Live music is vulnerable to all sorts of things – weather, malfunctioning equipment, power outages, travel delays, someone having an off night, etc. Headliners often have to cancel shows due to illness or family emergencies. It is highly unusual, however, to have an entire band and crew succumb to illness, leaving only the headliner standing. It takes a lot of people to put on a show these days, many of which you don’t see or know their names. This situation was put under the spotlight this past weekend at an Eric Church concert in Salt Lake City. With only himself to bring to the stage, and nothing more than a spotlight to announce his presence, Eric Church decided the show must go on and this would be no abbreviated version. He played a full 19-song acoustic set for his fans and delivered what few would have attempted. This certainly was not the fully amped show the audience was expecting, but it speaks volumes about the entertainer, the man, and the importance of the band and crew members.
We take a lot of things for granted at a live show, all the moving pieces and the people who contribute to that enormous sound and bright lights that fill the arena. At each new venue, the pieces of the concert puzzle have to be put together, and not just anyone can make that happen. Each crew member has a specific job to do and the expertise to know how to do it. They are not easily replaceable, especially on the spur of the moment when crunched for time. Should an entire crew go down or simply not show up, no one would knock on Eric Church‘s bus door and ask him to put his own stage together, move heavy equipment, or unload the trucks. Not that Eric would consider himself above doing any of these tasks or refuse to try, as many would, it just wouldn’t be asked of him. This is what he has crew members for, assuming they’re healthy and available.
What we hear and what we see at a concert is also dependent on a skilled group of people to hook things up, put them in the right places, and push the right buttons when the time comes. Having the equipment is one thing, knowing what to do with it is quite another, and essential to making that live music performance come together. Band members don’t walk onto the stage and start playing for an audience without first testing the sound of their instruments. This is what sound check is for. However, if their equipment never makes it off the truck, never gets hooked up, and the sound engineer is absent, welcome to the silence. The same holds true for turning that sound into a spectacle the audience can see and hear. Not that every concert needs to be a light show, but there is an importance to casting the right light on the right part of the stage at the right time. It would appear odd to highlight the guitar player during a drum solo. It would also be unusual not to put Eric Church under the spotlight while he was singing. All this doesn’t seem too complicated, but without the equipment in place and the guys who know how to run it, Eric’s “Dark Side” would be more than a song in the set list.
Let’s assume for a moment that everything got delivered, the sound and the lighting equipment is in its place, and the crew has assembled all the pieces. The sound and the lighting engineers are in their places and the lights in the arena go down indicating show time. Something’s missing. There are no instruments on the stage because the entire band has the flu. Suddenly that big sound you were expecting to hear is not in the building. How often do we show up at a concert, watch the headliner all night, and take the sound of the band and the musicians playing those instruments for granted? Most people won’t know their names and couldn’t pick them out of a lineup immediately following the concert, yet the sound we expect to hear at that concert is largely dependent on them. When was the last time you bought an acoustic album? Live music is all about putting the sound behind the singing, often in a very big, very loud way. Not to say that the headliner doesn’t contribute to that sound, but the full concert experience depends on having a band to back him/her up. If it’s the quality we’ve come to expect from an Eric Church concert, these will not be average musicians, and their presence cannot simply be replaced. What we may take for granted, Eric Church does not.
When Eric became aware that his band and crew would not be able to set things up and perform their duties at the show, he had a decision to make. The majority of headliners in his position would have canceled the show, rescheduled it, and left. This show has been rescheduled, but it was not canceled. With only a spotlight and an acoustic guitar, Eric took the stage as scheduled and played a full set that included 19 songs. This is not something he’d practiced nor was prepared to do on short notice, but not wanting to disappoint an arena full of fans, he showed up and gave it everything he had, as he would on any other night. For one of his most powerful songs, “That’s Damn Rock & Roll,” Lzzy Hale did join him on stage and together they were an acoustic powerhouse. Lzzy’s scream needs no amplifier, and neither did this song. It was an anthem for the entire evening.
As much as Eric Church was a one man band at this show, he understands better than most that no one is. He gets the importance of the people around him and probably knows every name. Being on the road for as long and as many dates as these guys often are, is a sacrifice for all of them, not just the guy whose name is on your concert ticket. Eric’s decision to perform in this situation was not only an indication of how much he values his fans, but how much he respects his band and crew by carrying on when they couldn’t. Despite the fact that the fans were expecting a different type of show that night, I doubt a single one of them left disappointed. Eric demonstrated what an entertainer does when the spotlight comes on, “Give all ya got till there ain’t nothin’ left,” even if you’re alone in the middle of it on an empty stage. Caring about his band and crew, that’s Eric the man. Pulling this off as only Eric Church could…… “That’s Damn Rock & Roll.”
From WAY North of Nashville……..Bev Miskus
WATCH Eric Church and Lzzy Hale perform “That’s Damn Rock & Roll” acoustically!
