Dierks Bentley: Beach balls, toasts and fan faves.
FLORENCE —Day two at Country Thunder is when crowds really packed it in and the artists on both stages did not disappoint.
Headliner Dierks Bentley’s shows are known for being can’t miss and he didn’t disappoint, though he led off with a song that many may not have expected—the title track from “Up on the Ridge,” from his less-popular, though critically-acclaimed bluegrass album he released in 2010.
He saved plenty of fan favorites, including some of his newer work from “Black,” getting the crowd revved up with beach balls and traditional country music “Raise ‘em up” toasts.
The crowd, which swelled to near capacity, was already riled up by strong performances from ACM New Male Vocalist of the Year Jon Pardi and ACM Duo of the Year nominees Maddie and Tae.
Runaway June singer Naomi Cooke did time in Quartzite.
Even the earlier acts during the day, such as indie star Aaron Watson and up-and-coming female trio Runaway June, hit the right notes.
The trio, made up of Californians Hannah Mulholland and Jennifer Wayne and Floridian and lead singer Naomi Cooke.
Cooke, however, has an Arizona connection—she lived in the desert wide spot in the road of Quartzite with her family for about six months when she was 10.
“So there’s where I got my start—playing guitar on the street corner in Quartzite,” she said.
Cooke said their expectations for playing the event for the first time were “far exceeded.”
“Everybody really talks about this one,” she said of Country Thunder.
The trio has a single, “Lipstick” that they ended their two sets with and has the capability to have the same sort of catchy tune like a Kelsea Ballerini hit.
Mulholland said the smiles from their fans are huge while Wayne says the emotions they feel when fans sing their songs back—particularly ones they haven’t even released yet but have only been posted from other shows on YouTube—provide a certain emotional high that drives them.
Cooke isn’t shy when saying she’d like to see the group have a Grammy award within the next decade, she admits it’s “intimidating” to hear the comparisons of their group to one of their idols—the Dixie Chicks.
“Those are some big ole’ shoes to fill,” Cooke said.
The trio said they don’t want to get too far in front of themselves though, clearly enjoying this early sprint to the spotlight.
“Right now, we hope to keep making music that we are proud of and that people want to sing and dance to,” Mulholland said.
Courtesy of Howard Waggner/News of Maricopa
To that end, the group has carved out studio time this summer with the aim of finishing and then releasing a full-length album, complete with many of the songs they’ve already been playing on the road. For what potential fans can expect? Wayne says it’ll be a “western, romantic” sort of sound.