Kenny Chesney’s Flora-Bama-Jama Rocks 40,000 Fans

Photo courtesy of Kenny Chesney social media.

No Shoes Nation invaded by land and sea behind the legendary Flora-Bama Lounge Saturday, Aug. 16, to bask in the sun, sea and live music from Country star Kenny Chesney. The free Flora-Bama-Jama event drew a crowd of over 40,000. Although gates did not open until 10 a.m. Saturday, people began arriving Friday and were in line all night to get in. Early arrival fans set up camp close to the stage with pirate flags and inflatables and channeled Chesney’s good beach vibes as neighbors helped each other fight the heat index by splitting trips to the water stations and by passing out ice. The Escambia County Fire Department were welcomed as celebrities as they sprayed fire hoses from the main stage to help keep the party going. Fans also had full access in and out to the gulf shore.

At 5 p.m., Kenny Chesney walked down the strut in orange cargos, a grey cut-off and a ball cap, strummed a chord and sang, “Sittin’ here at the Flora-Bama/ Bout to open up a big ole can o’/ good times…” Everyone joined in singing along to the newly released Instant Grat Track. It marked Chesney’s only concert of 2014; he has spent much of the year writing and recording his latest album, The Big Revival, which will release Sept. 23.

Photo: Kelsey Grady

Photo: Kelsey Grady

“Man, when those people kicked in and started singing ‘Flora-Bama’ back to me, that just hit me in the heart,” says Chesney. “A year without touring takes me away from that, and those fans… whether they know it or not… inspire me. So having spent the year writing and recording, that was like plugging into the source.”

Chesney’s 32-song set lasted two and a half hours and had the whole crowd singing hit after hit, including “How Forever Feels” and “Don’t Happen Twice,” acoustic numbers “Old Blue Chair,” “You and Tequila” and the acoustic-turned-full-band rendition of “When I See This Bar.” He also brought out frequent co-writer David Lee Murphy as a surprise to share vocal duties on Murphy’s songs “Dust On The Bottle” and “Party Crowd.”

Photo courtesy of Kenny Chesney social media.

Ending the show with a crowd favorite “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy,” Chesney made sure to let the fans know just how much they mean to him. He took the last 20 minutes to autograph flags, license plates, T-shirts, and other merchandise. Two very special young fans also received the opportunity to get up on stage with Chesney as he signed his own guitar and a football helmet during “The Boys of Fall.”

Chesney employed a top-notch sound system around the one-third of a mile imprint, including speakers pointed at the sea for the 300+ boaters who took in the show from the ocean.

“We had the No Shoes Navy, the No Shoes Nation, people who aren’t afraid to get out there and live and just experience the moment. The fact that we could announce this show two weeks ago, build it and have that kind of response to a crazy notion I had – one that started out with playing a little keg show in the upstairs of the club and turned into a great big show on the beach? It says a lot about my team, the Flora-Bama’s John McInnis and Cameron Rice and especially the people who came from all over to be here with us.”

Recorded by Shaun Silva for a TV special this fall, Chesney and band took the tailgate vibe of his shows and distilled it. Bikinis, shorts, tank tops, sunburns and ball caps, the dress code was casual and the mood was great. As the four-time CMA and four-time ACM Entertainer of the Year said, “It was a party. It was a day at the beach. It was a good time. But mostly, it was the gathering of the No Shoes Nation for the music, and the fun, and just getting to see each other.”

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Kelsey Grady is the Web Graphic Designer/Production Manager with MusicRow Enterprises. She started with the company in 2014 with an educational background from Purdue University and School of the Art Institute Chicago. [email protected]

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