Download Brad’s #1 single, “Perfect Storm,” through iTunes:HERE
Brad Paisley came home this past weekend to kick off the winter season of his Country Nation World Tour in Morgantown, West Virginia. He performed two shows at the WVU Coliseum with a lot of students in attendance, none of which were likely expecting to be schooled by Brad in the art of concert performance 101. The cost of this class was the price of admission and on Saturday night, this was a sold out class. As one of the lucky students in this coliseum turned classroom, I watched a master class in live performance by a headliner who appreciates the art form that live music can be and the professional musicians it takes to create such art. Every aspect of this show was staged only to the point of being a platform for audience interaction, opening act participation, video enhancement, and inspired musical excellence. Not one detail was missed in the preparation for this show when taking into account all of the elements that would be present. When Brad’s drummer, Ben Sesar, broke into a drum solo late into the evening, I already knew where this was leading and I was ready to shout these lyrics: “Got it bad, got it bad, got it bad…….I’m HOT FOR TEACHER!!”
Brad Paisley is an entertainer who values family and music and his live show is an extension of those values. His opening acts on this tour are two family based groups, The Swon Brothers and Parmalee, both of which share Brad’s approach to creating music and delivering an organic, in the moment performance. The Swon Brothers, Zach and Colton, engage with the audience as if they know every person in the room. Their opening slot only allows for the playing of a few songs, giving them little time to make a lasting impression. Most people aren’t familiar with their original music just yet, so it’s not as much about what they’re singing as it is about their delivery. Covering a Boston classic was a comfortable fit and leaving the audience with their radio single, “Later On,” provided the first link to a future musical identity. It was a solid performance that was well received.
Parmalee is a band made up of two brothers, Matt and Scott Thomas, a cousin, Barry Knox, and their best friend, Josh McSwain. They’ve played together for a very long time and their live show is a product of that relationship and longevity. Parmalee’s music is arena ready and could easily be reproduced on the stage with nothing more than a turn it up mentality. Fortunately, these guys are a band in every sense of the word and understand the opportunity they have to create something new with each performance. They opened with “I’ll Bring the Music” and it was a statement they delivered on. Matt was brilliant in introducing each song with a scenario that played on relatability. In the absence of having instantly recognizable intros, giving the listeners a connection to the music keeps them attentive and engaged. It also allows for improvisation within the songs because the audience isn’t attached to a singular recorded version. While Matt was talking to the crowd before each song, the band provided a unique segue that gave them flexibility to keep it fresh. They used particular creative license in “Musta Had a Good Time” and “Dance” by adding snippets of other songs the audience knew well. Parmalee’s set was an invitation to dance and have a good time while leaving this West Virginia audience with a sampling of music that Feels Like Carolina. I’d say the crowd’s reaction made these boys from Carolina feel like home’s not so far away.
Download Parmalee’s new single, “Already Callin’ You Mine” thru iTunes:HERE
At this point in the show, the opening acts typically disappear and the headliner takes the stage. Not here. Never before have I seen such a creative and thoughtful opening to a headliner’s set. In the spirit of family and the tradition of Appalachian folk music from West Virginia to Tennessee, the stage set up was like what you’d find on a front porch in the mountains. As if family had just dropped in and started playing together, Brad’s band members assembled at the front of the stage with The Swon Brothers and Parmalee. With an improvised lyric, they sang an Appalachian standard, “Good Old Mountain Dew.” Towards the end of the song, Brad simply walked onto the stage from the right side and took his place amongst the other front porch players as casually as if he were no one in particular. They finished the song and went immediately into “The World” followed by “Camouflage.” This mini-set ended with the intro to “Moonshine In The Trunk,” which was the perfect way to come full circle with the theme of this opening. “Good Old Mountain Dew,” an ode to moonshine, was written in 1928 in ballad form about a man accused of making illegal alcohol during prohibition. The title track from Brad’s latest album is “Moonshine In The Trunk.” In the song, he describes a joy ride with a girl that feels like an illegal liquor run…..and this would be the feel of the rest of the evening.
The band took their regular places on stage and the roar of that car engine launched us into full throttle “Moonshine In The Trunk.” It was the perfect kick start to what would be an incredible night of music and entertainment. Brad’s set included 27 songs, and he and his incredible band didn’t give an ounce less than their best to every one of them. The setting of the WVU Coliseum, on the campus of the state’s flagship university, was home field advantage for Brad and he played to it brilliantly. His banter with the crowd, knowledge of what riled them up, video footage of the campus, lyrical changes to suit the location, and love for his home state made for an A+ performance and a showcase of musical ability. His many years of success in the music business have taken him far outside his Southern Comfort Zone and the borders of his home state, but on this night, he was full of Mountaineer pride and it resonated through the strings of his many guitars.
RANDLE CURRIE (STEEL GUITAR)
If Brad were to provide a syllabus for this master class in concert performance, it would be broken out into five key components – creating the music, use of video, audience interaction, staging, and set list. These essential elements aren’t something he puts together at the start of the tour season and sets to auto pilot at each show. He creates the framework and allows space within that to tailor each show to its audience. His videos are highly imaginative and entertaining without detracting from the music. During his singing of “When I Get Where I’m Going,” there was a video tribute to his late friend, Little Jimmy Dickens. It was a very moving moment in the show, at the end of which, Brad tipped his hat towards the screen. During the song, “Crushin’ It,” the video included pictures of the WVU campus as well as live footage from WVU football games. His commentary during the song mentioned the school’s team getting no respect on ESPN and its being the number one party school in the world. Both of these facts were met with cheers from the audience.
