For the first time ever, the third-largest city in the U.S. hosted a major festival devoted to country music. Chicago’s Windy City LakeShake, headlined by Dierks Bentley, Florida Georgia Line and Brad Paisley, ran from June 19th to the 21st at FirstMerit Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island. LakeShake is one of three new festivals Live Nation debuted this year spearheaded by Live Nation Country president Brian O’Connell— a native Chicagoan.
Other artists that performed at the inaugural event are Kenny Chesney’s Next Big Star competition winner, Frankie Ballard, Easton Corbin, Clare Dunn, Mickey Guyton, Randy Houser, Maddie and Tae, Ashley Monroe, Kip Moore, Justin Moore, David Lee Murphy, Joe Nichols, The Voice season 3 winner, Cassadee Pope, RaeLynn, Thomas Rhett and Canaan Smith.
The festival, a LiveNation production featured the promoter’s trademark “Next From Nashville” stage, spotlighting up-and-coming country acts. As if that weren’t enough, the event along the lakefront also included carnival-like rides such as a vertigo swing and a giant slide.
For the festival’s first inaugural year, Friday’s line-up included five acts for the main stage and five acts for the Next from Nashville stage. Canaan Smith, Maddie & Tae (who covered Rihanna’s “Umbrella”), Cassadee Pop, Kip Moore and Dierks Bentley alluded to the city’s first country music festival. Bentley played all of his top hits such as “Home,” “Say You Do,” “Drunk on a Plane,” which was interrupted by Stanley Cup champions, the Chicago Blackhawks’ Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp as they each held up the trophy on stage.
“If you’re going to get drunk on a plane, you need a really big cup,” Bentley said as the players made their way on stage with the trophy. “You need a really big cup to get drunk on a plane.”
Saturday’s festivities proved to be a challenge with inclement weather forcing headliner Brad Paisley to reschedule his performance to Sunday. The day still included Mickey Guyton, Clare Dunn, David Lee Murphy, Easton Corbin, and Joe Nichols (Justin Moore was unable to play due to the storm). Nichols performed his singles “Yeah” and “Sunny and 75” and turned Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” into a country song.
Sunday night ended the best possible way—with an extra performance from Brad Paisley joining Florida Georgia Line as headliners. Raelynn, Frankie Ballard, Thomas Rhett, Randy Houser were additional headliners for the main stage with Kelsea Ballerini, David Fanning, Logan Mize, Cam, Courtney Cole and Seth Alley helming the Next from Nashville Stage. It was a good day for Ballerini. She hit No. 1 with her single the same day stating, “I’ll never forget this day because today my first single went to number one.” Florida Georgia Line were extremely energetic and showed off their Blackhawks pride right before bringing out pals Frankie Ballard and Thomas Rhett to sing “Party People.” Brad Paisley ended the night with a dutiful note; during his performance, he reached out his guitar to give it to a pint-size fan.
Overall, the event was executed well (with strong branding) and filled with action between all our favorite country artists’ performances, however, a suggestion for next year would be decrease the amount of time between the artist’s performances. We’ll be looking forward to the announcement of the 2016 dates and line-up.
FirstMerit Bank Pavilion is a huge outdoor amphitheater that has a venue capacity of over 30,000 and located on the unique man-made peninsula of Northerly Island in Chicago. It is located at 1300 S. Lynn White Drive in Chicago. For more information, please visit their website or call (312) 540-2668.
For more information about LakeShake, please visit their website.