On Day 3 of Hampton Roads’ Patriotic Festival, “Real Country” ruled with performances by Cody Johnson, Randy Houser, and Tyler Booth, while DJ Ty Street set the tone, warming up the crowd. As the festival entered its final day, Norfolk, Virginia welcomed a slightly more relaxed but enthusiastic sold-out venue. Relocation of the festival from the Virginia Beach Oceanfront to Scope Arena beginning in 2022 proved to be a wise decision, and fans were thankful that the unpredictable Hampton Roads weather could not affect the Memorial Day weekend celebration.
Tyler Booth, a young artist from Campton, Kentucky, burst onto the stage with his pocket bandana flying and mullet flowing under a white cowboy hat singing hit song, “87 Octane.” The setlist included fan favorite “ Palomino Princess” where he sounded strikingly like George Straight, and finished with his most popular song, “Hank Crankin’ People.” Tyler hustled around the stage like a veteran entertainer engaging the crowd, lying down on stage to sing to fans’ cell phones, borrowing a ten-gallon hat, signing merch and throwing it to the crowd without ever missing a word. He sang Classic Country like a rockstar.
Tyler Booth Setlist:
1) 87 Octane
2) Greyhound or a Slow Train
3) Palomino Princess
4) Stone Cold High and Dry
5) Hank Crankin’ People
Randy Houser commanded the stage filling the dome with his deep powerhouse country blues sound with “Boots On” and “Whistlin’ Dixie.” Every single person in the crowd sang along to “How Country Feels,” “Chattahoochee” (Alan Jackson cover)” and more (see setlist below.)
The crowd erupted into cheers as Houser showcased his new song (not yet released), “Devil Wants to Cancel,” a powerful testament to the struggles endured by men who embrace their faith, only to face opposition and scrutiny from the backlash of “cancel culture.” Some of the lyrics are:
I’m a God-fearin’ man…
Breakin’ my bread at the breakfast table,
bowin’ my head ‘cause I’m willin’ and able.
Takin’ the hand of the woman I love,
holdin’ it tigher when the times get tough.
Teachin’ our kids how the good Lord blessed us,
callin’ out the shit that the world done messed up.
Right is right and God is the answer,
livin’ that life that the devil wants to cancel.
After “Note to Self,” Houser shared how the USO called and asked if he would go to Iraq to perform to troops who were isolated and lonely. The 11-day trip to those remote “truck stops” in Iraq changed his perspective in life giving him a new appreciation for home, safety and family.
Randy Houser Setlist:
1) Boots On
2) Whistlin’ Dixie
3) How Country Feels
4) Troubadour (George Straight cover)
5) Outlaw Shit (Waylon Jennings cover)
6) Chattahoochee (Alan Jackson cover)
7) Devil Wants to Cancel (new song!)
8) Note to Self
9) Like a Cowboy
10) Runnin’ Outta Moonlight
Cody “CoJo” Johnson from Sebastopol, Texas always dreamed of becoming a successful bull rider, worked tirelessly at it for many years, but was also immersed in music and songwriting along the way. I gained much respect for bull riding having been commissioned by the Professional Bull Riders Association (PBR) to photograph a competition from the “Shark Cage” right on the floor/dirt, and I’ve been able to see up close how incredibly challenging and truly dangerous the sport can be. (Who would have thought my work for PBR and my love of concert photography would have collided?) Even though Cody’s rodeo ambitions didn’t come to fruition, his music career took off. Coming full circle, all the big rodeos he used to dream about, he and his band played them.
His journey brought him to headline closing night of Patriotic Festival Day 3 in Norfolk, Virginia. CoJo burst onto the stage starting with “Let’s Build a Fire” and “Y’all People.” Even with that first note, I felt a camaraderie in the air between the singer and his fans (CoJo Nation), like old friends who hadn’t seen each other in a while.
After “Longer Than She Did,” Cody gave his personal testimony emphasizing how his faith in Christ helped him through tough and confusing times. He admitted he is one of the most imperfect Christians in the room, but stated, “I’m not scared to stand up in front of you tonight and say that the only reason that we’re gathered here under the name of country music is because of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…” and the crowd cheered.
Johnson wrote a “love letter” about the sport he loved titled, “Dear Rodeo.” He re-recorded this song with country music icon Reba McEntire, but since Reba wasn’t available in person, he had the audience sing her part. This song inspired the documentary Dear Rodeo: The Cody Johnson Story. Consequently, he announced to the sold-out crowd that there will be a Part 2.
Johnson stopped the show to honor fallen troops, active-duty military, law enforcement, and first responders for this Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. Then, after “Long Haired Country Boy (The Charlie Daniels Band cover),” Cody introduced all of his talented band members. Having photographed many rock shows, my favorite band member instantly became Harrison Yount when he rocked the steel guitar with Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” for his solo. This song’s intro is instantly recognizable to pop and rock fans across the world, is usually accompanied by deafening cheers, but was met with near silence and blank stares with this country music audience. I was stunned but amused.
Other highlights of the show included “On My Way to You,” “Human,” and Cody Johnson’s award-winning hit, “Til You Can’t.” It’s easy to see why CoJo has earned multiple ACM and CMA Awards nominations, created a Platinum-selling, Top 10 single (“On My Way To You”), two RIAA Gold-certified tracks (“Nothin’ On You” and “With You I Am”) and has more than two billion streams worldwide. He has devoted his entire life’s work trying to change country music back to the traditional style labeled “Real Country,” and his efforts seem to be making considerable headway in the industry.
Cody Johnson Band Members:
Cody Johnson (Lead Vocals, Guitar)
Jody Bartula (Fiddle and Guitar)
Jake Mears (Lead Guitar)
Seth Wilson filling in for Joey Pruski (Bass Guitar)
Miles Stone (Drums and Percussion)
Harrison Yount (Steel Guitar)
Cody Johnson Setlist:
1) Let’s Build a Fire
2) Y’all People
3) With You I Am
4) Dance Her Home
5) Diamond in My Pocket
6) Longer Than She Did
7) Dear Rodeo
8) Red Dirt Road (Brooks & Dunn cover
10) Nothin’ on You
11) Son of a Ramblin’ Man
12) Never Go Home Again
13) On My Way to You
[Salute to Troops]
15) Long Haired Country Boy (The Charlie Daniels Band cover)
[Band member introductions and solos]
16) Me and My Kind
17) ‘Til You Can’t
Check out the fans from the final night of Virginia’s Patriotic Festival.
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Follow Tyler Booth online:
Annette Holloway is a music, promo, portrait, and event photographer. Live concert photography and band/artist photoshoots occupy much of her time. Her work has been published on numerous media outlets including Billboard, Pollstar, NBC News, Getty Images, Forbes, HM Magazine, ICON Sportswire, Loudwire, CCM Magazine, and many more. Before diving into photography full time, she was a NASA software engineer, webmaster, church youth leader, and robotics mentor. For more information about her photography, visit AnnetteHolloway.com.