Dierks Bentley and Live Nation brought world-class entertainment to the inaugural Seven Peaks Music Festival over Labor Day weekend.
The Buena Vista event kicked off Friday afternoon following more than 200 crew setting up over the preceeding 10 days with David Lee Murphy noting his band’s historic significance opening the festival to Bentley’s signature full-speed-ahead extravaganza.
Starting at 3:30 Friday afternoon, the music didn’t stop until late Sunday evening, save for the breaks from night ‘til the next afternoon.
Two stages gave patrons multiple choices among country genre from pop to honkytonk, bluegrass, red dirt and rock.
How’d things go from the start? Just prior to starting a media walk-through of the site Thursday afternoon, Bentley walked across the hot dustly lot behind the main stage amid a cacophony of machinery from skid loaders to heavy equipment, trucks and assembly activity talking on his phone, disconnecting just before meeting the press and announced, “Just got off the phone with Keith Urban. He wants to play next year,” Bentley said, a broad grin spreading across his face.
The festival was growing and looking forward to next year even before the first one kicked off.
Bentley repeated the message through several performances starting with a wink and a “hint, hint,” and ending with an invitation during Sunday night’s headline performance to return next year.
Magical media bracelets allowed our small town staff access to cover a major metro-sized production and the vantage to post snippets of the production to The Times’ friends via Facebook Live.
During a quiet moment backstage of his Whiskey Row honkytonk tent following Rapidgrass’ Saturday morning (uh, I mean 3 p.m.,) performance, I had a chance to visit with Bentley, seated on a cooler and handing out beverages to stage crew about how things were going heading into Day 2.
I mentioned the Facebook Live clips and the floating heart emojis amid the googly-eyed heart emojis (he chuckled modestly at the mention but with a broad grin) floating up across my screen, the comments were both positive and appreciative of the glimpses into the festival.
“That’s how BV is,” I told him, trying to describe our town’s special qualities and mentioned Lariat owner Court Johnson’s assessment of his dance floor, which often showcases wealthy retirees dancing right alongside service industry workers busting their butts at three jobs to barely survive here, having fun like they were old friends.
He nodded his head, taking it all in amid the bustle of set change.
I thanked him for his time and headed off toward Rapidgrass’ tent backstage to enjoy their moment after singing a couple Waylon and Willie songs with the festival’s currator. Bentley did a doubletake on stage when guitarist Mark Morris nailed the first couple notes sung by Willie in “On the Road Again.” You can watch for yourself in the clip on The Times’ Facebook page under video.
His demeanor each time we crossed paths over the weekend never really changed – except, perhaps, from transitioning from tired-but-happy Thursday to riding an avalanche-sized wave of adrenaline as his high-energy show kicked into high speed with the sounding of the first note – kicked back, relaxed and smiling. It was a long weekend for him, you can be sure. Just about every performance had Bentley seated just off stage right or stage left watching the show.
You could almost see the months-long stress of staging an event dissipate as his first smile hit the stage Sunday night.
Murphy’s concert welcomed campers still rolling in, the first of four ‘90s stars that ended with Sawyer Brown’s Mark Miller daring the high altitude to slow his “Step By Step” footwork down (watch the old boy bring it at Facebook) and Clint Black laughing at his gasping for breath while leading a mass sing-a-long.
Saturday rocked the afternoon into evening rock, raising expectation time and again. I expected blues-rockin’ country from The Cadillac Three but headbanging country too.
The Brothers Osborne wowed us with vocals and hot licks we’ll remember as they cut a wide swath for years.
Lambert’s Saturday night headline show featured a number of her top hits throughout the stagelit spectacle. Her rapport with the audience was engaging, no song more than the song she sang, just her on the spotlight as the band steped off the stage.
“2015 was a ****** year for me,” Lambert told the audience, “so I resorted to what we do, we write a song about it. We say music can take you up, bring your emotions crashing back down and then lift them up again. We’re gonna do that,” she said, a wry smile across her brightly lit face.
“Tin Man” provided a measurable irrigation of the freshly mown Meadows lawn, leaving nary a dry eye in the audience as she sang recalling the emotional rollercoaster of heartbreak played out in headlines.
Sunday began with a treat, seeing our Rapidgrass friends stave off the threat of rain with the power of music followed by the legendary Del McCoury and more high, lonesome sound.
The evening brought more stomping up and down on that fine line of commercial acceptability with Elle King, whose band had me from the first note and grinning by the end of the first stanza.
The pomp and circumstance of the evening reached its zenith the moment Bentley hit the spotlight – a smile so big it didn’t need magnification on the big screen – and just kept climbing from there.
Early Monday morning, Mount Princeton briefly revealed herself through swirling dark clouds to reveal, for a short time, a dusting of the season’s first snow, a tip of her regal crown toward the Meadows as if to beckon to fans departing the festival “Thanks for the fun. See y’all next year.”