Chicago Country Music Festival | Soldier Field | Fairs & Festivals | Chicago Reader

Chicago Country Music Festival Member Picks Free All Ages Soundboard

When: Oct. 10-11 2008

The city’s annual Country Music Festival has gone through some big changes for 2008. The free two-day event was formerly part of Taste of Chicago in Grant Park, but for its 18th year it’s a stand-alone fest held more than three months later on the Soldier Field Parkland. This new arrangement allows for more music—there are now three stages, not two, plus a kids’ tent and a dance tent—but unfortunately the quality hasn’t improved much.

Of the Main Stage acts, only Gretchen Wilson is anything special—a native of Pocahontas, Illinois, she sings with fire and soul, pulling off the rare feat of balancing shit-kicker rebelliousness with emotional depth. The Americana Stage fares better, particularly on Saturday, when it hosts alt-country mainstays Son Volt, Tift Merritt, and Justin Townes Earle (Steve’s son). All three color outside the lines to add extra interest to their twang—Son Volt with rock, Merritt with blue-eyed soul, Earle with bits of troubadour folk and acoustic blues. The Honky Tonk Stage is sponsored by Best Buy, and if you remember the bookings on the chain store’s stage at the Blues Festival you’ll have some idea what to expect. The Lawrence Peters Outfit is the one bright spot in the lineup—it’s mostly suburban bar bands that sound like they’d consider landing the first slot of five on a Toby Keith bill the pinnacle of their career.

The Main Stage is to the southeast of the stadium and the Americana Stage is directly east, with the Dance Tent and Kids’ Corral between them; the Honky Tonk Stage is to the southwest. The Dance Tent offers line-dancing instruction every two hours from 11 AM till 5 PM on both days, with DJs between sessions. —Peter Margasak

Kids’ Corral Tent
11:00 and 1:00 Amy Lowe Trio
2:00, 3:00, and 4:00 Lindsay Weinberg
5:00 and 6:00 Little Nashville

Honky Tonk Stage
Noon Robbins & Wheeler
2:00 Lawrence Peters Outfit
4:00 Yard Fulla Cars
6:00 Danny Everhart Band
8:30 Telluride

Americana Stage
Noon Devin & the Straights
2:00 Freeway Rangers
4:00 Justin Townes Earle
6:00 Tift Merritt
8:30 Son Volt

Main Stage
1:00 Randy Kohrs Band
3:00 Rissi Palmer
5:00 Luke Bryan
7:00 Gretchen Wilson

Kids’ Corral Tent
11:00 and 1:00 Western Tales
2:00, 3:00, and 4:00 Karen Banks Lubicz
5:00 Little Nashville

Honky Tonk Stage
Noon Megan Nicole
2:00 Jason Brown
4:00 Janesville
6:00 Heartsfield

Americana Stage
Noon Sunnyside Up
2:00 Wade Bowen
4:00 Eli Young Band
6:00 Cross Canadian Ragweed

Main Stage
1:00 Chuck Wicks
3:00 Lost Trailers
5:00 Lady Antebellum
7:00 Taylor Swift

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