Last updated on June 29th, 2023 at 07:04 am
Winstock 2023 featured country music from across the United States, with the majority coming from Louisana, Tennessee, or Texas, the home state of headliners Cody Johnson and Miranda Lambert. Winstock does things differently than other festivals, especially the side stage. Most festivals have local acts there; Winstock combines those with up-and-coming national talent. In addition, Winstock brings an artist up on stage to sing the National Anthem to open each day. I don’t recall this happening at any other festivals.
On Friday, The K102 Morning Show welcomed Maggie Schuft onto the stage to sing the Anthem. Maggie started to sing, and the microphone didn’t work. This young lady worked with the morning show crew to get it working, then powered through her performance. Congrats to Maggie; the National Anthem has to be one of the hardest songs to sing.
Chris Kroeze was the first act on the Main Stage. The Wisconsin native, mostly known for his time on The Voice, got the toughest gig available, in my opinion. The crowd is always sparse or inactive. Kroeze played a couple of original songs and covers of Blake Shelton’s “Playboys of the Southwestern World” and Hank Williams Jr’s “Family Tradition.”
Then Minnesota native Anderson Daniels got the nod on the West Stage, warming up the crowd for Blackhawk. Daniels played some of his top songs, including “Town Like This,” “Heartland,” and “Middle Of The Road Town.”
BlackHawk was next on the Main Stage. This is your 90’s hit band that constantly tours, and when you hear them live, you walk away realizing you knew almost every song they played. With 15 top 40 hits, they have a great catalog to pull from, whether headlining or in the middle of the show like today. They sounded great and were interactive with the Winstock crowd.
We got our first taste of “Texas Country” from Shane Profitt on the West Stage. Shane was the first of several acts that pleasantly surprised me at the festival. This guy can sing, and with his crowd interaction and down-to-earth personality, I’d expect to hear big things from him in the not-so-distant future.
Gabby Barrett rose to fame in part due to her appearance on American Idol, making her a natural fit to warm up the headliners on Friday. Barrett scored a #1 hit with “I Hope” from her debut album, and her sophomore effort, featuring the recently released single “Glory Days,” is set to drop later this year.
Cody Johnson hit the Main Stage to finish Friday night, easily delivering the best performance of the entire festival.
Johnson has been working towards this for 15 years, honing his craft and releasing several albums as an independent artist before signing with Warner Music. He commanded the audience’s attention while playing mostly originals, including the #1 hit “Til You Can’t.” His covers included “Long Haired Country Boy” and “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys.”
If you get the chance to see Johnson and his band play live, you’ll think you’re watching a younger version of Garth Brooks.
I first came across Johnson’s music about ten years ago and thought he had potential, but then he disappeared off my radar. I was finally reminded of him and his fantastic progress here; his show is every bit as good as his music.
The K102 Morning Show and April Gunderson kicked off Day 2, and this time things ran smoothly, with Gunderson singing a beautiful, smooth version of the Star Spangled Banner.
Nashville artist and Minnesota native Jenn Bostic took the Main Stage first on Saturday. She talked about how honored she was to sing for our deployed troops on multiple occasions, and got the crowd warmed up by singing “Not Yet,” and her hit, “Jealous of the Angels.”
George Birge played the first of Saturday’s two West Stage sets, delivering a combination of original music along with select 90’s Country hits. He amused the crowd with “That Drink,” his reimagining of the hit song “Wink” with new lyrics.
Diamond Rio is no stranger to Winstock, coming back to play this 29th edition for their first appearance since 2019. They quipped that they learned their lesson on playing new music: “You guys just don’t want it.” So they opted to please the crowd with their older hits, including “Unbelievable,” Norma Jean Riley,” “One More Day,” “Beautiful Mess,” and “Meet Me In The Middle.”
Jo Dee Messina returned to Winstock for the first time since her headlining appearance in 2002. As told in her hit song “I’m Alright,” Messina has been on both top of the world and also knocked on her ass. She’s made a wonderful comeback and proved it to the Winstock crowd.
Messina’s hour-long set included most of her Billboard hits like “Dare To Dream,” “That’s The Way,” “Bring On The Rain,” and her biggest hit “Heads Carolina, Tails California.”
Messina also got the nod for the “aww moment” of the weekend, stopping during the middle of the set to compliment a little girl for wearing headphones as ear protection. She even convinced the young fan to count to 10, creating a cute scene for the crowd to eat up.
Hailey Whitters finished the night on the West Stage. This young lady was an absolute blast to watch, from her flashy outfit to her dancing and twirling on stage. More importantly, her singing was spot on, nailing covers of John Denver and Trisha Yearwood alongside her original hits “How Far Can It Go” and “Everything She Ain’t.”
Dylan Scott took to the Main Stage as the audience finally filled in, likely to see him. His set included a cover of “Dust On The Bottle” to go along with his hits “Ball Cap,” “New Truck,” “Hooked,” and “My Girl.”
Not only can Scott sing, but he’s also a riot on stage. During one song, he pretty much tackled his guitarist, putting him in a headlock. He managed to make a fan’s selfie a little awkward by posing in front of her with his back turned and his hand on his buttocks.
Jordan Davis was great during his biggest hits, although other parts of his show seemed to drag. The “Singles You Up” star did have everyone standing up and singing, and the high points of the show far outweighed the low points. The final song of the night, “Buy Dirt,” brought Davis the closest to classic country music for the evening.
Just an hour’s drive from most of the Twin Cities, Winstock is the most consistent festival around, running a solid 29 years with all proceeds benefitting kids attending school in the area. Most of the workers you come into contact with are volunteers, and you get a great mix of local and national acts, from up-and-coming artists to past or present headliners.
While some of the next year’s artists have been announced, Winstock hasn’t published those on a website yet. With a little digging on the web, you should be able to find the information, or you could just jump on your Big Green Tractor and head over in 2024.