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WE Fest fans in the general admission area crowd against a fence separating them from the reserved seating section on Thursday during John Anderson's performance. Brian Basham, Forum Communications

WE Fest stars, thousands of fans get their groove on

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DETROIT LAKES - The weather for the first day of WE Fest was Minnesota nice, but the temperature coming off the stage was Georgia hot.

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A pair of Peach State stars, Luke Bryan and Colt Ford, along with Floridian John Anderson, fired up the crowd.

Fellow Georgian Jason Aldean headlined the bill, but went on after press time Thursday night.

Just as Aldean made the move to headliner after playing a second-to-last set in 2010, Bryan seems ready to take the next step toward superstar. His 90-minute set was as energetic as a rock show - mostly.

The singer knows his audience is there to party and he didn't let them down, including the song "You Ain't Here to Party" and "That's What Country is."

"WE Fest is the countriest thing I've ever seen, y'all,"

he said.

Well, country and a lot of rock. And rap. The only knock on Bryan's set was a lengthy period in which he toyed with covers like Dr. Dre and Tupac Shakur's "California Love," Sir Mix-a-Lot's "I Like Big Butts," Steve Miller's "The Joker," the Commodore's "Easy," a bit of Justin Bieber's "Boyfriend," Adele's "Someone Like You" and Journey's "Faithfully."

His own hits like "Baby Do I," "Someone Else Calling You Baby," "Drunk on You" and "I Don't Want This Night to End" went over bigger with the crowd.

All was forgiven for his finale, "Country Girl (Shake it For Me)," which turned WE Fest into a scene of 40,000 fans bumping and grinding.

Even John Anderson got into the dance party, though in different ways.

The artist with the most festival appearances (at least until Sawyer Brown ties him at 12 on Saturday) showed why he's such a fan favorite, bringing groups of people onstage to dance to "Swingin.'" A couple of songs later he closed with "Seminole Wind," accompanied by a Native American dancer.

At 57, Anderson's voice is aging well and he easily sways from a mellifluous twang to a more raucous delivery on "Chicken Truck" or the near yodel of "Money in the Bank."

He definitely earned the praise of both Bryan and Colt Ford, who earlier called him "one of the greatest country singers of all time."

For his part, Ford replicated his hick-hop set of rural rap from the night before when he played the Barn Stage, showcasing tunes like "Country Thang," "Ride through the Country" and "Skirts and Boots."

"This is perfect weather for a fat guy," the 300-pound singer said.

The sun and crowd both shined on him.

Readers can reach Forum columnist John Lamb at (701) 241-5533

If you go

What: 30th WE Fest

When: Today through Saturday

Where: Soo Pass Ranch, Detroit Lakes, Minn.

Info: Only single-day, music-only tickets remain for $89.93

(800) 493-3378

Lineup

Today

2 p.m. - Gates open

2:45 p.m. - Hitchville

4:15 p.m. - Miss Willie Brown

6:15 p.m. - Brantley Gilbert

8:30 p.m. - Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers

10:45 p.m. - Toby Keith

12:15 a.m. - Hitchvillle (Barn Stage)

Saturday

2 p.m. - Gates open

2:45 p.m. - Florida Georgia Line

4:15 p.m. - Little Big Town

6:15 p.m. - Sawyer Brown

8:30 p.m. - Eric Church

10:45 p.m. - Alabama

12:15 a.m. - Florida Georgia Line (Barn Stage)

Online

www.wefest.org

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