Country music fans can ditch their boots for flip flops as the third installment of Coastal Country Jam hits Huntington State Beach for a weekend full of tipsy twang September 23 – 24. The two-day fest will feature country heavyweights Lady Antebellum and Nashville bred Old Dominion, and rounds out a summer concert series that kicked off in April and culminates this weekend.
Coastal Country Jam originated last July, when Steve Thacher, president of Activated Events, discovered that Huntington Beach was prime real estate for a country crowd. After a well-received inaugural event last summer he laid the groundwork for three shows in 2017 that stretched from April to the upcoming two-day concert, which will welcome its first all-ages crowd and is expected to draw up to 20,000 attendees over the weekend.
“We really wanted to launch a series and I think we have the perfect venue in southern California,” Thacher said. “Being right on the beach - I don’t think anything really compares. We wanted to do a series that went through the summer and April was the perfect time frame to kick things off. The appetite was there.”
Country Coastal Jam is one of many events that Thacher has orchestrated over the last decade, with a roster of concerts and community events that include Wet Electric, Sundown Music Festival, Beachfront Cinema and more. The events producer admits that Activated is relatively new to the country music community, but after nearly 20 country concerts this year he’s acclimating to the scene and managed to nab one of the top acts in the genre with Lady Antebellum.
“I really feel like the country music community embraced us and we’ve embraced them. We’re billing some of the best,” Thacher said. “We’ve also got local artists, Brett Young is from here in Orange County and he’s blowing up right now. We’ve also got bands like Honey County and The Scotty Mac Band, they have a great SoCal following and they’re tremendous performers as well.”
Scott McLaughlin, lead singer of The Scotty Mac Band, is no stranger to Country Coastal Jam. The Southern California native played the first incarnation last July, when he performed an acoustic set on the side stage known as the Barn. This year he graduates to the main stage where he’ll be one of the opening acts for Lady Antebellum, scoring a big name slot on the venue’s beachside stage.
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McLaughlin notes that the country music scene experienced a great deal of growth since his band’s inception four years ago, when they struggled to land a local show. While larger country acts have long played venues like the Honda Center and the now defunct Irvine Meadows, smaller country artists weren’t always at the top of club owner’s wish lists. McLaughlin credits Thacher’s taste in venues and willingness to support local artists as part of a movement that’s helping Orange County become a more welcoming host to country music.
“[Thacher] has built something really incredible with these festivals in the last year, and it's provided a lot of opportunity to regional bands. It's been really cool to see these events grow since they started last summer,” McLaughlin said. “The headliners and supporting acts keep getting bigger and they still seem to be able to make room for unsigned bands like us to be on the bill.”
If the rise of big name headliners and impact on local artists are any indicator, Thacher and his Country Coastal Jam are hitting their stride on the Huntington Beach shoreline. Performers also include Eli Young Band, Michael Ray and more, and the fest will offer barbeque, a variety of booze, a Ferris wheel, line dancing, and a silent disco.
Country Coastal Jam featuring Lady Antebellum, Old Dominion, Eli Young Band and more, at Huntington State Beach, 21601 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach; www.countrycoastaljam.com. Sept. 23 – 24, $20 - $499, all ages.