After a year and a half of no live music, Pepsi Gulf Coast Jam decided enough was enough. From June 4th-6th, the founders and amazing team put together one hell of a show with headliners Lynyrd Skynyrd, Brad Paisley, and Luke Bryan. Attendance soured upwards of 25,000 just on the first day. Clearly Florida was ready to open its doors and people from all over the country attended in agreement with the state. This weekend was certainly one to never forget. But before I give you a more personal review, check out the promo video below to get a taste of this incredible event!
Friday afternoon I entered the festival hours before it was even open to the general public. It was the quiet before the storm. Vendors were cooking up some fantastic smelling food, icing up drinks, and adjusting their cowboy hats for what was about to be the start of one long day. Frank Ray was just finishing up soundcheck and immediately afterwards met me backstage for an exclusive interview with me! (And when you’re done reading this, make sure you go check it out.) It was just about time for the action to start once we were finished and Frank Ray did not disappoint. He brought the roof down with high energy and spanish-country vibes. It was quite the tough act to follow, but CJ Solar, Jon Langston, Lindsay Ell, Joe Nichols, and Cody Jinks kept that passion alive and shared their love with the crowd. Friday night went out with a bang when Lynyrd Skynyrd took the stage. The pit was beyond packed and almost impossible to get through, but when I tell you it was well worth it to jam myself in there like a sardine, I genuinely mean it.
Saturday afternoon, Alex Hall began the day and packed the heat. Due to the large crowd from the previous day, late night concert goers learned their lesson and filled the lawn at a much earlier time. Which was lucky for fans who were in the VIP section since the second act of the day, Shy Carter, jumped right into the crowd to sing along with everyone. It was an extremely memorable moment and well worth the couple of extra hours in the sun. Following artists, Tenille Townes, Rodney Atkins, and Billy Ray Cyrus took the stage just before nightfall. I may be biased, but Billy Ray was surely one of my favorite acts and I was even able to get an autograph which only made my experience that much better! Of course I couldn’t forget Cole Swindell and Brad Paisley who put on some of the absolute best performances. Both played some throwbacks to keep all ages of the crowd involved and Brad decided that just wasn’t enough. After playing a song on his guitar, he handed it off to a young fan hanging out by the stage and even autographed it for her! As he handed it off he stated, “This is how you make the next Taylor Swift”. It was an extremely kind gesture from him and undoubtedly made that girl’s dreams come true.
After two packed filled days of amazing experiences for fans, Pepsi winner Tom Yankton kicked off the day. He’s a true performer and will surely be a hit in the country music world. Some women power lead the next two acts with Shelly Fairchild and Tenille Arts. These two were inspiring young females to follow their dreams and achieve all they want to achieve with their inspiring music. To keep the beat going, Walker Hayes and Riley Green were up next playing all our favorite hits. Time to take out the rum because Brothers Osborne were coming in hot and ready to party with the crowd. They even had the photo pit filled with previous acts and band members. They lead us right into the final act of the festival, Luke Bryan. Lights were flashing, boots were knockin’, and cameras were flashing when he took the floor. All eyes were on him and when I tell you that the pit was packed, it was p.a.c.k.e.d. But once again, well worth the squish if there was an opportunity to get a nice photo of him jamming out. The energy throughout the Gulf Coast Jam was crazy high. Everyone was just ready to get back to normal. Even T.J. of Brothers Osborne announced, “It’s good to see this is the new normal again”. But there was only one person who truly made that happen, the governor of Florida. That’s right, Ron DeSantis stepped on stage right before Luke Bryan and spoke to the crowd about moving forward and living our lives.
The entire event ran so smoothly even with a few kinks here and there. I spent Friday, Saturday, and Sunday photographing the artists, getting to know the volunteers and employees of the festival and drinking beer with fans in all sections and to say this weekend was eventful would be an understatement. The artists were ready to bring it and give it their all. And if you missed this weekend, Gulf Coast will once again be hosting another event on Labor Day weekend. When I say you can’t miss it, I truly and utterly mean it. If you love country music, meeting like minded fans, and getting some free merch, get your tickets here and head on down to Panama City Beach. I’d definitely give this festival an 11/10 for the overall experience!
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