The rain falling as I left work early was definitely a bit of a bummer and I’ll be honest, I knew that even if the rain stopped, it meant that it was sure to be a muggy day at Twin Cities Summer Jam and I was already dreading it but, as I pulled into the parking lot, the rain stopped, the wind shifted, and it was as if the concert Gods were telling me that it was going to be a good weekend.. Not my typical show, I was optimistic regardless as I walked through security, got my pass and made my way to Twin Cities Summer Jam.
32 Below was the first to take the main stage and, although not a huge country fan, I instantly fell in love with their charm. With songs that described upper midwest life all too perfectly, I found myself nodding along to their infectious beats and felt chills going up my spine as their perfect harmonies rang through the sound system. With the crowd still a bit lacking due to it being early in the afternoon on Thursday, I found myself feeling bad for anyone who didn’t make it in time to see this amazing band. Not my thing, sure, but I would absolutely go see this band again.
After a quick jaunt to the smaller stage across the open field, I was able to catch a quick set from Girls Night Out. These gals (and guys in the band) gave a powerful performance of covers that had the small audience gathered in front of the stage dancing and singing along. Although dubbing themselves a tribute band to the “Superstar Women of Country ” is a bold statement, it absolutely fit this band and I was more than impressed.
Tim Montana was the second act to take the main stage. He had a bit more rock grit to him than 32 Below so, obviously, I was in love yet again. Epic drum, guitar and vocal solos were scattered throughout his powerful set and the audience responded well to all of them. I’ve been to many festivals but I feel like people are always so lost in the festival atmosphere that they forget they are here for the music. That’s not the case here. The audience, albeit still growing, seemed to be super attentive to everything going on on the mainstage. My favorite part of Tim Monatana’s set had to be the nod to Eminem as he wrapped in “Lose Yourself” into one of his tracks mid-set. As he ended the track, Tim joked that he “wrote the song in the shower this morning and feels like it might be a hit”. I liked how Tim Montana was able to make a country-outsider like myself feel a bit more at home at this festival.
After Tim Montana, it was a quick jaunt back to the smaller side stage to catch local Johnny O’Neil. I had the absolute honor of reviewing his new album ‘Truth or Dare’ over the shutdown so being able to see tracks from that album live was amazing. Beyond tracks from that album, Johnny and his highly talented band also played some Dareforce which was an absolute treat. I won’t go huge into the history of Dareforce but that’s a band that deserves your attention. Johnny’s set was full of high-energy rock songs and stunning vocals. Sadly, it seemed like the majority of the growing crowd couldn’t find the strength to move from their seats in front of the main stage so Johnny’s set was missed by many but I hope the audience could hear the magic from where they were.
Back to the main stage for Kip Moore. Kip’s name is one that I have heard in passing but knew nothing about so I was excited to see what the hype was all about. Kip’s set was electric without being completely in your face and, although this makes me feel my age, I really loved it. It was a perfect mix of happy-party-drinking-songs and slow-whiskey-drinking-ballads. It didn’t matter what vibe was radiating from the stage as Kip performed, the audience was into every single word and song and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t into it as well. Kip and his band are true entertainers. They weren’t over the top, they weren’t lacking energy, they fit in this perfect spot that commanded your attention while not taking away from whatever experience you were having during his set.
Closing out night one of this three-day festival was the almighty Lynyrd Skynyrd. I don’t think I would have ever said that Lynyrd Skynyrd was on my bucket list but, as soon as they kicked into their thirteen-song set, I realized that I was a fool to not have them on that list. As soon as they took the stage, I was catapulted into a different year, a different era. Sure, the members have changed but the rebel attitude has not and it was reflected not only on the stage but also in the audience. I’ll never claim to be a die-hard member of Skynyrd nation and seemed to be in the minority in that mindset but that didn’t stop me from finding myself completely captivated by this larger than life band. From every screeching guitar solo to every epic vocal part and drum hit, I found myself completely in awe of seeing such a legendary act live. It seemed only fitting that Lynyrd Skynyrd closed their set with “Free Bird”. An epic band ending an amazing day on a legendary track– cheers Twin Cities Summer Jam– can’t wait to see you again on Friday!