Even though thousands of people descended on the Sonoma County Fairgrounds Friday night to see headliner Jake Owen at the Country Summer festival, the country superstar still managed to pull off a show that felt intimate and personal.
Donning a short-sleeved t-shirt amid the increasingly chilly weather in Santa Rosa, Calif., a barefoot Owens bounced up and down the ramp that jutted out into the crowd throughout the evening, taking time to connect with as many fans as he could.
Like the headphones-wearing baby whose hand he shook when her enthusiastic parent held her up during the early song “!972.” Or the person holding up a sign farther back that Owen pointed out during “Alone With You.” Or mugging for the phone at the end of a long selfie-stick.
And those were hardly the only memories Owen created for the audience, as he seemed to build and build off the energy projected up at him.
“Y’all are getting wild as hell, aren’t ya?” he joked before picking up a Gretsch for “Alone With You,” which comes off his smash 2011 album, Barefoot Blue Jean Night.
Owen worked some new music, as well, most notably in the single “Real Life” and the never-before-played “LAX” – which could be interpreted as “LA-Ex,” as he sang about a love lost when she moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career.
“Dead 70-degrees and sunny, please hold on to my California honey,” he sang during the sweet solo acoustic number, drawing both appreciative sighs and knowing chuckles from the NorCal crowd.
Owen also shows his versatility by covering snippets of classic party songs. During his own “Pass the Beer,” he teased Sublime’s “All I Got,” a band he has cited as an influence on his upcoming album, and Shaggy’s “Angel,” not to mention a check of Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice.”
“Seems like y’all know a lot of music, from country to Snoop!” he exclaimed.
Later, he strode out wearing an acoustic guitar and talked about his love of country stalwarts like Gary Allan, who rocked the Country Summer main stage before Owen, Alan Jackson and Brooks and Dunn.
As he professed his love for those legendary artists, Owen then played a verse or two of Jackson’s “Chattahoochee” and Brooks and Dunn’s “Boot Scootin’ Boogie,” much to the delight of his thousands of newfound karaoke partners.
By the end of the show, Owen came out for a raucous encore of “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” and as he called for “lighters in the dark in the middle of a rock show,” everyone seemed to oblige, whether by phone light or flame.