Lake Shake Shows Chicago How Country Feels
photos by Becca Grischow
The first annual Windy City Lake Shake shook up Northerly Island this weekend in Chicago, bringing three days of country music to the big city. The weekend held plenty of surprises, including a Saturday night rain delay that ushered concert attendees out of the venue, but the artists rallied, most notably Brad Paisley, who agreed to stay an extra day in Chicago and perform after Florida Georgia Line on Sunday night.
The party began Friday afternoon with Canaan Smith, best known for his radio hit "Love You Like That." Smith was also selling his debut album, Bronco, at his merch table, although it isn't officially released until tomorrow. Following Smith was country duo Maddie & Tae (above) who sported Lake Shake's Cubs and Sox t-shirts and seemed so genuinely amazed by how well the crowd knew "Girl In A Country Song" that Maddie had to step back from the mic during the performance to say "Oh my God."
By far, the highlight of Friday was at the end of Dierks Bentley's set when the Chicago Blackhawks brought the Stanley Cup out onstage. Dierks introduced the players (as if they needed introductions) as they each took their turn toting the cup across the stage. Bentley concluded his performance of "Drunk On A Plane" with the help of the Hawks. Check out a video of the unforgettable moment here.
After a raging Friday night, Mickey Guyton (above) opened up Saturday with her sweet vocals, followed by a rough-and-roll performance by Clare Dunn, who we suspect will be taking over the top of the country charts with her upcoming album. Hit songwriter David Lee Murphy put on a great show of songs he'd written for other artists, including "Anywhere with You" and "Big Green Tractor," closing the set with his own hit song, "Dust on the Bottle." Still, Saturday definitely belonged to Easton Corbin, whose amazing stage presence brought songs like "Lovin' You Is Fun" and "Baby Be My Love Song" to life. Corbin's newest album will be released on the 30th -- keep an eye out!
After a stellar performance by Joe Nichols in which he attempted to turn "Baby Got Back" into a country song, severe weather warnings forced the festival to release a sea of drunk and soaking wet fans clad in camouflage and cowboy boots on the city with no immediate plans for the evening. Needless to say, the crowd was unhappy, but Brad Paisley proved his southern charm by promising to stick around to play the following evening. Justin Moore, sadly, could not stick around.
Thankfully, Sunday brought beautiful, sunny weather for the close of Lake Shake. The lineup was adjusted to make room for Brad Paisley's closing performance, making for an absolutely stacked lineup: Raelynn, Frankie Ballard, Thomas Rhett, Randy Houser, Florida Georgia Line, and Brad Paisley. The crowd was at its biggest and most energetic.
Frankie Ballard stole the afternoon with his rock/country sound and big hits like "Sunshine and Whiskey" and "Young and Crazy." Being from Michigan himself, Ballard was the perfect artist for Chicago's first country music festival, showing that the midwest can be country in its own way. On the other half of the coin was Randy Houser, who has a more traditional country sound and one of the coolest sets we've ever seen. Houser demonstrated his incredible vocals with amazing riffs throughout his set, especially in his cover of Sam Smith's "Stay With Me," which he said he'd only done once prior to Lake Shake. You can watch a video of Houser's cover as performed in Kansas City here. We think it might be better than the original.
Closing off the evening and the festival was back-to-back headliners Florida Georgia Line and Brad Paisley. FGL brought some of the best stage presence of the weekend -- if you've never seen these guys live before, it's completely worth the investment. Leaving early as if their set were over and then coming back with "Sundaze" left the crowd going absolutely insane, only to be topped when they were joined by Thomas Rhett and Frankie Ballard for "Party People." It was no surprise that "Cruise" closed off their set.
Brad closed off the night and the weekend -- appropriately, he had a bar onstage with him that a few VIP guests got to enjoy for the duration of the set. After Florida Georgia Line brought the energy with their modern rap/country style, Paisley brought the crowd back to our roots with "This Is Country Music" and his incomparable guitar playing.
Overall, Windy City Lake Shake was an unforgettable weekend and a major success -- the big city had no trouble getting a little bit country. We're excited to see how the festival grows over the next few years. You better bet we'll be in the crowd again!