Jeanne Sager | Democrat
RASCAL FLATTS FANS scream as they get up-close-and personal with bassist Jay DeMarcus.
Rascal Flatts draws 14,000 to Bethel Woods
By Jeanne Sager
BETHEL They might have been the biggest show to play Bethel Woods, but even Rascal Flatts was humbled in the place that made music history.
Dragging 16 buses and 18 tractor trailers, the country stars packed the parking lot behind the performance stage in Bethel.
They were, quite literally, the largest act to take to the stage bringing with them a set that generally forms an arena back-drop rather than the more intimate pavilion at Bethel Woods.
They were playing to a near sell-out crowd more than 14,000 ticketholders poured through the gates, cowboy hats plunked on their heads. With a capacity of 15,000, Bethel Woods was a sea of people, the pavilion full and the lawn overflowing with dancing fans.
The virtually unknown Thrasher Mobley got the crowd moving, proving they have the ability not only to pen songs for the likes of Rascal Flatts and Kenny Chesney but to play them, too.
Nominated time and again for songwriting in Nashville, Neil Thrasher and Wendell Mobley joked that they’re not yet convinced of the honor in “just being nominated.”
Opening act Taylor Swift has done them one better. Since opening for Brad Paisley last summer at Bethel Woods, Swift garnered Top New Female Vocalist at the American Country Music Awards in May and both Video of the Year and Female Video at the Country Music Television Awards in April.
Her glittery blue dress swishing above her black cowboy boots, Swift belted out a series of her hits, a list that’s quickly growing as the 18-year-old goes from country music princess to a reigning queen of the charts.
Swift was largely responsible for the large contingent of young girls in the audience a preview of the upcoming Jonas Brothers show at Bethel Woods.
The Fiechter family of Staten Island by way of Roscoe booked their first Bethel concert so 12-year-old daughter Jessica could hear her hero Taylor sing “Tim McGraw” and “Our Song” in person.
“Honestly, this place is fantastic,” dad Mike said. “Very clean, very beautiful you can’t beat it.”
They’ll be back in August . . . for the Jonas Brothers, naturally.
A “big country fan,” Mike was more than happy to stick around after Swift’s show for the headliners of the Bob That Head tour.
Dropping out of the rafters in a burst of fire, the three main members of Rascal Flatts put on a show worthy of those 16 tour buses and 18 tractor trailers.
From their new single, “Still Feels Good” through the encore performances of old standby “Me and My Gang” and the song that gave the tour its name, lead singer Gary LeVox, bassist Jay DeMarcus and lead guitarist Joe Don Rooney made it clear they haven’t forgotten where they came from.
Walking out into the crowd, LeVox at times sang with one hand wrapped ’round the microphone and the other scribbling autographs.
Rooney kept one hand wrapped around the frets of his guitar while he stooped lower to get in line with one fan’s digital camera while LeVox paraded across the stage with the hand of a little female fan in his.
Dressed in an over-sized Rascal Flatts t-shirt, the child was awestruck staring up at the larger than life stars of radio. After all, one of their biggest hits was a cover of Tom Cochrane’s “Life is a Highway” for Disney’s kid’s movie “Cars.”
But these Grammy Award winners were just as awed to be playing a gig on the stage at Bethel Woods.
“What an honor to be playing on this very sacred ground,” said DeMarcus. “It’s an honor to be playing on the spot that changed music forever.”