Sometimes you get your big moment when you’re not even looking for it. At least, that’s how it worked for Lucky Rowland, who got a last-minute opportunity to open a show at the Watershed Festival at the Gorge Amphitheatre on Aug. 2.The longtime guitar-playing Lewiston musician toured with his band years ago in the Northwest and spent time in Nashville pursuing a career in country music. When he returned to the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley about 10 years ago, his focus turned to his wife and, soon, two kids. He works at Clearwater Paper and as a contractor for his business “Lucky Rowland Construction.” Music took a backseat, but was never completely gone from his life.
A couple weeks ago, Rowland headed to Watershed with his wife, Cathy, for the third year in a row. The three-day festival is one of the largest in the country, featuring major artists like Carrie Underwood, Chris Young and Florida Georgia Line.
Many festivalgoers arrive Thursday night, though concerts don’t begin until the next day. It’s a tailgating night, and Rowland thought it’d be fun to put on a mini-concert for friends and anyone else who happened to come by and listen. A buddy’s toy hauler served as a stage and another friend brought a small sound system. They set up and he got going around 9:30 p.m. It wasn’t long until a crowd gathered.
“It was just a hoot,” said Rowland, who works at Clearwater Paper and as a contractor at his business, Lucky Rowland Construction. “People liked it, we were just having fun.”
Rowland was focused on his music, playing covers, when he looked up and saw that his crowd had grown to more than just his group of friends. He couldn’t count, but it looked like a couple hundred had gathered around the trailer. He just went with it, inviting other singers to take the mic at different times.
Rowland was just wrapping things up when security arrived. He figured that what had been a good idea was turning into a bad idea. The festival director had caught wind of the impromptu concert, but instead of asking him to shut things down, she asked him to play a few more songs. He did. It was soon after that that Brian O’Connell, who coordinates country music events like Watershed around the country, got on his stage and took the mic.
The crowd went wild. Rowland agreed to perform and after some coordinating, O’Connell landed Rowland a spot opening Sunday’s show at the Next From Nashville stage, a secondary venue to the main stage. He opened at 1:45 p.m. for five up-and-coming artists, including Michael Ray and Kelsea Ballerini.
“It was just surreal,” said Rowland. His 15-minute set was made up of Toby Keith’s “Shoulda Been a Cowboy,” George Strait’s “Give It All We Got,” Blake Shelton’s “Sangria,” and then, to mix things up, Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.”
Along with the opportunity to perform came VIP treatment for Rowland and his wife.
“They took really good care of us,” Rowland said. Together they got to hang out behind stage before and after the show and brush shoulders with country stars including Joe Nichols and Dierks Bentley.
“I’m still not over it,” said Rowland. “I was incredibly humbled, incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to be on that stage.”
It’s an opportunity that caught him completely by surprise.
“Heck, the parking lot deal was fun in itself, but then it transpired from there,” said Rowland. “If I’d have known I was going to be up there on the stage, I would’ve practiced a lot more.”
As to whether the opportunity will lead to anything bigger, Rowland is unsure.
“I haven’t heard anything yet. It doesn’t mean I won’t, but it doesn’t mean I will,” said Rowland. “I’m OK with it either way.”
Whether this opens doors for future opportunities, one thing is sure: whether for big crowds or small ones, Rowland will be playing music. He’s got one YouTube video up and more on the way and is making plans to play at some local venues.
After all, playing for the sake of playing is what landed him with a spot at Watershed.
“I never dreamed it would get me on stage — I just thought it’d be fun. That’s why I did it,” Rowland said.