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Florida Georgia Line leaves WE Fest crowd screaming for more

Brian Kelley of Florida Georgia Line rips out a riff during the bands' WE Fest performance Thursday night in Detroit Lakes, Minn. Brian Basham/DL Newspapers1 / 4
Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line sing a song at WE Fest in Detroit Lakes, Minn., Thursday night. Brian Basham/DL Newspapers2 / 4
All of Soo Pass Ranch was jumoing to Florida Georgia Line during their WE Fest main stage performance Thursday night. Brian Basham/DL Newspapers3 / 4
Dylan Arnold of Norfolk, Neb., and Rachel Okane of Maple Grove, Minn., dance and sing to Charlie Worsham in the general admission area of WE Fest Thursday evening in Detroit Lakes, Minn. Brian Basham/DL Newspapers4 / 4

That’s certainly the case for this year’s WE Fest lineup, where the average age of the featured performers is 33 and half of the 16 major stars are still in their 20s. (Fifty-one-year-old Travis Tritt throws the curve off a bit.)

Take the duo Florida Georgia Line, whose youthful performance set the stage for Thursday’s headliner, Jason Aldean. With both Brian Kelley (the Florida part) and Tyler Hubbard (the Georgia part) south of 30, the country-rockers related to the crowd.

The swaggering duo hit the stage to the hip-hop beat of “It’z Just What We Do,” immediately bringing the crowd to its feet for a mass of fist-pumping.

It was surely a thrilling sight for the tag-teaming twosome, who played to a crowd a tenth of the size when they made their debut at WE Fest a couple of years ago.

At the time, they didn’t even have an album out. “Here’s to the Good Times” has since spawned five Top 5 singles and three No. 1’s.

Florida Georgia Line is all about the good times. The bro country act was intent on bringing the party to the crowd with drinking songs like “Tip it Back” and “Party People.”

Hubbard, who handles most of the vocals, and Kelley seem intent on spelling out their partying intentions with “It’z Just What We Do” and “This is How We Roll.”

They know what makes a country hit, spitting out tune after tune about partying, dirt roads, trucks, girls and partying with dirty girls in dirty trucks.

When they deviated slightly from the anthems, like their new hit, the downbeat “Dirt,” they lost the crowd’s interest.

Fittingly, they ended their 75-minute set with their mega-hit “Cruise,” which had the crowd screaming for more.

“When you think about blurring the line between country and pop and appealing to a young audience, Florida Georgia Line is the standard,” said WE Fest CMO John Gourley.

Gourley said the 32nd annual WE Fest looks to be the biggest and best ever.

“The 30th set the bar, but it appears we’ll dramatically exceed that,” he said Thursday, the first day of the three-day country music festival.

“We think we’ll be knocking on the door of 50,000,” Gourley said, noting that WE Fest usually draws around 48,000.

And the way tickets for next year are already selling, 2015 could be even bigger. Next year’s headliners – Country super couple Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton – were announced earlier this summer and tickets have been flying.

“The sale pace is far beyond anything we’ve ever seen,” Gourley said. “They could not be hotter, with all of Blake’s TV appearances and Miranda’s new album.”

Though it hasn’t been announced when they would play, Gourley said because of each act’s tour, it was unlikely they’d play together.

While organizers have announced other acts during previous WE Fests, Gourley said he didn’t think that would happen this year. Instead, he wanted to wait until a handful of acts were signed and make a big announcement.

He did say that organizers have offers into two rock acts for 2015. Past WE Fests have featured Kid Rock, Sheryl Crow and Ringo Starr.


What: WE Fest

When: Today and Saturday

Where: Soo Pass Ranch, Detroit Lakes, Minn.


Friday’s lineup

2 p.m. – Gates open

2:45 – Maiden Dixie

4:15 – Chris Janson

6:15 – Randy Houser

8:30 – The Band Perry

10:45 – Brad Paisley

12:30 a.m. – Chris Janson (Barn Stage)