The Azalea Festival committee seems to make a genuine effort to bring a relatively diverse lineup to the main stage each year. Much of the time it’s been to the benefit of Wilmingtonians, who have been graced with sounds of Americana (The Avett Brothers) and jam-rock (Widespread Panic), to R&B, soul and funk (Rev. Al Green, The Temptations), to ‘80s pop rock (Duran Duran), and even rap and hip-hip artists (Nelly, Snoop Dogg). Oh, and country—there is always a country artist.
This year they curated two nights of country and one night of rap on the main stage in the parking lot of downtown’s CFCC (sorry, rock fans). Two feature controversial artists in their own right (hello, Hank Williams Jr. and Ice Cube), and the other is somewhat of a newbie to the mainstream country scene (Tyler Farr).
For folks not keen on the main acts, well, there are plenty of chances to support local music, too, in the beer and music garden (see sidebar)—and it’s free! However, the main concerts are priced individually at ncazaleafestival.org, or all three can be procured with Azalea Fest’s “Main Stage Flower Pack Combo Ticket” for $120.
Tyler Farr with Josh Phillips
Thursday, April 4, 7 p.m.
“Screw politically correct, we gonna let it fly.” The line from “C.O.U.N.T.R.Y.” off of Tyler Farr’s 2015’s “Suffer in Peace” undoubtedly helped boost the album on Billboard’s “Top 200 Albums” and Number 2 on Billboard Country Albums Charts.
Tyler Farr’s April 4 kickoff to Azalea Fest weekend is sure to be a safe bet for the average CMT viewer: Hometown pride? Check. Drink beer? Check. Bleed red, white and blue? Got it.
For some Farr’s work is the average Southern-redneck pride soundtrack: “Camouflage” (2010), “Redneck Crazy” (2013), “Better in Boots” (2015), “Our Town” (2016). The Missouri native’s wit and energetic live shows have garnered attention, earning a 2014 Music Row “Breakthrough Artist of the Year” nomination.
Hank Williams Jr. with Frank Foster
Friday, April 5, 7 p.m.
Tickets: $55 adv; $65 day of
Music by Hank Williams Sr. always rang throughout our house. And his famed son, Hank Williams Jr., a.k.a. “Bocephus,” made its own mark on Nashville and the country genre itself.
While Bocephus spent a great deal of time trying to free himself from stylings associated with his lineage, he ultimately struck gold with blending Southern rock, blues and traditional country to create his own classics (and produce one of country’s most famed singalongs, “Family Tradition”). Among his accolades are his induction into Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2007. “All My Rowdy Friends Are Comin’ Over Tonight” (1984) has kicked off many parties below the Mason Dixon—well, up until he compared President Barack Obama to Hitler. He’s probably best known for “There’s a Tear in my Beer” (1989), of which he brought magic to the music video industry by filming it with old footage of his father.
Saturday, April 6, 7 p.m.
As GenXers and elder millennials (credit: Iliza Shlesinger) like myself ponder what the “classics” will be when we’re grandparents and great-grandparents, I can’t help but giggle at the thought of N.W.A.’s “Fuck tha Police” (1988) being in rotation. N.W.A. alum Ice Cube is making his first appearance in ILM on Saturday night. And the city is getting damn pumped, according to the buzz on the street (or at least the buzz in our office).
Ice Cube’s latest politically charged and critical “Arrest the President” was released in November 2018. It’s not a secret which POTUS he’s referring to with not-so-subtle lyrics: “Did you know the new white was orange?” We’re sure cheers will erupt loudly during its performance. (More so, we just really hope he makes it to Flaming Amy’s, where his cup will fillith over with “Ice Cubes” (and Ice T) from their vending machine.)