TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Transforming Doak Campbell Stadium into a full-fledged concert venue takes months of planning, a commitment of resources and the ability to move quickly under pressure.
And the degree of difficulty kicks up a few notches when that concert takes place just minutes after the conclusion of a Florida State home football game.
But when it all comes together, as it did Saturday afternoon, the venerable stadium puts on one heck of a show.
As soon as the Seminoles’ football team finished off a 77-6 win over Delaware State, country music star Cole Swindell took the stage for a raucous, hit-heavy set that put a perfect exclamation point on FSU’s homecoming weekend.
Swindell, a multi-platinum singer who broke through with 2013’s “Chillin’ It,” performed for 75 minutes in front of an estimated crowd of 40,000 fans.
“It’s great,” said Jason Dennard, FSU’s associate athletics director for new revenue generation and marketing. “Our jobs are to make people happy and make them feel good about Florida State. With the game, with the concert and everything involved, I think everybody left with really good thoughts of their experience, and that’s what we’re striving to do.”
Despite a lopsided final score – the Seminoles led 56-6 at halftime and never looked back – the crowd at Doak Campbell Stadium remained strong anticipating the free concert.
By the time Swindell took the stage, both the field and the west grandstand were flooded with music fans.
Some gathered on the 50-yard line in front of the stage, others sat with their legs swung across the stadium’s guard rails. Wherever they were, they were singing along as Swindell ran through several of his own hits and a few surprise cover songs.
— Heather Dugas (@heather_dugas1) November 18, 2017
— Mrs. Watson (@mrswatsonsclass) November 18, 2017
— Jamie-Lynn Geeker (@JamieLynnGeeker) November 18, 2017
While Swindell may be one of the most famous alums of Georgia Southern University, the set still had a distinct FSU flavor.
Joel Hutsell, Swindell’s guitarist, is an Orlando native and a Florida State fan who were a black FSU t-shirt on stage. Even better, Hutsell turned 29 years old on Saturday and enjoyed what was probably the loudest rendition of “Happy Birthday” he’d ever heard.
It wasn’t quite the war chant, but it wasn’t a bad way to celebrate, either.
Saturday’s show was the third in the “Doak After Dark” concert series, which began last November with Tyler Farr and Old Dominion, and continued in April with country headliners Blake Shelton, Jake Owen and Big and Rich.
Each concert has built on the success of the last, and, no surprise, Dennard believes that bigger things may be in store for the future.
“It’s growing and it’s getting better,” he said. “We’re starting to attract other promoters who are interested in coming in and doing bigger and more frequent concerts in the stadium. …
“We’ve planted a flag here, and they know that there’s an opportunity here.”
— Cole Swindell (@coleswindell) November 19, 2017