Fresh off the madness of CMA Fest, we made our way to Alabama to catch Rock The South 2015, a two-day festival that, in the words of its founders, represents “the spirit of the South and people helping people after the 2011 storms” that devastated the area. This year’s event focused on raising funds for the Children’s Hospital of Alabama & No White Flags for Cancer, resulting in the presentation of a $15,000 check that will benefit so many in the local community. Headliners Brantley Gilbert and Alan Jackson ensured the 4th annual festival would be a success, and the massive crowds filling Cullman’s Heritage Park solidified that.
With several seating options and price points, Rock The South made it feasible for everyone to attend. From families with small children to friends having a wild weekend out, the grounds were filled with fun-loving country music fans. Despite the heat, humidity, and momentary raindrops, the energy throughout the event never wavered, as those way in back had just as much fun as the die-hards holding onto their coveted front row spots for hours. One nice feature that is becoming a rarity these days was the front section/VIP area, allowing fans to remain seated while they enjoyed the show, if they chose to. Many fans did take this option, sitting back & taking in the music without feeling the need to stand the entire performance, no doubt a welcome relief after the long days under the sun.
Variety was the name of the game at Rock The South and while country music was the glue that held it all together, influences from rock, pop, soul, and even hip-hop could be heard on stage throughout the weekend. Whether you prefer the term “country rap” or “hick-hop”, Big Smo is your go-to man. With a growing fanbase, the result of his music, as well as his self-titled A&E television series, he garnered a great response from the crowd and set the tone for a night of fun & entertainment.
Eric Paslay is a consistently great performer, always delivering with great vocals and the music he’s come to be known for, whether it’s one of his own tunes or one of the many he’s written that have been hits for other artists. Rock The South was no different, as Paslay and his band gave a fun, high-energy performance, even taking time to cover The Rolling Stones “Satisfaction” which was a lot of fun to watch. Paslay has several festivals & fairs on the books for this summer and you can find a show near you on his website.
Tyler Farr is riding high, recently releasing his sophomore album Suffer In Peace and opening for Jason Aldean on his Burn It Down Tour. The fans at Rock The South eagerly awaited his arrival to the stage and let him know that they were happy to have him once he made his way out. Farr has built quite a following, with songs like “Redneck Crazy” and “A Guy Walks Into a Bar” striking a nerve with their relatable lyrics – though we don’t recommend you creeping outside your ex’s house, waiting on a fight. A standout moment of Farr’s set was when a soldier named Josh Owens in the front row handed over his dog tags to Farr, who jumped off the stage to hug and thank the young man, before returning and draping the dog tags over his mic stand. One amazing aspect of country shows is that the artists are constantly paying respect to those who serve our country and Farr was no different as he addressed the crowd. The resounding cheers made you proud to be surrounded by thousands of people who love their country and their freedom.
There is no doubt that Brantley Gilbert fans (the BG Nation, in case you didn’t know) are some of the most loyal, die-hard, and dedicated fans in country music. Having just seen Gilbert in California a couple weeks ago at Country Summer and now in Alabama, every bit of his song “Country Must Be Country Wide” is true, with his fans being just as devoted from the West Coast to down South. Gilbert took the stage with the same powerful energy he does every time he performs, cranking out his hits with passion, a little toughness, and lots of smiles. Gilbert gives his all for his audiences and you won’t leave one of his shows disappointed. We love seeing this guy perform and are so happy to see one of the good guys succeeding. Gilbert deserves every bit of it!
Entertaining the crowd between sets both days of the festival was Dee Jay Silver, who has created a name for himself with his mixes of country, rock, hip-hop, pop, and everything in between. The unique sounds and entertainment quality have earned him gigs on several tours with Jason Aldean and Brad Paisley, as well as spots at festivals and major music events. Fans were happy to take in the music and danced along the area below Silver’s setup, while others took their turn riding the mechanical bull set up in the middle of the fun.
Day two of Rock The South was just as jam-packed with superstar entertainment and once again, the heat didn’t slow anyone down. California native Jon Pardi gave a fun performance, with tunes like “Up All Night” and “When I’ve Been Drinkin'”, which the crowd happily danced along to. Following Pardi was Corey Smith who began his set without his band, just himself & his guitar, and his voice echoed through the speakers drawing fans in. Into his second song, his band joined him onstage & they entertained the thousands of concert-goers with some great music. Blackberry Smoke took the stage next, providing a Southern rock feel to the festival. The guys were a lot of fun to watch and their sound was unique – we definitely recommend giving them a listen!
Sara Evans has one of the most beautiful voices in country music, and despite what appeared to be some technical difficulties with her in-ear monitors, she performed like a pro, interacting with fans and belting out the many hits she’s had over the years. Evans looked beautiful as well, although she did joke with the crowd that she may have made a poor decision in wearing black pants on such a hot day.
If you don’t know Travis Tritt’s music, we’re going to need you to fix that ASAP. Hit after hit under his belt, Tritt is just a great entertainer and doesn’t disappoint. Whether he was performing iconic ballads like “Tell Me I Was Dreaming” and “Anymore” or good-timing tunes like “T-R-O-U-B-L-E” and “Country Club”, fans were singing along as they reminisced on the music they’ve loved for so long. Tritt was in great spirits and seemed to be having tons of fun onstage, honored and energized by the response from the audience.
The legendary Alan Jackson was billed to close out the 2015 Rock The South festival and did so with a setlist packed full of hits. As he took the stage, the roar from the crowd was booming, and much of the crowd remained on their feet throughout his performance. There’s no doubt about it, Jackson has still got it and fans still love him as much now as ever. Although the festival was drawing to a close, the crowd savored every minute and every note, dancing in the aisles and hoping it would never end. Rock The South was an incredibly well put together festival, tons of fun, and they definitely brought the entertainment. If you weren’t able to attend this year, we suggest you start considering the 2016 festival right about now!