan + Shay blur the line of what's country and what's not and that could be why the few teen girls at the show were eating it right up. Hell, even the more “traditional” country folks seemed to like it. The duo has had a few hits do pretty well on country charts, and yet they still relied heavily on cover songs during the show. They sang “You Give Love a Bad Name,” “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” “Bad Blood,” “I’ll Make Love to You,” “Dynamite” and “Moves Like Jagger.” The crowd dutifully danced along like they were at a rave.
If Dan + Shay used cheap tricks like cover songs and running around to hold the audience’s attention, at least it worked. By the time Tyler Farr made his way to the stage, the crowd seemed tired and some even left, proving they were only there for the duo. It could just be Farr’s “I don’t give a shit” persona, but he seemed uninterested and a little bit off. Maybe he was drunk, but his dialogue between songs rambled and didn’t make much sense. He also leaned on the audience quite a bit to finish his songs. However, about halfway through his set, Farr jumped off stage and climbed his way into the reserved seats. By the looks of everyone around him and the security guards’ faces, it seemed unplanned, but it was enough to wake up the audience — not to mention Farr himself. He closed his set with his biggest hit, “Redneck Crazy.”
This led to possibly the most random headliner choice in history, Lee Brice, who did exactly what he was supposed to do. He entertained the crowd with his biggest hits, like “Drinking Class and “A Woman Like You,” plus a cover of "Help Me Make It Through the Night" by Kris Kristofferson. The few who stayed for the duration of the show were just drunk and happy enough to not care that a B-list music act was headlining the concert.