College friends from Grand Rapids at their Infield Campsite. (John M. Galloway / Special to The Detroit News)
If there was a perfect artist to play Faster Horses late Saturday afternoon, it was Chase Rice.
The North Carolina native’s odes to drinking and good times – “I Like Drinking Cause It’s Fun,” “Best Beers of Our Lives” – were exactly what the crowd at Michigan International Speedway needed to get the party started for the Saturday night ahead.
Rice kept the good times flowing with covers of Nelly’s “Country Grammar” and Lit’s “My Own Worst Enemy,” and the crowd – packed with girls in American flag bikini tops sitting atop boyfriends’ shoulders – responded with huge cheers and hoisted beers in the air.
As Rice wrapped up, up-and-comer Sam Hunt played to the biggest crowd of the weekend at the Next to Nashville stage, and the audience jumped in place to his hit “Leave the Night On.” If he comes back next year, he’ll play to an even bigger crowd.
As the night led into sets by Brett Eldredge, Darius Rucker and headliner Keith Urban, the crowd was gearing up for another huge evening of fun and partying.
Earlier in the day, morning rains parted and didn’t dampen the mood at Faster Horses’ second day.
Again, fans were slow to make their way to the concert site Saturday after Friday night’s party in the campgrounds. But by good time country veteran Joe Diffie took the stage Saturday afternoon, several thousand fans packed the area around the main stage and were singing along to his early ’90s hit “Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox (If I Die).” Soon after, the “U-S-A!” chants started, representative of the heavily patriotic crowd.
Midway through the festival – the three-day event wraps up Sunday night with a closing set by country superstar Miranda Lambert – Faster Horses can be deemed a runaway success. An estimated crowd of more than 20,000 fans poured into the festival Thursday night and turned the site into a small village, a wild four-day bash full of cowboy boots, booze and country twang.
Over in the backstage artist’s village area, the weekend’s performers had a sanctuary away from the rest of the festival complete with a volleyball court, swimming pool, and games of Giant Jenga and cornhole. Artists were treated to an array of Michigan-made products, including Vernors, Faygo, Towne Club Soda, Better Made chips, Oberon beer and more. Caterer Liz Butsicaris of Queen of Cups catering wanted to showcase all Michigan-made products in the village area, which was decked out to resemble an Up North cottage.
Out on the grounds of the fest Saturday afternoon, fans danced inside of a foam party, covering themselves in suds inside the tented area for what many may have been the weekend’s version of a shower. Not far from the foam party was the giant waterslide, a good way for fans to wash off the soap before heading back to their campsites.
Around 6 p.m., the clouds that hung over Faster Horses most of the day parted, opening up a sky filled with glorious sunshine.