GARY HOOKER (GUITARIST)
Creating moments with the audience is something Brad does naturally and his use of the stage often helps to encapsulate such moments. He invited a young couple to join him on stage for his singing of “Then.” A few of his band members joined him at the front of the stage, creating an opening within their circle for the couple to dance in. If you’ve seen a Brad Paisley concert before, you know where this is going…..guy drops to one knee, asks girl to marry him, she says yes, and they finish the dance. Magic moment, courtesy of Brad Paisley. His awareness of his surroundings, and in this case, knowledge of his audience, helps to create unique moments in the show where he can ad lib between songs or within the song and entertain in the moment. When fans attend a concert, it’s nice to leave knowing that you had an experience no one else will. This is what a live performance is all about.
BEN SESAR (DRUMS AND PERCUSSION)
At the heart of every concert experience is the music, and no one understands that better than Brad Paisley. His dedication to excellence in music drives his performance at each show and gives the fans an opportunity to see organic live music as it happens. Brad doesn’t just play through the music, he breathes life into it through his exceptional guitar playing and the talented musicians he shares the stage with. Unlike many of today’s live acts, Brad and his band do not use pre-recorded tracks. Everything you hear is being played live in the moment. Brad is a rare exception to the norm in that he uses his tour band to play on his records. They’ve been together for 15 years and that longevity contributes to the quality of their live shows. Watch their interaction during a song and you will see the individual contributions create the whole. The six gifted musicians who share the stage with Brad are Gary Hooker (guitar), Kendal Marcy (keys), Kenny Lewis (bass), Randle Currie (steel guitar), Justin Williamson (fiddle), and Ben Sesar (drums). Throughout the show, each one of them may get a chance to spotlight their ability in a particular song. How that plays out depends on the set list.
KENNY LEWIS (BASS)
Brad Paisley has an extensive music catalog to draw from and the set list for this show was a greatest hits manifesto. Out of this extensive 27 song playlist, only two of the songs were covers, John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” and Van Halen’s “Hot For Teacher.” The other 25 songs were an ebb and flow of fun songs with a sprinkling of his tender ballads. “Southern Comfort Zone” and “Waitin’ On a Woman” used the video backdrop to support the stories. “I’m Still a Guy” was a hit with the men in the audience and we were invited to disregard the current cold season in favor of warmer temps with “Beat This Summer.” “Mud On The Tires” showcased the dynamic fiddle playing of Justin Williamson and we got to ad lib a famous TV line in “American Saturday Night” – LIVE from Morgantown, it’s Saturday night!! “I’m Gonna Miss Her” and “She’s Everything” were back to back examples of the diversity in Brad’s songwriting, humorous and heartfelt. Four songs off the new album were part of this set with “River Bank” anchoring the end of regulation time and “Perfect Storm” leading off the encore. Just weeks ago, “Perfect Storm” became Brad’s 23rd number one hit and the performance of this song was worthy of the accomplishment. With the help of the video showing stormy seas and the sound of thunder and lightning crashing, the song erupts from the stage. Hearing this on the radio or on an ipod is like trying to contain the ocean with a few sandbags. The power of the song was made for an arena setting where the video can provide that imax feel and the band can demonstrate its full bodied potential behind the intense playing of Brad on guitar. This was truly an encore moment.
KENDAL MARCY (KEYS)
The evening ended just as this set began, with an ode to “Alcohol” and both of the opening acts back on stage for the singing of it. Brad’s live bobble head counterpart makes an appearance here to serve the troublesome beverage to those on stage. The playing of this encourages a sing-along and sends everyone home in a celebratory mood. Brad’s extended guitar play at the end of the song put an exclamation point on an outstanding night of live music. Brad’s home town of Glen Dale, West Virginia is just 85 miles from Morgantown. Since moving away to Nashville, he’s played some of the most prestigious venues in the world and traveled in style on the superhighways music has led him to. Yet it’s these simple country roads in West Virginia that supported his journey and welcome him back home on occasions like this. I’m not originally from West Virginia, but I’ve lived here for the past 12 years. “Take Me Home, Country Roads” is a special song to the people of this state and I’ve heard it many times since moving here. Watching Brad sing this in Morgantown, surrounded by family, friends, and fans from his home state, was as moving a moment as you’ll find on a concert stage. The power of music, as grand as it can be, can often be felt most deeply in the simplest of arrangements. A simple lesson from a master class in musical performance by West Virginia‘s own, Brad Paisley. I think all in attendance would agree that on this night BP, you nailed it, as they say!
From WAY North of Nashville….in West Virginia…..Bev Miskus
The drum solo at the end of this is performed by Ben Sesar!
