Country came to NYC in its varied forms this past weekend when FarmBorough, NYC’s inaugural country music festival, was held on beautiful Randall’s Island Park from June 26-28th. There was something for everyone and then some: pop country, traditional country and even some “country fuzz.”
The first day of the festival, Friday was a glorious one. Beautiful sunshine and temperatures in the 80's brought out attendees wanting to hear and see everyone from Courtney Cole to headliner Dierks Bentley. Prior to being open to the public, Brian O’Connell talked to some of the media about how FarmBorough came together and why having a country festival in NYC was so important. He worked on the event with Tom Russell who is in charge of another incredibly popular festival on the island, Governor’s Ball. They wanted FarmBorough to be the “sixth borough” of New York City, even holding the festival on a site that was once the last working farm in NYC (hence the name and horse in the logo). He also mentioned how everything was set up in straight lines to catch people’s eye, be inviting and make it a fun experience. There were two stages, the main and the Next From Nashville stage, which O’Connell said would highlight in a small environment those artists with critical acclaim. Additionally there had to be a “hillbilly” ride (the swings and slide) and vendors selling everything from cowboy hats to wine in cans and lobster rolls! There was also liquor in the form of a Malibu Beach House (Malibu Rum) and a Tito’s (vodka) airstream.
Although all of that was something to see, but the real reason the fans were in attendance was the music. And FarmBorough artists delivered. A central thread that flowed through the artists playing the main stage on Friday was covering a pop song. Everyone from Canaan Smith (“Jealous”) to RaeLynn (“All About the Bass”) to Joe Nichols (“Baby Got Back”) to Kip Moore and Dierks (“Welcome to New York”) did their take one a pop hit....and the crowd ate it all up, loving every minute and singing along. While the main stage was definitely the main draw, there were many not to be missed artists on the Next From Nashville stage as well. Undoubtedly the act there with the biggest crowd and biggest response was The Cadillac Three. Their gritty, fuzzy southern rock, and raw performance complete with their famous drum solo (without Jaren climbing atop) thrilled the audience with wild cheers. The crowd dwindled somewhat for Chris Stapleton, but as people walked by they always stopped to listen to the man who has a voice for which there are just no words to adequately describe. They crowd came back under the tent for the second biggest draw of the day, Jon Pardi who brought his honky tonk, fun filled, energetic set to a crowd that was continuously on their feet dancing and singing along. We spoke with Pardi briefly prior to the start of the festival where he said that he was thrilled to be a part of the first country music festival ever in NYC and was preparing to release a new album next year. He also said he hoped to be back in the fall for his own show in NYC as well.
Saturday it poured all day and the artists in the Next From Nashville tent truly benefitted from those wishing to escape the rain. While there were many who stayed wet to brave seeing Mickey Guyton, Brandy Clark, Charlie Worsham, Just Moore, Dwight Yoakam and Brad Paisley on the main stage, many looked for cover under the tent and were treated to an afternoon of excellent music and performances. David Fanning proved to be an energetic performer and crowd favorite. Striking Matches wowed the crowd with their incredible musicianship on songs from their latest release as well as many of the songs they co-wrote that can be found on the television show Nashville. Dallas Smith amped the energy up a hundred fold with his set that started off with “Nothin’ But Summer” and included songs from Lifted as well as a cover of Imagine Dragons “Radioactive.” Texas troubadour Wade Bowen and critical favorite Sturgill Simpson closed out the night. Bowen playing songs from across his many albums laughingly noting that “I don’t know if you’re under the tent to stay out of the rain or you know who the hell we are.” Having seen Bowen numerous times, he and his band sounded as tight as ever with Bowen introducing each member and letting their skilled musicianship shine. Simpson ended with a simply electric set of genuine country music, undoubtedly, like many of the artists that day, gaining quite a few new fans.
The festival ended on Sunday with Lindsay Ell and Cassadee Pop representing the ladies on the main stage alongside Dustin Lynch, Randy Houser and Luke Bryan. The Next From Nashville stage included local artist Scott DeCarlo alongside up and comers including the extremely talented The Railers and Logan Mize.
Even with the rain, the festival ran incredibly smoothly. There was no downtime (except for the usual set changes) between acts, everything started promptly and there was incredible organization whether it was in the way the food vendors were set up both centrally and along the outskirts (yummy food trucks!) or how there seemed to be an endless supply of port o pottys. The festival closed out Sunday with fans feeling like a community, bonded by the common thread of country music, and looking forward to returning to the “Sixth Borough” of NYC next year.