Summer and music festivals go hand in hand. So, too, do summer and country music. The genre’s feel-good vibes and frequent tendency to talk about “kickin’ back by [a body of water] with a cold beer” make even the biggest country music critics likely to still blast it on a hot summer day. With the match made in heaven, it’s no wonder country music festivals abound across the country, all season long. New York state's biggest one, Taste of Country Music Festival, kicks off June 7, and runs through Sunday, June 10.
Held at Hunter Mountain a couple hours north of Manhattan, the festival, nicknamed TOCFest, is a four-day camping-based party featuring, of course, music, along with an array of food trucks; merchandise and country-themed vendors selling anything from elaborate leather belt buckles to jewelry to cowboy hats, you name it; and so many other things to check out.
Each night features prominent headliners, with Saturday being the cornerstone of the weekend. This year’s top headliner in the Saturday night prime spot, slated for 9:45 p.m., is Eric Church (Springsteen, Talladega, Record Year). Getting things going that day at 1:30 p.m. is Sasha McVeigh, a frequent TOCFest performer, followed by Jordan Davis and Ashley McBride, then Church’s key lead-ins, Rodney Atkins (Watching You, If You’re Going Through Hell) and Justin Moore (Bait A Hook, Somebody Else Will).
Starting things off for the whole weekend, on Thursday night – which is typically set up to entertain all the RV and tent campers who flock to Hunter Mountain early to claim their spot on the grounds – is Elana Jane, followed by Ayla Brown, then Josh Kelley.
Friday night features Jimmie Allen hitting the main stage first, then Devin Dawson, Kane Brown (Heaven) and Dustin Lynch (Hell of a Night, Small Town Boy). Florida Georgia Line (Cruise, H.O.L.Y., Round Here) headlines the night, with an approximately hour and a half set due to start at 10 p.m.
Sam Hunt (House Party, Make You Miss Me) caps off the weekend with his Sunday headlining gig at 7:45 p.m. His appearance will serve as a redemption act, as he was supposed to perform at last year’s festival but canceled due to illness, leaving fans disappointed and frustrated. The festival organizers announced his makeup performance shortly after the incident occurred.
Opening for him will be the James Barker Band (starting at 1:30 p.m.), Danielle Bradbery (Heart of Dixie), Montgomery Gentry – the renowned veteran duo of Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry (My Town, Something to Be Proud of), though Montgomery will be solo on stage, as Gentry tragically passed away last year in a helicopter crash – and LeAnn Rimes (Can’t Fight the Moonlight, How Do I Live).
Produced since its inception by Townsquare Media Productions LLC, this year marks the sixth edition of the festival, with its debut coming in 2013. The festival was little known in its first year or two but interest has since exploded – which means be prepared for crowds, and naturally, sadly it’s upped prices, though it’s still comparable to other multi-day festivals.
Headliners in its inaugural year included Lady Antebellum and Willie Nelson. Montgomery Gentry, Justin Moore and Dustin Lynch also appeared in 2013, making this time a return to the mountain for those three artists. Other past headliners have included Brad Paisley and Dierks Bentley, Tim McGraw, Keith Urban and Toby Keith, Kenny Chesney and Jake Owen and Jason Aldean and Miranda Lambert.
Given its array of features – in addition to its stellar lineup of performers – including shopping, the camaraderie you find with strangers camping next to you, scenic lift rides, a high ropes course, a river with a swimming hole complete with a rock to jump from, and an inevitable (rule-breaking) game of slip and slide, there is so much to do at TOCFest.
Campsites are sold out, though the festival site links to a fan exchange platform to search for some that way, but the tickets for the concert itself are still on sale, and there are lodging options around the mountain.
To purchase tickets, or to learn more about the event, go to http://tasteofcountryfestival.com.