Pepsi Gulf Coast Jam delivered an incredibly unforgettable experience for 18000 country music fans. Staged on the white sands of Panama City Beach, concert goers experienced a tropical vacation with a heaping side of some of the best artists to hit the stage in decades. Every detail was carefully planned out and watching it come to fruition was overwhelming at times. Executive Producer, Rendy Lovelady, had this to say:
Truthfully its emotional. My staff works hard year round and people may not understand the size of the job. Its really humbling to see it all pay off. I stood on the spotlight tower and shot a video with my camera and looked in awe. Personally, the moment for me was standing at the sound stage when Carrie Underwood hit the stage. Seconds later you could feel the crowd energy begin to swell. Thats what live events are all about.
The festival had so many highlights that its difficult to nail down my favorite moments but I will attempt to keep it at 10:
1) Pardon the pun but Carrie Underwood blew me away. She took us on an emotional journey and delivered her famous ballads and uptempo songs with unrivaled passion. Rumors surfaced about a baby bump when she took the stage in a trendy flowing top. Those rumors were confirmed 2 days later by Carrie herself.
2) Dierks Bentley, always a class act, immediately captivated the audience. The Phoenix native told a story of the moment he knew this was his calling. He was at his very first concert, Bon Jovi, and stood in amazement as fans sang back every word to “Livin on a Prayer“. That moment was forever ingrained in him and he humbly told fans at PGCJ, “maybe this can be your Livin on a Prayer” as he proceeded to sing hit after hit.
3) Blake Shelton has become as famous for his crazy personality as his music of late. He opened his set by saying “I brought my big ass all the way to Panama City Beach for 2 reasons…to play some country music and drink”. The crowd was electrified when they learned Blake was taping for a music video that night.
4) There are few things I love more than hearing a crowd of that size sing in unison. We experienced that with almost every act but hearing 18000 people, lighters/phones raised, singing “Home” along with Blake Shelton was so moving.
5) Pepsi Southern Original Competition. This competition is unique to PGCJ. Bands are narrowed down through regional competitions and the winners played 2 songs at Tootsies Orchid Lounge in front of a variety of judges. They were competing for a chance to open for Blake Shelton. There wasn’t one group that didn’t deserve to be on that stage but the winner was Nashville’s own Rachel Lipsky.
6) Seemingly simple moments touch me. On Sunday we went to watch Brandon Chase perform at the Edgewater Resort Pool. During his set I met people from 5 states that came all the way to PCB specifically to see him play.
7) Hearing the crowd chatter about Randy Houser was awesome. Many had not seen him live until that point and he certainly gained some new fans that day.
8) Sponsors were incredible. Basically anything you needed was there on site. Organizers put together housing and shuttle packages that included the 3 day ticket for less than it would normally cost just to stay. Pepsi was obviously the title sponsor but I became a huge fan of Deep Eddy Vodka and have a new respect for Guy Harvey and all he does for conservation efforts.
9) Kirstie Lovelady stepped on the big stage for the first time in her career and owned it. She’s sang covers and every song off her new Ep, “Cry Wolf“. She rocks but a standout moment for me was when she slowed it down a bit. She stood on the end of the runway, guitar in hand and told the story behind “Meet Jesus“. Once a song is written she tests them on her parents. At one point her mom said “these are great but when are you going to sing about Jesus”. What came out of a writing session was a relatable song that touches so many. I still get chills when I remember the crowd reaction as Kirstie sang “Meet Jesus” for the first time to a large audience.
10) Panama City Beach. What more can you say? During the few hours of downtime fans indulged in the wonderful restaurants and could be found scooting all over town on multicolored scooters. The turquoise waters were a favorite of many and some even took advantage of parasailing and helicopter rides. The city made fans feel welcome and helped create memories that won’t soon be forgotten.
Lovelady and his team want Pepsi Gulf Coast Jam to be something people talk about. They want them to plan to return year after year. They began plans for 2015 the day after the festival ended and are already working on securing performers. On his bucket list, Lovelady says, is Garth Brooks and The Eagles. Whether that happens or not, fans are sure to be treated to 3 fun filled days of music, sun and paradise. Make plans to join us next year.