Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Rain didn't ruin Country Stampede

By Chris Varias
The Cincinnati Enquirer

SPARTA - If Sunday's country-music show at Kentucky Speedway had been a stock-car race, the yellow flag would have been waving. Rain wiped out a chunk of the schedule on the third and final day of the Country Stampede, and caused a frightening incident during one performance.

At 2:15 p.m., wind and rain caused the Jack Daniel's Saloon tent to partially collapse in the middle of a performance by singer Dustin Evans. Speedway officials said 15 to 20 people suffered minor injuries. Music didn't resume for another two hours.

Singer Kellie Coffey snuck in a set on the main stage before the rains came at 2 p.m. But the next scheduled act, Blake Shelton, was a washout. The singer was forced to cancel due to wet equipment, a Speedway official said.

The mid-afternoon showers gave way to clear skies, allowing the rest of the main-stage lineup - Gary Allan, Diamond Rio and Sawyer Brown - to go on as planned.

As for the secondary stage, Rodney Atkins' 3:30 p.m. slot was rained out, and the fateful decision was made to move Evans underneath the tent. However, singer Aaron Lines and the group Emerson Drive later performed under sunny skies.

In the midst of schedule juggling was some decent music, highlighted by Allan, a twangy Californian with a modern, radio-friendly approach to honky-tonk.

Allan's hour-long set peaked in the middle, beginning with "Alright Guy," the title track from his latest album. He followed it up with "Man to Man," his first No. 1 song.

He then book-ended Merle Haggard's "I Think I'll Just Stay Here and Drink" with a pair of hit ballads: "It Would Be You" and "Her Man." The sun broke through the clouds as Allan took a guitar solo on the Haggard tune.

Other than the rock leanings of Emerson Drive, the rest of the afternoon was spent the pop-country way.

Diamond Rio played a hit-packed set showcasing pristine vocal chops, while Lines was a pop-country poster boy, singing the Eagles' "Take it Easy" and his own hit "You Can't Hide Beautiful."

Speedway officials announced a turnout of 30,000, bringing the three-day total to 90,000.

E-mail cvarias@enquirer.com

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