Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Event: Rapids Jam 2011 (Day 2)
Date: June 17, 2011

Location: Roanoke Rapids, NC
Artists: James Wesley, Craig Morgan, Darius Rucker and Sugarland (plus other new artists on side stages)

If you missed Rapids Jam, the inaugural 3 day country music "Woodstock" held in Roanoke Rapids, NC on June 16-18, you missed an INCREDIBLE 3 days of music from such top names as Willie Nelson, Randy Houser, Jamey Johnson, Lady Antebellum, Darius Rucker, Sugarland and more. Unfortunately I had to miss the first and last days due to prior commitments with work and personal issues, however I drove the distance to be front and center on day two which featured Drew Davis Band, Karla Davis, McKenzie's Mill, James Wesley, Darius Rucker, Craig Morgan, John Berry and Sugarland.

Ingrid, my unofficial yet official "assistant, camera person, cohort and partner in crime" and I hopped in the car and drove from Raleigh to Roanoke Rapids with one thing on our mind, a full day of good country music. Well, I had something else on my mind too, finally meeting my friend, James Wesley ("Real", "Didn't I"), whom I'd been tweeting with since May 2010. We'd been planning this one for quite awhile and the day was finally here, and yes, I was downright giddy and I don't do giddy. We got to the grounds and let me tell you, this was done up right. There was a carnival setting with rides, games and a huge Ferris wheel on one side of the field, vendor tents, merchandise tents, food tents, side stages and the huge main stage set up on the other side. From the sheer size of the stage, you knew it was gonna be a good night even in heat topping 95 degrees with 90% humidity. Man, it was hotter than the bottom of Ghandi's flip flop out there! We pulled into media parking which was nice since we didn't have to walk 5 miles to the entrance and we had a nice clean portajohn to use! We met up with Leigh Parr and Amanda French from EB Media and let me tell you, those girls are the nicest, classiest publicists I've ever had the pleasure of dealing with. EB Media has helped me out so much with being able to get to these shows so I can review them for those of you unable to make the show itself but who want to know what happened and how the artists performances were so first off, THANK YOU to Amanda, Leigh and Ebie for all they do to help me bring my view to you.

Amanda came out to get us and walked us past all the massive amounts of equipment, big rigs and extravagant buses to meet up with James in his trailer. When we got to the trailer, I was turned around asking Amanda a question and I heard "Jenn!". I turned around and there was the greatest smile in country music, James Wesley, smiling especially for me. I think I got all verklempt and misty finally getting to get a heartfelt hug and time to spend with someone who has become one of my favorite people. James was everything I knew he'd be, down to earth, friendly and warm and just himself. There is no "star" attitude with James, he's very humble and what you see is what you get. That's what everyone loves about him. We sat down and had a nice chat, which you can see on the website if you click on "interviews" on the right side of the page or if you type James Wesley into the search bar. We laughed and just had a good time getting to know each other. I was actually disappointed that he had to go sing even though I couldn't wait to hear that voice. James, Jeremy (his drummer) and Zac (his bass player), walked us out and we talked some more walking towards the buses and rigs. I asked him which bus was his and he pointed to a 15 passenger shuttle and said he couldn't see paying that much money for an extravagant bus when he could spend less money and be able to pay his band more money. That right there is what makes James Wesley so amazing, his outlook on things that matter and he recognizes how blessed he is to be in the position he's in and that it's people like his band that helped get him there, so he makes sure they're taken care of. I was blown away, but not that I didn't expect that from James, it was just so nice to hear. With that great ending to a nice chat with James, he had to get ready for his 4:30pm show. All I can say is Big Gulp will never have the same meaning again ... right James? LOL! How cool is that, I have a private joke with James Wesley!

1:30pm - 2:30pm - Unfortunately we arrived too late to hear Karla Davis perform but she got a raving review from those in attendance. I checked her out online and this Monroe, NC can definitely carry a tune in a bucket and man does she have a set of strong winded pipes. Wow, love her music! Highly recommend checking her out.

3:00pm - 4:00pm: On stage prior to James was the Drew Davis Band. Having performed nationwide as part of the biggest fairs and festivals incuding Country Thunder and Country Stampede, Drew Davisʼ fan-base has grown to vast proportions over the course of his 500 shows. Drew has shared the stage with such big names as Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban, Brooks & Dunn, Dierks Bentley, Luke Bryan, Trace Adkins, and others. Drew Davis was also featured on "Gene Simmons Family Jewels" and quickly signed by Doc McGhee (KISS' manager) and Windswept Records. I was only able to catch about a song and a half by the time I got to the main stage area, but what I heard was outstanding. Drew can rock a stage like nobody's business and keep a crowd on it's feet. One thing I overheard by several attendees following his performance was about the fact that he apparently said something about "hitting your kids". I personally missed it, but apparently the comment rubbed some people the wrong way. Everything else I heard was nothing but praise for his performance.

