NEW YORK (AP) — The Big Apple has a country music radio station, and country music stars of all sizes regularly perform and sell out New York City: Shania Twain is headlining Madison Square Garden this week.
Yet for all the music festivals the city hosts, there hadn’t been a major country music festival — until this weekend.
Country fans took over Randall’s Island for FarmBorough, what has been billed as the first music festival here for the genre. They flocked there to see headliners Brad Paisley, Luke Bryan and Dierks Bentley, as well as other acts including newcomers Maddie & Tae.
“I think they probably could have done this festival a long time ago,” Bentley told reporters before he performed on Friday, when the event kicked off. It ends on Sunday, with Bryan closing out the three-day event, which endured rain on Saturday.
New York has a healthy appetite for country music; a 2011 Nielsen SoundScan survey showed New York had the largest country market in the United States based on album sales. But the city hasn’t always reflected that; the only country radio station Nash 94.7 (WNSH) debuted in 2013, giving the genre its first sustained presence on radio after 17 years.
“Up until they got NASH 94.7 I had to stream everything online or use albums that I already had,” said New York resident Karen Webb. “I hope this festival is the first of many to come.”
Festival organizers, Live Nation and Founders Entertainment, planned to benefit from Governors Ball, held on Randall’s Island just three weeks ago, by using equipment from the Founders-produced pop music festival.
“They waited until all the conditions were right. They wanted to make sure that they just nailed it from the get go,” said Bentley.
Brian Thomas, program director for Nash 94.7, said: “For the longest time I have wanted to bring country to New York.”
“It’s just great to see the passion. Every time we are out on location, we are at concerts, it’s great to see the passion from the listeners for us and for bringing country music to New York City,” Thomas said.
Festival organizers are expecting over 40,000 fans. Staten Island native Matt Williams said FarmBorough’s vibe is different than other festivals he has attended because it’s more “laid back and relaxed and you are not on top of everybody.”
The festival’s line-up also included Kip Moore, Dwight Yoakam and Mickey Guyton as well as a “Next from Nashville” stage to introduce up-and-coming artist.
Ahead of his Friday night performance, Bentley said he believes FarmBorough is here to stay and that New Yorkers were ready to party.
“I totally trust New York country fans. They are hardcore, they are dedicated and they are appreciate you are here,” he said.
By the end of the night Randall’s Island swelled with thousands lounging on the rounds, eating barbecue and singing along with acts like Canaan Smith and Maddie & Tae.
“There is a following up in the north,” said Williams. “They only usually only do big things like this down in the south or out in the Midwest. I think it’s a nice change of pace.”
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