Tumbleweed 2018 kicked off Thursday, June 14th in La Cygne, Kansas. The annual country music festival returned for its third year, and boy did it deliver yet again!
A new home differentiated this year‘s festival from its predecessors. The 200+ acre facility provided several upgrades over previous festivals including showers, a pool, various air-conditioned rest halls, commons areas, and hillside camping among many other features. The change of venue helped make the festival seem like more of a communal gathering rather than just a stage where we all congregate to listen to music.
The first views of the main stage area as you descend the hill from the box office were amazing. A giant TW sat in the center of the main field between the two stages. The pool, at the back of the field a little ways up a hill, overlooked it all. The air conditioned main hall also sat at the back of the main field less than 50 yards from the second stage. A sprawling lake at the bottom of the hill separated the main stage area from the campground. A bridge and a damn connected the main stage area to the campground.
Crossing the lake brought you to the campground. Tent camping was on the hillside sloping down towards the lake, while RV camping was on top of the hill. Strands of lights ran between the trees to illuminate the campground at night. Despite the high heat there were still plenty of campers in the hills. The temperature did nothing to hinder the excitement in the air as I walked through the campground Thursday afternoon before the Sol Records pre-party begin.
Evan Bartels ascended the stage early Thursday evening to a small crowd to kick the festivities off. Once the tunes started to flow through the speakers of the second stage the fans began to trickle out of the hills and halls, drawn to the songs coming from the second stage. The trickle quickly turned into a full fledged flood and in no time the tent and surrounding areas were teaming with activity. Fans sat in the grass, some sat in chairs, others stood, all drawn by the music. A rendition of “Cast No Stones” brought along the weekend’s first singalong.
Mickey Lamantia was up next, scheduled for an acoustic set. Fans gathered around for a live Whiskey Wednesday on a Tumbleweed Thursday night. Mickey called up Nick Casey and Bryan James to play some songs for his audience. Austin Lee joined the stage as well, and despite some technical difficulties everyone got a verse in. The stage eventually became Mickey’s. He stood tall and filed song after song away to the still growing crowd.
Josh Morningstar took the stage next, on the eve of the official release of Cody Jinks’ brand new single “Must Be The Whiskey” which was written by Morningstar. Josh played the song for the enthusiastic crowd, and spoke of how thankful he was for Cody recording it. Morningstar continued to do his trademark Morningstar things, singing his songs of all kinds to the receptive crowd. He played his songs and told the stories behind them as the crowd showered their appreciation throughout his set. He walked off the stage to a rousing ovation from the appreciative audience.
Craig Gerdes was up next, kicking off his portion of the evening with The Star Spangled Banner, bringing the crowd to it’s feet, and pumping them up with a whole lot of red, white and blue badass country music. His energy was infectious and the crowd fed off of that with dancers down front, and rowdy cheers and yells from all directions. Craig played so much the sun finally tapped out, dipping below the trees to provide a little heat relief. The lights of the stage seemed to only fuel Craig’s fire and he kept right on rolling as the nighttime set in.
The ever-busy Dallas Moore was next, with Lucky Chucky and the full band in tow. They hit the ground running, cranking out song after song of Dallas’. The crowd continued to grow as more and more late arrivals got settled in the campground and found their way down the hill to the musical oasis under the tent. Dallas, as always, put on a fantastic show singing a healthy mix of his new songs from his excellent Mr. Honky Tonk EP as well as plenty of tracks from his previous records. He and Chuck laid down the picking together, both of them seeming to feed off of each other’s energy as the nighttime barreled toward the midnight hour. Everyone who had played the stage to that point made sure to come over and watch Dallas do his thing before it was done.
Austin Lee came up to play as the clock rolled from Thursday night to Friday, joined by Chad Vaughn, and his young cousin Jonah. The trio laid down song after song from Austin’s recent LP Betting Away My Life, and even played a few new ones as well. The crowd stood in awe of their friends on the stage burning it down. The temperature was still high, but that never seemed to slow the trio down. Into the wee hours of the morning they shared the stage, the energy never breaking. Dustin James Clark and Bryan James eventually joined in the fun on the stage and the 4 had a ball as the tent full of people ate up everything they could serve, A sense of pride hung in the air seeing Austin’s Tumbleweed journey come full circle from being a special guest last year to having his own set this year.
Evan Webb came on to close out the night in the very early hours of the morning. The evening had worn on some in the crowd and the tidal wave of campers from the hill started to slowly recede. Not everyone tapped out until the last note had been played though, and Evan made sure to reward those who stayed with an excellent set.
Thursday night set the theme for the weekend. All of the artists and musicians hung around, signing autographs and taking pictures. They all stopped at some point to watch their peers. They cheered and encouraged the music they heard. It was a genuine experience where everyone wanted to see their friends get up there and blow the world away. There’s no other way to describe the Sol Records Stage Thursday night than as a massive success. An experience that no one involved, from the fans to the performers, will forget anytime soon.
And it was only the start of this incredible weekend!
Check back tomorrow for our review of Friday’s Tumbleweed action!