–By Sean Derrick
Country superstar Luke Bryan brought his successful Farm Tour to Central Illinois with a sold-out show this past Friday and for fans that had to endure a venue change, extremely long lines, and a lot of mud they got to see a great performance in the end from Bryan. And for most that made it all worth it.
The show, part of Bryan’s annual Farm Tour since the tour’s inception in 2009, was originally set for the Ayer’s Family Farm just outside Edinburg, Il. Unfortunately, with the extremely heavy rains the area got over the past week the site proved to be too muddy. Luckily, an alternate site was found in the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield. Some fans were upset over the move from a farm to the city-site of the fairgrounds, but it had to be done.
Bryan’s tour tried to make it work on the original grounds but there was just too much mud for the trucks to get through, let alone for thousands of vehicles and thousands and thousands of fans. It would have been a disaster for the fields (compaction) and dangerous for the fans as well.
So, it was moved to the infield of the fairgrounds main track, which wasn’t the driest, but the parking was and it was dry enough for the trucks to get through to set the stage up.
Tailgating started as usual at 2 pm, and for the thousands who came for that they found their way in pretty easily. However, for the majority of the crowd that didn’t get there then, or couldn’t since it was held on a week day, they found their going a bit rougher.
For several thousand fans it took anywhere from two to two and a half hours just to get into the gates. Parking was spread out into four sections around the fairgrounds and people were told they could walk through and enter into the south and the north entrance. However, when they got there, there were no signs directing how to get to the location, and the south entrance was closed forcing everyone to migrate to one entrance. With no communication or help from any official with the concert (that is, if you could find anyone, or let alone anyone who even seemed to care), or any lighting along the way, thousands of fans became frustrated, and annoyed that such a long line would have zero opportunities for concessions or restrooms.
Along the way I witnessed several people, after a frustratingly futile attempt to get into the only restroom in site (it was closed), who took it upon themselves to relieve themselves out in the public or behind a golf cart. Thousands of fans missed the first two opening acts, and near the end it was reported that the ticket takers weren’t even checking tickets anymore. (They didn’t even check my camera case at all, which is a huge security risk). I witnessed dozens of fans who left out of pure frustration even before the concert even began.
While I get that the venue had to be changed, and for good reason, the execution of getting the fans into the venue was terrible. For a seasoned company like CID Entertainment (who promoted the show) to completely drop the ball on this was incredibly disappointing. Disorganized chaos at its best. The Ayers Family Farm had nothing to do with the lack of preparation, but unfortunately they got some of the complaints.
Once inside the crowd clamored towards the stage, the front part was supposed to be reserved for VIP’s and the rest of the crowd settled in. After the first two acts Jon Pardi hit the stage and performed a solid 45 minute set that included “Head over Boots”, his hit “Dirt on My Boots”, and a nice tribute to veteran rocker Tom Petty, who passed away the previous Sunday, with his version of “American Girl”.
By the time Bryan hit the stage at 9:30 the crowd was amped up. Bryan came out ready to rock with “Move” and “That’s My Kind of Night” before settling down a bit with “Kick the Dust Up”.
His voice was in fine form and his backing band tight as usual as he ripped through other hits like “All My Friends Say”, “Drunk on You”, and of course “Country Girl (Shake It For Me)”.
Symbolism also played a part in the show. While he was playing a light rain fell which was perfect as he tore into “Rain Is a Good Thing”.
Bryan stopped the show at one point to remember the victims of the Route 91 Music Festival in Las Vegas and asked for a moment of silence, which was respected by most fans.
But his show was certainly not focused on the somber. Bryan doled out his usual jocular wit with ease, and at one point called out a girl because she appeared concerned about her appearance. His easy-going ribbing was just one of the several wisecracks he made throughout the night.
In the end the concert was for the “die-hards” as Bryan called them. The fans who braved the venue change, the long lines, the mess, and the mud to see his show.
While I don’t normally call out a promoter at a show, but I felt I had no choice on this one since it nearly overshadowed Luke’s great performance. If they rehire CID Entertainment next year (for the fans sake, let’s hope not) I hope they learned from their mistakes. Based on feedback about how previous experiences were that were run by them, sadly they probably won’t.