July 15, 2021

Review by Janelle Rominski
Photos by Janelle Rominski

Live music has never felt more lively than at Country Thunder as it kicked off the first of its four-day country music festival at Shadow Hill Ranch in beautiful Twin Lakes, Wisconsin. Having canceled its music festival in 2020, it was a welcomed relief for country fans in attendance, from near and far, to participate in the return of live country music for the masses. On a side note, we are happy to report there was no rain or thunder during the entire festival, which rarely happens based on the past several events.

Country Thunder hosts four music festivals annually across the United States with top-tier country music artists performing in Arizona, Florida, Iowa and Wisconsin. This year, the master of ceremonies for the Twin Lakes event included television and radio broadcaster Storme Warren, best known as the host of The Storme Warren morning show on SiriusXM’s channel The Highway, as well as music and comedy phenomenon Bruce Williams and Terry Ree, alternately known as both “Williams and Ree” and “The Indian and The White Guy.”

In addition to offering the best headliners and a preview of popular up-and-coming national and regional acts at the venue, the fest also offered classic festival food and beverages, a wide variety of vendors giving away samples and swag, lively campsites, carnival rides, the opportunity to meet new people and make friends as well as an abundance of people watching. It wouldn’t be a country music festival without seeing fellow concert-goers pushing their wardrobe ensemble limits to the extreme with American flag-themed overalls, silly shirts or Daisy Dukes in an effort to stick out among the crowd.

Country Thunder means an abundance of things to many people, but at its core is the music and this year did not disappoint. Thursday’s main stage musical entertainment kicked off with Floridian actor and musician, Nolan Sotillo. His smooth voice and rockin’ tunes got onlookers moving with the beats of his great catalog of songs. Sotillo even stuck around southern Wisconsin to play a small gig at the Cup O’ Joe Coffee House down the road from festival grounds the following day.

Next up to the stage was Nashville-native powerhouse, Jenny Tolman, who executed a sensational set from her debut album There Goes the Neighborhood. Tolman commanded the stage with her tunes and talent and gleamed ever so brightly in a dazzling silver, sparkly dress. With a certain glow to her, perhaps due to being recently engaged to Nashville Producer Dave Brainard and her engagement story being featured in People magazine in May, her performance proved to be as sizzling as the sun shining down on her. Tolman and Sotillo played two sets that day, once on the main stage and later on the Lake Stage sponsored by a local radio station.

Following Tolman, was Canadian singer and songwriter, Sykamore, wearing sunglasses and strumming her acoustic guitar. While subdued on stage, her vocals carried far and wide across the crowd with a smooth and sweet tone. With the recent release of single “Go Easy on Me” and, per her Instagram, Sykamore says, “I wanted to write a vulnerable song about denial. We have a lot of songs about being strong, but I think there is power in acknowledging our weaknesses too. Here’s to feeling your feelings; even when they’re half finished and not pretty &#x1f4af.”

After a slew of relatively new acts to the national music scene performing throughout the day, the crowd was ecstatic to welcome veteran country crooner, Clay Walker, to the stage. With numerous top hits including six #1 singles in a long-standing career approaching 30 years, the multi-platinum selling singer recently released his debut single “Need a Bar Sometimes” in August 2020 under his new label Show Dog Nashville. A few weeks ago he was also seen on social media covered in concrete while making his wife a chicken coop inspired by Fixer Upper’s HGTV hosts, Chip and Joanna Gaines. While his personality shines seamlessly online, he proved to be well-polished with impeccable musicianship at Country Thunder while performing during the golden hour of the day which cast a golden hue over this multi-Gold certified artist.

Once Walker concluded and the sun set, the crowd at Country Thunder nearly doubled for the dynamite and dynamic Dustin Lynch who headlined the day’s festivities. Lynch came out with a bang and the crowd went crazy and remained in a frenzy throughout his entire set. His classy cowboy hat and cowboy boots were a nice touch but his stunning smile could light up any dark room. He used every inch of the stage and made sure to walk the catwalk that flanked the VIP seats so he could shake hands, sign autographs and take photos with his endearing fans. It felt great being back in a festival setting and we can’t wait to see what’s in store for Country Thunder Day 2!