Over the weekend, we spent our days lounging on a picnic blanket in the middle of the field of MUSC Health Stadium stuffing our bellies with BBQ, mac ‘n’ cheese, and cold brews while filling our ears with the everything from Bob Marley and Metallica covers to some truly down-home original country sounds. Of course, we're talking about Zac Brown's Southern Ground Festival.
The lineup included some new faces like Cam, Jamestown Revival, and Muddy Magnolias while a few old favorites like Michael Franti and Spearhead and Kacey Musgraves kept us captivated, too. There was some concern that the lineup might change after reports that Zac Brown was involved in a Florida drug bust began to circulate, but everyone seemed to make it the stage unshackled and unfazed.
Day One: We were worried the rain would carry through the weekend, and so came armed with rain jackets and blankets. A few more optimistic fans came dressed for the sunshine and perhaps a slightly different scene. There were bare-footed, mustached men in tight denim cut-offs and Michael Franti tanks dancing next to teenagers in crochet tops, who clearly missed the exit on their way to Coachella. The festival tends to attract a following as eclectic as its lineup — a fact that the hosts have begun to embrace, selling Stetson hats next to Vineyard Vine T-shirts.
We missed opener Jamestown Revival while waiting in the seemingly endless line to enter the venue but made it in time to see Zac Brown Band member John Driskell Hopkins. His gift with the guitar and banjo seems to be second nature, and he played with nonchalance and no-frills.
We completely switched gears when we went to the main stage to check out Cam, who bounced around the stage in her signature yellow T-shirt, tennis shoes, and Disney-esque dance moves. Firecracker seems to be the only word to describe the pint-sized blonde with powerhouse, quintessentially country vocals.
Throughout the afternoon Old Dominion and Thomas Rhett had twentysomething women screaming and foaming at the mouth, while Michael Franti’s fans were easy to spot, thanks to the telltale clouds of smoke.
Marshall Tucker instructed younger generations on what real Southern rock sounds like with classics like "Can’t You See?" and "Fire on the Mountain."
As expected, Zac Brown Band had the audience on their feet from the first song to the last and brought the house down with their rendition of Queen’s "Bohemian Rhapsody."
Day Two: The crowds trickled in as they recovered from the night before, but we donned our sunglasses, grabbed a large Blue Moon and a prime spot for the Muddy Magnolias. Those women defined kickass as they belted out "American Woman" with their raspy, soulful voices and locked-in harmonies.
Other favorites that day included Dolly Parton’s brunette double Kacey Musgraves and the immensely talented Tedeschi Trucks Band, whose frontwoman Susan Tedeschi stole the show.
At Hunter Hayes' stage, we got ourselves a few bruised ribs from mothers bowling their way to the front to fangirl over a less-than-stellar performance.
The night ended with another great performance by Zac Brown and the gang, whose instrumental talents could not have been outshined by their guests. To prove this, they shredded "Enter Sandman" by Metallica to close the concert, leaving us hoarse and happy on Monday morning. We’re already requesting a sneak peek at next year’s lineup.