Tumbleweed 2018 Report: Friday June 15th

Tumbleweed 2018 stood tall in the heat of the Kansas heat and delivered a knockout lineup full of great music in it’s second day.

The heat, into the 90s before noon, wasn’t enough to deter the fan or artists from one badass day at Tumbleweed on Friday. The main area was bustling with activity very early on in the day. There were plenty of folks who remained in the hills at the campground listening to the music from their own camps on Friday night, but that wasn’t a viable option for Friday with both stages filling the air with music.

We arrived early in the morning and one of the first sights I saw while riding the cart into the grounds with Bryan James was Tyler Childers walking around checking the place out. We exchanged quick waves as we drove on by, and Tyler seemed to be thoroughly enjoying himself. A little later on I spied Dale Watson out taking a stroll to see the area, waving at people and having a good time of his own.

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The music got off to a slightly delayed start with Chad Vaughn taking the main stage. It was an especially exciting event for Chad having been voted onto the show as a part of the fan vote. His excitement was readily apparent in his performance on-stage. His energetic aura connected with the fans, and as they kicked off the day as the lone stage running at the time the folks flocked out of the hills to hear his songs.

Erik Dylan kicked off the second stage a little later to a crowd that had already been congregating under the tent awaiting his arrival. Artists and bands playing later in the day began showing up and hanging out, checking out Erik’s set. Erik played a great set, and as Chad Vaughn finished up on the main stage a wave of people washed over to the big tent housing the second stage to hear him in a trend that would continue for the rest of the weekend.

Jamie Lin Wilson took the main stage by herself, just a guitar and a kick drum, and played and sang her heart out. Her songwriting talent was on full display as she laid down her own songs for the crowd. At one point she remarked that she didn’t know she could have brought her own band with her, but you’ll never convince me that it made her set any lesser. I enjoy a songwriter like her giving us her full heart and soul.

Justin Wells had quite the crowd waiting for him under the tent when he took the second stage. Dressed in all black and sweating before he even had his guitar on, the heat never seemed to affect the  pride of Lexington. With his band in tow Just did what Justin does: stand up there and bowl over the audience with his soul and emotion. He played a helping of new songs as he readies for the release of his album later this summer with a mix of favorites from “Dawn in the Distance” and more. There was even a guest appearance by Porter Union who joined Justin on the stage for a short time. As always Justin took it to the limit, and, again, as always, no one left disappointed.

Dale Watson brought Ameripolitan to the main stage, his Lone Stars behind him doling out some of the best music of the weekend. The crowd stood in awe in the heat of the day eating up every note that Dale could feed them. He made sure to take his patented Lone Star break, refreshing with his beverage of choice: A Lone Star beer, of course. He was joined during his set by the extremely talented and always lovely Celine Lee. They performed a couple of her numbers including an intense version of her song “Sayonara Sucka”, and then some duets with Dale. In one of my personal favorite moments of the event I stood on the wing of the stage watching Tyler Childers watch Dale, smiling and enjoying the show. Dale left the stage to a rowdy ovation and a crowd cheering for more.


On the second stage James Carothers played his songs to an enthusiastic crowd. The crowd showed great respect to James and he repaid it by bearing himself to them fully. His set consisted of just he and the guitar and he made the most of that, impressing himself upon the audience with his songs. I didn’t get to stay and hear as much of his set as I wanted, but what I did hear left me wanting more, and left an impression on the crowd at the second stage. Several people remarked before the weekend was over how good, and overall entertaining his set on the second stage was.

There was a slight break in the action, and for the first time in the day the second stage didn’t start after the first. The Rhyolite Sound were up in one of my most anticipated sets of the weekend. And did they not disappoint. The badass Nevada desert honky tonk band brought the soul and the edge to the second stage with their set. They played several of the tracks from their 2017 album “Desert Honky Tonk”. Their set did not disappoint and they absolutely killed it under the big tent at the second stage.

Tyler Childers was up next on the main stage. His set drew the biggest crowd of the day to that point. The sun was beginning to fall, but the music and the atmosphere was picking up. Like a warrior Kentucky’s own stood up in the face of the falling sun and railed off song after song, matching passion with intensity. The crowd showered him with love and respect, and Tyler continued to shower them with songs. At one point between songs Tyler stopped and encouraged everyone to stick around for Blake Berglund’s set on the second stage later in the evening. Childers did what he does best and left the main stage being the highlight of the weekend for many.

