It’s been forever and a day since Tucson hosted its own country music festival, a whole day devoted to fiddle and twang and songs about rural living that’s walking the fine line of town and country.
But on Saturday, Feb. 24, the mother-son team of Bobbie and Adam Dobres is hosting the inaugural Country Fest Tucson to celebrate the Tucson Rodeo. The lineup includes a pair of Nashville stars — Josh Turner and Josh Gracin — supported by several regional artists and a trio of Tucson country singer-songwriters.
“Tucson needs something different,” Adam Dobres said.
The festival will be the biggest undertaking for the Dobreses’ company Desert Entertainment, which they have had for a couple years. Until now, Desert Entertainment has done relatively small events, including pub crawls and private parties, Dobres said.
“This is the first big event music-wise,” he said. “Go hard or go home.”
Dobres said he expects as many as 8,000 people to attend the Feb 24 concert at the Tucson Expo Center.
“I feel like Tucson needs something like this. There is so much talent here and it needs to be recognized,” said Tucson country singer Caiden Brewer, one of the local artists on the Country Fest lineup. “There is a lot of hidden talent in Arizona and we get overlooked because it’s not Texas or Nashville.”
This will be the first time Brewer will perform at the country festival in the year or so that he’s done music full time. On Sunday, he introduced his new band at a downtown bar; the band will make its debut at Country Fest.
Headliner Josh Turner will make his second Tucson appearance in less than a year. Last April, he played a show before nearly 5,000 fans at Pima County Fairgrounds.
“I remember the crowd that night. It was just incredible, so much fun,” Turner said. “I’m looking forward to coming back. I love going down there. There’s a lot of great country music fans. It’s just a cool place to be.”
He then offered a little unsolicited advice to Dobres: Less is oftentimes more, especially for a first-time festival.
“I know from experience from an artist’s perspective, when you have a huge festival and there’s thousands of people, the last thing they want to do is be sitting out there all day long,” Turner said from a concert stop in St. Louis last week. “Some of them do … but I feel like if you have three or four good acts, I think that’s better than having literally an all-day affair where there’s band after band after band. I think that people get overstimulated when that happens.”
Country Fest Tucson is the first music festival solely dedicated to the genre since KIIM FM hosted its last festival in 2011. Country music gets one of the two days at the annual Oro Valley Music Festival, held the past three years at Oro Valley’s Golf Club at Vistoso.
Dobres said he envisions growing Country Fest into a multi-day event beginning in 2019 and moving it to an outdoor venue. He also plans to expand the number of retail and food vendors each year.
“My goal is this year, one day; next year, two days; and then three and eventually four days,” he said. “Tucson is going to be like, holy smokes, they’ve never seen anything like this before in the past decade.”