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After coronavirus cancels Country Thunder, Tucson artists get in on virtual country music festival

After coronavirus cancels Country Thunder, Tucson artists get in on virtual country music festival

If we weren’t living in our alternate universe, country music fans would be getting antsy this weekend in anticipation for Country Thunder, the state’s biggest music festival that was supposed to take place in Florence April 16-19.

When the coronavirus crisis intensified last month, the organizers called off the festival and rescheduled to late October.

But Tucson will have its own virtual country music festival on Friday, April 10, courtesy of Jessica Northey-Shaw, Tucson’s nationally-known country music social media influencer.

Northey-Shaw has put together a solid lineup of local country talent for a daylong virtual festival from noon to 9 p.m. Friday, to be broadcast on her Country Sway Facebook page (facebook.com/CountrySway).

She is partnering with Country Music News Blog (facebook.com/mycountrymusic) and Nashville Music Guide (facebook.com/nashvillemusicguide) as part of her effort to help country musicians in Tucson and beyond make ends meet after their tours and gigs were canceled because of the pandemic.

Northey-Shaw also is hosting livestream takeovers on Country Sway, her Facebook page that has more than 230,000 followers, to give artists around the country a wider audience for virtual performances.

She has done 20 shows since March 18 that have brought in more than 300,000 views.

“All of these artists who have lost tours and they don’t know what to do. They started reaching out to me. ‘Hey, can I do something live,’” said Northey-Shaw, who has been doing social media with big-name stars around the country for more than 15 years. “Then I thought I’m going to do a Tucson one.”

It wasn’t a big ask for the Tucson artists, many of whom have participated in Northey-Shaw’s local songwriting showcase “Arizona Originals.” Friday’s “Tucson Takes Over” event also includes a few new names.

Each will have at least 30 minutes to perform original songs. A schedule of the lineup — Billy Shaw Jr; Caiden Brewer; C.W. Tubbs; Drew Cooper; Jay Faircloth; JR Sandoval; Kayleigh Mathews; Rich Rodriguez with Risa Welch/Red Feather Duet; Brett Dooley from Whiskey Treats; Nick Shelby; Brooke Kelsey; and John and Jackie Hall from 2Lazy2Ranch band — will be posted ahead of Friday’s festival.

During the performances, which will be streamed on Country Sway and her partners’ sites, viewers can give donations to the artists through their online tip jars.

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at cburch@tucson.com or 573-4642. On Twitter @Starburch

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