The legendary WYCD Hoedown moves out of the City of Detroit and continues its tradition of large crowds and top country artists.

WYCD Hoedown settles into new digs this year at DTE Energy Music Theatre in Clarkson, Michigan. The festival, featuring three stages with more than 20 bands, was held on July 31. Headlining the Hoedown this year was country stars, Brad Paisley and Chris Young.

In 33 years, the festival has started many country music careers for artists such as the then unknown Garth Brooks. Luke Bryan and Rascal Flatts have also launched their careers playing the Hoedown.

The Hoedown has changed considerably over the past five years. Beginning in 1983, the then Downtown Hoedown was a three-day live event and also the largest free country music festival in the world. The multi-day festival took place in Hart Plaza along the Detroit River around labor day each year to mark the beginning of the Detroit concert series.

2010 marked the largest crowd with 1.3 million people attending the three-day festival.

In 2011, the festival moved to other downtown Detroit locations and began to charge admission. In 2016, the event became the WYD Hoedown, changed to a single-day format, and moved to the DTE Energy Music Theatre leaving Detroit for its Northern suburb. The 2016 festival entertained a crowd of over 16,000 people.

The event is spread out over the venue grounds, with two additional stages added for alternating shows during the day before the main stage lit up for the nightly performances. The Nashville In The Neighborhood Stage was set up at the front of the west parking lot while a second stage was added inside the Pine Tap, an open air beer garden inside the venue.

The day started off with Michigan’s own Gunnar & The Grizzly Boys at the Nashville In The Neighborhood Stage. The band consists of Gunnar Nyblad (lead vocals and guitar), Shane Grehan (lead guitarist), Chris Newberg (guitarist and keyboards), Rob Mason (bass) and Joe Connolly (drums). With their dedicated fans standing up against the railing in the bright sunlight on the blacktop parking lot, they showed their loyalty by singing along to every number. The boys also played their 2014 signature anthem, “Standard American.”

Inside on the Pine Tap stage, Joey Vee started his set by crossing his heart and singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Joey also introduced his newest song, “Look At What You’ve Done,” during his set.

Olivia Lane played tracks from her self-titled EP released earlier in the week including her current single, “Make My Own Sunshine.” The Baton Rouge singer is quickly expanding her fan base as she is being added to many Artist To Watch lists.

The four-time Hoedown veterans, Annabelle Road proved once again why they are fan favorites as the crowds continued to rush into the Pine Tap garden to sing and dance along to their acoustic performance. The band is Amanda Bailey on lead vocals, Jeremy Temple on lead guitar and vocals, Mike Zahler on bass, and Donovan Tarjeft on drums. Annabelle Road’s set included their original hit, “Why Wait,” from their second album, The 5 Speed EP, to their fan’s delight.

Tucker Beathard entertained the crowd at the Nashville In The Neighborhood stage with his set that included his debut single, “Rock On,” to his upcoming album, Tucker Beathard: The Demos – Vol. 1.

The three part female harmony that makes up Runaway June is often compared to the likes of the Dixie Chicks. Made up of Naomi Cooke on lead vocals and guitar, Hanna Mulholland as singer and mandolin along with Jennifer Wayne on vocals and guitar, Runaway June sang their debut single “Lipstick” to the enthusiastic crowd.

Jordan Rager entertained the crowd with his new single, “Southern Boy,” recorded as a duet with country’s superstar, Jason Aldean.

Closing out the Nashville In The Neighborhood Stage for the day was Drew Baldridge, who sang his “Dance With Ya” single from his full-length album, Dirt On Us.

The last performer on the Pine Tap stage, the Canadian Lindsay Ell, took everyone to school with her powerful guitar licks and vocals as she performed her single, “By The Way.”

Newcomer Chris Lane fired up the crowd as he opened the Hoedown main stage singing his debut single, “Fix,” from his recently released debut album, Girl Problems.

Next on the main stage was Brandy Clark with her first single, “Girl Next Door,” from Big Day In A Small Town, her second album. Before leaving the stage, Brandy performed her award-winning hit, “Stripes,” to an accepting crowd.

Bringing the crowd to their feet, Chris Young opened with his fan favorite, “Underdogs,” from his fifth and current album, I’m Coming Over. Not holding anything back, Chris performed songs from all five of his albums, including his latest No. 1 hit, “Think Of You,” which he sings with duet partner Cassadee Pope. He also played his current single, “Sober Saturday Night.”

Headlining the 2016 WYCD Hoedown was Brad Paisley, who brought his Life Amplified World Tour to the DTE Energy Music Theatre and the sold out Michigan crowd. Brad pumped up the crowd by opening with his hit song, “Crushin’ It,” while the large video screen behind him showing highlights of the Detroit Lions football team.

During his 22-song set, Brad showcased his musical and singing abilities by entertaining the crowd with songs from his Life Amplified album due out later this year, which includes his current hit, “Without A Fight,” that he recorded with pop artist, Demi Lovato.

Brad finished the evening with the crowd’s participation singing his 2005 hit song, “Alcohol.”

With another successful Hoedown in the books, the preparations for the 35th-anniversary Hoedown next year is under way and promises to be bigger. Be sure to stay tuned to Detroit radio station 99.5 WYCD in the spring for details leading up to the WYCD Hoedown 2017.

Brad Paisley
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Chris Young
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Brandy Clark
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Chris Lane
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Lindsay Ell
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Drew Baldridge
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Jordan Rager
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Runaway June
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Tucker Beathard
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Annabelle Road
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Olivia Lane
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Joey Vee
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Gunnar & The Grizzly Boys
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WYCD Hoedown
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DTE Energy Music Theatre
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