Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

June 30, 2013

Sunny skies welcome fans

By BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — A sun-splashed crowd of country music fans brought lawn chairs and love to Mitchell Stadium on Saturday to the third installment of the Second Chance Rocks the two Virginias concert series. The crowd still numbered in the thousands, but was smaller than the record crowds in 2011 and 2012 that were in the neighborhood of 18,000. Still, fans had a good time and enjoyed some great music.

“I’m not here for anyone in particular — just the music,” William Phillips said between Shooter Jennings’ songs. “Yee-Haw!” he shouted in approval to Jennings’ mention of West Virginia.

Phillips was still wearing his bank clothes ... his coal mining clothes ... as he danced with his five-year-old daughter, Cheyenne who hugged her daddy’s neck and gave him a smile-full of love and joy, as her mommy, Elizabeth, looked on with love. “We just love the music,” he said. The Phillips family is from Pipestem, and William worked a shift at the Mossy Mine in Oak Hill before coming to the show. He and his family just enjoyed being together.

“We have only had two people pass out with the heat this year. This isn’t anything like it was last year,” Bluefield Fire Chief Jeff Warden said. “Last year with that record heat, we had 67 calls and had to call for support from another department. We were almost overwhelmed.”

Even though there was no ill-wind this year, the derecho was on the minds of many who were responsible for crowd safety. “We have an emergency evacuation plan in place this year,” Lt. Pete Beavers of the Bluefield, Va., Police Department said. “In the weeks leading up to this year’s concert, we did a lot of planning and worked together with the Bluefield Police Department. We learned a lot from what we went through last year.”

A few crowds of people gathered to party in the stadium parking lot before entering the stadium. A long line of Folk Soul Revival fans stood in line to get autographs and to get their pictures made with the band.

Jamie and Aimee Doyle of Harrisonburg, Va., drove three-and-one-half hours to see Shooter Jennings. “Shooter doesn’t do too many shows on the East Coast,” Jamie Doyle said. “This is our first time here, but it isn’t too far to drive.” Jamie works for a government contractor that does work for the patent bureau while Aimee teaches nutrition classes.

Lane Gillespie and his brother, Tristan Gillespie, only drove from Giles County, Va., but they said that they were Shooter Jennings’ biggest fans there. “He’s the biggest outlaw in country music. I have every one of his CDs,” Lane Gillespie said.

“His music has meaning too,” Tristan Gillespie said.

“He’s an original. He’s not like anyone else,” Lane Gillespie said.

With three years under their collective belts, the SRO Productions team and the local volunteers have gained a lot of experience in putting on a first-class show. But with a coal country economy that continues to track behind the rest of the U.S., and perhaps a lingering derecho-lag, the crowd on Saturday was smaller than the previous two years. That said, there was nothing lacking in the effort by the concert organizers in their support for veterans and human service agencies.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com