Music Festivals are about camping, food, family time, or time with your friends…… Who are we kidding? Music Festivals are all about the music!!! Well, FarmJam Festival has got you covered. In the past, they have brought you national acts like Chase Rice, Tyler Farr, Drake White, and Stephanie Quail. This year is no different with….. more on that later.
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I like that, unlike the monolith of same old same old country radio at some festivals, Greg Knight and his team at FarmJam have done a great job mixing up the acts while still remaining solidly in the Country Festival feel. Let’s take a look at the “Local Bands” By local bands I mean bands that are from the PNW and are likely to be playing somewhere you can see them, and I suggest you do.
Local PNW Bands
Devon is out of Idaho and has been to FarmJam before which tells you that people wanted him back. He is unapologetically a Rock-Country, Guitar heavy singer. He sings about Trucks, Booze, and Girls. No surprise here with songs like “You don’t know Jack as I do”, “Carhart Cowboy,” “Beer Me” and “Redneck Barbie.” He can break your heart with thoughtful songs like “Dirt and Iron” and “That Ain’t God.” He knows how to work a crowd and had them all singing and dancing.
Brewers Grade Band
I had seen Zac Grooms several times in the past for some special events and he is very talented to be sure so I was very excited to see his band, Brewers Grade Band. BGB hails from the Columbia Gorge area between WA and OR. The band is filled with a very eclectic group of musicians. They are NW country, but I will say it was a very straight country with a strong fiddle sound. I do hear a little blues and a little rock in the music but never over the top. Zac who writes most of the music writes incredible stories in his songs. Some of them are touching and some are just fun. And the older song “Write a Song about her” is probably the best representation of the band as I see them and will link it here. The Fiddle player, Grammy award winner, Joe Smart, stood out to me as BGB uses him to ground their music solidly in the country feel. If you like a fiddle, mandolin, and Lap Guitar country, Brewers Grade Band is for you.
Jeff Crosby is an artist’s artist. I can not tell you how many times a musician has asked me if I’ve heard Jeff Crosby yet. When several musicians, that I respect, recommend the same artists, I listen. Jeff hails from Idaho and remains there after a quick stint in Nashville. He is an Americana Singer-Songwriter and a bit of a character himself with his rugged looks and big white cowboy hat. As a surprise, he brought a special guest to share the stage. Darci Carlson, who hails from Seattle and Whom I have Shot several times Joined Jeff for an act known to insiders as JC/DC. Darci left for Idaho during the Pandemic for more friendly environments. Those following Darci and Jeff online were aware that they had teamed up and were doing shows in states that were allowing live music. I am not aware of any Album at this time but you never know. It was casual and fun, full of enough inside jokes to keep Darci in stitches. There was a string of duets that oddly reminded me of Ginger Rogers, Fred Astair’s 50s musical. (Let’s call the whole thing off) They each could and did hold the stage separately but really shined when they played off each other with their witty and flirty banter. I still have not seen Jeff with his full band but that just gives me another reason to see him again.
Fire Bottle Brothers
The Fire Bottle Brothers are an extremely popular band in the eastern Washington and Western Idaho area and a favorite of the FarmJam crowd. They are by far the most diverse group as far as musical styles. Everyone in the group members writes songs, all have different ideas and it takes their music from Country with a little blues, a little jazz, and a little rock. They all take turns singing and it is refreshing to have so many multitalented members in one band. They were my last year’s hidden gem so they were out of the running this year but if you are not from the Colville, Spokane area, they could be your hidden gem. They say they don’t often get to the west side of the state so you will have to seek them out.
Taylor and the Train Robbers
Taylor Ketchum and his outlaw band have been a staple on the festival calendar for years. I first ran into them in Canby Oregon in 2019. There were a ton of people there wearing T&TTR shirts. I was stunned why so many people in the middle of Oregon were so excited by this ragtag hillbilly country band from Idaho. I got schooled fast. T&TTR has a driving Americana feel. Sounding more like some boys from Mississippi than Idaho. They are 3 studio albums In, and I can’t find a throwaway song in the bunch. Cody Braun from Reckless Kelly produced their latest album Non-Typical Find and I was happy to hear that Cody didn’t change Tylor’s style but dug in and really enhanced their sound with twangier guitars and tighter harmonies. I don’t know a band that tours as much as they do. They have played Seattle a couple of times in the last few months and Tylor said to me that the fans are great and he can’t wait to get the band back into town. After their set at FarmJam Tylor mingled with fans (old friends) at the merch table before they had to leave back to Idaho for a very packed Idaho schedule. Portland and Bend can catch a show in October before they head down to Texas as the Idaho weather turns cold. If you are tired of monotonous country songs on the radio, a trip to the traditional country with Tylor and the Train Robbers can be your newest music vacation.
