Whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas — but luckily, the same can’t be said for Nashville. Country music has been bubbling out of its home state at a fever pace lately, with a particular focus on Sin City: Faith Hill & Tim McGraw, Garth Brooks and Shania Twain all have had residential runs, and the Academy of Country Music has broadcasted its awards show there. Now, things are about to get a lot twangier on the strip as the brand-new Route 91 Harvest Festival takes over the town, running this afternoon through Sunday and boasting some of the biggest names in country, including Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, Dwight Yoakam, Dierks Bentley, Jason Aldean, Dustin Lynch and many more.
“There are no walls and no barriers right now to country music,” Lynch tells Rolling Stone Country on a break from soundcheck.”We’re grabbing a lot of new fans that give the genre a chance, maybe because of crossover hits. But that’s why you are seeing so many new festivals like this, because there’s really a demand for it.”
Taking place at MGM Resorts Village, the festival will boast three days of headliner draws as well as the next generation of superstars — rising acts like Brothers Osborne and Lindsay Ell will play to the afternoon crowds on the main stage, while up-and-comers Chase Bryant, Jukebox Mafia and Brooke Eden can be spotted on the Next From Nashville stage, following in the Coachella and Bonnaroo tradition of spotlighting burgeoning talent.
“I think it’s so awesome we are growing our genre and our demographic,” says Ell, who will play on Sunday. But don’t expect her to hit the craps tables after her set. “My version of gambling is taking eighty bucks to a blackjack table and going for four hours. If I do get into gambling, it will be pretty tame.”
What’s not a gamble is taking country music to Vegas. It’s already been a hotspot for music festivals of late — most recently, the massive iHeartRadio Festival — with no signs of slowing down, and the appetite for artists like Lynch is growing. “Vegas has always been really great to country music,” he says. “It’s an amazing time to be a part of the genre. I was just playing a show at Bryant Park in New York City — there I was, playing my songs in downtown Manhattan to tons of fans. It’s bizarre.” Bizarre in the best way possible, certainly.
Lynch, however, may take a little more aggressive approach to the casino activities than Ell, as he is staying for a few days after the festival to raise a glass (and maybe a hand of cards) to Where It’s At, his sophomore release with its Number One hit title track. “We’re going to celebrate,” he says. “I love blackjack… I like to break even though. My first time in Vegas was super Hangover style — I went with a bunch of guys and we had a suite and partied really hard. I had a big headache.”
No face tattoos though, right? “No huge regrets, no,” he says, laughing. “Hopefully we’ll keep it that way.”
In the spirit of the music and misbehavior that sometimes happens in Las Vegas, we had Lynch and Ell compile an exclusive playlist of their favorite strip-ready tunes, from Elvis to George Strait to Katy Perry. It’s the perfect soundtrack to court lady luck, country-style.