As Chicago was awash with cowboy boots and hats, checked shirts and daisy dukes, it can only mean one thing – the Windy City LakeShake Festival was back!
17/19-June-2016: After the success of last year’s event, the three-day, two-stage festival made a welcome return to the FirstMerit Bank Pavillion at Northerly Island, Chicago. This year’s festival put forth an impressive line-up, attracting some of the biggest names in country music to perform to the 50,000 strong crowd. Lady Antebellum, Tim McGraw, and Jason Aldean were the headliners, but with sets also from Martina McBride, Brooks & Dunn, and Kacey Musgraves, this truly was a country fan’s paradise.
Friday afternoon saw Jana Kramer open the weekend on the main stage. She had an impressive crowd ready for her considering the mid-Friday afternoon set time. In no time at all, Jana had the crowd singing along with her, delighting them by jumping down from the stage to take selfies with the adoring audience.
Next up, Granger Smith and his alter-ego, Earl Dibbles Jr, kept the boots a-stomping as he burst onto the stage for his rockier set.
By the time Kacey Musgraves took to the stage, the Pavilion was starting to look full. The cactus girl’s beautiful voice and quirky, progressive country lyrics had the crowd captivated.
Dee Jay Silver had been taunting the young females in the crowd all afternoon with comments of Sam Hunt working out backstage. By the time Hunt took the stage, the entire venue erupted with screams for the new kid on the country block. There was a sea of “Sam Hunting” and “Sam Hunk” t-shirts, donned by excited fans when it was finally time for him to play. Feeding off the crowd’s enthusiasm, Hunt put on an energetic show, clearly enjoying every minute of it judging by the huge smile on his face for the full hour set.
Friday’s headliners were Lady Antebellum who rounded out the first day of festivities. It was everything you would expect from the threesome with solid country harmonies and a healthy dose of guitar. An electric finish to the day.
Saturday was a jam-packed day with Haley Georgia starting proceedings off for day two, bringing a youthful pop influence to the festival.
After a brief 30-minute set, it was time for Charlie Worsham who brought his own blend of country and southern rock to the stage. This talented singer-songwriter pumped the audience pumped up for the day ahead of them and it was evident to see that the brief technical difficulties with the sound at the beginning of his set did not throw him off his stride. His cover of Hall & Oates’ “You Make My Dreams Come True” had him hitting some impressive notes.
Next up was Jon Pardi with his traditional country set. Pardi’s second album, California Sunrise, was only just released the day before his performance, so this was perfect timing for him.
With the Pavilion getting ever fuller, it was time for country superstar, Martina McBride, to take to the stage. With one of the most powerful and beautiful voices in country, it was hard to believe this “Queen of Country” was not the headliner. As you would expect from Martina, her heartfelt lyrics rang through all of her songs, including “Diamond” (a song about not having to be perfect all the time) and “This One’s For The Girls.” The country icon ruled the stage and the crowd, and received huge cheers from the audience with her covers of “The First Cut Is The Deepest” and “Free Fallin’.”
Chicago was in for a double treat, with Brooks & Dunn performing on both Saturday and Sunday night, their only concert dates outside of their Las Vegas residency this year. They did mix up they setlists for their two shows for those who were there the whole weekend, but they made sure to play their biggest hits both nights.
Headlining Saturday night was Tim McGraw. This was a powerful, superstar performance by McGraw, rounding out day two of the festival. The energy at Northerly Island noticeably stepped up a notch the moment he stepped out onto the stage and did not wane until the last note. The Pavilion was still packed for this final show of the day, and those who stuck around from the finale did not go home disappointed.
The heat was scorching for the third and final day of LakeShake, with Jason Aldean’s current tour openers, A Thousand Horses, starting off the day. With temperatures reaching high into the 90s, neither the energy of the crowd or on stage faded.
It was another full schedule as singer-songwriter Chris Janson took to the stage. As he said in his words, “you will never see a 135-pound white boy play harmonica like this.”
The third act of the day on the main stage was Travis Tritt, with his more traditional country set. He blasted through his hits, whilst also covering The Eagles’, “Take It Easy,” much to the delight of the crowd.
If the heat was slowing anyone down, Thomas Rhett, soon got them back on their feet and dancing along. Rhett is also currently on tour with Aldean so no surprise to see him performing on this final day of the festival. This was an entertaining set to watch and a definite change in pace from Tritt’s before him.
Brooks & Dunn came back for their second sunset performance of the weekend, just before Jason Aldean rounded out the festival. It might have been late on a Sunday evening, but the party kept on going with the Chicagoans cheering and dancing along, enjoying the last music of the weekend, not thinking of the workweek just around the corner. It was an impressive setlist for the just shy of an hour and 30-minute timeslot, banging out twenty-one songs in total. He came out to perform and that is exactly what he did.
Cue the fireworks and weary crowd trailing out of the pavilion, hoping that this is a festival that will always return to Chicago for future summers to come.