By Rachael Mattice
In late August, 32-year-old country music artist Chase Rice received a wooden gift outlining the shape of the United States with his clothing company’s acronym HDEU carved across the middle as a token of admiration from a fan. Four weeks later, Rice, as well as the rest of the country music community and nation, learned of the devastation bestowed upon the Route 91 Music Festival in Las Vegas as well as a brave Marine who attended the show and went back to the grounds to rescue dozens of injured people. That Marine held many titles, including being the wood-carving Chase Rice admirer. One could speculate that timeline of events is a coincidence, but what’s evident is that the connection this genre has within its community cuts deeper than wounds.
“When I heard the story of that Marine, to me, that’s what country music fans are all about,” Rice said. “They run toward evil. He wasn’t living in fear; he was living in duty. That’s what makes the mold of these fans. I pray to God that something like that doesn’t ever happen again, but the heart of these fans and these country music artists proves they are going to continue to show up.”
Despite not knowing the level of impact such attacks like the Route 91 Music Festival and the Ariana Grande and Eagles of Death Metal shows in Europe will have on the future of large-scale music productions, Rice said he doesn’t believe concert goers should withhold from attending such events that promote positive memories, especially on days of remembrance of acts of bravery and duty like this weekend’s Driftwood at Doheny State Beach country music festival held on Veterans Day.
“I think as a music (production) community—Live Nation, Anschutz Entertainment Group Worldwide (AEG) and smaller companies like mine, Synergy Global Entertainment, Inc. (SGE)— public safety has to be job number one. We have to focus on public safety as our very first task,” said John Reese, CEO of SGE and producer of Driftwood, in alignment with Rice’s comments about treading onward. “I’ve had meetings with South Orange County officials to discuss Driftwood and we are taking every precaution to ensure a safe event, and that’s what we do at any event, regardless of if Vegas happened or not. Seeing it did happen, we’ve gone above and beyond to make sure all precautions are made to ensure public safety. We’ve spent a lot of time and energy over the last several weeks to make sure the public feels good about attending our events.”
What better place to move forward and embrace warm vibes, move to country tunes, indulge in savory barbecue eats and sip on multiple South County craft brews than the beach? Kip Moore joins Rice as the second headliner, followed by other bands such as A Thousand Horses, Mark MacKay, Dan + Shay and Gethen Jenkins to round out the weekend.
“Last year, we did a show near Manhattan Beach with the beach as our backdrop and it was amazing. There’s been a lot of cool stuff that you can do in Southern California with venues,” Rice said. “Beachside festivals have been established in Florida and Carolina already, so it’s cool to see the West Coast really embrace it and run with it. It’s great to see how popular country music is becoming in Los Angeles and Orange County too.”
Headlining Driftwood is phase two of Rice’s campaign to support his first new album in three years titled, “Lambs and Lions” following the release of his single, “Three Chords & The Truth.”
Named for embracing “vulnerable” emotions to become a more resilient person, “Lambs and Lions” is a catalog of deeper meaning for Rice, more so than perhaps falling back on popular—and trivial—truck-bed singalongs.
“I think I grew up a little bit and this album represents where I am in life,” Rice said. “It’s been three years since I put a record out. That’s been a bit frustrating, but also gave me the opportunity to ask, ‘where am I?’ ‘what do I want to do?’ ‘what do I want to say with this album?’ I don’t know what country fans want, but I know I’m going to give them what I want to do and I hope it’s up their alley.”
Arguably a more mature album from his previous records such as “Dirt Road Communion” or “Ignite the Night” that landed him playing arena-sized shows with Kenny Chesney and “New Artist of the Year” nods, the North Carolina native who grew up on a farm had a history of downfalls amongst his strides, including a sideline injury during his college football career, low-charting hits and cutting ties with his label. But without tribulations, transformation can’t take place.
“I will be the first to say that I’m not that good. I’m not that good to earn all of those accolades. It’s like starting on this mountain in the music business. We were on top of this mountain for ‘New Artist of the Year’ and all this craziness. Then, it was all taken in the last two years. Even now, I’m still having to downsize, I might be selling my farm to live more simply. All of these blows. But I try to live on the greener side of the grass. We were on top of this mountain and we saw another mountain that was even bigger and we wanted to get to that one and there is only one way to get there and that is to go down first. Now, is when we start climbing with “Lambs and Lions,” and it’s a fight, but that’s going to make it a bigger celebration when we get there.”
- When: Driftwood at Doheny State Beach starts at 1 p.m. each day, with VIP early entry starting at noon. Three hours of unlimited craft beer tastings are included with admission, including South County locals Artifex, Left Coast and Lost Winds Brewing, and more.
- Saturday Lineup: Chase Rice, Frankie Ballard, A Thousand Horses, Cassadee Pope, Lit, Caroline Jones and Mark MacKay.
- Sunday Lineup: Kip Moore, Dan + Shay, Maddie and Tae, Canaan Smith, RaeLynn, and Gethen Jenkins.
- Tickets: Driftwood at Doheny State Beach is offering discounted $89, two-day tickets and $45, single-day tickets for active duty and retired military personnel and their family members. These tickets include early admission and a complimentary shuttle between Doheny State Beach and the Outlets at San Clemente.
- Family Pack: A family four-day pack of single-day general admission tickets are $199 for either Saturday or Sunday, and $5 per four-pack will be donated to the Las Vegas Victims’ Fund. A portion of all proceeds from the music festival will also go to the San Onofre Parks Foundation.
- For more information, visit driftwoodfest.com or visit www.facebook.com/driftwoodfestival.