4:30pm - 5:30pm: Oh yeah boy, it was time for some "real" music, James Wesley. James may be from small town Mound Valley, KS but there is nothing small town about his performance or his voice. I was standing in the photo pit waiting on the show to start when my phone rang. James was calling asking if I knew anyone "trustworthy" to help with his merchandising while he was "meeting and greeting". Wait, did I know anyone trustworthy that would love to help? Uh, hello! ME!!! Pick me! I told him I'd be more than happy to help him with whatever he needed and would meet him at the merchandise tent after his set. Giggity giggity goo, y'all! So, James came out and sang his Mound Valley butt off. He sang all the favorites, "Jackson Hole", "Real", his new single "Didn't I" (which y'all need to be requesting like crazy mad by the way) and he also broke out some old school Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard. Loved it, loved James, and did I mention LOVED IT??? What a voice, the crowd really enjoyed it too. Listening to James Wesley and spending time with him has reconfirmed what I love about country, it's a caring genre and it's artists are like no other, humble, down to earth and genuinely kind people.

6:00pm-7:00pm: Holy majoley, Craig Morgan is way to underrated for what he can deliver as an artist. Wow, he put on one of the best vocal sets I've ever heard. I'd sit behind his international harvester any day of the week. I really was hoping for an interview with Craig but alas it was not to be THIS TIME but y'all know me, it'll happen next time! I have so much respect for Craig, as a former serviceman, he is a huge supporter of our troops and the USO. He runs a charity called Billy's Place and he plays his country his way and apparently it's our way too because we sure like it when he sings! When Craig took the stage, you saw a little bit of yee haw, a little bit of spice, a little bit of country and was it nice! He sang all the hits like "Little Bit of Life", "Love Remembers", "International Harvester" and some others. He also brought 3 women up on stage and broke into "Easy" by the Commodores and made all three of those faces blush when he sat down between them and made each one feel like they were the only one he was singing to. What a nice thing to do! Wish I'd been up there, he would have been the one blushing! LMAO! I can say that Craig Morgan is now a favorite of mine and I admit, I too underestimated his talent. 

7:00pm - 7:30pm: What a nice surprise that John Berry came out as a last minute replacement for the LoCash Cowboys who apparently had to cancel due to, from what I heard, "overbooking". A dear friend of mine, Kenny Head, who plays keyboards for the Georgia Satellites also plays keyboards for John during his Christmas tour so I was hoping Kenny was part of the last minute booking but unfortunately not. It was John, John's guitar and John's wife, Robin. He sang maybe 3 songs, but man did he sing them good. When he ripped out, "Your Love Amazes Me", yes, I think I cried a little. It might have been the salt from the sweat getting in my eyes, but either way I cried.

7:30pm - 8:45pm - DARIUS!!!! As a HUGE fan of Hootie and the Blowfish in their early pre-pop radio days, I was all slaphappy and unhinged waiting for years to see Hootie in person. What I got was far from Hootie, he's definitely Darius now. There's a maturity in his songs, a depth and soul to his voice that wasn't there during the Hootie days. He's definitely found his calling and it was calling "HEY HOOTIE, PLAY SOME COUNTRY!". What a great set, he took that stage and the crowd went nuts. He walked the catwalk and there were hands all raised trying to just touch him as he danced by. Speaking of Darius dancing, would someone tell him not to do the white boy shuffle? LOL! I love the man, love everything about him but I giggle like a kid every time he breaks that move out. He sang "Alright" and his other hits but the one I really liked that I hadn't heard was "Love Can Do That". Guess what Darius, Love can do that and it did because I love that song now! Unfortunately we weren't able to stay for the entire show or the (insert gasp here) Sugarland show, but I can promise you the rest of the night was unforgettable and top shelf entertainment. Come on, it's Sugarland, every thing they touch is top shelf.

All in all the event was well put together, the entertainment was OUTSTANDING, and we had an amazing time despite my face melting off and my new farmer's tan. There are a few recommendations I'd give for next year's show, which I hope they have. The recommendations are as follows:

1.) Make sure there is enough water. Most vendors ran out of water before Sugarland came out and in 90 plus heat, that's not a good thing.

2.) Make sure there is somewhere to get out of the sun, maybe a misting station or just a tent to sit in if you can't stand the heat. It was just too darn hot for alot of people to enjoy.

3.) Porta-Johns - Uh no. There needs to be an actual restroom or at least make sure to have someone making sure these PJ's are cleaned regularly, at least the interior part. I'm not putting my posterior down in a nasty interior.

4.) Tickets for Food Purchases - Who came up with this brainstorm? 8 tickets for $5. Most foods cost between 10-15 tickets, my beef brisket sandwich was 15 tickets! Do the math. Just the sandwich without fries or a drink was almost $10.00! Small water bottles and sodas were 4 tickets and the larger bottles were 6 tickets. Very expensive. Next time I will eat before I get to the festival and save some money to spend on artist merchandise, which was moderately priced this time.

Loved it and again, thank you to EB Media for just being an awesome group to deal with, James Wesley for taking time out to spend with me and the organizers who put this all together. Great job, next year is gonna rock!

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