Download Moonshine In The Trunk through iTunes: HERE
It isn’t often anymore that I go to concerts without expectations. I usually know all the music, a lot of the musicians, and have a pretty good idea of what I’m going to see that night in the live show. Much of what we see on tour these days is formulaic. It’s not that the music isn’t good, but it’s mostly predictable. Everything from load in to load out is scheduled. I’ve always felt that music isn’t at its best in a managed environment. Musicians need creative space and the music needs free reign to become what it will in that moment. If it’s not an experience, it may as well be a recording. Jammin’ Java in Vienna, Virginia, is an unusual venue for live music. It’s located in a strip mall without any indication of what’s inside. You could easily pass by and think of it as nothing more than a neighborhood coffee house. Their tag line says “Music + Community Est. 2001.” The Brindley Brothers – Daniel, Jonathan, and Luke, are musicians and music lovers who bought the business with their passion and philosophy in mind. Their mission statement declares their intent to offer “the best live music and the finest concert experience in an all-ages community environment.” This was my second show at this venue and both times I left with the feeling I’d just witnessed something unique. On this night, my Jammin’ Java experience would be courtesy of Egypt’s Reunion Show.
A reunion show indicates going back to something you’ve seen before. I hadn’t even heard of this band before interviewing a Nashville drummer. He’d spent some time playing with them years earlier, prior to moving to Nashville and landing a country gig. These guys don’t play together regularly anymore. They reunite on occasion for fun, their fans, and love of the music. I’d heard from more than one local source that they were extraordinary and their music was a force to be reckoned with. “Mind-blowing” and “ear-splitting” were two phrases used to describe them. Sounds like my kind of night! Two opening acts were on the bill for this show and I hadn’t heard of them either. This was going to be uncharted territory for me. I didn’t know the musicians, the music, or even what genre you’d classify these guys under. What was going to happen on the stage that night was as much a mystery as what lay behind Jammin’ Java’s front door to an unsuspecting patron. There’s something to be said for having a completely open mind when you’re listening to music. Freedom of expression in its highest form is music without the mind’s limitations.
The first opening act was a trio that hasn’t played together a lot made up of three local musicians – Wally Worsley (lead singer, guitarist), Mike Tony Echols (bass), and Deren Blessman (drums). What struck me immediately was the way they settled into a groove and looked comfortable with each other on stage. People don’t always think of musicians as professionals, but clearly, I was listening to three who have rock solid credentials. It’s one thing to be asked to play something solo. It’s quite another to play a set after a single rehearsal and sound like you jam together nightly. Their music had an edged groove that told me it was going somewhere harder and faster. When it did, I wanted to move along with it. It was ease meets exhilaration through instrumentation. They warmed up the room perfectly and set the stage for what was to come……Hot Buttered Elvis. Yes, you read that correctly. When listening to a band with such a colorful name, it’s best not to have any idea of what you’re about to hear. Liken it to Alice in Wonderland falling through the rabbit hole. When she hit bottom, she discovered things labeled “eat me” and “drink me,” not knowing what would happen when she did. Fast forward to the tea party and let’s just say The Beatles have been hired as entertainment. They begin playing their classic hit, “Come Together,” and suddenly Metallica shows up and crashes the scene. Not wanting to cede their gig, the two bands engage in a psychedelic musical tug of war. Sharing the stage, you now have an understanding of the music of Hot Buttered Elvis. Open your mind and enjoy the ride! The probability of this band sounding like anyone else is zero. They are an entertaining experience that must be seen to be appreciated.
Put simply, Egypt is music as it should be. Their prime goes back 20 years to a time when music was an organic creation – uninhibited and uncensored. Bands formed amidst a diversity of influences and emerging genres. When allowed to develop freely, music drew breath from the souls of its creators without regard for the boundaries the music industry may wish to impose. I don’t have the background on the formation of this band to know when or how they came together. The four members who took the stage at Jammin’ Java are Jeff Brodnax (lead vocals), Joe Lawlor (lead guitar), Andy Waldeck (bass), and Kevin Murphy (drums). They’ve all gone on to do different things musically, but on this night, they were totally in sync, and watching them perform took me back to an inventive time in our music history.
Each one of these band members is an outstanding musician in their own right. What they contribute individually is staggering in scope. Together, they’re a musical force. As much as I tried to focus on them individually, that only lasted for short bursts of time. The sound of the whole kept pulling me in to the experience that IS Egypt. I got the feeling from the moment they started playing that not even they knew where the music would lead. One of their songs is called “Flow” and the lyrics describe perfectly their musical philosophy: “Get up and go with the flow if you know what you feel and you feel that it’s real. Your heart will tell you so. Get up and go with the flow if you know what you feel and you feel that it’s real. It’s time to touch my soul.” Standing in the audience, I felt the music, rock at its core, grab me with the intensity of a summer sun and move me with its groove like a strong, steady wind. “Sun & Wind” gives you the feel of Egypt’s music in a single song. With a funk groove and a powerful rock beat, this music is intent on moving you inside and out.
