Day 1 Review by Rebekah Hughes and Annette Holloway
On this extraordinary evening in late May, when the air was unusually crisp but filled with a sense of warmth and camaraderie, the 19th Annual Patriotic Festival unfolded its heartfelt tribute within Scope Arena, the world’s largest reinforced thin-shell concrete dome. The night commenced with a breathtaking rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner, masterfully delivered by the talented US Fleet Forces Band Musician 3rd Class Kathryn Whitbeck. As each branch of the military was recognized, the arena erupted in thunderous cheers and applause filled with gratitude and respect for the men and women who lost their lives or are currently serving and defending our cherished freedoms.
North Carolina native, Cooper Alan kicked off the festival full of energy, bounding across the stage and endearingly joking on University of Virginia fans in the Hampton Roads, Virginia crowd. His 8-song set list was a seamless blend of high-energy, in-your-face tunes for the young at heart. Two songs in, Alan delivered a heartfelt rendition of “Tough Ones,” dedicating the song to military heroes past and present. Released as a single, the lyrics paint a vivid picture of navigating life’s challenges and exploring themes of resilience, inner strength and overcoming adversity. The powerful song resonated even more deeply with the patriotic Memorial Day weekend crowd, leaving fans of all ages wiping away tears. Alan finished the set with “Colt 45” which was released in 2021 and made popular on TikTok. Cooper proved to be the perfect choice for the opening act. His ability to pump up the crowd and get them moving was amazing.
Cooper Alan Band Members:
Cooper Alan Setlist:
1) This Ain’t Country
2) Can’t Dance
3) Small Town Celebrities
4) Stand Down
5) Crowd Favorite Artist Mashup
6) Tough Ones
7) First Rodeo
8) Colt 45
Next up, Corey Kent took the stage proudly holding up a Norfolk Admirals (hockey) belt, which prompted a raucous ovation from the crowd as he announced, “To my first ever show in Virginia!” An Oklahoma native, Kent was all business as he delivered a timeless country performance infused with a contemporary twist.
A finalist on NBC’s The Voice in 2015, Kent began the night with the energetic and infectious “Feels A Lot Like This,” lending passionate vocals, accompanied by a tight backing band that brought the song to life. “Can’t You See” and “Long Way” explored Kent’s versatility, connecting with fans on a personal level. His performance of “How You Know You Made It,” featured on his third album, Blacktop (set for release on June 2, 2023) reflected his personal story. Kent’s performance reached a crescendo with the infectious, high-energy track “Wild as Her,” a song that landed Kent on the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time, garnered more than 250 million streams, and a nomination for Breakthrough Male Video of the Year at the 2023 CMT Awards. Catch Kent on his upcoming tour with Jason Aldean starting this July.
Corey Kent Setlist
1) Feels A Lot Like This
2) Can’t You See
3) Hold Up
4) Same Thing
5) Come Together (The Beatles cover)
6) Long Way
7) How You Know You Made It
10) Hood of that Car
12) Wild as Her
13) Ain’t My Day
Headliner, GRAMMY-nominated and Billboard Music Award winner Walker Hayes strolled into the arena belting fan favorite “Y’all Life” while his band and dancers rocked the stage, including his daughter Lela. The next song, also the title of his latest album, “Country Stuff” amassed applause and cheers especially when he playfully changed the lyrics to “I like girls from VIRGINIA.”
Hayes soulful vocals resonated in “Beautiful,” a heartfelt and emotional song that he likened to “a little Taylor Swift moment.” His next three songs in the set which he dubbed, “The Laney Section” (“Don’t Let Her,” “9,” and “U Gurl”) were dedicated to his wife whom he credits as his biggest supporter and the driving force behind his success.
While his songs cover a myriad of topics including drinking, sobriety, fun, family, cars, loss, love, and other country stuff, Walker introduced what he considered his most important song of the night, “Craig.” It’s a deeply personal song about his best friend, but more importantly one about his faith and relationship with Jesus Christ. As a now 4-year-old Christian, he expressed gratitude for the kindness and support he received from his friend during a difficult period. Craig gave the Hayes family a minivan and it sparked a “#BeACraig” movement.
Hayes took a moment to speak from his heart, “I read the Bible 2 times and I didn’t understand a lot of it… but I understand the cross part and I understand that I need a Savior and one of the reasons I figured that out was because I met a friend. A guy named Craig. He loved me when I was an alcoholic. He loved our family when we were about to have our 6th kid and we didn’t have any money and we had one car. He loved me when I wasn’t a believer and that had a big impact on me. If you’re not a believer, I just want to say that I have a huge heart for you.” The crowd cheered.
Hayes’ connection with the audience reached its peak during “Father Time,” a poignant moment accompanied by his daughter, Loxley, evoking the loudest cheers of the evening This family-oriented artist travels with his wife and six children. Follow him online to see their latest adventures (links below).
Hayes closed out Day One with his greatest hit so far, “Fancy Like.” The infectious, feel-good song showcases his unique blend of country, pop and hip-hop. Released in 2021, “Fancy Like” became a viral sensation on TikTok with a dance that his daughter Lela created. The song turned into a chart-topping hit garnering a Billboard Music Award and numerous nominations further solidifying Hayes’ presence in the music industry. The song has become an anthem for embracing the joy of the ordinary and finding happiness in the simplest of experiences. For the complete setlist, see below, and check out Walker Hayes this summer on his Duck Buck Tour.
The first day of the Patriotic Festival left fans happy and hoarse from singing all night. From the energetic opening set by Cooper Alan to Corey Kent’s classic country performance, culminating in Walker Hayes’ epic energy performing hit after hit. As the night drew to a close, the audience left with a rekindled passion for country music and eager anticipation for the upcoming two days of Memorial Day weekend.
Walker Hayes Setlist
1) Y’all Life / Country Grammar (Nelly cover) (Snippet)
2) Country Stuff
3) Show Me the Country
4) Deer Lord
6) Don’t Let Her
8) U Gurl
9) Drinking Songs
10) That Dog’ll Hunt
11) You Broke Up with Me
13) If Father Time Had A Daughter (Duet with daughter Loxley)
15) Black Sheep
17) High Heels (Flo Rida cover)
19) Fancy Like
Follow Walker Hayes online:
Follow Corey Kent online:
Follow Cooper Alan 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.