Predicting This Year's Rodeo Lineup

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Photo by Jim Bricker
Sheryl Crow last July 4 at Eleanor Tinsley Park
This Sunday night at the stroke of 11:59 p.m., the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo will announce its 2014 lineup, this year's model of arguably the biggest three-week assortment of top-drawer entertainer talent anywhere in the nation -- or even the world. Each year it strives to engage its increasingly diverse and youthful audience, recently booking acts like Bruno Mars, Pitbull, and the Black Eyed Peas, but the lineup (which runs March 4-23 this year) also stays remarkably consistent from year to year.

Regardless of the actual names, we already know we'll be getting a few old standbys like Brad Paisley and Dierks Bentley, a young stud a la Brantley Gilbert last year, an older star not quite ready to be put out to pasture (the "Alan Jackson" slot), one teen-pop ingenue and/or boy band, one crazy-popular norteno and banda group apiece on Go Tejano Day, and one or two acts that may make many people say, "Really? Them?" But it must be doing something right.

Entering its 83rd year, the rodeo is more popular than ever. Last year it set new records for both overall paid attendance and RodeoHouston attendance (the rodeo/concert portion) with approximately 2.5 and 1.3 million people, respectively. Demonstrating how easily it has transitioned into the social-media age, the rodeo was also Facebook's 10th most checked-in location last year, making a list that also includes Disneyland, Times Square and Fenway Park.

Because Rocks Off enjoys playing amateur talent buyer, we thought we'd give predicting Sunday's announcement a try, using only the rodeo's previously announced genre calendar -- this year it's 14 country acts, one pop, one R&B/pop, one pop-rock, one classic rock, one norteno/banda and one R&B (whew) -- pollstar.com to check artist availability, and our own intuition. Surely there are more bizarre hobbies out there than that, but we also don't spend a lot of time on the Internet outside work.


TRACE ADKINS

Popularity: Well... he is the reigning Celebrity All-Star Apprentice champion.
Previous Rodeo Appearances: 1997-98, 2009, 2011
Availability: Wide open.
Guess: Maybe as a sentimental favorite for Armed Forces Day.


JASON ALDEAN

Popularity: Very good. Still all over radio and the charts -- album Night Train is No. 6 in its 62nd week on the charts, and single "When She Says Baby" is No. 8.
Previous Rodeo Appearances: 2010-2013
Availability: A couple of mid-March dates in Alabama are the only conflicts.
Guess: Would be his fifth year in a row, but still one of the top names out there.


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Photo courtesy of Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo
Luke Bryan at last year's rodeo
LUKE BRYAN

Popularity: Are you kidding? Bryan is Mr. Country in 2014.
Previous Rodeo Appearances: 2012-13
Availability: On tour through early March... ending with dates in Memphis and Bossier City, La. And he's playing the I Heart Radio Festival in Austin March 29.
Guess: Feels like a lock.


ERIC CHURCH

Popularity: Medium. Scored some points as a neo-outlaw but has struggled to produce anything as big as 2012's "Springsteen."
Previous Rodeo Appearances: --
Availability: In Europe the first ten days of the rodeo, but also heading to the I Heart festival. Will have a brand-new album, The Outsiders, out next month.
Guess: 30 percent chance. The rodeo can't book Kid Rock every year, I guess.


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SHERYL CROW

Popularity: High. Her crossover to official country artist seemed to go over pretty well with last year's album Easy, and Crow still has a lot of goodwill among the pop-rock crowd.
Previous Rodeo Appearances: 2007
Availability: Dates in Nashville and Atlanta March 21 and 22, but she's free besides that.
Guess: Call it a hunch, but I think it might happen.


ELI YOUNG BAND

Popularity: Very high. The one act to completely eclipse the Texas Country orbit and become full-fledged country stars, especially after recent No. 1 "Drunk Last Night."
Previous Rodeo Appearances: 2010, 2012
Availability: Appearing at Rodeo Austin on March 10 but heading Down Under for some shows with Toby Keith on March 14.
Guess: Seems like a sure shot if not for that Australian jag. Maybe one of the first few nights.


TYLER FARR

Popularity: Just imagine the deafening female screams when Farr plays "Redneck Crazy."
Previous Rodeo Appearances: --
Availability: Touring with Jason Aldean right before the rodeo. Could be.
Guess: The rodeo brings in a couple of breakout stars every year, so why not?


List continues on the next page.

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