Quint’s Big Country Fest

Quint Davis, the man synonymous with the New Orleans Jazz  & Heritage Festival for 40 years, is going country next year and in a big way. The first concert in the history of Tiger Stadium – home to the LSU football team – will host an event over Memorial Day weekend that has all the makings of a Bayou-Country Stagecoach.

The lineup at the inaugural Bayou Country Superfest includes one of the last performances by Brooks & Dunn, one of the first stadium headline performances by Taylor Swift and one of the few performances in 2010 by Kenny Chesney, who is taking his first break in touring in more than a decade.

“And Keith Urban is not touring at that time but he’s so important and so great that we wanted him to be a part of the festival,” Davis told Pollstar.

The roster includes Jason Aldean, Kellie Pickler, Jake Owen, David Nail, Gloriana and Justin Moore at the May 29-30 event in Baton Rouge.

The reference to SoCal’s Stagecoach Country Music Festival is apt, because Davis’ Festival Productions is not the only promoter involved with the event. JazzFest has included the help of AEG Live in recent years and the promotion company, whose subsidiary Goldenvoice produces Stagecoach, is a partner in this event. So is AEG’s The Messina Group. And wherever TMG goes, Chesney is sure to follow.

Davis and Messina, both New Orleans natives, have known each other their entire lives but had never worked together. Apparently it took the LSU home turf to get Messina involved.

“We were sitting in his bus at Kenny’s show in Cleveland,” Davis said. “I’ll never forget this: he said, ‘You get Tiger Stadium and I’ll book the biggest country show ever booked.’ Now, he probably said that because he thought we couldn’t do it! But this thing has had that kind of life going forward.”

When it comes to country music, places like Houston, Dallas and Atlanta come to mind. Somehow, until now, Louisiana has been passed by. Davis said he had been bouncing around the idea of a major country fest with Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu for three to four years. Davis eventually suggested Baton Rouge.

“He said, ‘Well, what about Tiger Stadium?’ And when he said that, it wasn’t like a light bulb going off, it was like the sun going off,” Davis said. “It was like, ‘Holy Christmas Eve.’”

The principal parties started working on the event in January for this Memorial Day weekend but major country acts are traditionally booked too far in advance. Chesney, who may be doing an occasional festival next year, reaffirmed his commitment to the festival in 2010. Urban and Swift signed on. And they all dodged a bullet with Brooks & Dunn.

“We were in negotiations with Brooks & Dunn and close to having them confirmed when they announced they were retiring,” Davis said. “They were going to do the ‘Last Rodeo’ and would we still be interested. Well, yes.”

Swift and Urban headline May 29 and Chesney and Brooks & Dunn headline May 30. Tickets range from $40 for an upper-deck stadium seat to $500 for a two-day “VIP Golden Horseshoe” stage-front ticket.

“Believe me, if you’ve ever seen a Saturday night football game at Tiger Stadium, with the tailgating and everything, we’re pretty good at knowing how to have a good time down here in Louisiana on a Saturday night,” Davis said. “I’ll put us up against anybody.”

Davis acknowledged several institutions that helped put the event together, including the Department of Cultural Recreation and Tourism, the city, mayor and metro council of Baton Rouge, the Greater Baton Rouge Convention Visitor’s Bureau and a “historic” agreement with Louisiana State University to use “the most sacred sports ground in the history of Louisiana.”