The 24th annual Birthday Bash brought the people of Western Michigan together to enjoy sunshine and country music on a hot sunny weekend.
During the past 24 years, the Grand Rapids iHeartRadio station, B-93 93.7 FM, has said shown their gratitude to their loyal listeners by hosting an annual free two-day Birthday Bash music festival. Each year, the festival has grown in popularity and respect as artists and fans alike all want to be a part of the weekend event.
Due to the overwhelming demand, people stand in lines (sometimes for hours beforehand) to pick up their free tickets at designated drop off points, weeks before the event. Although the admittance ticket is free, you must purchase a parking pass to enter the grounds.
Over the course of the two days, an estimated 80,000 people attended this year’s festival. In order to handle the growing event, this year’s festival was held on the grounds of US 131 Motorsports Park in Martin, Michigan.
19-June-2016 | Day One
Day one started off with longtime B-93 morning host Neal Dionne and his sons. As he talked to the crowd, he discussed the past three years and his struggle with the loss of his youngest son to cancer and how helpful everyone at the station has treated him. He also announced that the following week would be his last week working for the station as he had chosen to enter retirement and go fishing.
Neal thanked the personnel at B-93 and iHeartRadio along with all the fans and listeners who have supported him over the years. As Neal exited the stage, he met and hugged both Matt and Aly (the new B-93 morning team) before they took the stage to start the day’s festivities.
Britta from the B-93 midday show, sang the National Anthem as she stood alongside the United States Marine Corps Color Guard.
LANco opened the show with a fired up enthusiasm by jumping up on small platforms on each side of the stage and spinning around in circles in the center. While entertaining the crowd, they sang their current release “Long Live Tonight.”
Brandy Clark followed next with her guitar at center stage. As a songwriter, she has penned hit songs for other top artists such as Miranda Lambert and The Band Perry. Brandy sang songs from her two albums, 12 Stories and Big Day In A Small Town, which included her latest single, “Girl Next Door.”
The Brothers Osborne took the stage with lead vocalist TJ Osborne speaking into a megaphone while older brother John shredded guitar licks to songs from their debut album, Pawn Shop. Including the current single, “21 Summer,” the brothers played their Grammy-nominated #1 hit, “Stay A Little Longer.”
Many of the younger crowd who were gathering wore American and Confederate flag patterned shirts and hats with “YEE YEE” written across it. That meant it was time for Granger Smith. As Granger took the stage, he spent considerable time at the front of the stage shaking hands with fans much to their delight.
Along with new songs from his new album, Remington, Granger added “Check Yes Or No” and “Ain’t Going Down Til The Sun Comes Up” from his favorite artists, George Strait, and Garth Brooks. He followed with his newest single, “Back Road Song,” with the crowd as his backup singers.
Granger exited the stage only to return to the roar of fans, now as Earl Dibbles Jr., his alter ego. Earl jumped on stage and sent the younger crowd into a frenzy as they sang along word for word to favorites, including his latest, “Merica,” found on the Granger’s Remington album. Waving a big black flag with the words “YEE YEE” on it, he uttered, “crack a cold one and put a dip in,” before ending his performance by slamming two cans of beer and grabbing a handful of tobacco and shoving it into his mouth to the crowds approval.
Chris Janson began wandered along the front of the stage shaking hands with the ladies while fist pumping with the guys. Being full of energy, Chris jumped around to the beat of the music while playing his harmonica and singing.
He sang a few of his hits that he wrote for others, including “I Love This Life” by LoCash and Tim McGraw’s “Truck Yeah.” Chris also performed a few covers by other artists like “Country Boy Can Survive” by Hank Williams Jr. and “Born In The USA” by Bruce Springsteen.
Singing songs from his debut album, Chris included his current single, “Holdin’ Her.”
Besides playing his harmonica, Chris climbed behind the drum set to give a rousing performance with a solo. Chris concluded his time on stage with his debut single, “Buy Me A Boat,” by bringing two young female fans up onstage to help him sing the chorus.
