Country Blast 2012 serves as music fix for country music fans

Musician Clay Walker walks on stage with his two guitarists at Country Blast, a country music festival at the Water Works Park in downtown Des Moines, Sunday, June 24.

Frances Myers

With the temperatures climbing up into the high 80s and 90s Sunday afternoon on June 24, thousands of country music fans gathered in Water Works Park in Des Moines to enjoy Country Blast 2012.

Walking through the crowd, people were doing everything they could to beat the heat, from chugging down water and beer to keep hydrated to exposing as much flesh as socially acceptable, some people perhaps crossing the line.

Earlier this year, Iowa’s country music festival Big Country Bash was canceled, leaving country music fans without their usual summer music fix. However, Country Blast was quickly set up to be the replacement for BCB.

“There’s definitely less beer tents,” said Nate Voight, an ISU 2008 alumnus, on the comparison between BCB and Country Blast. “But it’s new this year, and everyone learns as they go. It’s been a blast so far today. I’m definitely looking forward to Clay Walker and Joe Nichols.”

Some people noticed that the crowd seemed to be a bit smaller than in past years.

“I’ve been going to Big Country Bash for about seven years, and this is obviously the first year that Country Blast has been here, but I think I like it better because it’s not as big of a crowd,” said Becky Eggerss from Van Meter, Iowa.

Eggerss commented on how she liked the lineup of performances as well, especially Neal McCoy and Clay Walker.

“I grew up with them,” Eggerss said. “My parents listened to them so I was always listening to them too. They’re a part of my childhood.”

The acts for this year’s Country Blast were: the Robby Michaels Band, Neal McCoy, Uncle Kracker, Joe Nichols, Clay Walker and last, Billy Currington.

“I’ve been to Iowa many, many times,” Nichols said. Nichols said he performs in Iowa a few times every year and always enjoys the crowd. Country Blast was no different for him.

“It was hot, and the crowd was crazy,” Nichols said. “There was a lot of flesh out there. Crazy and energetic: We like that.”

An Arkansas native, Nichols said Iowa reminds him of a southern state.

“It always reminds me of the southern states like Texas and Arkansas,” Nichols said. “There’s the heat and there are so many country music fans. I love it.”

Lonnie Taylor, Nichols’ manager, had his own opinion about Iowans.

“The fans here are just great,” Taylor said. “They’re always great, and we love them and their enthusiasm.”

Nichols entertained the crowd with such hits as “The Impossible,” “Gimme That Girl,” “Brokenheartsville” and “Tequila Makes her Clothes Fall Off,” among others.

After Nichols’ performance, Clay Walker took the stage. His performance was lined with such hits as “Then What,” “What’s It to You,” “She Won’t be Lonely Long,” “If I Could Make a Living,” “Live, Laugh, Love,” and “Live Until I Die.”

Walker said he loved the crowd’s reaction to his performance.

“I absolutely love it,” Walker said. “It was great, very energetic, which is what we hope for. I love it, and we will be back.”

Walker’s performance began around 6:45 in the evening, with just enough time to play during the daylight hours.

“I really enjoyed getting to play during the daylight,” Walker said. “Normally we’re playing at night so we can’t see the crowd’s reaction as much, but today we could just see them going crazy, and we were really able to feed off that.”

Billy Currington took the stage last, around 9 p.m. He got the crowd rolling with songs as “That’s How Country Boys Roll,” “Pretty Good at Drinking Beer,” “Like my Dog” and “I Got a Feelin’,” among others.”