More than 10,000 country music fans flocked to Surfers Point in Ventura, California, on October 14th for the Boots & Brews Festival. Western attire, including boots and hats, was the norm in the festive crowd. Country music superstar Tim McGraw headlined a lineup of 4 country music bands drenched in rock overtones. The festival had more of a county fair feel than just an ordinary concert. A large variety of gourmet food trucks greeted festival goers, as well as multiple beverages stands. Wine and mixed drinks were readily available, but copious amounts of myriad brews seemed the most popular imbibement. In addition, there was a line dance tent for those in the dance mood, an artificial beach, other colorful installations, and various arts and crafts vendors.
The festival grounds were divided into three main sections. The general admission section in the back featured a mini grandstand, a large field area where patrons could sprawl out on blankets or in chairs they were allowed to bring, and a standing and dancing area at the front. The middle section had a similar layout but also included reserved Cabana tents on the side. Finally, the VIP section featured its own bars and food trucks, and tents with tables and chairs.
The massive stage that CBF productions organized featured three giant video screens, an elongated ramp extending into the audience, and an enormous sound system. Local Ventura trio Acoustic DNA opened the show. The band featured Dave Rea on lead vocals and guitar and Aaron Roth and Scott Felton on bass and drums. The band set the tone that would continue throughout the evening, which featured ear-ringing hard rock music in the vein of country music.
Daniel Bonte and the Bona Fide took the stage next with an explosive opening sound that resembled the metal band Black Sabbath more than a traditional country band. However, the six-member group from Costa Mesa, California, puts its own stamp on country music. The band featuring lead singer Bonte with a throaty country-tinged singing style tore through a ninety-minute set of rock-drenched music.
As a misty fall evening began to envelop the festival in darkness, the massive stage came to life with a spectacular light show, and Florida country rocker Michael Ray and his band took the stage. Like the bands before them, Ray and his entourage launched into country-inspired tunes draped in heavy rock rhythms. Ray opened with his most well-known song, “Holy Water," and continued with tunes from his four studio albums. By this time, a giant crowd had enveloped the stage and its protruding runway, which Ray utilized to the fullest, much to the delight of the surging crowd.
Tim McGraw exploded onstage just after 9 pm with his band of veteran country rockers in a multimedia and lighting cacophony. The multi-Grammy winner and actor bantered with the audience, frequently endearing himself to an adulating crowd. McGraw quipped early in the show, "Do you say Ventura, or do you say Venchurra? So, if it is Ventura, raise your hand. If it is Venchurra, raise your hand. (The crowd responded with the correct pronunciation) so, Ventura is it.” The singer was no doubt referring to the muddled pronunciation of the hometown in the classic hit tune “Ventura Highway” by country rockers America. McGraw even played referee for the crowd at one-point, admonishing people in the front of the audience that were shoving each other, pointing them out, and telling them to settle down. The hit-laden set lasted about ninety minutes and the Ventura cowpokes for the night seemed to love every minute of it. The Boots and Brews festival takes place in three California cities and will undoubtedly be back bigger than ever in 2023.