Every Festival has a band or singer that makes you stand up and pay attention. They are hidden because my readers probably have never heard of them because they are new, regional, or are not playing on your local station. This year Farmjam had 2 such bands. I talked with FarmJam founder Greg Knight about my list and told him I could not choose between these 2 guys and he said he would be hard-pressed to choose one over the other as well. So, we have two bands that could not be any more different. Tim Montana and Jeremy McComb
Tim and his music are a result of an active rowdy boy growing up in Butte Montana with time on his hands and a tendency for trouble. Throw in a guitar and let him sing about it and you have Tim Montana. He slides from a rocking “Hillbilly Rich” to a more traditional woman done me wrong song, “Stronger than You.” Did I mention; He’s not a bad rapper? He reimagined a heavy rock version of Eminem’s “Loose Yourself” Not content to cover the iconic song, he recreated from the ground up in his own heavy rock country style. He doesn’t need a lead guitar player as he can handle the job perfectly himself but when you have 2 incredibly talented guitar players in your band, it invites a guitar battle and the audience is just collateral damage. 5 mins of rock-your-face-off guitar work. Left the crowd in a frenzy.
Jeremy, on the other hand, is a traditional rock country singer who works the crowd like a pro. I’m not sure if I liked his music more than I like the stories he tells in between the songs. He had everyone laughing and singing. He has an infectious smile and is quick to laugh himself. Jeremy was really having a great time. He is from about 2 hours away in Post Falls ID but doesn’t think he is just some local act. He tours the US and is heading off to the UK for a string of shows next month. Seattle has the opportunity to see him in person on October 23rd at the Substation in Ballard I found Jeremy McComb during the pandemic and fell in love with Cotton’s Gettin’ High. His new album Every Road is a thoughtful Journey coming out of imposed hibernation. Some fun and some rock but all country.
Every Festival worth its salt has at least one bluegrass band and the best festivals have many. (IMHO)
Bluegrass bands have a long tradition and a long list of standard bluegrass songs. Barefoot movement mixed the expected with a string of very good original tunes. The instrumentation was good and balanced, and the vocals and harmonies were excellent. When I listen to bluegrass, I expect tight harmonies and Barefoot Movement delivered. They played some familiar songs but none more unexpectedly familiar than their closing song, Ozzy Ozborne’s classic Crazy Train. I love it when artists step out of their comfort zone and then deliver something great.
There is a long list of touring acts that are leading up to our headliners. These acts are a group of young up-and-comers and veteran performers. Let’s take a dive into these.
It is rare that I need to look up an artist at these festivals. I usually know at least one song but will study to see what else they have to offer. I usually end up finding that I know several of their songs (Rashad) was one of those. I did recognize Colt 45 a duet with Cooper Alan but that was it. This young African American man out of Georgia is quiet and a bit shy, backstage. I was very curious as to what the show was going to be like. He had a very young band, and they were ready to rock. He ran through some covers and then his originals like “Raised Up”. “My Side of Town” and “Dirt Road” the crowd loved him. I expect to see a lot more of RVSHVD in the future
I reviewed Hannah earlier this summer and I will do it one more time before the summer is done. Her shows are always fun. She is very saucy so make sure the kids have their earplugs in. She is a pure biscuit and gravy southern girl and her twangy southern music follow suit. Hannah is a full-time singer part-time comedian and MC. She is constantly talking to the crowd cracking jokes and generally just having a fun time. Her set is always in high gear. Whether she is covering Tush or a Recent big Hit, “Your Gonna Love Me” it’s one of the most entertaining 45 mins you will ever experience.
Hi, I’m Jon Wolfe, I sing country music and own a tequila company. Well good to meet you, Jon. I think we will be very good friends!! Jon, hailing from Oklahoma is as country as it gets. Big boots, big buckle, and big hat kinda country. In the mold of George Straight, Clint Black, and Alan Jackson, Jon has released 12 consecutive top 10 Hits. (8 have hit #1) he is just hitting his stride after 10 years in the national spotlight and shows no sign of slowing down. He sang a string of hits, like Some girl from Texas, Give me something I can drink to, and his most recent hit and a tip of the hat to his tequila brand, Juan Lobo Tequila called Tequila Sundown. This complements his Texas country staples with a little Island country with a Mexican feel. (think Kenney Chesney) Jon could probably anchor a night at any country festival and was an early evening kick in the butt.
Scooter Brown Band
Scooter was back again this year with his band putting down a solid rock/outlaw/alt-country set that everybody loved. It is usually just a pure roller coaster ride if the roller coaster had all vertical drops. I’ve seen the show a half dozen times or so. It always changes but you can count on it being pro-veteran (Scott is an ex-Marine) and pro-America and I count down the minutes until they play American Son. I leave this link, though the video is older it features the late Charlie Daniels who was Scooter’s friend and tourmate for many years. This year they had a new member on stage. I was hoping that fiddle player Donnie Reis would be at the festival. Scooter (Scott) Brown and Donnie are both accomplished in their own right and have come together as brother veterans in the last year to form a side project called War Hippies. This gives Scooter a chance to pull out his acoustic guitar and show a softer side while Donnie soars over the top singing and playing violin. Donnie had worked through almost a whole bow of horsehair playing the rocking SSB set. Luckily there was enough life in it to pull out a beautiful set weaving in and out of the vocals and harmonies of War Hippies. If there is a difference between fiddle and violin, Donnie has mastered both. If we are lucky, maybe War Hippies will bring a full set back to FarmJam next year.
