DETROIT: The WYCD Downtown Hoedown got off to a rocking -- not rocky -- start for its 29th year.
As thousands of ebullient music fans rolled into Detroit's Hart Plaza on Friday (March 13) afternoon and into the evening, what's said to be the world's largest free country music festival had a decided rock and pop flavor, at least early on. Local artist Chuck Wicks and his band entertained the happy hour crowd with the Travie McCoy hit "Billionaire," while Thompson Square, which opened main stage, slipped Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down" and Kiss' "Rock and Roll All Nite" amidst songs from its debut album, which came out in February and launched the chart-topping hit "Are You Gonna Kiss Me."
And then there was Aaron Lewis, who's sold more than 15 million albums worldwide as the lead singer of the rock band Staind. The chain-smoking Lewis has crossed over to the country charts with an EP called "Town Line" and the hit "Country Boy," but he acknowledged his rock roots early in his mellow acoustic set on Friday, opening with Staind's "Outside" and also including the group's "Tangled Up in You," which he re-recorded for "Town Line."
Sunny Sweeney, however, kept her set on the country tip, offering up favorites from her 2007 debut "Heartbreaker's Hall of Fame" but also delivering a generous preview of her sophomore album, slated for release in July, including the songs "Mean As You," "Amy" and the current single "Staying's Worse Than Leaving," plus a cover of the late Waylon Jennings' 1971 hit "Good Hearted Woman."
The Downtown Hoedown continues Saturday and Sunday (May 14 and 15), starting at 1 p.m. each day. A full schedule and other information can be found at www.wycd.com.