5 things to expect at Saturday’s iHeartCountry Fest in Austin

May 05, 2017
Suzanne Cordeiro

This weekend is full of music festivals for every type of music fan. You want a party featuring some hard rock, hip-hop and everything in between, there’s the 40th Annual Pecan Street Festival all weekend. If you want to see Chance the Rapper, Gucci Mane and Migos, head on out to Jmblya at Circuit of the Americas. If you want to see some storied Austin musicians play, there’s a Jackalope Brothers Band reunion at the Broken Spoke on Saturday.

And if you like your country music concerts radio-friendly and a few hours long with sets from almost a dozen of the genre’s top performers, there’s the iHeartCountry Festival at the Frank Erwin Center Saturday night. 

Now in its fourth year, the marathon concert will again be hosted by former Austin DJ Bobby Bones and will feature sets from 12 country acts. This year, the show starts at 7 p.m. at the Erwin Center. Tickets are still available and can be purchased here. If you want to watch the concert instead, it will be live-streamed here and broadcast live on iHeartRadio here.

Here’s what we’re looking out for at this year’s festival:

1. This year’s fest will be bigger than last year’s.

Last year’s iHeartCountry Fest featured 11 artists. This year it will have 12, which is the biggest bill in the fest’s four-year history. Headliners this year include Dierks Bentley, Jason Aldean and Little Big Town. Last year’s concert was over around midnight; expect to burn the candle this Saturday as well.

2. Expect some guest duets, probably from Dierks Bentley or Jason Aldean and Kelsea Ballerini.

Stunt guest-spotting isn’t unheard-of at the iHeartCountry Fest. Last year, Jerrod Niemann showed up out of nowhere to sing “A Little More Love” with Lee Brice. Cassadee Pope arrived on the red carpet, but wasn’t on the lineup— later she showed up to wow the crowd with Chris Young on “Think of You.”

More: The 5 best moments of the 2016 iHeartCountry Fest

Maren Morris isn’t on the bill this year, but she appeared on Bentley’s 2016 song “I’ll Be the Moon.” She doesn’t have any upcoming tour dates scheduled until June, so her schedule is free...who’s to say she won’t show up?

More likely is a Jason Aldean/Kelsea Ballerini pairing, since the two sing together on Aldean’s “First Time Again” from his new record “They Don’t Know.”

Plus, there’s always the off chance that an artist will debut a new song with someone else.

3. The Daytime Village Show will introduce you to some great new artists.

I first heard Maren Morris at last year’s Daytime Village Show, a free event in the Erwin Center parking lot that starts hours before the later concert. This year’s lineup features Chris Janson, (who has Bones to thank for the success of his first song “Buy Me a Boat,” which is excellent) Jon Pardi, Kip Moore, Tucker Beathard, Lindsay Ell and Kane Brown. The Daytime Village was first announced as an additional event in 2015.

4. Someone will hopefully do a Merle Haggard tribute.

Haggard, who died April 6, 2016, didn’t get any shout-outs at last year’s festival from the performers, but Prince, who died on April 21, 2016, did, from the Zac Brown Band. (Both were amazing artists with legacies that will never be matched, but this is a country music festival.)

If a Hag tribute is to be had, my bet is it’s going to come from Bentley or Darius Rucker.

5. Little female artist representation.

This year, unless some stunt appearances happen, only four of the 12 acts are women or include women. And unless you’re in Little Big Town or Lady Antebellum, there’s only one solo female artist (Kelsea Ballerini). Sadly, that’s the rule and not the exception at the iHeartCountry Fest.

More: Texas Tech study says women in country songs are more objectified than ever

Last year’s lineup featured two female performers out of 11 on the main stage (and that’s only if you count Cassadee Pope, who was never listed on the lineup to begin with).

2015’s lineup featured...Little Big Town and The Band Perry, out of 11 acts.

2014’s inaugural lineup only included one woman: Carrie Underwood, out of a total of nine acts.

Surely next year iHeartCountry can find other female artists who are more worthy of radio attention. What about Brandy Clark? Kacey Musgraves? Margo Price? Carly Pearce? Jaime Wyatt? Jenny Gill? Caroline Jones?

Also, at least eight of the artists on the main stage have played the festival before— isn’t it time for some new blood? Come on, y’all.

Anyway, we’ll be there live as it happens. Follow @Austin360 and @jakeharris4 for updates.

Follow Jake Harris on Twitter (@jakeharris4) for live updates from the main concert, starting right before 7 p.m. Saturday. Can’t go but want to follow along? The concert will be live-streamed here and broadcast live on iHeartRadio here.