“Bands in the Backyard” blended local Pueblo talent with some big time Nashville stars to put on one of the biggest country music festivals Pueblo has ever seen.
“This event is the biggest thing that’s happened in Pueblo in quite a while,” Tommy Giodone, the event organizer, said. “We have 11,000 people here from 17 different states. The economic impact for Pueblo is huge.”
So what does it take to draw 11,000 people to a packed out rodeo arena with standing room only and a sold out campground?
Besides the water slide, zip line and other festival activities, the talent drawing people in included the winners of the CMA’s Best New Artist Award, Florida Georgia Line, as well as one of country music’s biggest superstars of all time, Gary Allan.
Even with the big stars, the local Pueblo flavor was evident, from the ancient pickup trucks that served as VIP seating to the opening act itself.
The show opened with a band based in Pueblo. The group Overton Road is named after a street which runs parallel to I-25 through Pueblo.
In fact, the band practices at a location on Overton Road, and welcomes anyone who wants to stop by to hear them practice their contemporary country music with strong rock vibes.
The band has a down-home feel, which makes sense when you consider that it is made up of a dentist, a contractor, an insurance agent, a car guy, marketing specialist, a hospital information auditor and a computer genius—just a few regular people who combined talents to become a local talent that Pueblo can be proud of.
Fans of NBC’s show Nashville Star were thrilled to see the familiar face of the second opener, Charley Jenkins. After finishing in the top 12 out of 45,000 contestants on the show, Jenkins has taken his career to a new level by opening for national acts such as Lady Antebellum, Allan Jackson, and now Florida Georgia Line and Gary Allan.
Jenkins brings a family man persona to the stage along with his country-western-old -school-rock music style.
Parmalee, the third performance, hails from Greenville, North Carolina, and is as country as country can be. The odd name originates from a tiny town nearby where they began practicing together in, what else, but a barn. This rocking country band has bits and pieces of bluegrass, traditional country, southern rock and blues.
Parmalee has quickly gone from virtually unknown to a well-known band, and recently signed on with Stoney Creek Records, who also signs big-name artists like Randy Houser and Thompson Square.
An hour after Parmalee left the stage; a restless crowd enthusiastically welcomed Florida Georgia Line.
Florida Georgia Line is a relative newcomer to the country scene, but they have risen quickly to the top, and brought an intense energy to the stage.
Their music career began as two guys making music on the back of a tailgate, but now Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley have one of the biggest hit singles of the year, “Cruise,” which quickly rose to the number one country single in the nation.
Even with the energy Florida Georgia Line brought to the stage, Gary Allan’s unique songwriting style and long career in country music more than earned him the headlining spot of the event.
For 17 years, Allan has been writing and singing country songs with great success. If his seven gold and three platinum albums weren’t proof enough of that, then his stellar performance at “Bands in the Backyard” would clear any doubt from the mind.
His gravelly undertones and hopeful lyrics combined for a breathtaking, energetic experience that fans were waiting and hoping for.
So what does Pueblo think of having some of the hottest country acts, literally, in its backyard?
Jay Baker, whose parents live less than a mile from the venue, said they were worried at first about having this many people brought so near their quiet country home.
“We were concerned about all the people disturbing our property, but that wasn’t the case. The event organizers planned every aspect of the event very well, and aside from a little dust in the air, we didn’t even notice the event going on,” Baker said.
Despite the initial worries, Baker said he thought this was a great opportunity for the Mesa area of Pueblo County.
“Pueblo County has always been proud of their agricultural and country heritage. To bring in some of Nashville’s biggest country artists for a sellout concert, is as much a celebration of our heritage and way of life as it is a great event financially for the community,” Baker said.
Giodone hopes to be able to bring “Bands in the Backyard” back to Pueblo again next year, but isn’t 100 percent sure that it will happen yet.
“It’s not hard to get big names to come to Pueblo, though it doesn’t happen very often, you just have to write a big check,” Giodone said.
He went on to say that the economic impact more than makes up for the cost of getting the artists here. The restaurants people eat at, the hotels people book and the gas they have bought are bringing millions of dollars into Pueblo’s economy.
“Look at all these people,” Giodone said as he motioned with his hands to the huge crowd. “The most important thing is that they all came out and are having a good time, and we’re looking really hard at bringing the event back to Pueblo next year.”
Pueblo will welcome the return of Bands in the Backyard, if the large turnout was any indication of how they felt about having bands in their backyard.
“As someone who grew up just miles from the venue, I think Bands in the Backyard is great for our community. I would welcome future concerts at Giodone’s arena,” Baker said.
— Katie England