Jeanne Sager | Democrat
COUNTRY STARY GARY Allan put on a rocking set of songs for his 4,500-plus fans on Friday night at Bethel Woods.
Thundering Back To Bethel Woods
By Jeanne Sager
BETHEL August 28, 2007 Country music came thundering back into Bethel Woods Friday night.
Ticket sales have already proven country the hit genre for local fans, paving the way for the partnership with radio station Thunder 102 to present ThunderJam in Bethel.
Country mega stars Trace Adkins and Gary Allan, with “special guest” Terri Clark, were the main attractions, but ThunderJam brought the hometown flavor to “the woods” with local and regional acts.
After a short performance by Thunder 102’s recent Colgate Country Showdown winner Trista Wheaton, Orange County’s rockabilly band River’s Edge got things going, filling the market shed just inside the gates with country that’s decidedly “anti-twang.”
Dubbed the Bethel Woods “Peace Pub,” the open-sided pavilion allowed first-timers a view of the grounds from the highest point.
Then it was on to the Roman-style amphitheater located just behind the planned Woodstock museum where steps were gently carved out of the hill with a stone stage in the center.
Country cover band Farmer’s Daughter of the Scranton, Pa. area marched out the tunes of Sugarland and Charlie Daniels to fill the stone flags at the edge of each step with Thunder fans.
They paved the way for Cooper Boone and his Farm Junkies, a nine-member band loaded with folks who’ve played back-up for the likes of Pam Tillis and Fleetwood Mac.
But ThunderJam’s real headliners were from right here in Sullivan County.
Monticello natives Ken and Barry Somerville, whose “Do Something Good” has become a theme for Sullivan Renaissance, have been splitting their time between the county and Nashville, Tenn. since signing a deal with the RPM Music Group.
Even with their success outside the county’s borders, the brothers were happy to be performing for a hometown crowd.
“Every time I come up here, I have to pinch myself,” Barry Somerville said of Bethel Woods. “I can’t believe it’s here this is beautiful in our backyard.”
The effect wasn’t lost on the thousands who dropped in for the show either.
“It’s the best thing there is,” said Alan Benskie of Monticello.
Sitting in the amphitheater with wife Connie and their two kids, Benskie said he’s up for any genre.
They’ve been to the jazz shows, the doo wop concert, even last year’s Goo Goo Dolls performance.
They’ve got their fingers crossed for some ’80s hair bands for next year’s Bethel Woods line-up.
“We want to see Poison,” he said with a grin.
Friday’s crowd was satisfied with their country music.
This was the second ThunderJam for 102, after last year’s concerts at the raceway sponsored by the station brought Lonestar and Sawyer Brown to town.
Regina Hensley, marketing and promotions director for Thunder’s parent company, Bold Gold Media, said the pairing with Bethel Woods was a no-brainer.
“It’s the premier event facility here,” she said. “If you’re going to do something on this grand a scale, who better to do it with?”
ThunderJam will be an annual event, Hensley promised, and the station couldn’t be happier with Bethel Woods.
The partnership definitely drew a crowd.
Asked what brought him to Bethel Friday night, Neversink resident Tony Leone had one word.
“Thunder,” he said. “I’m a big supporter of Thunder 102. I’m a big supporter of Bethel Woods.”
The station came in when no one else was offering a country format, he said, and they have proven themselves as community supporters.
“This station is unbelievable,” Leone said. “They support our EMS, our fire, police, and all the individuals that had problems.
“As for Bethel Woods, I can’t say enough about what they brought to this county,” he added.
Friday night it was Terri Clark, Gary Allan and Trace Adkins that they brought to Sullivan County.
Like many of the artists who have performed at Bethel in its first two season, Clark had her own take on playing at the original site of Woodstock.
She said she met a man who’d been at Woodstock on Friday afternoon no doubt Sullivan County’s most famous hippie and Bethel Woods Site Interpreter Duke Devlin.
“He said he was there,” Clark related. “I’m sure parts of him were there!
“I’m thrilled to be here, so close to where it all happened,” she told the crowd. “We’ve all got a little hippie in us!”
With a cowboy hat resting just over her eyes, Clark warmed up the crowd for the “good lookin’ mens,” she promised were coming up.
Her light-hearted 40-minute set had the girls in the audience intent on seeing two of country’s sexiest stars dancing and the men salivating.
The tables turned quickly when Gary Allan took over the stage.
A ghost with a skeleton face on the screen behind him, People magazine’s “Country Music’s Sexiest Star’s” raspy voice took the emotion quotient of the night from 0 to 60.
Not bothering to hide the occasional hits from a bottle of Jack Daniels onstage, Allan put on an electric performance.
The yearning in his voice as he poured his heart out on hits like last year’s hit “Life Ain’t Always Beautiful” about the suicide of his third wife had the women swooning, but the raw anger in songs like “I Just Came Back From Hell” reminded them he’s not the guy to take home to mama.
He left that to Trace Adkins, the 6-foot-6 Louisiana boy known for riling ’em up with hits like “Ladies Love Country Boys” and “One Hot Mama.”
Adkins’ promised “a hell of a night,” and he delivered.
In jeans so tight it was impossible not to notice the Skoal rings he sings about in his anthem “Rough and Ready,” Adkins put on an often irreverent and almost always sexually charged performance.
“You’ve already had a good country music fix tonight,” he said. “So we’ll just OD ya.”
By the time Sullivan County’s appetite for country was sated, members of Bethel Woods’ security were just trying to keep anyone else from joining the mosh pit of 100-some women (and a few men) lined up at the stage to get their Adkin’s fix.
After signing a few autographs, kissing his hand and placing it on the head of Hortonville youngster Corey Dirie and handing over his cowboy hat to an adoring fan, Adkins was gone.
The woods are quiet again at least until country thunders back.