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Big Barrel Country Music Festival Day 1 Friday Review; Blake Shelton, Lynyrd Skynyrd
 
  by: iradioal - Philadelphia, PA
started: 06/27/15 3:41 am | updated: 06/27/15 3:41 am
 
Friday was the first day of the inaugural Big Barrel Country Music Festival held at the Woodlands at Dover Downs in Dover, DE. The festival is held on the same grounds and is put together by the same folks who have brought Firefly Music Festival to the area the past four years. Big Barrel is a scaled down operation, utilizing a fraction of the festival area and only two stages. There is still three days of entertainment, camping, and music and the billing is top notch as far as country acts goes. Since last week they've pit in a lot of work to dry up any major patches of mud. We'll see how those sand patches hold up during Saturday's expected rains.

SEE ALSO: Big Barrel Country Music Festival Day 2 Review Saturday; Miranda Lambert, Loretta Lynn, Gary Allan
SEE ALSO: Big Barrel Country Music Festival Day 3 Review Sunday; Carrie Underwood, Jake Owen, Merle Haggard

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The place has also undergone a complete transformation both in the branding but also amenities. This festival is more family friendly with an older demographic. The Main Stage has large areas that are reserved for chairs only, and there were a lot of folding chairs on Friday. People also set up their chairs under the pavilion of the Wildwoods Stage. The Patch is an area to bring the kids so they can run around or play some games while parents take a break. The Stable is a petting zoo full of baby farm animals. Baby goats, sheep, cows, horses, a llama, a camel, and a zebra all roam for you to pet, feed, and selfie because they are cute. While talking about animals, the Budweiser Clydesdales are here too. You can see them up close in their pens, and every so often they'll hook them up to the carriage and stroll around the grounds. If you feel like showing off your dance moves in those boots you wore, there's a huge dance floor and saloon inside for square dancing. I peaked my head in early and there were only a few brave souls tripping over themselves, but I can imagine later in the day it got busier.

The two stages are close enough and acts are staggered enough that you can easily walk back and forth between them to catch a decent portion of everyone's set. If you want the best view though, or don't want to do a lot of walking, then pick a stage and get there early to get up front. I like how there is a good mix of big commercial acts, older legends, up-and-coming acts, and alternative/non-mainstream groups. Hurray for the Riff Raff and Whiskey Shivers are two of the latter that played early on the Wildwoods Stage. Whiskey Shivers is a fun group, lots of energy, with a bluegrass style that's infectious on stage. Hurray for the Riff Raff is driven by Alynda Lee Segarra's bluesy vocals immersed in folk/americana, but has the edge of the Bronx where she grew up. There will be more of these acts this weekend on the Wildwoods Stage, get there early to see them.

Sturgill Simpson played on the Wildwoods Stage later in the afternoon. He wins the double award for playing both Firefly and Big Barrel. Over on the Main Stage, Cassadee Pope, the winner of "The Voice" Season 3, serenaded the crowd. At one point she brought 4-year-old Gavin Bender from Delmar, DE, on stage. The two have met before, when she performed at the NASCAR race. Gavin suffers a rare chronic immune system disease and is Pope's 'biggest littlest fan.' Jana Kramer was up next on the Main Stage. She played a few of her own songs including "Whiskey," "Why Ya Wanna", and "I Got The Boy." Kramer also played a lot of covers to fill out the set. Chris Young took the Main Stage as it was getting dark. He was all smiles and enjoyed himself up there as the crowd was singing along.

Over on the Wildwoods Stage it was about to get loud. Legendary southern rockers, Lynryd Skynryd were set to close out the night under the pavilion. They are one of the few acts that get a proper introduction before they take the stage, "Ladies and Gentleman, Lynryd Skynrd!" Then a little A/C "Thunderstuck" and the band takes the stage. Almost 50 years and they still rock, "Gimme Three Steps," "Saturday Night Special," "Sweet Home Alabama."

Everyone was there to see the man of the night Blake Shelton on the Main Stage. This is his real job, not a judge on "The Voice," but with a guitar on a stage in front of 20,000 people. He takes over the huge stage with just himself and pours emotion into whatever he is singing or playing. Shelton is a performer and puts on a great show. The place was packed with those in chairs and those standing.

Shelton's wife Miranda Lambert headlines tomorrow and her show is a bit flashier. Loretta Lynn will be closing out the Wildwoods Stage so don't miss that legend. The weather looks wet on Saturday, but maybe not all day.

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