Independence Day Music Festival feat. Brantley Gilbert - Salt River Fields - July 3, 2013
Between the guitar solos, the drummer with a 12-inch Mohawk and fans throwing devil horns high into the air, Brantley Gilbert offered what felt like the closest you would get to a metal concert amid a sea of cowboy hats and shit-kicking boots. Maybe it was the tattoo-sleeved arm Gilbert flashed all night, the Marilyn Manson-esque microphone with brass knuckles, or the way he could instigate a crowd off of their feet with the rhythmic bounce of his arm, but if a comparison could ever realistically be drawn between Avenged Sevenfold and Brantley Gilbert it was at this show.
He gave a shout out to his new fiancée, Jana Kramer, shortly after playing an amazing cover of the country classic "Dust on the Bottle," made famous by David Lee Murphy.
A definitive and moving highlight of the night was Gilbert performing -- for the first time live -- his new song, "One Hell of an Amen," to honor the fallen firefighters of Yarnell. All 19 names scrolled across the giant TV screen to the left of the stage to a back drop of an American flag. Gilbert concluded the song with a moment of silence for the fallen heroes in which all 10,000 people in attendance were respectfully, completely quiet.
"You could hear a pin drop in here, and that's what it's all about," Gilbert said as a thank you to all his fans after the tribute.
For Gilbert's first-ever number-one country song, "Country Must Be Country Wide," he threw on a custom-made Arizona Diamondbacks jersey and had the hometown crowd standing on chairs and sitting on the shoulders of their boyfriends as they raised their hands high into the air and chanted along.
"Let your hair down and have more fun than you've ever had in your life," Gilbert demanded of the ladies in the audience for his final set of songs. "I don't care if your preacher is with you."
After Gilbert's crowd-pleasing encore, a well-timed and impressive onslaught of fireworks consumed the night sky above the Salt River Fields. Fans in attendance returned to sitting on their blankets and gazed at the sky above. For nearly 30 minutes, all eyes were focused on the explosive, multi-colored marvel as the stage speakers released a mash-up soundtrack of all songs relating to being a proud American.
Last Night: Brantley Gilbert at the Independence Day Music Festival.
The Crowd: A country fan base ranging from young children to old timers; all united in red, white and blue.
Personal Bias: I am a fan of both country concerts and rock concerts, and this particular event quenched both desires. Also, I have friends who are firefighters, and the moment of silence for the men in Yarnell was awesome.
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