The Comstock Windmill Festival grounds are unique, to say the least. Set in a populated town of around 100 people, Comstock, Nebraska is literally in the middle of nowhere. If you know anything about Nebraska, you know that being in the middle of nowhere in Nebraska means rolling hills and wide open spaces. It's amazing the success that a small town like Comstock can have. The Windmill Festival started out originally with Brad Paisley as "the act." Paisley came back for a couple years, but as the years went on, the festival grew into an enormous event. Now, Comstock Nebraska also hosts a rock festival (Comstock Rock) in July and a Christian festival (Godstock) in August. Back a couple years ago, you could have never imagined what was to come at the Comstock Windmill Festival.
The 2005 Comstock Windmill Festival featured some of today's best country artists, including Keith Urban and Montgomery Gentry. Comstock started off on June 9th with Buddy Jewell, Oak Ridge Boys, and Lonestar. Despite not being able to attend Thursday's show and rain on Friday, the Comstock Festival turned out to be really good.
Friday nights' lineup included Sugarland, Ronnie Milsap, and Western Underground which was Chris LeDoux's band. Chris LeDoux was to perform at Comstock on Friday, but sadly with his death, everyone wanted to know who would "replace" LeDoux. If there was one thing I knew about Chris LeDoux, it was that you could never replace him, and the founders of Comstock expressed this belief as well. It was a great decision for them to keep Western Underground on the lineup. Dustin Evans performed with Western Underground as a tribute to Chris LeDoux. Although Evans is still quite unknown to everyone, Evans is sure to be successful in Nashville.
Sugarland did a great job opening for Ronnie Milsap. One of the members, Kristian (the guy) was back at home in Nashville because his wife had a baby earlier during the week. Jennifer and Kristin were there though and they were impressive. You could tell that their equipment wasn't as good quality-wise as Ronnie Milsap's, but all things considered they did well. The fans loved it when they were singing their two hits, "Something More," and "Baby Girl."
Ronnie Milsap really surprised me. I am actually more part of the "new country" generation than the older ones, like Milsap. Milsap was really good though. Milsap had the unfortunate time of taking the stage when a huge rainstorm was starting so several people left early because of the weather. Regardless, Milsap was a notable performer at Comstock.
The Comstock directors announced an important message on Friday night. An amphitheater that can host 70,000 fans is going to be built across the road from the Comstock Festival grounds. The amphitheater will be the Chris LeDoux Amphitheater and will be called the "Cadillac Ranch." A Chris LeDoux monument will also be built in his memory. This is a wonderful idea and everyone cannot wait for this!
On Saturday night, the weekend started off well with Josh Turner, Jamie O'Neal and Montgomery Gentry. Josh Turner is the true country boy. Turner's music reflects the true country sound and it's great to have someone actually sticking to the country roots. Turner's best known single, "Long Black Train" had the entire audience going. Turner also did a couple songs from other artists including "Digging Up Bones" by Randy Travis and "Swinging" by John Anderson. Those renditions were wonderful. Turner was a great addition to the festival.
Next on was none other than Jamie O'Neal. O'Neal had taken a break to have her daughter Aliyah, but she is back now, stronger than ever. Aliyah's 2nd birthday happened to be that night and Jamie asked the audience to sing to her. Jamie's husband, Rodney Good (also her guitar player) was on stage video taping the whole thing. Jamie asked Aliyah what her name was- how old she was, etc. and Aliyah impressed the fans just as much as Jamie did. O'Neal performed her hits "There Is No Arizona," "Tryin' To Find Atlantis," and "When I Think About Angels" along with several songs from her new album. This was my third O'Neal live show, and she just keeps on improving.
Last, but not least was Montgomery Gentry. Montgomery Gentry are probably the wildest boys of country music and everyone knows that. The crowd got a bit carried away with them, but that was to be expected with a group like Montgomery Gentry. Montgomery Gentry know how to perform. Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry are really performers first and singers second. They get the crowd involved (at some points, maybe too much) but they do have a good time on stage.
The real entertainment came on Sunday though, with male vocalist of the year, Keith Urban. The majority of the Comstock goers were looking forward to Sunday because of Urban. We can't forget about the opening acts though. Brian McComas, Jessica Andrews, and Tracy Lawrence were also on Sunday. Earlier on Sunday at the beer tent, Kerri-Ann with Brushfire also performed. Kerri-Ann has similar qualities to Heidi Newfield of Trick Pony. Kerri-Ann will be releasing her new album later this year. "Is It Okay To Cry Now" was potentially the favorite from her set.
Brian McComas was the 2nd favorite (next to Keith Urban) from all days. McComas gained attention with his single, "99.9% Sure" but he hasn't been able to regain that success since then. McComas had singles on the charts off and on after "99.9% Sure," but nothing that really took control of the charts. McComas and Lyric Street Records are no longer working together now too. Hopefully McComas is able to regroup and come back stronger than ever, because his live show was amazing. McComas is the gem out there yet to be discovered. McComas's version of "When You Say Nothing At All" was a highlight of the night including the rest of his set.
Jessica Andrews wasn't one of the favorites from the festival, but she did well on her older material like "You Go First." Andrews' performances of her newer material within the past couple years just didn't really impress me, in particular, and it was rather a vague set. I didn't really like her new single "Summer Girl" when she performed it, but the single has grown on me now. It's actually a pretty good single and just in time for summer!
Tracy Lawrence has had a string of hits, including his latest "Paint Me A Birmingham." Lawrence performed several of his hits including "Time Marches On" and "Texas Tornado." Lawrence and his band are very in sync with each other. It doesn't sound like it'd take much, but they were actually on queue with each other and performed as a whole instead of individuals. Lawrence gave a great performance.
That was it for the night, right? The fans wouldn't have thought so. Every fan out there was waiting for Keith Urban all night. They were on edge waiting for the main attraction. If you could see ONE live show, I would recommend seeing Keith Urban before anyone else. Urban is the true artist- a great singer, performer, and songwriter. Urban has it all and does it all. His live show was one of the best that I have been able to attend. Urban gets the crowd involved and doesn't take the fans for granted. Urban started off the show with "Days Go By" and ended with "These Are The Days." When Urban was introducing his band, I recognized one of the names, and I immediately knew that Chad Jeffers was a member of the group "Pinmonkey" (Barbed Wire and Roses) at one time. The best performance of Comstock was Keith Urban, without question. After seeing Urban perform live, it's no wonder why he is the male vocalist of the year and entertainer of the year at the award shows. Urban is the top artist out right now, and it's easy to see why.
The Comstock Festival may have come to a close this year, but the festival will be back again next year. I'm not sure if the festival can top Keith Urban, but no doubt, the festival will provide a variety of huge attractions. For more information on the Comstock Windmill Festival please visit their website at: www.windmillfestival.com To stay updated on performers added for the 2006 festival, please join our mailing list by clicking here.