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Concert Reviews:
Rain dampens but doesn't defeat first day of Downtown Hoedown
 

By GARY GRAFF
@graffonmusic, www.facebook.com/garygraffonmusic

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DETROIT -- "We came here to get down, rain or shine," Drake White told the fans before him Friday, May 31, on the opening night of the 31st WYCD Downtown Hoedown.

And the hearty country crowd certainly didn't let the former get it down.

Friday's afternoon and early evening downpours kept the turnout low at the usually packed Hoedown, now in its second year as a ticketed festival outside Comerica Park after nearly three decades for free in Hart Plaza. But by the time the storms moved on there was a respectable assemblage for home town hero Uncle Kracker's headline set, and Hoedown was off to a spirited, if wet, start.

The former hype man and DJ in Kid Rock's Twisted Brown Trucker band has been a country favorite (and a previous Hoedown headliner) since his chart-topping duet with Kenny Chesney, "When the Sun Goes Down" in 2004, and his latest album, 2012's "Midnight Special," was squarely aimed at that market. With Rock watching from side stage -- but electing not to make a guest appearance -- the recently slimmed-down Uncle Kracker (real name Matt Shafer) and his five-piece band rolled through an amiable 75-minutes that covered all five of his albums and demonstrated that even his early fare, including "Better Days," "In a Little While" and his hit cover of Dobie Gray's "Drift Away" go down easy on either side of the pop/country divide.

Kracker and company also took a jukebox approach to the night, fusing a bit of AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long" into "Follow Me," sliding the Steve Miller Band's "The Joker" into "No Stranger to Shame" and morphing his "I Wish I Had a Dollar" into Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues." He opened the encores with Bob Seger's "Sunspot Baby" and closed the night with Kid Rock's "All Summer Long," which had the Hoedown crowd singing along even without the hoped-for cameo by its maker.

Anyone dodging the rain during the rest of Friday found new discoveries mixed with familiar friends on Hoedown's three stages. Katie Armiger and Maggie Rose kicked up a, er, storm with their sets, while Alabama-born White, whose debut album is due out this fall, showed there's more where his current hit, "Simple Life" came from -- including songs such as "Gypsy" and "If I Could Have a Drink" as well as a hyper-speed cover of John Anderson's "Seminole Wind" and a taste of "House of the Rising Sun" that led into White's own "The Mountain."

Proud Lincoln Park native Ty Stone, meanwhile, held forth on the Nashville in the Neighborhood Stage shortly after the rain stopped, delivering a characteristically upbeat performance that featured established favorites such as "American Style," "Line of Blood" and "Downriver," as well as some new material like "Dream Come True," which was co-written with Uncle Kracker. Stone, a newlywed of three and a half months, also dedicated "Grandma's Diamond Ring" to his wife.

The Hoedown continues at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, June 1-2, at Comerica Park. Tickets are $20 per day, with a portion going to the charity Defeat The Label. Call 313-471-6611 or visit www.wycd.cbslocal.com.

Web Site: www.wycd.cbslocal.com

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