xl Rose singing with Carrie Underwood during her headlining Saturday set has been all the talk. However, contemporary country fans likely know Guns just as well as Garth, so the pairing was more appropriate than you might first imagine. This takes nothing away from Underwood's performance, as she truly deserved her headliner spot.
As good as she was, though, there were plenty of far more compelling and interesting performances going on at the Palomino and the Bud Light Seltzer Sessions, taking place just beyond house right.
Before we get to the side stages, Brothers Osborne, which sang a snippet of "Why Not Me" in tribute to the passing of Naomi Judd earlier in the day, put on a strong show. The act especially shined on "Burning Man," a recent collaboration with Dierks Bentley.
On the downside, Lee Brice's sensitive rendering of "I Drive Your Truck" could not erase all the meaningless hard rock bluster at the start of his performance. He's just too good for all this monster of rock crap.
If you're a fan of alt.-country, the Palomino stage presented the cream of the crop. While Margo Price rocked (after riding up the stage on a horse, no less), Zach Bryan drew a large and loud audience to hear his sensitive songs, while Ian Noe kicked things off nicely, with a strong set that included the standout, "Irene (Ravin' Bomb)."
Let's not forget guitarist Molly Tuttle, who brought one of the festival's rare instances of bluegrass. Bluegrass even had its own venue for a time. Why is the festival leaving out bluegrass music? It's a shame.
Back to the good, Cody Jinks had the evening spot and didn't waste the opportunity. He sounded fine and seemed to be enjoying every minute of his set.
The Bud Light Seltzer stage presented a couple of intimate sets. One was from the fiery Caylee Hammack, who sang "Small Town Hypocrite" (among others). Sadly, though, anyone that homestead within the vast expanse of the Mane, stage completely missed her. It was also fun to catch a low-key set from Mitchell Tenpenny there. Just him and his acoustic guitar.
There was much to take in during day two. Almost all of it extremely fulfilling. When you had so many examples of what's great about today's country and alt.-country, it was nearly a sure bet to be stellar. And this one certainly paid out.