Stokes Set isn’t known for attracting household names. This year, that changed—and while country music can be a largely divisive genre with many haters, Hunter Hayes was able to draw in more interest and engagement than usual.
The fourth Annual Stokes Set kicked off with opener Cannon Few, a former Heights contributor and MCAS ’20, who goes by “Cannon” onstage. He sang a number of songs, including his singles “Water Glass” and “These Walls,” both of which are available on Spotify. He concluded his set by imparting some wisdom on the crowd: “I’ll see you on Monday in the halls of Stokes,” he said.
Hayes took the stage to a crowd of enthusiastic fans who have known all his songs since middle school. He focused the majority of his set on his newer music, emphasizing that his most recent album, Wild Blue Part I, was the first time his true self was able to shine on a recording in a long time. He spoke a lot, almost too much, about how he got bullied when he was younger and still feels like he doesn’t quite fit in. It was touching and humble, but did seem to overshadow some of the more uplifting aspects his show could have featured.
He kicked off the show on an upbeat note with “One Shot at a Time,” and segued into the slower fan favorite “Storm Warning.” He then launched into a string of newer music, starting off with “Wild Blue.” At this point, the concert hit a bit of a lull, as most people in the crowd weren’t familiar with the new music, some of which was just released last month. While the crowd wasn’t exactly sure what to do during these songs, he was able to show off his talents on the guitar. Hayes is a surprisingly skilled guitar player, which came as a surprise to much of the crowd. His frequent guitar interludes became a welcome change of pace throughout the middle of the show.
Right before his last string of songs to close out the set, Hayes finally took a more optimistic view, telling students that “Whatever path [they’re] on, it’s the right one.” This came as a welcome glimmer of hope in a concert that was previously bogged down by somewhat pessimistic tones. Earlier in the night, he described feelings of being an outcast at 28, a somewhat unexpected admission.
He ended the night with a string of popular songs that everyone knew the lyrics to, many from his self-titled 2011 album. A standout song was “Everybody’s Got Somebody But Me,” which allowed for a few softer, more acoustic moments during the show. “Wanted,” “Somebody’s Heartbreak,” and “Dear God” all set the stage for the one song everybody was waiting for: “I Want Crazy.” The final song sent everyone into a frenzy, waving phone flashlights and jumping up and down along with Hayes. He closed out the show by thanking the crowd in a surprisingly sincere and heartfelt manner, making for a heartwarming end to the night.
Featured Image by Jonathan Ye / Heights Editor