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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 10 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 32
First-ever Watershed Festival was a real foot-stomper
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First-ever Watershed Festival was a real foot-stomper

by Jeremy Behrens - SGN Contributing Writer

WATERSHED FESTIVAL
GORGE AMPHITHEATRE
August 3-5


Being from the Midwest, I grew up surrounded by cornfields, light beer, and hot, shirtless farm boys. So when I moved to Seattle, suffice it to say, I felt like something was missing. However, this past weekend's Watershed Festival at the Gorge made up for whatever it was.

The festival, which one can only hope will be an annual event, was a unique experience for someone who has spent the better part of the last year in the big city. Rolling up to the venue on Saturday afternoon was like driving into a local tractor pull back home: campers and RVs as far as the eye could see, cowboy hats bobbing down the dusty path to the stage, and enough pickup trucks to make a decade's worth of Ford commercials.

The lineup for the weekend was impressive for a festival in its freshman year. Although Dierks Bentley was the standout artist for the Friday show, Saturday and Sunday's lineup was chock full of other impressive talent.

Uncle Kracker (yes, that one - he's a country artist now!) gave a great early Saturday evening show. Ever since he teamed up with Kenny Chesney ('When the Sun Goes Down'), he seems to have gained quite a following among country fans. Throwing out some classics like 'Follow Me,' 'Drift Away,' and 'Sweet Home Alabama,' Uncle Kracker was just the performer to kick the audience into high gear for the rest of the night.

Southern charm personified took the stage with Sara Evans on Saturday evening. In her skimpy fringe suede shorts and a pink tied-off button-up, Evans stirred the mostly male crowd into a frenzy. Slowing it down a bit from Uncle Kracker's more up-tempo set, Evans showed her strength as a vocal powerhouse in the country music industry.

Miranda Lambert was the highlight of Saturday's festivities. Decked out in a sparkly miniskirt and 'Mama Tried!' T-shirt, Lambert filled the Gorge Amphitheatre with her unique Southern rock vocals, a first for energy levels at the Gorge that weekend. While 'Kerosene' and her new hit single, 'Fastest Girl in Town,' were crowd favorites, the surprise of the night came when she threw a country edge on Lady Gaga's own 'You and I.' Lambert's encore consisted of Joan Jett's 'I Love Rock and Roll,' a perfect blend of her country twang and rockstar lifestyle. Her set was a high-octane tribute to her life as a gun-toting, beer-drinking Southern gal, albeit rather commercial.

Sunday got off to a late start with shows not starting until 2:30 p.m., and even then, the first big name of the night, husband and wife duo Thompson Square, didn't take the stage until 6:30.

Although in the past Thompson Square has not disappointed (like their opening for Lady Antebellum in early 2012 at Key Arena), their Sunday set left a lot to be desired. Keifer and Shawna Thompson spent much of the time making fun of their own relationship and calling on the couples in the audience to join them in singing along. For the single ladies in the house that day, it got to be a bit much. Their cover of Johnny and June Cash's 'Jackson' was vocally strong, and it was nice to hear them play two of their bigger hits, 'Glass' and 'Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not.'

The bad-boy country rocker persona took the stage when Brantley Gilbert came on to play. Never having heard him before, I didn't really know what to expect, but his set was a highlight of the festival for this reviewer. A self-proclaimed biker and fighter, girls swooned over his lyrics and the guys in the audience wanted to be just like him. 'Take It Outside,' an ode to bar fights, was the crowd-pleaser of the set, and his performance of his number one single 'You Don't Know Her Like I Do' was a nice change of pace for this bad-ass country boy. You could tell he was loving his performance at the Gorge more than any other artist that weekend.

In the final performance of the festival, Blake Shelton brought country music back to what it is really all about - storytelling through music. Lacking the video screens other performers used, Shelton's performance was a bare-bones set that showed off his talent as a musician. As he is the husband of Miranda Lambert, it was no surprise that she joined him on stage for his song 'Hillbilly Bone.' Their duet was by far the highlight of his set.

With crowd favorites like 'Margaritaville' and 'Over,' Shelton was the most interactive with the audience of all the artists. At one point, mid-sentence, a bra magically landed in Shelton's hand, with laughter ensuing. Whether he was talking about how music impacted his life, or berating a guy in the front row for serenading his girl with a non-love song, Shelton won the audience over with his charm as much as with his music.

Watershed Festival was a true country fan's heaven, and may have even turned some country music bashers on to the scene. With the beautiful setting of the Gorge behind them, the musicians seemed to enjoy the festival as much as the audience. If the first year was any indication of Watersheds to come, get your tickets early because Eastern Washington is about to get a little more Southern.

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First-ever Watershed Festival was a real foot-stomper
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