Jackson, McGraw headline '09 Country Thunder - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

Jackson, McGraw headline '09 Country Thunder

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Posted: Tuesday, December 2, 2008 9:09 am | Updated: 9:13 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Country royalty will grace the fields of Florence this spring, as Tim McGraw and Alan Jackson are scheduled to top a star-studded bill at this year’s Country Thunder.

Jackson, the down-home backbone of modern country (30 number one singles, 40 million in album sales), and McGraw, (“I Like It, I Love It,” “Live Like You Were Dyin’ ”) lead a preliminary lineup announced by country comedy duo Williams & Ree on KTVK-TV (Channel 3’s) “Good Morning Arizona” today.

Country Thunder 2009, Blake Shelton, Neil McCoy, Keith Anderson, Florence, Schnepf Farms, Rodney Atkins

“Sounds like a pretty good lineup to me,” comedian Terry Ree said.

Blake Shelton (“The More I Drink”), Little Big Town (“Boondocks”), Rodney Atkins, Keith Anderson, Montgomery Gentry, Neil McCoy and the Zac Brown Band are slated to round out the roster of performers who will shoulder guitars April 1-4 and shake the bucolic pastures around Florence as part of country music’s four-day Woodstock.

“We’ve hosted a lot of festivals, and you want a good combination like this,” Ree explained. “Big stars, like Tim and Alan, good live performers and artists that you’re catching on the way up.” Younger artists, he said, help energize an event. “I can remember doing a festival in Canada back when Garth Brooks wasn’t Garth Brooks yet. He literally stole that show.”

The lineup is subject to further changes, to be announced Christmas week. But Williams and Ree are locked in as the hosts of the sprawling country extravaganza.

“We’ll have fun, make people laugh and laugh at people,” Ree chuckled. “Sometimes big festivals have too much dead time between acts. We keep the energy up, and the party atmosphere going.”

Changes don’t confine themselves to the hosts. Country Thunder has made production and scheduling adjustments that favor rank-and-file fans. The festival’s “bowl” area, for headline acts, has been moved to a longer, deeper part of the venue that will improve sightlines. VIP seating has been cut by more than two-thirds, to allow fan proximity to the stage, and headline acts will conclude by 10:30 p.m., so commuting families can make it home before the wee hours.

“We’re looking forward to it,” Ree said. “We were down there (at Country Thunder) with Neil McCoy a few years ago. I partied so hearty, I don’t remember much else. So I must have had a good time.”

Country Thunder will kick off Wednesday night, April 1, in the beer garden at Canyon Moon Ranch in Florence. Early Bird tickets are on sale at $99 for the weekend. For more information, visit www.countrythunder.com.

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