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First, the good news: The rain held off. Mostly. A round of sun showers hit Harris Park in between sets by Brett Young and Kelsea Ballerini at roughly 7:30 Wednesday evening.
And the better news: Everyone attending Gone Country, the Rock the Park evening dedicated to showcasing country artists, appeared to have a good time.
Canada’s own Jason Benoit was the first opener (top act Lady Antebellum closed out the evening), taking to the basic-black stage at 5:42 p.m. He included chunks of past hits to fill out a couple of medleys, borrowing snippets of tunes from Dust on the Bottle and Slowhand.
The straw used by organizers to hold down muddy parts of the Harris Park turf only reinforced the city-gone-country vibe of the evening.
About half an hour after he showed up, Benoit even sang a segment of the Kenny Loggins tune Footloose, demonstrating that today’s country artists weren’t all necessarily weaned on Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson and Hank Williams.
Three jumbo video screens were stationed adjacent to the stage for those ticket-buyers who didn’t want to mingle directly in front of the stage, and with the air soupy and muggy, no one could blame them.
The unofficial uniform for the evening, for women at least, was a pair of Daisy Dukes, a black tank top and cowboy boots. Many of the female attendees had a plaid shirt wrapped around their waist — black- and-red checks, the classic Canadian dinner jacket.
Meanwhile, the typical dude was decked out in cargo shorts with maybe a Harley Davidson or Jason Aldean T-shirt.
The next opener, Brett Young, landed on stage with his hit Close Enough at 6:50.
By that point, Rockers of the Park had filled up on pogo dogs ($4), salty giant pretzels ($5) and cans of cold beer ($7).
Stacking one tallboy on top of another became an Olympic-like sport unto itself.
Young offered the crowd some advice before he launched into Like I Loved You, advising the gathered horde of fans not to ask one question during a romantic breakup — “Can we still be friends?”
One of those in attendance was Angel Murray, 15, whose mother had bought her tickets to the show as an early Sweet 16 gift.
“My birthday is actually next week,” Angel said. “I was born and raised around country.
“A lot of their songs are deep and personal, so there’s a deep connection,” she added.
And even though she listens to all kinds of music, her mother Babs thought Gone Country would be a good family outing for her and Angel.
“I’ve raised all my kids to respect all genres of music,” Babs explained.
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