Looking at the creators of this music, it wasn’t hard to see how it became such a force. Jeff Brodnax is a vocal performer. He doesn’t merely deliver the lyrics through his sublime vocal chords, he puts his entire being into it. His voice is like honey with a hint of a sting. Just when you get used to enjoying its sweetness, ouch! But what sweet pain! He commands the stage with his presence, his voice, and his engagement with the other musicians. I haven’t seen a lead singer jump around in quite some time. Lost in the moment of the music, he would literally leap into the lyric. Jeff is a front man as they were intended to be. Joe Lawlor seems the quietest of the bunch to me, until you put a guitar in his hands. Joe impresses me as one of those guys who would sit idly by as everyone else in the room was showing off their skills. When it was his turn, he’d get up, drop a Hendrix like performance, and leave quietly. #nuffsaid. Egypt’s music is all about big guitars, big beats, big statement. Joe doesn’t have a big over the top style. He lays it down to the point you find yourself staring at the guitar trying to figure out how he’s making all that come out of it. I might have said “damn!” more than a few times watching him play. This music comes alive on the strings of a big guitar and Joe is beyond capable of keeping it alive throughout the performance. Energetically, this is no small task!
I have to be honest. I don’t notice a lot of bass players. Perhaps that’s because country music doesn’t give it much of a platform. Andy Waldeck I noticed. Andy is a bass playing personality unlike any I’ve seen. Typically, I find bass players to be laid back. Not here. Andy had worked up a sweat by the end of the second song, and he was just getting started. The music supports some aggressive bass playing and Andy was more than up to the task. His musicianship and energetic style of play cannot be denied on the stage and adds an unusual spark to the live show. Give this man a bass solo and step back. Sparks will fly! I’d only seen Kevin Murphy play drums prior to this show with a country band. In that genre, drummers don’t have a lot of space to be creative because the songs and the headliners don’t often support it. Rock drummers tend to be more flamboyant with their style of play as the music lends opportunities and their personalities become part of the show. In this setting, Egypt’s music was a playground for Kevin’s abilities and his drum character to shine. A certain strength and energy are necessary to carry Egypt’s music to its full potential and Kevin’s role was to provide that. When the music hit that perfect groove, Kevin created feeling in just the right spot, putting an ebb and flow in its movement. When a drummer gets lost in the music, you know something exceptional is happening. The music you’re listening to may never feel like that again. THIS is live music at its best.
Jammin’ Java has created a concert space with an ideology behind it that allows for freedom of expression in musical form. They believe in “taking care of the artist first and letting everything else fall into place.” This was the perfect venue for Egypt to showcase their music. They brought the musicians, the instruments, and the music. When they put it together on the stage, it became a once in a lifetime experience. Watching these guys play was like witnessing them create something in the moment. They took the basics and let the music develop between them, playing off one another for energy and inspiration. For me, this wasn’t as much a reunion as it was a retrospective on how music used to be made and performed. The soul isn’t linked to what sells on iTunes and great music isn’t made with that in mind. It becomes great because it means something to the musicians who created it and to the people who hear it. “Sun & Wind” is off Egypt’s 1996 album, Soul Hammer. The recorded version is nearly eight minutes long. Most kids these days don’t have an attention span that long. Radio wouldn’t play it because of its length, and record labels would never allow its production. In the classic rock era, songs of this length were not uncommon. “Stairway To Heaven,” at 7:55 in length, is one of the greatest rock songs of all time. It was the most requested song on FM radio in the 1970s despite NEVER having been released as a single. Great music finds its way to the listeners and endures the test of time. Thank you, Egypt, for a night of truly great music. “Sun & Wind” forever….
Randy Houser was born a long ways from Tucson, Arizona, but it could easily be his adopted home town. The video for his current single, “Like A Cowboy,” tells the story of a cattleman who spends much of his life on the road and only comes home long enough to hang his hat, kick off his boots, and leave an impression. In a drastic and dramatic divergence from the usual way music videos are made, this one was shot at Old Tucson Studios using real actors. Randy played the role of the cowboy cattleman with an authenticity that defies his real life career. The concert at the historicFox Theatre in downtown Tucson gave Randy marquee billing. He arrived to a red carpet welcome and a packed house. The introduction he was given, prior to taking the stage, was one of love and appreciation for his embracing this town as his own and allowing a piece of their beloved location into his music. It was clear from the outset that this cowboy had indeed stolen the hearts of the people of Tucson.
Tucson, Arizona has the feel of an old west town that has grown with the changing times but hasn’t let go of its significant heritage. Old Tucson Studios and the Fox Theatre were both built in the 1930s and became important locations within the town very quickly. The studios have hosted the filming of many movies and television westerns over the years including Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and Little House on the Prairie. The theatre has undergone improvements and renovations since its opening in 1930, but the markings of its unique identity are preserved yet today. It is the only known example of a Southwestern art deco movie house. The acoustic package that was installed with the arrival of “Talkie” movies, “Acoustone,” was painstakingly repaired in the latest rehab to the facility and is the only example of this material in existence. When Randy took the stage at this theatre, his presence embodied the screen image of an old western cowboy who’d just walked over from the studios to hang his hat and sing for awhile, putting that one of a kind acoustic package to the test with his substantial vocal ability.
