New York country fans are some of the most enthusiastic music fans out there, and if Stars and Strings in Brooklyn proved anything, it’s just that. Announced in early October was RADIO.COM, New York’s Country 94.7’s inaugural “Stars and Strings” event at Barclays Center, with a stacked bill featuring acts Sam Hunt, Dustin Lynch, Chris Janson, Blanco Brown, Runaway June, Gone West, and Matt Stell.
The place was already packed when Matt Stell opened the show. He performed his recent #1 “Prayed For You”, and the entire arena was lit up as he sang the tune. He also played his new single, “Everywhere But On”. Blanco Brown was next, and he got the crowd going with his danceable “The Git Up”, a song that’s all about having a good time, which is exactly what the night was intended to do. He had great energy, warming up the crowd so that when it was time for Dustin Lynch and Sam Hunt, they were ready.
Third, was Gone West, Colbie Callait’s new country group. They blew the audience away with their stunning four-part harmonies, singing songs like “What Could’ve Been”, currently about to crack the top 30 on country radio, and the self-titled song “Gone West”. They also performed Callait’s hit “Brighter Than The Sun” which was a really fun surprise, and the audience sang back every word.
Rising stars Runaway June took the stage next, singing their hits “Buy My Own Drinks” and “Wild West”, as well as new jam “Head Over Heels”. They recently finished a tour with Carrie Underwood, where they played Madison Square Garden, and they recently broke a record previously held by SHeDAISY. “Their song went Top 5 on country radio, and it’s the first top 5 by a female trio for the first time in 15 years!” Radio host Jesse Addy told the crowd excitedly when introducing the band. “Everybody who requested this song, thank you, and sing along,” band-member Naomi Cooke yelled at the end of their set.
Chris Janson was fourth, and he got the crowd moving with songs like “Buy Me a Boat” and “Good Vibes”, and it seemed like the entire arena was dancing. preparing them for the two remaining sets. He also covered Billy Joel’s “Piano Man”, which was very fitting, seeing as he was in the Big Apple playing to a sold-out crowd.
It was like a revolving door at Barclays Center – literally – the stage revolved for each act to make things go efficiently as possible and to get each act on stage when they’re supposed to. There was almost always someone performing; it was like a mini-music festival.
Dustin Lynch was next, and he took the arena by a storm, opening with fiery song “Seein’ Red”. He performed a slew of hits from his first three albums, including songs like “Ridin’ Roads” and “Mind Reader”. But perhaps the most poignant moment of the night was when Lynch went into 2012 single “Cowboys & Angels”, a song written about his grandparents’ love story. “We gotta celebrate them being married 63 years this past week,” he told the audience, smiling. “This week, my granddad had major surgery… he’s in the hospital…” he stopped mid-sentence, choked up. “If you could sing this last chorus extra loud for him and me, that’d be great,” The audience sang as loud as they could, clearly moving Lynch, as he stepped back, wiping away tears. “You guys continue to change our lives because you believe in our music, and we love you for that. Thank you.” He ended his set with monster hit, “Small Town Boy”, to which the audience loved.
The audience was abuzz waiting for Sam Hunt to take the stage, as it had been over two years since he last stepped foot in New York City. The roars from the audience when he took the stage, opening with “Leave The Night On” was absolutely deafening. During his opening song and “House Party”, he ran around the arena, trying to interact with as many fans as possible. He performed 8 songs off his debut album, Montevallo, including “Ex To See” and “Take Your Time”. One of the most special moments of the night was when Hunt sat down at the piano to perform his vulnerable song “Make You Miss Me”, completely stripped down. It was like you were back in the writer’s room with him.
“We traveled the country playing our music. Back then, we didn’t have any money. We were flying by the seat of our pants,” Hunt told the crowd before playing Billy Currington cut “We Are Tonight”. “I got a call and found out that [Currington] recorded our song and put it out as a radio single. I also put out the song on my mixtape. So thank you to Billy, wherever you are.”
Hunt also performed his new single, “Kinfolks” for one of the first times, and thanked country radio for supporting him and this song. He also played a yet-to-be-released song from his upcoming sophomore record “Sinning With You,” a guitar-driven ballad about the beginning of his relationship with his wife. To hear the unreleased track check out our post below.
Before he closed out the night with record-breaking “Body Like A Backroad”, Hunt performed “Break Up In A Small Town”, an intense song about how tight-knit small towns can really be, especially when you break up with someone. After he sang the bridge of the song, he sang, “Hannah Lee I’m on my way to you, I don’t know what I’mma say to you, but I know there ain’t no way we’re through”. The audience got quieter, knowing that he was about to go into the emotional track released right before he and his now-wife were engaged, aka “Drinkin’ Too Much”. He sang the chorus of the song acapella with just his band harmonizing, and it was one of the few times during his exciting set that people were quiet, listening to him sing the personal ballad.
It was a night filled with some of country music’s biggest stars, and there was a lot of love and gratitude in the room. It was clear that each artist felt incredibly grateful to be supported by country radio and country music fans. It was a celebration of the past year and a nice reminder that music can connect 19,000 strangers.
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