Last weekend, eager crowds of all ages flocked to picturesque Whitefish, Montana for America’s most eclectic country music festival: Under the Big Sky. Hosted on a 350-acre ranch on an exuberant terrain full of rugged mountains, gentle streams, and vast pastures, the festival featured a diverse array of activities applicable to any and all ages. Magnetic, genre-bending names among the likes of Hank Williams Jr., Caamp, Zach Bryan, Elle King, Whiskey Myers, and The Dead South performed to a crowd of over 20,000.
“This is, by far, the biggest crowd I’ve ever played to — holy shit,” Luke Grimes, of Yellowstone fame, mused during his performance on Friday evening. Indeed, for the relatively remote location (around ten miles from Glacier National Park), the head count broke personal records for many of the featured artists.
One of very few independent country music festivals, the event boasts a sort of authenticity that has served as a faultline in country music: in a genre that–at its most corporate–can cling so desperately to the elusive “truth” of Americana, of “country values,” of country itself, that the original meaning behind the genre is lost, the artists in the festival demonstrate that there is a broad, shining horizon for the industry outside outside of corporate control. Local artists and big names alike performed bluegrass, folk, outlaw country, and rock, uniting fans of all ages, all localities, and all loyalties.
In addition to a slate of impressive natural features, the festival also hosted a daily roughstock rodeo, a vendor village, trail rides, and children’s activity areas.