Visit Tucson played host to this unusual concert event, treating it like the opening of a new movie where the star of the film arrives at the theatre to a red carpet reception. Camera bulbs popping and the appropriate VIP lined up to greet him, Randy was feted outside before he would witness an equal amount of love and appreciation waiting for him inside. The outside of the theatre was a visual backdrop for the “Like A Cowboy” singer to bring his character to life in the midst of the video setting. Inside, the audio would become the focus of the evening where the power of radio met the unbridled power of Randy’s voice. Local radio station, 99.5 KiiM, had clearly done their job in promoting the event and Randy’s music. The audience participation in singing along to “Like A Cowboy” made it feel like a local anthem with words they’d known since the founding of the town. Having only been heard on the radio for the past few months, it showed how much of a role radio still plays in bringing the music to the fans. Award winning radio personality, Buzz Jackson, was on hand to mingle with listeners and see the show. Buzz was just recently named the 2014 CMA winner for Medium Market Personality of the Year. This is a tremendous achievement and one the city of Tucson should be proud of. The work that Buzz and all of the radio personalities do at stations like KiiM helps to fill the seats at local venues with fans who know the artist and the music.
Randy Houser is a country singer as they were meant to be. The genre suits him like a custom made saddle. From the moment he appears on stage, he is a man in his element. Imagine an old west saloon where patrons are happily going about the business of drinking, gambling, and socializing when those double saloon doors swing open to the sound of heavy boots on the floor. Everyone in the place turns to observe who it is walking in with those “Boots On.” He surprises, not because the audience wasn’t expecting him, but because of his commanding presence when he slings a guitar across his chest and belts out his opening song. As any good cowboy in an old western movie does, Randy is carrying a loaded gun, only this one is in the form of the band that backs him up.
If there was to be a gun fight in this old western town, Randy would appear as the central figure. Flanking him to his right and left, would be the members of his posse. Randy made a point, several times during the evening and at the end of the show, to introduce his band members and thanked them for giving their all during a long tour season on the road with him. The talent of his band was fully apparent throughout the night, and Randy’s approach to his stage show is particularly responsible for the ammunition they bring in the form of rock solid playing ability. With Justin Butler on lead guitar, Ward Williams on lap steel and guitar, Tripper Ryder on bass, John Henry Trinko on keys, and Kevin Murphy on drums, Randy has the advantage of having the strongest musicians on stage with him. Three songs into the set, we were about to witness “How Country Feels.”
The title track on Randy’s third studio album, How Country Feels, is a marking of his territory. It’s a statement of what you can expect from his set and the places he’ll take you through his music. This was a bit more of a casual set up than most of the shows he’s played this year, and this being the last of his tour dates for 2014, he sang what he was feeling. He told a few stories, talking to the audience as if it were a gathering of old friends, and invited us to sing along with him. Randy’s rapport with the audience is a genuine camaraderie. He puts no distance between himself and his listeners other than the way he delivers his life experiences through song. His connection to the music, especially as a songwriter, allows him to move an audience with the “Power of a Song,” even when it’s a song no one has heard before.
The song list for the evening was an assortment of his hits, old and new, a Garth Brooks cover, a couple of new tunes no one had heard, and a rock edged respite that felt raw and unhindered by any genre restrictions. It was rock in a wild wild west presentation. Towards the end of the show, Randy brought out a co-writer of his, Gary Nicholson, who accompanied him on a stunning ballad, “No Good Place To Cry.” You couldn’t help but be mesmerized by the intensity of the emotion Randy delivered through a vocal that was completely untethered. It was a night full of vocal show stoppers whether country rock in nature or ballad tender. To finish this outstanding night of music, Randy would leave us with three signature moments signifying the depth of his country roots.
“Like A Cowboy” was probably the most anticipated and grandly delivered moment of the show. The video for the song was shown on the big screen prior to the start of the event. The director was present along with a representative for Visit Tucson who talked about the making of the video, the importance of the location, and Randy’s immeasurable contribution to its authenticity. This would set the stage for its live delivery in an even bigger fashion than any of us could have anticipated. As if you had opened up the west for expansion, Randy’s vocal filled it. Never before have I witnessed such a perfect union between a setting and a song brought together by the only man in country music capable of pulling that off. You could have encapsulated this one for its pure perfection. Timeless. He could have sung this in the early days of Tucson’s existence and it would have been no less appropriate or touching.
The trouble with perfection is how do you follow it? If you’re Randy Houser, with “Whistlin’ Dixie.” This song is an encore, not just for Randy, but for the entire band. It’s as if this son of the South rides at full gallop into a western town with his band of brothers on horseback. Like a warning shot fired into the air, the opening drum beat gives these guys a chance to walk off ten paces before they turn around, take aim, and let it rip, guns blazing (or instruments in this case). A country song gets no bigger than this. The band shows off their enormous talent here and together with Randy’s proclamation of a vocal, create a sound capable of leaving a flesh wound. The smoke won’t clear from this until their final salvo is complete. Randy’s mega-hit, “Runnin’ Outta Moonlight,” would be the impression he left us with. “This is one that we don’t want to miss no.” The audience held onto this moonlight performance knowing full well that it would be the last they’d hear from their adopted cowboy on this night.