Closing Day 1 was Chris Young performing as part of his I’m Coming Over Tour. The 2006 winner of USA Networks reality talent show, Nashville Star, entertained the crowd with songs by all five of his studio albums. Along with his eight No. 1 hits, Chris also played “Sober Saturday Night,” a new track that is starting to see receive airplay.
Showing off his wide variety of musical taste, Chris rocked it out with a performance of ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man” to a slow ballad by the late great Keith Whitley, “When You Say Nothing At All.” Chris ended his performance and the first day’s activities with a special note to “Save Water, Drink Beer.”
20-June-2016 | Day Two
Day two also opened with the singing of the National Anthem by Britta beside the US Marine Corp color guard and a short Sunday afternoon prayer.
Grand Rapids local boys, Gunnar and The Grizzly Boys, started the stage activities off for another hot day filled with country music. Along with performing their new song, “Forever Sounds Good To Me,” Gunnar pumped up the crowd with the fan favorite, “Standard American.”
Cam colored the stage with a vivid floral sundress as she performed her current, “Mayday,” and breakthrough hit, “Burning House,” from her debut Untamed album.
The 2016 ACM Awards New Female Vocalist Of The Year, Kelsea Ballerini, brightened the stage with her glowing neon pink outfit for her performance of “Peter Pan” and “Dibs.” Receiving love from everyone in the crowd, they all sang along with Kelsea as she sang her No. 1 debut hit song, “Love Me Like You Mean It,” from her debut album, The First Time .
Pumping with adrenaline, Old Dominion performed songs from their current album, Meat and Candy. Starting off their musical careers as songwriters, they played a few of their hits, “A Guy Walks Into A Bar” by Tyler Farr and “Sangria” by Blake Shelton, before ending their set with their hit song “Break Up With Him.”
Throughout the weekend, the buzz around the grounds was all about this next artist returning to the Birthday Bash. The crowds started rushing the stage to be able to get close to their hometown son, Frankie Ballard. Hailing from the neighboring city of Battle Creek and attending college in Kalamazoo at Western Michigan University, Frankie is proud to call Michigan home and be able to attend this festival as he grew up as a fan and an artist. This is the event Frankie calls his own festival.
With the release of his third album, El Rio, just a week prior, you would have never thought with the crowd singing word for word to all the new songs added to Frankie’s set. As he included hits from his two previous albums, the crowd danced in place as they sang along with “Young And Crazy” and “Sunshine And Whiskey,” before getting excited with his latest hit song, “It All Started with a Beer.”
Due to a busy tour schedule, Frankie isn’t allowed to “stop off at the house” this trip, but is glad he was able to be here for Father’s Day and celebrate it with his dad. During the song, “A Helluva Life,” the crowd continued singing as Frankie called his father to the stage and greeted him with a hug before telling him to listen to what 40,000 people sound like singing the to him.
Headlining the second and last night of the Birthday Bash was Cole Swindell. Cole is currently on tour with Florida Georgia Line, The Cadillac Three and Kane Brown, but was proud to be included in the roster of performers for this event as it continues to grow each year.
Including songs from his self-titled debut album which produced four No. 1 singles, Cole sang songs from his new album, You Should Be Here, along with his current single, “Middle Of A Memory.”
With the day being Father’s Day, Cole’s remarkable show hit a climatic sensitive moment in his encore as he performed his hit song, “You Should Be Here,” written in memory of his father who passed away unexpectedly in 2013. Cole finished his set with his 2014 hit song, “Ain’t Worth The Whiskey.”
Now that Birthday Bash has come and gone, all that remains are the memories. However, it is not the end. The talk is already starting for a bigger and better Birthday Bash 25 coming next year.
For the people of west Michigan, be sure to keep your ears open to B-93 for all the information regarding Birthday Bash 25. They guarantee it to be a show you are not going to want to miss.