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Published: Saturday, 5/25/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Country festival to rev up near MIS in July

BY BRIAN DUGGER
COUNTRY MUSIC

Brian O’Connell’s mom used to tell him, “If you don’t aim at the moon, you won’t hit it.”

Of course, it helps to have Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, and Dierks Bentley helping you aim when you take that shot.

O’Connell, the Live Nation Country president, is the man behind this summer’s Faster Horses music and camping festival near Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich.

The event, which runs July 19-21, features an impressive lineup for a first-year festival. Bentley will be preceded to the stage by Kix Brooks and Chris Young on Friday night. On Saturday, Thompson Square and Florida Georgia Line will join Bryan. Jerrod Niemann and Thomas Rhett will be on the stage before Aldean on Sunday.

Nearly three dozen acts will perform on two stages over three days. The entire lineup and camping information can be found at fasterhorsesfestival.com.

“When an idea for a festival in that part of Michigan came up, I actually started looking farther west. I was looking in Grand Rapids, all over the state really,” O’Connell said. “The people at MIS persuaded me to get up there and take a look. I was not thrilled about the idea of a festival at a race track.”

But what he saw was a bunch of open land near the track that could be used for the festival grounds. The big selling point was that the infrastructure to host thousands of people was already in place. There are nine campgrounds available for the weekend. The most popular one at this point is located in the MIS infield.

“That’s where the cool factor of the race track comes in. It’d be like being able to camp at [Progressive Field] in Cleveland,” O’Connell said.

For years, O’Connell has been one of the most successful promoters in Nashville. He knows the big stars can draw people to a show, but it’s the atmosphere that will keep them coming back. His goal is to turn the weekend into a social event.

“There are a couple of points on the festival grounds where people will be able to gather late night. I’m really big on the late night stuff because that’s where it really happens,” O’Connell said. “If you look at Country Concert and Jamboree in the Hills, it’s not just what’s happening on the main stage, but how do you create that community? What do I do to afford people the opportunity to congregate and have fun and create their own memories?”

After pondering the question, O’Connell and his team came up with the idea of a giant bonfire. On Friday and Saturday night - after the music is done - a fire will be built on the festival grounds as a gathering point.

This project has been more than two years in the making. O’Connell stresses that it’s not just for the college co-eds. There will be designated areas for families, so people of all ages can have a good time. He’s ready to take that shot at the moon.

“There’s no such thing as a sure thing when it comes to putting on a festival, but this one is about as sure a thing as it can be.”

Brian Dugger’s column on country music appears in The Blade the last Saturday of every month. Contact him at bdugger@theblade.com or on Twitter @DuggerCountry.



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