The life of a cowboy isn’t all that different from Randy Houser’s real life profession. As a successful country singer, he’s on the road more than he’s at home. Along with his band of brothers, they crisscrossed the country this year playing more dates and cities than they can remember. At each venue, they gave their all to the music and the fans, having been a part of two headline grabbing tours this year with Brad Paisley and Dierks Bentley. This stop in Tucson was the end of the road for 2014 and a fitting one for this road weary cowboy. Tucson is a big city with a small town feel that welcomed Randy Houser at the end of a long ride. Every detail of his visit to this city played out like the lyrics to the song in the video he recorded here.
“I’ll ride in on a sunny day, sing you a song
Steal your heart away, like a cowboy
Hang my hat like I’m here for awhile
Kick off my boots and drive you wild,
like a cowboy
Baby you know I can’t stay long, you’ll
wake up I’ll be gone
Until then I’ll hold on,
like a cowboy.”
In the short time that he spent with the people of Tucson, Randy left a piece of himself. He does that with every performance he gives. He lives and breathes the music he sings and invites his band and the audience to be a part of it. You feel what he’s feeling when he sings a song. It’s real. It’s authentic. It’s How Country Feels at a Randy Houser show. He stole my heart away the first time I saw him perform live, and I watched it happen again to a theatre full of people in Tucson, Arizona. No one wanted him to leave the stage and ride away that night. But, as all cowboys do, he did ride away. In 2015, he’ll cinch his saddle up and find another wind in the form of a tour with Luke Bryan. Buy a ticket, hope for a sunny day, and let him steal your heart away again…Like A Cowboy.
From WAY NORTH of NASHVILLE…Bev Miskus
Covering our #countrymusicnation.
The Randy Houser fan club is now officially open for membership! Join The House Band on any one of three levels available. Visit his website for all the information you need to become a fan club member: http://www.randyhouser.com/the-house-band.html
Palmer Lee opened for Randy Houser, treating the audience to several of her own songs. This gifted singer/songwriter has a beautiful voice and the confidence to put some grit in her songs. You can connect with her on Twitter @palmerlee. LIKE her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/palmerleeofficial/timeline
Riser Air made its final U.S. tour stop in Baltimore Saturday night, and what a night it was in Maryland! Having previously written about Dierks’ Congress, I’d been told plenty about what to expect from his live shows and how moving that experience would be. The chairwoman of his fan group, Ronna Clark, just attended her 60th show in Huntington, WV, two nights before I saw this one. It was my first Dierks concert and expectations were higher than Riser Air’s cruising altitude. Shows are often over-hyped and over-promoted to the point where they can’t possibly live up to the billing. In this case, Dierks’ Riser Tour truly rocked liked a G6 and left us all so high we may never come down. This flying adventure begins with the pre-boarding that took place the day before….
No one expects snow in November to jeopardize your travel plans, least of all, six to seven feet of it!! Dear friends from Buffalo, Patti and Bill McClintic, were set to make the six hour drive from New York to West Virginia on Friday to join me for this show in Baltimore on Saturday. Mother Nature, however, had different plans. Over several days, the area received record breaking amounts of snow, burying their house and resulting in a travel ban for the entire area, with all major roads out of Buffalo shut down. When the ban was lifted Friday morning, they began the harrowing drive, via back roads, to get to an open interstate that would bring them to Riser Air’s destination. When you’re being passed by snowmobiles on a freeway, it might be time to book a flight on Riser Air.
If you’ve never been backstage, or on stage, for a concert event, it’s an eye opening experience. Our day with the Riser Tour started mid-afternoon, with an incredible look at what goes on before the arena fills up with fans. Randy Houser’s inimitable drummer, Kevin Murphy, invited me up to sit behind his drum kit while it was sitting idly, waiting to be moved. It’s quite a view from up there, and if you’ve ever thought that there’s nothing to hitting some things with sticks for a couple of hours, try it some time. The size of this particular kit, whose name is Thunderdome, is massive, and intimidating to say the least. There was constant activity happening all around us with crew members and band members all going about their usual pre-show routines. There are a lot of people involved in the set up of a concert stage and a lot that has to happen to make that show go off without a hitch. Both Randy Houser’s and Dierks Bentley’s staff members who were responsible for our meet and greet experiences, were organized and professional. Dierks spent what little time he had before his set with the group of us who’d gathered for the meet and greet. He played a little acoustically and set the tone for the engaging show we were about to see. Meeting him is like meeting a friend who’s genuinely happy to see you and cares what you have to say. I’d say Dierks set the bar pretty high for meet and greet experiences with this one.
Being that this was the last night of the Riser Tour in the U.S. and there was a good chance we were going to end up “Drunk On A Plane,” a particular beer vendor at the Royal Farms Arena did his part to induce that outcome. Shouting as if speaking to his congregation, he proclaimed to have the remedy for any of us who might be “suffering from the ravages of sobriety.” The coldest beer in the city of Baltimore was in his cooler and those of us lucky enough to be there should fork over the $8 and consider it our health care deductible for the night.
