Pine Knob notches its 50th birthday with Saturday country festival as summer shows roll on

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Fans at Pine Knob Music Theatre gather ahead of Tenille Townes' set on June 25, 2022.
Fans at Pine Knob Music Theatre gather ahead of Tenille Townes' set on June 25, 2022.

Pine Knob Music Theatre marked its 50th birthday with a little boot scootin’ boogie.

Throngs of fans piled into the amphitheater Saturday for the latest edition of the 99.5 WYCD Hoedown, a two-stage affair set to culminate with an evening set from Brooks & Dunn.

Gates opened at 4 p.m., half a century to the day — indeed, nearly to the hour — after Pine Knob debuted with a matinee David Cassidy concert.

That June 25, 1972, show launched a long and storied run for Pine Knob, which long ago cemented its spot as one of the most successful summer music venues in the U.S. The golden anniversary is the focus of a season-long campaign at the amphitheater.

History was embodied backstage in the form of Brooks & Dunn tour manager Bill Thompson, a concert business veteran who worked his first Pine Knob show two months after the amphitheater opened — in August 1972, when he was lighting director for the soft-rock band Bread. He was greeted Saturday with a celebratory banner in the catering area.

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Bill Thompson, tour manager for country duo Brooks & Dunn, poses backstage at Pine Knob Music Theatre on June 25, 2022, with a banner commemorating his first-ever show at the venue in August 1972.
Bill Thompson, tour manager for country duo Brooks & Dunn, poses backstage at Pine Knob Music Theatre on June 25, 2022, with a banner commemorating his first-ever show at the venue in August 1972.

While the 50th birthday milestone certainly wasn’t lost on Saturday’s concertgoers, most were preoccupied with the party at hand, a seven-hour country extravaganza that also included main-stage performers Scott McCreery and Tenille Townes. Many had warmed up for the long day tailgating in Pine Knob's parking lots, where country tunes blared from trucks and car trunks.

The 15,000-plus fans in the capacity crowd were scheduled to receive a commemorative anniversary poster when they left the venue later that night.

The Hoedown doesn’t have quite the history Pine Knob has seen through the decades, but it’s an institution in its own right. For 32 years, it was a downtown Detroit staple before moving in 2016 to the grounds of the Clarkston venue, then known as DTE Energy Music Theatre, and scaling down to a single-day event.

Music kicked off Saturday with a set from smoky-voiced newcomer Kassi Ashton, while Parmalee made its first Hoedown appearance since 2014, playing a set that included the reigning No. 1 country song in the U.S., “Take My Name.”

Pine Knob Music Theatre marquee on June 25, 2022, the venue's 50th birthday.
Pine Knob Music Theatre marquee on June 25, 2022, the venue's 50th birthday.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Pine Knob notches its 50th birthday with Saturday country festival