Live Review: CMC Rocks 2023 Willowbank Raceway, Ipswich – Day 2

Photos by Peter Coates –

Hailey Whitters is country through and through, as a writer for greats like Alan Jackson and Little Big Town, and released her own third album in 2022, and we got some old and news songs including her most recent Everything She Ain’t, and her perky voice and upbeat attitude was the perfect opener to Day 2 on the main stages.

Next up was Corey Kent – a boy from Oklahoma and his band, who was Blake Shelton’s choice on The Voice in the US, and he opened up with Alot Like This and the first of a couple of summer drinking songs.  Performing two band members down due to recent births for them, his guitarist played the drums, the keyboard player was on bass, and they borrowed a guitarist!  It was impossible to tell as they gave us a set of upbeat AOR rock country with some real roots, and a lovely ballad followed with Same Thing.  Then the band rocked up a version of the Beatles Come Together which got the crowd going.  We got Wild As Her, and then the set closed with another drinking song written with Kolby Cooper, Ain’t My Day. Superb!

The Wolfe Brothers don’t need any introduction – Tasmania’s finest Country Rock band delivered an impeccable set of their standards and hits, including Ain’t Seen It Yet, Damn Good Mates and the driving No Brakes.  Nick and Tom just love what they do, and Brodie on lead guitar might look like an accountant, but can play like Eddie Van Halen!  We got the impassioned Here’s To The Ones, and a riotous set closer Till It Ends, with the Aussie flag flying, and the crowds buzzing.

We had a simple set from Cam on Night 1, and she did pretty much the same set on Night 2, polished, sensitive and then more upbeat as the set went on – including the dreary and unnecessary requirement for her to do a “Shoey” – which she did, but most of us felt sorry for her!  She is better than that.

Much of the crowd, including the younger set, had been eagerly awaiting the first appearance of Mitchell Tenpenny – so much energy from this guy and his band, including the seriously good Dylan Hester on lead guitar, with his college room-mate on rhythm guitar and his kid brother on bass, with whom he ran a medley of The Police’s Every Breath You Take, plus At The End Of The Bar and Truth About You.   Mitchell has a great voice live, and the loud band really brought some of his recorded songs such as Best Shot to life!  He opened with Good Place and Always Something With You – and he too did the Shoey before ripping into the corking Alcohol You Later!

Mitchell was clearly blown away by his reception, and finished the set with the counter-Woke sentiment of Bitches – which had some awesome crowd participation.

Bailey Zimmerman basically just upped his game from Night 1, now on the bigger stage, and was louder and more riotous than the fist night.  Bailey was working on construction of gas pipelines at 18, and started writing songs in 2020 – and he has certainly got himself a solid spot on the musical ladder.  The band rocked out hard again, and the crowd lapped it up.  We got most of his current repertoire, including House on Fire, Never Coming Home and Where It Ends, and the set again closed with the very special Rock And A Hard Place.  Well played Bailey – don’t wait too long before coming back Down Under.

I was lucky enough to have seen Randy Houser on Thursday supporting Kip Moore in Sydney, and still have goosebumps from his voice, and tonight was just further amped up from the power and intensity of this superb performer.  The set opened with What Whiskey Does, the stomping country rock of Boots On, and the excellent Whistlin Dixie, all of which just set the joyous tone for the rest of the set. He did the Alan Jackson hoe-down boogie of Chattahoochee to show off the guitar licks, and at the end of the set we got a stirring acoustic rendition of Like A Cowboy, with Randy solo for the first couple of refrains, and then the band kicking in for the extended version.  Randy’s vocals are truly astounding here, soaring over the band, and then almost drained, he picks it up for set closer Running Out of Moonlight!  Truly awe-inspiring stuff.

Kip Moore did very much what he did on Thursday in Sydney, opening with new song Damn Love, and then Fire & Flame, before heading back to the more familiar territory of Wild Ones and Plead the Fifth, and the ever-popular anthem of Beer Money.  Getting headliners right for CMC Rocks is a challenging task, and maybe Kip was a really safe option for Night 2, and perhaps the car-park horrors of Night 1 meant that many people starting leaving early, but there is no doubt that Kip delivers an impressive show, with a bunch of recognisable and quality country pop-rock songs – reminiscent of both Springsteen and The Kings of Leon, with a bit of the later Jon Bon Jovi solo records thrown in to the mix – but Hearts on Fire, Backseat and Runnin’ For You are all delivered solidly, and The Bull remains a really special track, and Somethin’ Bout A Truck is the perfect country rock song for a summer night festival.

Bring on Day 3!

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