WBUL’s annual Red, White & Boom country music festival will blow up in 2016, expanding to three days and bringing in major headlining acts.
Jason Aldean, Eric Church and Florida Georgia Line will top the bill at Boom, which will move to Labor Day weekend, a couple months after its traditional spot on or about July 4.
“We’ve been doing Red, White & Boom for 12 years, and every year we try to grow, we try to do something different and really grow it into a festival that everybody in the state can be proud of,” said Michael Jordan, senior vice president of programming in Kentucky for iHeartMedia + Entertainment. “With the last two years of expanding to the two-day festival and selling out each year, we decided this was the time to beef up the acts and really make an economic impact in the market.”
Red, White & Boom started as an Independence Day event behind Rupp Arena. The lineups generally consisted of moderately popular to up-and-coming country acts. The event eventually moved to Whitaker Bank Ballpark, home of the Lexington Legends Minor League Baseball team, and the past two years it has been a two-day event not directly connected to July 4. The 2015 headliners were Chris Young and Phil Vassar, with supporting acts including Kelsea Ballerini, who had her first No. 1 single about the time of the festival.
The festival moved to Labor Day weekend because of a combination of factors, including the availability of the acts, Jordan said. Having it on the holiday weekend made it more feasible to expand to three days, which organizers wanted to do to spread the expense and because of the amount of production being put into the event. Jordan also said that students will be back at area colleges, expanding the potential audience base, and that it will give the field a longer time to recover because the Legends’ season will be over.
The bigger event will mean a larger production because the headliners will bring their arena-size shows to the ballpark.
“The stage will be 70 feet tall, so it’s almost a seven-story building in the outfield,” Jordan said. “With that will come pretty advanced Jumbotrons and lighting — everything you would expect from these acts at Rupp Arena.
“Other than that, it’s the same Red, White & Boom people have loved and bought tickets for over the years. It’s just drastically increased the level of artists that are playing the event.”
In audience surveys, the main thing festival fans wanted was bigger acts, Jordan said.
Aldean and Church have played Rupp Arena in recent years, and FGL played a headlining show at Whitaker Bank Ballpark in October 2013. Boom would be the only performances in Kentucky or Cincinnati’s Riverbend amphitheater for the headliners in 2016, Jordan said.
Also announced for the September festival are supporting acts Thomas Rhett and Cole Swindell, who have played previous Booms, and Kacey Musgraves, one of the most awarded and critically acclaimed new country artists in the past several years. The final six artists will be announced later. Jordan said he wanted to allow room to book some artists who might break out and get hot early in the year, as Ballerini did last year.
Of course, a higher-caliber lineup means a higher ticket price. Part of Boom’s appeal was the $20 ticket for the two days, and it regularly sold out in hours. Tickets for this edition will be $179 for all three days. Jordan said that’s comparable to what fans would pay to see the headliners in arenas and amphitheaters, without as many openers as Boom will offer. At this point, Jordan said, plans are to sell only three-day tickets.
“I think the fans are going to be extremely excited, and we expect a really good on-sale,” ge said. “I never predict a sellout until it’s a sellout.
“We might lose some people because the price scale has changed a bit, but with the level of acts I think we are going to bring people in who might not have experienced Red, White & Boom before, but also bring in people from across the state, which results in hotel stays and restaurant visits, taxis and everything else.
“We want to make an impact for Lexington and the state.”
If You Go
Red, White & Boom
What: Three-day country music festival with headliners Jason Aldean, Eric Church and Florida Georgia Line
When: Sept. 2-4
Where: Whitaker Bank Ballpark, 207 Legends Lane
Tickets: $179 for all three days. On sale at 10 a.m. Jan. 15