Corey Smith drew a good crowd on a warm October Sunday afternoon. Organizers said they were pleased with the attendance over the three days of the music festival and that work is already starting on the 2013 show. (Oct. 14, 2012)
ALBANY, Ga. — If Sam Shugart wanted, he could probably get elected mayor of Albany right now. Without a doubt, he’d win the votes of Throwdown Nation in a landslide.
But current Mayor Dorothy Hubbard doesn’t have a lot to worry about. All Shugart’s thinking about this morning is putting a dent in the sleep deprivation that he and his core team have labored under in the days and weeks leading up to the three-day Georgia Throwdown, which ended Sunday.
“We’ve got to tear this thing down tomorrow, so I won’t sleep much tonight,” Shugart said Sunday before Colt Ford’s set on the festival’s Flintco Throwdown Stage. “But sometime about Tuesday or Wednesday, I’m going to disappear for a while.”
Shugart’s exile will be short-lived, though. He’s already got his marching orders for Throwdown II, which he said is a 100 percent sure thing.
“The guys at (Mobile, Ala.-based) Huka (Entertainment) told me to take about three days off,” Shugart said of the management team that ran the three-day festival with uncanny precision. “They said it would be time to get to work on next year’s Throwdown right away.
“They told me the plan is to have the festival booked and the schedule planned, with sponsors in place, by Dec. 31.”
And while the thousands of music fans who made their way to the Exchange Club Fairgrounds were more than satisfied with the lineup of this year’s festival — which featured Sarah Davidson, Dallas Davidson and Rhett Akins, Corey Smith, Ford and headliner Uncle Kracker on Sunday — Shugart said fans can expect to have their socks blown off as the festival takes off in year two.
“This is only the beginning,” he said. “We’ve had a success this weekend in a big way, but the sky’s the limit from here.”
Sarah Davidson’s set featured songs she co-wrote with Dallas Davidson, her Albany-raised songwriting husband who has penned 13 No. 1 country hits and counting, and another local boy who’s done pretty well for himself lately, seven-time American Country Awards nominee Luke Bryan.
Dallas Davidson and Akins, two-thirds of the Peach Pickers, celebrated the songs they’d written that had become smashes for other artists, performing hits like Bryan’s “Country Girl (Shake It for Me)” and “I Don’t Want This Night to End,” Montgomery Gentry’s “Where I Come From” and Blake Shelton’s “Honey Bee.” They even gave a brief introduction to the title track of Bryan’s next album, “Dirt Road Diaries.”
“Did y’all folks here in Dirty County who knew Dallas growing up ever think he’d end up writing all these great country songs?” Akins asked, and there were a few good-natured “hell nos” from the crowd.
Smith, whose “Twenty-one” may be one of the most beloved songs in the state of Georgia, Ford and Uncle Kracker brought the festival to a fitting finish before a crowd that rivaled Saturday night’s in number and enthusiasm. Many who’d been there the night before to see the closing “Sweet Home Alabama” and the mesmerizing encore “Free Bird” by headliners Lynyrd Skynyrd were still talking about the performance of the legendary rockers Sunday.
“I played with Skynyrd at their Turner Field show after a Braves game a few weeks ago, and it was nothing like (Saturday),” rising country singer Cole Taylor said. “There were more than 50,000 people in the stadium (in Atlanta), but there was nowhere the energy that we had here in Albany. I think (Skynyrd) fed off the energy of the crowd and gave an unbelievable show.”
Eric and Michelle Calhoun of Albany, who were on hand for all three days of the Throwdown, said their only complaint — if you want to call it that — was that fans who spent most of their time at the main Flintco Stage missed some excellent performances by regional and area acts on the Phoebe Community Visions, Fox 31 and J&B Irrigation Saloon stages.
“(Veteran Albany rockers) Messendger were one of the highlights of the weekend for me,” Eric Calhoun said. “It was like they hadn’t missed a beat from 30 years ago.”
Like Shugart, the thousands who attended the festival headed happily home Sunday to replenish the fluids they’d lost in the perfect late-summer afternoon heat, rest their weary legs for a couple of days and then start getting ready for Throwdown II. It’s only 362 days away ... and counting.