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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Country Thunder 2013’s most promising nights are Friday and Saturday


    Dust off your cowboy boots, pack the cooler and stock up on all the Bud Light you can find: Country Thunder is back, and it’s bigger than ever.

    For its 20th anniversary, which should be a mainstay for both UA and Arizona State University students, Country Thunder goes a little more down-home while still reeling in headliners like Toby Keith, Brantley Gilbert, Lady Antebellum and Eric Church.

    While most festivals are a full weekend production for campers, 2013 marks the first time that Country Thunder has offered a pay-as-you-play option with single-day passes that grant access to the main festival site and its attractions.

    But make no mistake — the real party is still at the campgrounds. As a number of UA students frequent Country Thunder, you’re bound to have friends swilling brews somewhere on the Canyon Moon Ranch campgrounds, and you should seek them out to enjoy the festivities of the weekend to their fullest.

    While the entire event is packed with country stars, it’s really Friday and Saturday that are worth their price of $100 each.
    Friday night is all about the superstars. Love and Theft’s 5:30 p.m. set is a little early in the evening, but still counts among Country Thunder’s sundown performances, which are usually some of the best.

    The duo will kick off the evening with just the right amount of energy. These aren’t just the guys who play “Angel Eyes” — they’ve got a lot more up their sleeves. Eric Church — yes, Mr. “Springsteen” himself — is Friday night’s closing set.

    While Church is a little more outlaw than country in his appearance, 2011’s Chief proved that the North Carolinian can simultaneously appeal to country purists, display pop crossover appeal and push units. You’ve heard Church before, as Chief is a certified platinum and Grammy-nominated album, and chances are you’ll get to hear it on Country Thunder’s main stage as well.

    Saturday night showcases the reigning king of modern country himself, Toby Keith. He may be the namesake of the new “Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill” that recently opened at the Tucson Mall, but Keith has earned the right to a seemingly silly publicity stunt like opening a chain of country bars.

    You’re sure to know at least half of Keith’s set, even if you’re not a diehard fan. With 20 number-one country singles that span 16 albums since 1993, Keith’s country pedigree is as storied as Garth Brooks’, and his drive to keep touring puts him on track to become our generation’s George Strait.

    Country Thunder is worth experiencing once in your collegiate career, whether you’re a country fan or not. It sports the skin of Lake Havasu with the addition of cowboy boots, and is a welcome getaway from Tucson in what could be your last free weekend of the semester.

    But ultimately, it should be about the music. If Country Thunder doesn’t make you a country music fan or reaffirm your faith in the genre, then nothing will.

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