It’s been quite a year for Mark Houghton, whose local country presence is on the rise. And it’s about to get even bigger this weekend when he performs at 4 p.m. Saturday, March 11, at the Ocoee Music Festival in front of an estimated crowd of 20,000.
Houghton has been preparing for this moment since he ventured into the land of country music just a few years ago. He was invited to perform at the musical festival after a resident heard him singing at the Winter Garden Elks Lodge and suggested him to Mayor Rusty Johnson.
“It’s kind of one of (those) deals where you never know who’s listening,” Houghton said.
The Ocoee resident is one of nine acts scheduled to perform this weekend at the Ocoee Music Festival, formerly called the Ocoee Founders’ Day Festival, a staple in the city for 28 years. He goes onstage Saturday among such country greats as Chris Janson and Niko Moon, and he said this is a dream come true.
“I’ve said it a million times, it’s probably the biggest day of my life,” Houghton said. “I’ve got family coming from other parts of Florida. I made 100-something shirts with my picture on front. I’ve sold out of all of them but eight.”
This is the perfect year for him to be performing at the festival because his favorite country artist is Janson. Houghton said he sings five or six of Janson’s songs in some of his performances and has won singing contests with them, including at the recent Orange Blossom Opry.
It would be “the icing on the cake” to sing with Janson Saturday night, he said.
Houghton is a solo act but has been working on putting together a band. He has a bass guitarist and lead guitarist and is looking for a drummer. The next step, he said, is to take a traveling country tribute show around Florida.
“I’m listening to feedback from others,” he said. “People around here are looking for something different, and I think that’s what I’m becoming: Someone who can mix it up.”
JOAN JETT AND THE BLACKHEARTS
Joan Jett and her band will bring their slew of hits to Ocoee Friday night, playing songs such as “I Love Rock ’N’ Roll,” “Bad Reputation,” “I Hate Myself for Loving You” and “Crimson and Clover.”
The band, which recently completed The Stadium Tour with Def Leppard and Motley Crüe, is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Jett and her longtime producer and music partner, Kenny Laguna, founded Blackheart Records, and 40 years later, the entertainment company produces music, film and television and champions emerging bands.
The group’s newest release, ‘Changeup,’ is its first-ever acoustic album. “Bad Reputation,” a documentary about Jett’s life, premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and is available on streaming.
Rock band Night Ranger has sold more than 17 million albums worldwide, performed across more than 4,000 stages and captivated a radio audience that exceeds 1 billion. Night Ranger’s popularity is fueled by a number of recognizable hit singles, including “Sister Christian,” “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me” and “When You Close Your Eyes.”
Night Ranger has been touring around the globe promoting its latest album, “ATBPO,” which stands for And The Band Played On.
Night Ranger is celebrating its 40th year of turning out hits.
The Mavericks, the eclectic rock and country group known for crossing musical boundaries, has gone through three distinct phases since it was founded in Miami in 1989. An initial period of heady success marked by big hits and critical acclaim in the ’90s.
The band took a hiatus starting in 2003 when the musicians went their separate ways but reunited in 2012 to celebrate the band’s 30th anniversary.
The band entered its fourth phase with the No. 1 Billboard debut of its first-ever all-Spanish album, “En Español,” released on the band’s own Mono Mundo label. The collection represents a diversity of musical styles and cultural traditions.
Rocktown is a interactive party rock cover band based out of Orlando that performs a wide variety of music including rock, pop, Top 40 and country. Rocktown has played at House of Blues, Hard Rock Live and Universal Studios as well as many big corporate events.
In the band are Greg Pontoni on vocals/guitar, Rick Dotchin on bass/vocals, Jaime Barnes on guitar/vocals and Ian Budha on drums/vocals. This is Rocktown’s fourth time performing at Ocoee Music Festival.
Chapel Hart has found a way to wrap up its Mississippi roots and Louisiana spice and share it with listeners. Consisting of sisters Danica and Devynn Hart and cousin Trea Swindle, the band went from singing together as children in Hart’s Chapel, to a group whose colorful and contagious energy has flourished into a full live band experience.
In 2021, Chapel Hart was inducted into CMT’s Next Women of Country. This trio’s music has reached fans around the globe, earning Chapel Hart the title of International Group of the Year, as well as International Song of the Year for the single “You Can Have Him Jolene” in Scotland.
The group has an ability to join people together in song and dance and in their live performances. The trio will often treat the audience to three-part harmony a capella arrangements that run the emotional gamut.
Walker Montgomery was chosen as an Artist to Watch in 2022 by Country Now and Music Mayhem Magazine, as well as Artist to Watch in 2021 by Sounds Like Nashville and The Boot and a Country Next pick by Country Now.
Montgomery is a rising singer/songwriter who knows a thing or two about family tradition as the 21-year-old son of John Michael Montgomery and nephew of Montgomery Gentry’s Eddie Montgomery.
Signed to Play It Again Entertainment and produced by the award-winning chart-topping team known as The Peach Pickers, Montgomery already has put his classically inspired, honey-bourbon vocal to use on a self-penned hit debut, “Simple Town.” A pair of singles followed: “Like My Daddy Done It” and “Saving For A Rainy Night.”
With more than 758 million on-demand streams to his credit, Niko Moon broke out with his No. 1 debut single, “Good Time,” and followed up with an acclaimed debut album of the same name.
After winning SESAC’s 2021 Songwriter of the Year (he has written six No. 1 songs for artists including Zac Brown Band and Dierks Bentley), the Texas and Georgia native released his “Coastin’” EP and has been selling out dates across the country on his headlining tour throughout the fall.
The first-time father also delivered “I Can’t Wait to Love You,” an ode to his daughter, Lily, that was written with his wife, Anna.
Chris Janson is a breakout country star, multi-instrumentalist, award-winning singer/songwriter and Grand Ole Opry member.
The ACM award-winner has collected prestigious accolades that place him among country music greats. His debut single, “Buy Me A Boat,” was recognized as the iHeartRadio Music Awards Country Song of the Year, and Music Row named his poignant single, “Drunk Girl,” its Song of the Year winner.
His other big hits include “Fix A Drink,” “Good Vibes” and “Done.” Bobby Bones called Janson “one of the greatest entertainers in country music.”