By Kyle Amaral
The crack of a baseball bat and roar of a hometown crowd were exchanged for fiddle licks and stomping boots this weekend at Petco Park in San Diego, California for Wild Horses Festival.
In a region more renowned for surfing, sand and sunsets than boots, beer and buckles, the rowdiness of the Cali crowd was a poetic end to a 2023 in which country music returned to the limelight.
Despite being only one night, Wild Horses Festival packed a punch with a cohort of talent, including The Silent Comedy, Sierra Ferrell, Trampled By Turtles, and the hottest act in country music, Zach Bryan.
As the crowd began shuffling in, The Silent Comedy, a local alt-country band, was tasked with the often-overlooked opening slot of the night.
While the subtle buzz of conversation throughout their set never truly dissipated, it was consistently quieted by the astounding harmonies of brothers Joshua and Jeremiah Zimmerman.
The band completed their objective of the evening with ease, sharing their talent with the early bird fans and performing a killer rendition of Tom Petty’s 'American Girl' to boot, making the crowd turning up for Sierra Ferrell ask just what they'd missed out on.
With the air cooling and the evening light growing dimmer by the minute, Sierra Ferrell and company took to the Petco stage.
Finding someone not totally enamored by the seemingly effortless agility of Ferrell's vocal range became increasingly difficult, as she pressed her excitement for her upcoming record to be released at an undisclosed date in 2024.
Announcing that this would be her last show with only a string band backing her, they delved into her latest single 'Fox Hunt', with Ferrell shredding some strings on the fiddle to eloquently put the show away.
The subtle aroma of field grass was traded for a much less subtle scent of a different kind, as multiple folks toked up for Trampled by Turtles.
The boys from Minnesota came out swinging, encompassing the steadily growing audience with a performance of 'Victory', an up-tempo fan favorite for the band. Fiddle player Ryan Young turned heads throughout the set, his show-stealing solos undoubtedly proving that he belonged onstage.
Dave Simonett, the group's lead singer, mentioned that this was the first set Trampled By Turtles had played in a stadium this size. It was the icing on top of a sensational year for the band, thanks in large part to the headliner of the evening.
There was a tangible eagerness in the air as the moment grew closer for the star of the evening to take the stage in front of 40,000 rowdy Californians.
As the band took their places, a deafening roar erupted through the stadium, releasing the suspense trapped in the hearts of the ravid army of Zach Bryan’s disciples.
For anyone lucky enough to catch Zach live, there is often a deep, soulful passion resonating through the crowd, and Wild Horses Festival was no exception to the trend. Each word to every song was fervidly belted out by liquored up concert goers, yearning to share the indescribable bond of the moment.
Zach played an “extra long” setlist to conclude the myriad of 2023 shows for him and his band, while also bringing Sierra Ferrell back out on stage for their duet 'Holy Roller'.
One more infamous encore performance of 'Revival' capped off the evening, the astounding energy leaving each fan eager to find the closest chance to see Bryan they can get.
Taken from his set at Wild Horses Festival at Petco Park in San Diego, California on Saturday, December 30th, 2023.
Open the Gate
Fifth of May
Something in the Orange
Holly Roller (with Sierra Ferrell)
East Side of Sorrow
I Remember Everything
Burn, Burn, Burn
For more on Wild Horses Festival, see below: