Neither sunburn nor storms will plague the 2017 Bayou Country Superfest. After seven sometimes rainy, always hot years at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, the country mega-concert moves into the climate-controlled confines of New Orleans’ Mercedes-Benz Superdome this weekend.
Saturday night headliner Miranda Lambert, for one, will likely enjoy having a roof over her head. She got doused during a lightning-shortened set at the 2015 Superfest in Baton Rouge.
That year, she performed ahead of her then-husband, Blake Shelton; weeks later, the couple’s split became public. Both Lambert and Shelton are back this year, albeit on different nights.
Lambert tops a Saturday bill that also includes Brooks & Dunn, Rascal Flatts, Brett Eldredge, Jon Pardi and Chris Lane.
Shelton shuts down Sunday night, preceded by Thomas Rhett, Hank Williams Jr. — the only first-time Superfest performer among this year’s six top acts — Old Dominion, Dan + Shay and Maddie & Tae.
The main action in the Dome is preceded by a free Friday night kick-off concert at Champions Square with Easton Corbin, Eric Paslay and Dylan Scott.
"These artists know about Bayou Country Superfest — it has credibility," producer Quint Davis said when the 2017 roster was first announced. "But they know it as Tiger Stadium. Now it's, 'Oh, it's going to be in the Superdome? That's good.' None of these artists have headlined the Superdome before."
Rhett, for one, is looking forward to it, even if he’s a bit intimidated.
“I get so nervous before I play a stadium,” he said during a recent phone interview. “Playing an arena or an amphitheater has gotten to be normal, because I’ve been opening for other artists for four or five years. I don’t think playing in stadiums will ever get ‘normal.’
“That’s something that I’ll have to talk to Kenny Chesney about at some point: How in the world do you capture that many people’s attention for an hour and a half? You can’t hardly see anybody, especially the people sitting in the back and the top.”
Rhett has performed several times as an opening act at the Smoothie King Center next door to the Superdome. “I’ve always looked over across the street and been like, ‘Dang, I wonder what would it be like to play in there?’ I’ve never gotten to play in a dome before, so I’m very excited about that. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
The Bayou Country Superfest is produced by Davis’ Festival Productions Inc.-New Orleans and AEG Live, the nation's second-largest concert promoter, in association with the Messina Group, which specializes in country concerts. Festival Productions and AEG also coproduce the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
Over the years, the Bayou Country Superfest has featured such stars as George Strait, Taylor Swift, Tim McGraw, Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney, Carrie Underwood, Reba McEntire, Jason Aldean, the Zac Brown Band, Eric Church, Keith Urban, Lee Brice and Florida Georgia Line.
It likely would have remained at Tiger Stadium indefinitely. But in August, as Davis sought a new, three-year contract with the facility, LSU officials said the stadium wouldn’t be available in 2017 or 2018 because of major renovations between football seasons.
Scrambling to find a new home for 2017, Festival Productions inquired about several college football stadiums throughout the Southeastern Conference. Ultimately, they stuck closer to home at the Superdome, the only Louisiana facility other than Tiger Stadium that suits the festival’s needs.
Tailgating throughout the LSU campus was part of the Bayou Country Superfest culture. Tailgating in downtown New Orleans is also possible, as demonstrated by Saints fans. Also, a limited number of RV parking spots are available for purchase in Lot 3 next to the Dome.
The Superdome has a history with country music. Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney sold about 37,000 tickets when their co-headlining Brothers of the Sun Tour stopped at the Dome in August 2012. The Dome also hosted two editions of George Strait's traveling country caravan in the late 1990s.
The versatility and size of the Dome open up fresh possibilities, production-wise. All but the closing act at Tiger Stadium performed during daylight hours, so the stage’s 400 computerized lights and the six spotlights on towers were largely wasted. In the Dome, every act on the bill can deploy a full light show.
Moving the daytime “Fan Fest” from a Tiger Stadium parking lot to Champions Square allows it to expand. Open from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Fan Fest features live music, meet and greets, and contests.
Whether the Superdome becomes the long-term home of Bayou Country Superfest remains to be seen. Davis hopes a beefed-up roster, and a fresh setting, will reverse a two-year trend of declining attendance.
“You don’t know until you know,” he said. “We’re going into the unknown. This is the new Bayou Country Superfest.”
BAYOU COUNTRY SUPERFEST
FRIDAY, MAY 26 (Champions Square; free admission)
7:00 p.m. Dylan Scott
8:10 p.m. Eric Paslay
9:30 p.m. Easton Corbin
SATURDAY, MAY 27 (Superdome)
5:00 p.m. Chris Lane
5:40 p.m. Jon Pardi
6:45 p.m. Brett Eldredge
8:00 p.m. Rascal Flatts
9:35 p.m. Brooks & Dunn
11:15 p.m. Miranda Lambert
SUNDAY, MAY 28 (Superdome)
5:00 p.m. Maddie & Tae
5:40 p.m. Dan + Shay
6:45 p.m. Old Dominion
7:50 p.m. Hank Williams Jr.
9:15 p.m. Thomas Rhett
10:45 p.m. Blake Shelton
Available at bayoucountrysuperfest.com, ticketmaster.com or by calling Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000. The Smoothie King Center box office will be open on weekdays from May 22 through May 26 from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. The Superdome box office will be located at Gate A ground level, open May 27-28 from 12 to 9 p.m. Children age 2 and under do not need a ticket.
Parking at the Dome will be available for $20, cash only, on a first-come, first-served basis.
ADA parking spaces will be available in Lot ADA WEST and ADA EAST and also on the top levels of Garage 1, 2, 5 and 6.
Dave Dixon Drive will be closed during the festival weekend.