March Madness Music Festival @ Reunion Park, Dallas, TX

This weekend in Dallas, there was a perfect storm.  And I'm not talking about the weather.  Sure, Saturday and Sunday weren't mild by any means and the constant threat of rain did sour what would have been an amazing, although already great, weekend.  Fans of music, as well as fans of basketball, ventured to downtown Dallas to partake in a free three-day music festival known as the March Madness Music Festival to coincide with North Texas's hosting of the Final Four.  Nestled upon the remains of the Reunion Arena, Reunion Park provided a perfect location for a festival of this magnitude.  It doesn't hurt that Dallas's iconic skyline was the backdrop to the festivities.  The festival gained national recognition when the announcement of the final day headliner was to be Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, with other notable headliners in Jason Aldean and the Killers.  And with a lineup with this, I doubt anyone walked away disappointed.

Friday, the most heavy attended day, started off slow as the festival started at 3:30 in the afternoon.  The day's schedule was very country-oriented, beginning with Austin's Jack Ingram who kicked off the festival in great style before passing the torch to the Wild Feathers, who were high-spirited and energetic yet very humble to be included in such an event; you can also catch the Wild Feathers at Suburbia.  After the Feathers, Eli Young took the stage to a rousing applause.  A local product, Eli Young whipped the crowd into a frenzy and never took the foot off the pedal.  To end the evening, country star Jason Aldean brought out the biggest crowd of the weekend (?) and concluded Friday's performances with style.

The second day brought a much more diverse lineup, starting off with special guest Kevin Hart.  Speaking on behalf of Coke Zero, Hart conversed with the crowd and judged a dance off before seguing into the one and only, LL Cool J.  LL was accompanied by DJ Z-Trip, who got the crowd going with a classic hip-hop session.  Once onstage, LL, masked by a hoodie, jumped into "Momma Said Knock You Out" and really got the day going.  With moxie and lots of flair, LL was a sight to behold and really held the crowd until the end.  An actor and musician as well, Tim McGraw drew lots of cheers from the growing crowd and did not disappoint with his vast catalog of country hits.  As much as I love the Killers, I decided not to stay for their set because of the long gap between performances.  During the gap, the festival broadcast the first semifinal game to the crowd, which did not meet the size of the night before.  One word:  weather.

Despite the continued haze and drizzle, there was a buzz surrounding Reunion Park on Sunday.  It had everything to do with the festivals final headliner, Bruce Springsteen.  Before we treated to the Boss, the day began with the relatively unknown the Wind and the Wave.  After the duo's performance, the small yet eager crowd gave a warm welcome to local product, Pat Green.  Green was claiming this to be the best day of his life, though you could tell he was less than satisfied with the Dallas crowd and their participation.  But one thing is for sure, he loves North Texas.  A change of pace was in order when the pop group fun. took stage.  Not wasting any time, the band was lively and full of, well, fun.  The band never skipped a beat despite a constant drizzle and kept the crowd singing along to songs such as "Carry On" and "We Are Young" before ending their initial set with the Beatles' "You Can't Always Get What You Want" and their encore of "Some Nights".

To this point, everybody had been well-entertained by some of music's finest artists but they still had one thing left on their mind:  Bruce.  The constant chants of "Bruuuuuuuuce" rang out during the hour-long set change until the E Street Band finally took the stage.  Not long after, the man himself, Bruce Springsteen slowly walked to the front carrying a basketball.  Somewhat cheesy but all in good fun, Bruce and guitarist Nil Lofgren 'tipped off' before the band covered Van Halen's "Jump".  I cannot claim to be the biggest Springsteen fan or know the depths of his catalog but I was nothing but impressed by his showmanship.  The previous statement also includes the entire E Street Band, which included Rage of the Machine's Tom Morello; fantastic musicianship and all class.  Most of the night, Bruce was center stage but on occasion made his way to the wings of the stage before accessing bridges of the VIP areas.  During his first trek to stage left during "Hungry Heart", the Boss jumped into the crowd and surfed all the way back to center stage.  A great moment and basically summed up how much fun the entire festival was having.  Playing a three-hour set is nothing new to the Boss, but for a free festival, three hours from a Hall of Famer is unheard of.  It was definitely the icing on the cake and the perfect ending to an amazing weekend.  I sure hope Reunion Park hosts more events like this, as this weekend showed its potential as a game-changer in the North Texas festival season.  I was privileged enough to be allowed to shoot photos of the weekend's events and would like to thank the great people at Fay+Sawers and Turner for the opportunity.  Photos of the festival are below:

Day One
Jack Ingram
The Wild Feathers
Eli Young Band
Jason Aldean
Day Two
Kevin Hart
LL Cool J
Tim McGraw
Day Three
The Wind and the Wave
Pat Green
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
March Madness Music Festival @ Reunion Park, Dallas, TX March Madness Music Festival @ Reunion Park, Dallas, TX Reviewed by Scott Rowe, Editor on April 08, 2014 Rating: 5
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