By Lora Kaelber Special to Published Jul 21, 2015 at 4:26 PM

It’s raining men.



It was a struggle writing about next week's Country Thunder – in Twin Lakes – without talking about the giant white elephant in the room: #SaladGate. So. We’re gonna talk about the white elephant and then talk about what you can expect, see, and do at Country Thunder.

It’s important to note that Country Thunder’s lineup was set long before May 2015 when #SaladGate blew up the country music world. But the attitudes, the beliefs and the country air play have been heading towards this explosion for the last few years, if not longer.

The issue: Female country artists get very little airplay on country radio.

On May 26, in an interview with "Country Aircheck," Keith Hill, a country radio consultant, gave his now infamous views that country radio shouldn’t give female artists as much airplay as their male counterparts. The interview and the issue went viral, sparking outrage among male and female country artists alike.

Hill opined that "If you want to make ratings in country radio, take females out." He went on so far as to say that research bears out that "women [listeners] like male artists ... trust me, I play great female records, and we’ve got some right now. They’re just not the lettuce in our salad. The lettuce is Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton, Keith Urban and artists like that. The tomatoes of our salad are the females."

#SaladGate was born.

While his opinions are completely sexist and more than just offensive, they float ... unfortunately.

If you want to hear female artists more than once in every six to ten songs, you need to turn off country radio and turn on either iTunes Radio or iHeart Radio. Hearing two female artists in a row is unheard of, at least lately. Streaming radio is far from a perfect solution, though. There’s still a more than a fair amount of bro-country – even on the female artists’ stations. To hear female-only music, you have to create specific playlists on Spotify.

So as the country music world figures out the fix for and removal of the constraints on female artists, Country Thunder rides in with its bro-country filled lineup.

It’s interesting that there are only five female artists (of the twenty-two main stage slots) playing on Thunder’s main stage. But I’m not going to impute the opinions that currently permeate country radio to the organizers of Country Thunder. It’s likely that they didn’t seek out only male artists. The lineup probably just worked out that way – or at least, that’s what I hope.

Things to see and do at Country Thunder

See bro-country.

Even if Thunder’s lineup is filled with mostly bro-country, it’s still really, really good bro-country with headliners like Jerrod Nieman, Dierks Bentley, Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan. The openers are great too – definitely try to catch Dustin Lynch or Tyler Farr.

Catch some solid female artists.

Don’t forget the five women who are playing the main stage. With no equivocation, go see them. Maddie & Tae, Jamie Lynn Spears and local girl Megan Ruger are sure to be hits.

Take in live music in the Boathouse Cabana

The Boathouse Cabana can be compared to the early afternoon lineup on one of the side stages at Summerfest – that is, newer artists or cover bands. Different from Summerfest, though, a few of the Boathouse Cabana artists will also see time on Thunder’s main stage. The Boathouse Cabana offers live music from around 1 p.m. to approximately 1:30 or 2 a.m.

Keep the party going with DJ HISH

DJ HISH in the Electric Thunder tent keeps the party going from 12 a.m. to 2 a.m.

HISH is one of Nashville’s premier DJs, offering his electro-infused take on country music. He’s a good time. Even if you’re not big on changed-up country music, it’s still great people watching. I mean, come on, at 12 a.m., the magic of Country Thunder is just getting started.

Other things to see, do and know

Country Thunder is intended to be pretty much all inclusive. If you’re camping for the duration, you can rent a Port-a-Potty (complete with clean out service once during the festival). There’s also a general store in case you’ve forgotten something ... except alcohol. If you’re looking for bottles of hard liquor, you’ve got to leave the grounds and head about a mile south to the International House of Wine & Cheese or head north about three miles into the village of Twin Lakes.

There are plenty of places on the festival grounds, though, to get your drink and eat on. Plus, if you’ve never taken the cowboy boots or hat plunge, Thunder is probably a great place to do that. They’ve got some of the best boot and hat vendors on-site.

Next to the music, people watching is probably the best thing about Thunder. From superheroes to the shortest shorts ever to everything in between will be seen at Thunder. The number one thing you’ll see later in the day and throughout the evening is the paramedics four-wheeler running the rim of the main stage bowl hauling out over-served (or over-self-served) attendees.

If you’re underage, there are undercovers everywhere. Don’t be stupid.

Overall, you can look forward to top country artists, great food and some very, very phenomenal people watching. Unlike the 2014 event, Country Thunder 2015 is not yet sold-out. One can’t help but wonder if the bro-country heavy lineup has anything to do with that. Regardless, four day passes and individual day tickets can be purchased at Country Thunder's website.

Main Stage Lineup

Thursday, July 23

  • 3:30-4:30: The Lacs
  • 5-6: Logan Mize
  • 6:30-7:30: The Railers
  • 8-9:30: Jon Pardi
  • 10-11:30: Jerrod Niemann

Friday, July 24

  • 2:30-3: Megan Ruger
  • 3:30-4:30: Maddie & Tae
  • 5-6: Neal McCoy
  • 6:30-7:30: The Cadillac Three
  • 8-9:30: Clay Walker
  • 10-11:30: Dierks Bentley

Saturday, July 25

  • 2-3: Cort Carpenter
  • 3:30-4:30: Jamie Lynn Spears
  • 5-6: The Sawn Brothers
  • 6:30-7:30: Phil Vassar
  • 8-9:30: Tyler Farr
  • 10-11:30: Blake Shelton

Sunday, July 26

  • 2:30-3:30: Jill and Kate
  • 4-5: Clare Dunn
  • 5:30-6:30: John Michael Montgomery
  • 7-8:30: Dustin Lynch
  • 9-10:30: Luke Bryan
Lora Kaelber Special to
Moving to Milwaukee in 1998, Lora quickly adapted to and embraced big city living. A graduate of Carthage College and Marquette University Law School, Lora clerked for the Hon. Diane Sykes at the Wisconsin Supreme Court, worked as a litigator in private practice, and most recently was employed as a development officer for the MACC Fund.

In all of her experiences, time was focused on writing which has been a passion since junior high school. A series of food service industry jobs both before and after law school taught her that bringing out the human side in any story is key to great storytelling and good writing.

A die-hard east side girl, you'll usually find Lora down by the lake or on the Oakleaf. She's an avid photographer, and sometimes storm chaser.

Hobbies include biking, gardening, cross country skiing, swimming, blogging, and of course working on her fictionalized autobiography--fictionalized, because whose life is really interesting enough to fill 400 pages?

She's in IMDb. Look her up.