Back Porch Revival brings a crowd to Kinnick Stadium
Former Hawkeye football player and NFL star Dallas Clark strolled through the basement of Kinnick Stadium excitedly Saturday morning, shouting "It's game day" like he had so many days during his football career.
There was no game for him to play in Iowa City this Saturday, but there was a concert he had to help put on: The Back Porch Revival, a concert on Kinnick's field that organizers estimated 50,000 fans were at the stadium in the early afternoon. Acting as a fundraiser for Clark's new "Iowans helping Iowans" charity, The Native Fund, the concert was not only a big day for Clark, but a big day for Iowa City. Back Porch marked the first time ever a concert had been held at the 87-year-old stadium.
The exact number of tickets sold and money raised by the event were not available late Saturday night.
Crystal Ellyson and Kara Janka, both of Iowa City, entered Kinnick at 1 p.m. — when the gates to the stadium officially opened to patrons — in order to get a spot in front of the massive stage that took up a better part of what would have been the southern end zone of the stadium. "It's awesome to be here knowing it is the first time time they've held a concert in Kinnick," Ellyson said. "Also because it's the first time they've sold beer here too."
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Despite a foreboding forecast on Friday, the horizon was filled with blue skies and white clouds at Kinnick in the hours leading up to concert time. When The Hunter Smith Band started promptly at 3 p.m. to a dispersed crowd in Kinnick, there wasn't even a hint of the rain that had been predicted the day before. Not a single drop of rain fell during the entire eight-hour concert.
When the 23-year-old country artist Morgan Frazier took the stage at 3:55 p.m., thousands were outside of Kinnick tailgating in the nearby parking lots as they would before Hawkeye football game. As Frazier performed songs like a country-tinged cover of Stevie Wonder's "Superstitious," and David Ray took the stage with his guitar, the crowd in the pit where Ellyson and Janka stood began to fill, but a majority of chairs on the field and bleachers in the stand were unfilled.
Before Tucker Beathard kicked off his set, a video played on the stage of Clark interviewing Tucker and his brother, the Hawkeye's starting quarterback, C.J. Beathard. "Who do you think will perform better: Tucker tonight, or C.J. next Saturday against Miami of Ohio," Clark asked the brothers. Tucker answered first with a smile: "Hopefully him next week."
During his brother's performance, C.J. took the stage, autographed footballs and tossed them into the crowd of loudly cheering fans.
As Tucker finished his set, the bleachers started to resemble what the stadium would like 30 minutes before the kickoff of a Saturday home football game for the Hawkeyes, with thousands finding their seats in the stands, and thousands more walking through the halls of Kinnick looking to buy cowboy hats, beers and burgers.
After a brief cameo onstage by Clark and Iowa-native Ashton Kutcher, Big and Rich of "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)" fame drove the crowd into a tizzy by toasting the crowd with beer and performing alongside a dancing Spider-Man.
"Every artist out there has just been awesome, and I think that they're feeling it's a special show. I think they're giving a little bit more tonight than if they were playing at just another stadium because these fans are giving them something," Clark said. "It's electric out. It's special."
Thomas Rhett, the star who performed after Big and Rich, was the big reason that Ellyson and Janka decided to come to Back Porch Revival. Both avid concert goers, Janka said they normally have to travel to Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Buchanan County to see country music acts. "I always felt Iowa City needed to get more live music. So we had to come to this."
By the time Rhett took the stage at 8 p.m., the sun had set and the thousands of fans in Kinnick were enveloped by the flashing lights of the stage show. Ellyson and Janka were told that 2,000 people would be allowed in the standing-room-only section in front of the stage, a crowd of people larger than most concerts they had ever been to. With more than 40,000 more people expected to fill the stadium, Ellyson said she was excited to be a part of something so massive in her hometown. "We're going to be squeezed standing up here, but we're excited."
After Rhett drank a beer with Kutcher on stage, donned a Hawkeyes jersey and fans lit up the stadium with the flashlights on their cellphones, he surrendered the stage.
With drinks in their hands, Kutcher and Clark walked onto the stage to introduce the final act: Blake Shelton. With the loudest scream of the night, Shelton strolled onto the stage with his guitar. "I've never seen anything like this before," Shelton said as he looked onto the football field now filled with country music fans. "But I get it, this is a football field. This is the first concert we've out here isn't it?" The crowd roared back.
With Shelton on the stage, Clark could finally relax after another long day at Kinnick. "When Blake gets on the stage, and Ashton and I are done, I'll really take the blinders off then and be able to soak all of this amazing concert in."
Reach Zach Berg at 319-887-5412, email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter at @ZacharyBerg.