THROUGH THE LENS: Sierra Ferrell and Zach Bryan Hit Home Runs at Wild Horses Festival
Sierra Ferrell - Wild Horses Festival 2023 - Photo by Liza Orozco
This week’s guest contributor Liza Orozco and I have at least one thing in common: an unfettered admiration of Sierra Ferrell. Ferrell is from my hometown of Charleston, West Virginia, and I’ve seen her many times during the past 15 years. She’s been featured quite a few times in this column, and, if I am not mistaken, No Depression was the first publication to bring her to national attention — long before her 2021 album Long Time Coming that was on everyone’s top albums list that year (ND story).
Like many others, Liza has come under Ferrell’s spell during the past two years or so. Liza has been able to photograph Ferrell frequently in that time, and in the process has gotten to know her. Most recently, Liza was given full access to cover both the show at the Dec. 30 Wild Horses Festival at Petco Park, home of Major League Baseball’s San Diego Padres, and the backstage experience.
Zach Bryan, Trampled by Turtles, and local act The Silent Comedy were also on the bill; it was a sold-out show before 40,000 fans.
Wild Horses Festival by Liza Orozco
Yes, I know that Zach Bryan was the headliner, but I’ve been singularly captivated by Ferrell ever since I first saw her. First as a photographer and now as a certified fan I have witnessed firsthand her growth over the past two years in both popularity and as an artist.
Upon my arrival at the Wild Horses Festival I was taken backstage, where Ferrell was getting dressed in a custom outfit and headdress made by fashion stylist Chenoa Faun. While there were two stylists doing her hair, makeup, and clothes, she looked as though it came easy to her, as if it was something she, like her music, was destined for. I might add that, for lack of a better word, her “look” is one that her fans have come to adore and look forward to. Ferrell was also gifted a San Diego Padres jersey, number 23 with her name on it.
Following a couple of warm-up songs backstage, Ferrell and her band — Oliver Bates Craven, Joshua Rilko and Geoff Saunders — took the stage as Webb Pierce’s “I Ain’t Never” was playing on the loudspeakers. Ferrell began singing along, adding “I ain’t seen nobody but yooooou toooo” as she danced onto the stage with Craven adding, “I love the smell of grass right now, it’s game time!”
It certainly was; they put on a sensational show. Afterwards, I asked Craven, formerly with The Stray Birds, if he was nervous about playing for such a large audience. He said that when you are prepared and the trust is there, all nervousness goes away, whether the audience is 40 or 40,000.
Headliner Bryan is another artist whose popularity has grown exponentially in the last two years. As with Ferrell, I knew from the first time I saw him perform that he really had something special when the audiences sang every song right along with him. On this night I saw many young women in tears while doing just that. It’s infectious, to the point where you want to know all the words and sing along as well.
I have found Bryan’s music to be sincere, relatable, and believable. So must Ferrell, The War and Treaty, The Lumineers, and Kacey Musgraves, as they all appear on his latest, self-titled album (ND review), which was included on last year’s ND Readers Poll of Best Roots Music Albums. Finally, it was amazing, to say the least, to see Ferrell and Bryan sing the album’s “Holy Roller” together at the show.
I cannot wait to see what 2024 holds in store for Ferrell and Bryan, but whatever happens I know it’s going to be spectacular.
Click on any photo below to view the gallery as a full-size slideshow.