By Joshua Wallace
Saturday was the final day for Tumbleweed 2018. With the heat still pounding on this day as it had all weekend, I decided to stick with the main stage acts this day. This meant I would miss a few acts on the second stage that I wanted to see, but this heat required as little movement as possible to work in. I made my way down Buzzkill Hill for the last time to the festival grounds. I had some time so I hung out in the air conditioned Tumbleweed Tavern and I also got breakfast from one of the vendors who were already open. I had loaded breakfast tater tots that were very good. I also picked up a breakfast burrito and kept it for later in the day. I highly recommend checking out the food vendors when you are at a festival. Sometimes they can be expensive, but it is worth trying something you might not get a chance to try again as festivals can rotate vendors year in and year out.
Cole & Kendra Porter
Saturday’s acts on the main stage started with Porter Union. I have been a big fan of theirs since their 2017 self titled debut. They featured songs from this album heavily during their Tumbleweed set. I particularly loved “Thief” and “Out Of Spite” but one of my favorites of the set was one of Kendra’s songs which I think was titled “Maggie Jo” though I might be recalling that title wrong. Porter Union’s set was one of many highlights of the weekend and I look forward to hearing more of them.
Up next on the main stage was Tony Martinez. I had been a fan of his ever since I came across his Everybody’s Buddy EP last year. He had a small 3 piece band with him, but the star of the show was his interactions with the crowd and the amazing skills he displayed on the guitar. I particularly loved his original tune “Help Me Up (So I Can Get Down)” as a highlight of this set.
Mickey Lamantia and his band
Next on the main stage was the second performance from Mickey Lamantia. He performed an acoustic set on Thursday night, but this time he brought his full band which even included some amazing pedal steel playing from Dave Summers. Mickey’s set featured a lot of cuts from his 2018 album Every Bad Habit which is still high on my on giong Top 20 albums of 2018 list. I loved the full band version of songs like “When I Get On A Roll” and “Take Our Country Back”. The highlight of the set came when Billy Don Burns surprised Mickey by appearing on stage behind him for a few songs. Mickey in turn surprised Billy and allowed him to have his own spotlight and gave him some time to perform his own songs. Mickey also reprised his “Are You Sure Hank Did It This Way?” cover from his Thursday night set with more guests on stage. This set was another highlight in a day of them.
Mickey Lamantia with Billy Don Burns
The Steel Woods
Wes Bayliss of The Steel Woods
The Steel Woods
Following Mickey Lamantia was Kentucky’s own The Steel Woods. I was familiar with their debut 2017 album Straw In The Wind, but I had not seen them live yet. They are much heavier live than on record. This blends their heavy metal and southern rock influences well. Covers of The Allman Brothers track “Whipping Post” mesh well with Black Sabbath’s “Hole In The Sky”. I loved the heavier takes on their album tracks and one of my favorites of the set was “Straw In The Wind”. I look forward to the next record from The Steel Woods and hope that album reflects their live style a bit more as it was a crowd favorite.
Ward Davis was next on the main stage. I had been looking forward to seeing Ward live again since I saw him last year with Cody Jinks at the Ryman. He launched into a set which included songs from his 2015 album 15 Years In A 10 Year Town and songs from his upcoming album which I believe is called Geronimo. I particularly love his solo take on “”Old Wore Out Cowboys” which he opened the song with saying that this was the song Willie Nelson said yes to. He also did his version of “I’m Not The Devil” and it never gets old hearing a crowd of over 1,000 fans singing along to that song. He was the only act I saw on the main stage that night get an encore. He came back out and got the crowd ready for 2019 with an amazing cover of Alabama’s hit “Lady Down On Love”.
Ward Davis Band
Billy Don Burns before Shooter Jennings
The final act that I saw at Tumbleweed 2018 was Shooter Jennings. Before Shooter’s set though, we were treated to a short set from Billy Don Burns. He played songs like “Lonesome 77203” and “Desperate Men” to get the crowd ready for Shooter. In addition to Billy Don Burns, I got to step out in front of the crowd and hype them for Shooter who was about to come on stage. This was one of the most unreal moments I have ever experienced and it was very cool. I have to thank the Tumbleweed staff for allowing me to do that.
Joshua Wallace introducing Shooter Jennings
Photo Credit to Country Music Armadillo
Shooter Jennings Band
After I left the stage, it was time for what I considered to be the headlining act of Tumbleweed 2019. I had not seen Shooter with this version of his band before and he did not disappoint. He launched into “Electric Rodeo” and “Steady At The Wheel” before going into a set that included tracks from all of his albums and even a few from his upcoming release Shooter. He played his new single “Rhinestone Eyes” along with a reworked version of “Living In A Minor Key” and his first single “Fast Horses and Good Hideouts”. During this song, I noticed a giant beach ball being tossed around in the crowd. As expected, it made its way to the stage but the crowd did not let it get on stage. Shooter never missed a beat and seemed unphased by the events. The highlight of this set for me was the psychedelic jam that he did with “The Gunslinger”. I had only heard “The Gunslinger” performed like this on the Live From Billy Bob’s Texas album, but it still made my jaw drop and was an awesome closing to the show paired with “Good Time Charlie”.
Shooter was the final act that I saw at Tumbleweed 2019. I know Robert Earl Keen and Ray Wylie Hubbard both killed it on the main stage but I needed to hit the road back to Georgia as I had a long overnight drive ahead of me. A few notable things about this day, Ward Davis was the first artist I noticed who mentioned the sound issues between the stages on stage. However, I heard that during The Steel Woods Zephania Ohora was playing solo on the main stage and had to cut his set short because of the noise from the main stage. I am assured that the two stages will not run at the same time next year and that Tumbleweed will be a better experience all around.
This was my first year at Tumbleweed and I can guarantee you it will not be my last. This festival has consistently booked the best in real country music and I have faith that they will continue to do so. There are still a few kinks to work out but any new festival is going to have that as they figure out what works best for their location. Next year Tumbleweed is running a couple of weeks early with dates of May 30th – June 1st. Alabama has already been announced as one of the headliners and tickets are on sale now. You can wait till the rest of the lineup is announced, but they will be more expensive. I’m looking forward to 2019 and you can believe we will have coverage of Tumbleweed 2019 here at Gary Hayes Country.