So many folks were donning cowboy and daisy boots matched up with camp attire yesterday at South Florida's massive country music festival, the Kiss Country 99.9 FM Chili Cookoff. Although the name implies that there was chili, country peeps were all about two things: drinking heavily and the slew of talented musicians lined up to perform. Oh, and the "fine guys," according to Sarah, a 19-year-old concert-goer with whom we spoke.
Let's start off with the earliest form of debauchery, aka tailgating. Trying to find parking in C.B. Smith Park at 6:30 a.m. was a mission. Like worse than Black Friday shopping. This, ladies and gents, was because people started drinking at 1:30 a.m. Yes, you read that right. One thirty in the freaking morning. And all for a concert that ended at 5 in the evening. We witnessed a kid straight up chug from a bottle of Pinnacle vodka only to pass out about 20 minutes later. "It's okay, buddy, I remember my first beer," a drunken lady chided.
As David from the SWANK booth, whose chili made it to the finals, later said, tailgating so early is full of "inspiring dedication."
Gates opened up around 8 or 9. The ground was a glorious mess of solo cups, corn hole sacs, and God knows what other debris as tailgaters stumbled in for a further extension of a shitshow.
Just after 10 Voice winner and local gal Cassadee Pope took the stage much to everyone's delight, mostly screaming girls who identified with "Wasting All These Tears." Thomas Rhett was up next singing "Middle Class White Boys." After "What's in Your Cup," Rhett playfully joked, "I see all you pretty girls are buzzed already."
Although the audience jammed out to "Make Me Wanna," it was his rendition of "Low Places" by Garth Brooks that really got the audience singing, probably due to the drunk anthem nature of the song. Rhett even went so far as to call an audience member up to sing with him. He played a few more songs, closing with "Something To Do With My Hands." The singer added, "This is like the funnest concert I've ever been to."
Joe Nichols took the stage around 1, saying, "Ladies, say 'yeah' like something good came out of the bedroom. Guys, say 'yeah' like you're responsible for it." Needless to say, an uproarious "yeah" arose from both sexes in the audience. Nichols had the audience moving with his hits "What's a Guy Gotta Do," "Size Matters," and "Sunny and 75." However, it was his infamous "Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off" that set the crowd off, most likely because they identified with the lyrics earlier that morning.
A tattooed and pierced Brantley Gilbert opened with a rendition of Jason Aldean's "My Kinda Party" and "Dirt Road." Gilbert had a heavy bass set, uncommon for a country concert but hey, we weren't complaining. Stating "This is only the second time this song has been played around people," Gilbert performed "Tonight It's Bottoms Up." One fan stated that the singer "killed it."
Long awaited, Rascal Flatts arrived on stage performing their famous cover of "Life is a Highway." Lead singer Gary crooned with impeccable vocals to hits like "Love You Out Loud," "What Hurts The Most," and "Stand By You." As Diana, a fan, put it, "He is the best singer here. He has the best voice." Strong fiddling only added to their appeal.
One woman we spoke with had a particularly deep connection with their music. "My son and husband passed away in the span of 22 months. Their music saved me. 'Rewind' came out on my husband's birthday, and he always said 'you can't rewind things.'"
Another crowd member, John, 49, loved the Chili Cookoff because he had "no worries. It's a good time." Added a gal named Lindsay, "[It's] the people, the atmosphere. It's fun. Everyone is so nice!" And Austin, 20, said, "It's the tailgating and variety of music. Not really the genre, but the bands. No one really sounds the same." Whatever the reason was for loving the cookoff, we can only say one thing -- we'll certainly be back for more, especially considering Kiss Country declared that next year will be even better.