Over at the second stage Alex Williams was up, flying the Freak Flag and getting A Little Too Stoned. The energetic rocking set had the tent captivated as a standing crowd pushed towards the stage, and some dancers cut a rug in the grass. Alex has quickly risen to be one of my favorite live shows out there right now, and this was as good as I’ve ever seen him. He sported several tracks from last year’s album “Better Than Myself” as well as a healthy helping of new music including a song called “Where Do I Turn To When Drinkin’ Aint Enough For Me To Do” that I am very excited to hear him put out.

The legendary Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives hit the main stage as the evening set in. The heat didn’t stop them from being dressed to kill, as they usually are. Cousin Kenny Vaughn looked especially badass in his blue-turquoise suit. Marty and the band showed off a true technical mastery of their music, as well as a burning passion for it as well. They were in top form as they played a mix of hits and deeper tracks. Stuart shared the spotlight with drummer Harry Stinson and Chris Scruggs as they all played a little something for the appreciative crowd. Stuart’s set left a real mark on the weekend, and was one of my personal favorites.

Meanwhile over on the second stage Bryan James launched into his own set. The badassery was on full display as he dropped the hammer and lit up the big tent with his own energy. He churned out several of his own songs, and payed homage to some legends, including Waylon Jennings, whose birthday had been celebrated throughout the day. James left the crowd under the tent in awe of his talents.

The second stage was next up again, this time with Kentucky’s Jericho Woods. The energy and intensity never slowed in the late evening hours as the clock rolled towards midnight. The passion for the craft was evident as the band did their part and had people up dancing, and getting closer to the stage to take as much of them in as they could. I got the sense that there were many in the crowd who weren’t totally familiar with the group, but they connected and picked up all kinds of new fans along the way. 

Over at the main stage the crowd had swelled for Cody Johnson. The lights around the stage had dimmed and once Johnson took the stage the intensity was turned up to 11 and the excitement from the crowd matched. Johnson’s energy and stage presence shined under the light show, and the crowd responded in kind. Having never seen Johnson’s live show before I came away impressed with his bravado and command of the crowd. He had the crowd eating from the palm of his hand and hungry for more from start to finish.

Blake Berglund kicked off on the second stage at the stroke of midnight. Joined by Belle Plaine and the Telecaster picking Bryce (Brass) Lewis the Saskatchewan native entertained the crowd with his songs, and his excellent storytelling. The chemistry between he and Bell Plaine is undeniable, and they play off of each other masterfully. Belle’s beautiful voice accompanies Blake’s like whiskey and wine. It’s a wonderful combination and one of my favorite in the world right now. Blake has the ability to command a crowd’s listening by being able to infuse intensity and energy when he needs to, but also how to dial it back when he wants his words to really sink in. A truly wonderful set from some truly wonderful people. 

The main stage came to a close with Shane Smith and the Saints performing a robust set. The light show was particularly well done during their set, matching the songs from the stage well. The audience seemed to pay no mind to Shane’s calm demeanor after Cody Johnson’s high energy set, enjoying it all just as much. The crowd stayed strong, well after the midnight hour in support of Shane and the Saints. It was the kid of excellent set you want to close a main stage at an event like Tumbleweed with and Shane and his group nailed it down, and packed it up as the first day of the main stage drew to a close.

The final set of day 2 belonged to Outlaw Jim and the Whiskey Benders over on the second stage. Many of the fans had packed up and headed for the camp, but many heading back from the main stage stopped by to sample some of the set. There were still quite a few left at the end of the set, and they thoroughly enjoyed it, and rightfully so. It was a rocking set with plenty of edge and fire. Jim was determined to not let the fact that it was pushing towards 2AM when he got started play into his set, and it surely didn’t with the intensity remaining high from start to finish.

Day 2 at Tumbleweed was a hearty success. Some of the best in the business graced the stages and everyone brought their best with them. The party lasted well after the last stage had gone silent in the campgrounds with a song swap hosted by Outlaw Resurgence drawing many who had already played, or were set to play the main or second stage, and a few surprise guests like Billy Don Burns. The event lasted well into the late morning hours, and for many served as the perfect appetizer for badass Saturday that lay ahead for us all!

You can find our entire photo-set from Friday by visiting this album on our Facebook page!