Cooper, If you know you know… if a country concert were a frat party mixed with some country, pop, and rap, you have a pretty good idea of the mayhem that was about to ensue. Cooper came on stage to a very upbeat and bright country pop beat. He flew around the stage and on the outer speakers like that ADD kid in your 3rd-grade class during “Quiet Time” the set was energy energy energy!! The fan base was large.
Let’s back up a bit. If you don’t know Cooper Alan, you’ve never been on TikTok. He’s kind of a big deal on the country TikTok. He has the ability to mash together an unending country song consisting of any number of songs or subjects. It’s a fun trick and he did a mashup live from suggestions from the crowd. 25 or so songs were put together into a coherent song that if you are good you recognized about 2/3 of the lyrics.
Cooper is no gimmick though. Under that TikTok, a leading man lied a country singer with a deep baritone voice. He has made a splash as of late and by the time you see this will have sung on the Grand Ole Opry stage. He made us laugh with songs like, I Can’t Dance (for S#!T) and Small Town Celebrities and some straightforward dance country like First Rodeo and Country Girls. He eventually stopped jumping around like a jack rabbit and pulled out an acoustic guitar and captivated the audience with songs like Tough Ones and We Aren’t Friends Anymore A string of songs dedicated to his wife made the girls love him even more. The crazy came back for a few more songs before he was done. He cleaned up his stuff and left the stage for the next act. And for a moment the stage was quiet again.
Jessie drove up from NW Oregon where she tours extensively. She was a huge hit at FarmJam last year and through popular demand she had the Friday closing show all to herself. She took advantage of the opportunity and sounded great. She has been playing and touring ever since Farmjam ended last year. She toured to Washington DC with the Trucker Convoy for several weeks supporting and entertaining the many drivers and supporters along the way. The band has been in many bars and Jessie organized her own festival; JessFest. She has a powerful Rock voice that mixes well with her country pop/rock style. She came out strong which is not unusual. She will bring the grit with the female empowerment song Irresistible and then after rocking for 30 mins, stop to honor our military and first responders with the song Small Town Fight. The Festers asked for her back and they got all of her as she gave them all they had and it showed.
I saw Matt recently in a small venue and I loved him. I like his music and I Prayed for You is on high rotation at my house. His newer songs like If I Were a Bar are also rotating. Knowing that I would see him later in the summer I paid close attention to the band, the setlist, and of course Matt himself. (Yes, this is what I do at a concert.)
As Matt was preparing to go on, I talked to his guys on the side stage and said that I hope this was going to be a Huge show on this big stage and they assured me that it would be. It wasn’t. I was pretty disappointed in the end. The music was great and so was the sound. I could not fault him for his talent. It was great but if you don’t move around that much the stage will suck you up and make you look small. Something you don’t notice in a small venue. Most bands when they get a chance at a big stage and Matt plays big stages all the time like to use the extra room and venture around. Guitar players will pace the stage giving everyone a chance to be close to the big solo and singers will venture out on the speaker stacks to be closer to the crowd. Though Matt’s band and Matt himself occasionally moved from their predetermined locations on the stage, For me, it fell a little flat. I think that following the high energy of Cooper Alan was going to be tough and it proved to be. In the end, the crowd loved him and sang all of his hits. Even I sang, I mean, it is Matt Stell standing right in front of you and that accounts for quite a bit. I just thought there were a few missed opportunities in his set.
FarmJam went from full to, “Can we push the vendor tents back just a little to make some more room?”
Joe is super talented and after 20-plus years and a semi-truck filled with top 10 hits, he is a machine. A quiet and super charming man he doesn’t give off the vibe that he is foundational to modern country music. He gave all of us baritones a song or 2 to sing to our girlfriends and/or wives. If you are 30 years old there really has never been a time that his music wasn’t in your life.
We listened to country anthems like BrokenHeartsville (2002) Gimme That Girl (2009) I got Friends Who Do and A Good Day for Livin from his most recent album. Of course, he couldn’t leave without singing Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off. The whole concert was a sing-along and I was thinking with his catalog of hits he could easily do a 2-hour set or even more.
Joe stayed for about an hour to take pictures with anyone who purchased something from his merch store. In the end, it was about half of the attendees in a bulging venue. (they are going to have to let out the belt next year on the size of the venue) They all stood in line to get 10 seconds and a smile with this incredible performer.
I really enjoy this festival. There really was no band that didn’t impress the festers. I love the variety of acts and styles that are brought together. This is no accident. Greg works really hard to make sure that there is something for everyone.
I’m looking forward to seeing next year’s lineup and already know that it will be top-notch.
If you don’t have Labor day plans, make plans to be at FarmJam Festival 2023, and if you do have plans, break them and get to FarmJam Festival in Colville Washington.
IG: toddhtbertphoto for more of my concert photography
View Todd’s Photo Gallery of FarmJam 2022
Read Todd’s Festival Review of FarmJam 2022
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