Thunderclouds on the horizon didn’t dampen the spirits of the nearly 1,000 people who attended the second Back Country Bash Aug. 4 at the Chief Joseph Days rodeo grounds.
Event organizers had a hefty main lineup of three alt-country acts, including Shane Smith and the Saints out of Austin, Texas; Corb Lund of Alberta, Canada, and Reckless Kelly, lately of Austin, but with Idaho and Oregon roots.
Local singer-songwriter An American Forrest (Forrest Van Tuyl) and guitar virtuoso Mark Kroos served as the show’s opening acts. Van Tyul played his usual set of tasteful and original western songs with a heavy emphasis on the joys of life on horseback. The dexterous Kroos wowed the audience with his mastery of the double neck acoustic guitar, on occasion even playing two songs simultaneously.
Shane Smith and the Saints served up plenty of high-powered alt-country, which featured fiddle playing to give the audience a taste of their roots and how it’s done in Texas. The group served as a perfect forerunner for the following act, Corb Lund.
Although headliner Reckless Kelly is possibly more widely known than Lund, Wallowa County attendees seemed to appreciate the Canadian, whose background is in the ranch life, often the subject of his songs.
He professed his main interests as “horses, guns and whiskey,” much to the crowd’s delight. The thunderous applause that met Lund when he asked if the crowd would like him to return indicated the distinct possibility of another visit.
Headliner Reckless Kelly is at the forefront of the alt-country movement, and the size of the crowd that pressed up to the stage at the beginning of their set indicated the audience was well aware of the fact. The five-member group, led by brothers Willy and Cody Braun, showed the audience why they’re on top.
Lead singer Willy Braun mesmerized the audience with his sparkling voice and commanding stage presence with able vocal help from brother, Cody and the excellent musicianship of the other band members. They laid out a blueprint of how to serve as the backbone of a top-notch band. Audience enthusiasm was so high, the band played well past their alloted stage time.
OK Theatre owner Darrel Brann, who also seved as one of the concert promoter, said that the show met expectations and then some.
“We haven’t gotten in the total numbers yet, but I think we were up near 1,500 people there, which is pretty close to doubling what we had last year,” he said. “Everyone was really pleasant, and the bands were happy to be there. They really loved the crowd and the energy coming from it.”
Brann said the success of the event was a probable indicator that the event would return next year and possibly expand in the future. The concert series is presented by the Chief Joseph Days Rodeo Committee.