FLORENCE—It was a country music lovers dream Saturday, with longtime and well-respected road warriors Randy Rogers Band setting the table for Frankie Ballard, Joe Nichols and the industry’s potentially hottest act—Thomas Rhett.
Rogers was brutally honest with the crowd—unsurprising as he’s made a career out of not being fuzzy on his feelings about good music.
“Everybody up here is actually playing the music you hear,” Rogers said, taking a crack a festival musicians who rely on pre-recorded vocals or instrumentation.
Nichols, who fired up the crowd with a slew of his past chart-toppers and a taste of some new music from his long-awaited ninth album, said pre-show that his latest work follows that line of playing music that’s true to yourself.
“We had a lot of success with the more progressive country,” Nichols said before the show, highlighting No. 1s “Sunny and 75” and “Yeah,” as key indicators. “But this next album … will be more earthy, more traditional country.”
It harkens back, he said, to his very first full-length album from 15 years ago, Man With A Memory
. And it won’t come from a rehearsed, well-calculated place, as Nichols described his writing process as “like an ADD 2nd grader’s math homework.”
“The thought we all had then was ‘let’s make something great we would want to buy—that we would go into a record store and buy ourselves,’” he said.
But playing Country Thunder—one Nichols described only somewhat tongue-in-cheek as “like a ballgame that allows nudity”—is as much about playing the stuff that made you big as it is delving into new material.
For five-man band, Dorado, their 30-minute set on the main stage got things started with a nice blend of country, southern rock and folk music—getting their modest but enthusiastic early afternoon crowd fired up with their closing number—“Pull Your Hair Back.”
“it’s the song we’ve probably played the longest together as a group,” band member Forest Miller said.
Fellow band member Jimmy James Hunter said the group's sound can be described best as “acid country—it’s a bit out there.”
They didn’t go the route of adding in covers, choosing to play their own music exclusively—showing off their unique approach of using four of the five band members on a rotation of lead vocals.
“No song we’ve written is as good as when we play it together,” vocalist and guitar player Landon Parker said. “We all bring in our different flavors.”
While the group was formed in Nashville, the band members come from disparate parts of the country—North Carolina, California, Nashville and more—which if you map it out, the band members say, looks like the inverted shape of the constellation for which their new name is drawn (they started out as Chasin’ Crazy).
The band is still trying to nail down a release strategy for their music—they already have nine tracks recorded, said member Creigh Riepe—but plans to keep touring and playing all across the country in 2017.