VARYSBURG – Celebrating and convening in Buffalo Hill Village on Friday, thousands paid homage to all grand and sonic things country – and American – at Jam in the Valley, the three-day extravaganza now in its 21st incarnation.
The tips of a few windmills just over the treeline barely moved under a semi-cloudy sky. A gleaming, sky-blue replica of Lady Liberty on a nearby Wyoming County hill watched over the proceedings on the main stage.
“Jammers” came wearing Old Glory on their shirts and imprinted on their hats; some waved miniature flags. Due to the recent rains, waterproof barn boots and flip-flops were as prevalent as cowboy boots.
Surveying the placid scene upon arrival, a walk toward one of Buffalo Hill Village’s camping areas was in order. There, for acres, was an assembly of campers, tents, a lone food truck and shops for concert/country wares.
Here, too, was Jam in the Valley’s second stage, the “Made in America Stage.” According to sound man Jimmy K. (“of Jimmy K. Productions”), he let the public address system rip early that morning.
Eleven a.m., before the first band?
“Heck no, I woke them up at 8:30!” he says with a chuckle.
The second stage’s final act was Jay Taylor and compadres, tearing through an hourlong set that blended his well-crafted originals and well-chosen covers, including the Wallflowers, Hank Williams Jr. and Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” – a truly fine set. Free extended-plays were available on a stageside table.
Running about 15 minutes behind the posted schedule (nearly de rigueur with outdoor fests), main stage headliners The Band Perry hit the stage at 9 p.m. sharp.
The triad of talented siblings (vocalist Kimberly, mandolin-playing Neil and bassist Reid) have two recordings under their alt-country belt buckles to date and perform songs off both equally.
The Band Perry performs mainly originals, but the group has been known to cover Bruno Mars (“Uptown Funk”) and Queen (“Fat Bottomed Girls”).
The trio, featured on the soundtrack to the country-documentary “I’ll Be Me,” about Glen Campbell’s struggle with Alzheimer’s disease, does a fine rendition of “Gentle on My Mind,” introducing the superstar to a new generation of fans.
Austin Webb and his gang of four rock-’n’-rollers pounced onstage, equal thirds alt-country, Top-40 and thumping rock.
Tattooed and lean, Webb worked the stage, as well as classic rock references into the act. His “It’s All Good,” an introspective, mid-tempo tune, gave way to a chord-for-chord Stones interlude – “Beast of Burden.”
The set’s highlight was when Webb left the stage during his revenge tune “All Country on You,” heading deep into the crowd of Jammers, high-fiving along the way.
Amid a clavicle-rattling bass line, ultra-handsome Jerrod Niemann and band hit the main stage, the lead vocalist (in Willie Nelson T-shirt) shouting, “Where the party animals at?” Like Nelson, there were ample lyrical references to things that rhyme with toke and other freewheeling ways. He tossed a pink “Real Women Drink Beer” shirt to the ladies-with-cameras ringing the stage.
Niemann, who played Jam in the Valley two years ago, dedicated his pensive “Wasting Time” to those “the world’s been beating up lately.” His Cash homage, “Ring of Fire,” with appropriate twang, got many in the crowd jigging – and explained the singer’s black Solo cup.
Opening up the main stage was the Heritage, western souls from Western New York. The band, slated for an opening slot for Jason Aldean at Darien Lake in August, has a three-gig stint in Nashville later this year. The band’s playfully rollicking “Redneck, White Trash & Blue Collar” is a winner.
As the band hit the stage, the sun powered through the clouds. “Country As It Gets” (“You love NASCAR / We play hockey”) and “Welcome to the North” proclaims their county street cred – despite the group’s hailing from several states north of Nashville.
Jordyn Stoddard, a teen from Jacksonville, Fla., followed the Heritage, strumming an aqua-colored acoustic guitar.
Her black ankle boots were not country, but her sound sure was. This rising star gave away copies of her extended-play, “Like Me ’Til You Love Me” and met with fans in the nearby merchandise tent after her concise set.