Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Coastal Country Jam review feat. Tim McGraw, Jake Owen, Chase Rice, Dylan Scott in Huntington Beach, Calif.

photo: Kelly Swift
The first Coastal Country Jam of 2019 presented its biggest headliner to date on Saturday at Huntington State Beach. That would be one Tim McGraw, who performed alongside Jake Owen and six others. The sold-out, 8 1/2 hour event was held on the sand before an estimated 20,000 concertgoers.

Between watching live music on this sunny, yet breezy day with temperatures staying in the 60s, attendees rode a Ferris wheel, played Cornhole, sampled Twisted Tea and frozen Otter Pops and browsed retail vendor wares (funniest T-shirt slogans spotted: “Hide Your Crazy & Act Like a Lady”; “Cowboy Butts Drive Me Nuts”).

There were long lines at the booze and food areas, where people chowed down on barbeque and ribs from various places and washed it all down with Firestone and Golden Road brews.

Unlike the smaller CCJ toplined by Chris Janson last June, there weren’t any of the controversial bean bag chairs that accidentally spilled polystyrene foam debris all over the beach, raising the ire of local environmentalists.

Tim McGraw was the consummate entertainer. Taking the stage to Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and promising to “kick it in the (butt),” the veteran singer did exactly that with an excellent eight-piece band. The frequently electrifying 75-minute, 16-song set contained a slew of chart-toppers dating back to 1994, each delivered with vigor or gravitas. Kicking off with a fist-pumping “Truck Yeah,” standouts included the rocking singalong “Felt Good on My Lips,” a wicked harmonica-fueled “Southern Voice,” the rambunctious “I Like It, I Love It,” plus the ultra-dramatic twofer of “Humble and Kind” and “Live Like You Were Dying.”

Before a cover of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer,” McGraw talked about how grateful he was to have “this job and this life.” Despite warning that the wind and dust might have an adverse effect on his vocals, there was no trouble whatsoever. Fans wildly sang along throughout.

photo: Kelly Swift
A beach setting is where Jake Owen thrives. Returning to CCJ after a 2017 appearance, the party-hearty Florida singer devoted a good chunk of his spirited 70-minute set to material from his just-released new album “Greetings from … Jake.”

Opening with his latest top 10 country single “Down to the Honkytonk,” Owen was all over the stage, mixing it up with fans (signing autographs, taking selfies) and at one point, he went out into the crowd, headed toward the soundboard and hiked up a lighting platform to sing. Giving a nod to Sublime, Owen recalled how the band had influenced him as a teenager and did a steel guitar-infused take on “What I Got” (Chase Rice’s band also paid tribute to local band Lit with a bit of “My Own Worst Enemy”). Elsewhere, the closing stretch of “One That Got Away,” “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” and closing nostalgic hit John Mellencamp interpolation “I Was Jack (You Were Diane)” fared best.

Chase Rice (pictured below) helped christen Coastal Country Jam in 2016. His songs often leaned more heavily on the hard rock side than country. Midtempo ballads such as the sensual “Gonna Wanna Tonight,” the earthy “Three Chords and the Truth,” sexual R&B-styled hit “Ride” (Rice apologized to parents with young kids in the crowd) and Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise” (which Rice co-wrote) got the loudest reactions. A time-killing medley comprising Blink-182, 2 Pac, Garth Brooks and Neil Diamond could’ve been used more wisely.

photo: Kelly Swift
An emotional moment was repeated when both Rice and Owen held up a concertgoer’s banner that read “Route 91 Harvest Festival Survivor.” Owen, in Vegas during the 2017 shooting, said, “I was there with you that night and will be with you every night.”

Dylan Scott was all smiles and a totally engaging presence, notably during “Nothing to Do Town,” “Can’t Take Her Anywhere,” an exuberant “Hooked” and upbeat hit “My Girl.” Earlier in the afternoon, Mason Ramsey, the 12-year-old singer/acoustic guitarist from Illinois that became a viral video sensation last year with his yodeling version of Hank Williams’ “Lovesick Blues,” did a charming, well-received 40-minute set.

Although he seemed dwarfed on the large stage alongside just two other musicians, Ramsey possessed a remarkable amount of professional maturity — snapping his fingers, walking the stage extension, waving to teenager girls holding signs, talking briefly between songs and mentioning an upcoming album.

Besides the aforementioned Williams tune, Ramsey covered the country legend’s “I Saw the Light,” “Lovesick Blues,” “Hey Good Lookin’” and “Jambayala (On the Bayou).” He did a solid take on a “Ring of Fire” cover. Originals like the earnest 2018 hit “Famous” and upbeat, catchy “Puddle of Love” (both co-written by Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard) proved strong in their own right.

There were two SoCal contestants from NBC’s “The Voice” on hand. Brennley Brown, who made Top 10 on Season 12 and was raised in Apple Valley,opened the event with a sprightly performance including serviceable Carrie Underwood, Dixie Chicks, Dolly Parton and Waylon Jennings covers.

Presley Tennant, from Norco, was on the TV show’s Battle Rounds last week. She held court on the line dancing area stage with some mildly interesting pop, R&B numbers like Ariana Grande’s “7 Rings” and Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy.”

My review originally appeared at

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