One of the down sides of meet and greets that happen just prior to show time is missing all or part of another artist’s set. I’d wanted to see Eric Paslay for awhile, but the schedule for this night had me standing in line backstage instead of in my seat watching him. I did, however, have the good fortune of being just off to the right of the stage where I could at least hear what he was singing most of the time. Not many opening acts would tempt me to give up my place in line to go out and hear their set instead, but if I were to do that, I’d go watch Eric Paslay. His voice was absolutely flawless – smooth and pitch perfect. Just listening to him without being able to see him made me feel like I was at a blind audition on The Voice. It was a test of a singer’s voice being able to move you without anything other than the song and their delivery of it. His band members, Jake Campbell on lead guitar, Matt Iceman on drums, and Tommy Lee on bass, were equally in tune with the incredible vocal performance Eric was giving. When flying, the passengers can’t see what’s happening in the cockpit. We sit patiently, with out seat belts fastened, hoping for a smooth landing. For this portion of our Riser Air flight, Eric Paslay gave us the smoothest landing possible. Ladies and gentleman, welcome to Baltimore. Your Riser Tour is about to begin!
For the next leg of our Riser Air flight, fasten your seat belts. Randy Houser is about to break the sound barrier! I’d seen Randy Houser just two months ago at an outdoor venue in Virginia. This time, he was at an indoor arena in Maryland. He could not have generated more thrust from a performance if he’d landed a 777 inside that arena. Randy Houser and his band don’t just take the stage, they explode from it. When Kevin Murphy picks up those drums sticks, don’t fight it – just ride it. And what a ride it was!! Randy’s stage set up is very different from most others in country music. Kevin’s drum set sits HIGH above the stage and there are risers to his left and right that hold other band members. There are lights and smoke that seem to be entirely generated by the heat coming off this band. The set list is a perfect showcase of everything these guys can do. From Randy’s radio favorites like “Runnin’ Outta Moonlight” and “Goodnight Kiss” to his latest hit single, “Like A Cowboy,” he slays a vocal like no one else. He’s able to finesse the power in his voice to suit the song appropriately and leaves you feeling like you wrote it. The intensity coming from the crowd as a direct result of his and the band’s performance was rocket launch powerful. Besides Randy’s ability to shatter glass with his vocals, he brings a band to the stage that you won’t find anywhere else in country music. Their purpose is to create music so powerful the audience will have no choice but to react and Randy facilitates that exchange. The always fashionable, Ward Williams, plays pedal steel and guitar; Justin Butler is on lead guitar; Tripper Ryder plays bass; and John Henry Trinko plays piano/organ. They are phenomenal to say the least and Randy is the catalyst for their monstrous contribution to the stage show. When this set ended, I checked my arm to see if there was an RH tattoo on it. That is how impressive Randy Houser was. Undeniably!
I’d heard a lot about Dierks Bentley’s live show from people who’ve seen him numerous times over the years. Turns out, everything they said was true…and then some! When Riser Air landed on the stage in the form of Dierks Bentley and his incredible band, Dierks the man, the entertainer, and the fan showed up. This was not a headliner who needed a grand entrance. He is as unassuming as any I’ve seen. He genuinely seems surprised when he enters the arena and sees thousands of people standing and applauding, as if he’s waiting for something to happen that’s bigger than himself. It was a celebratory evening being Riser Air’s final landing in the states and Dierks was ready to toast every mile that became a memory from the Riser Tour. He kicked off the party with “5-1-5-0,” followed by his other party favorites including, “Tip It On Back.” Thank you! Don’t mind if we do! The crowd was clearly ready to celebrate with Dierks and he embraced us like family with the heartfelt emotion he poured into every song. One of the standout moments of the evening was the song, “Up on the Ridge.” He stood with his band members on a high riser in the middle of the stage, video board as a backdrop. As beautiful outdoor scenes flashed by on the screen, the band’s euphoric interpretation of this song touched the soul. It seemed like a musical metaphor for the heights the Riser Tour has reached this year and the bond the band has with each other. Dierks held the middle spot between Brian Layson on lead guitar, Cassady Feasby on bass, Dan Hochhalter on fiddle, Tim Sergent on steel guitar, and Steve Misamore on drums. The level of musicianship here is as high as Riser Air can fly. Outstanding in their field indeed!
Dierks’ personality is the anchor of this show, and it shows up especially in the middle section of his set. He takes the time to tell stories of his music career and his life that make him just another guy who happens to play music for a living. He doesn’t ask for adoration from the fans, he gives it in every song and every story he relates. Heading to the back of the arena, he pays tribute to the fans in the cheap seats – where he once was. The story of his first concert with Bon Jovi is a crowd favorite, and his cover of “Living On A Prayer” is welcome music nostalgia. When bass player, Cassady Feasby, let fly his AMAZING line, “Livin’ On A Prayer,” the crowd went wild! Who knew Bon Jovi was in the house and masquerading as Dierks’ bass player? Give that man a microphone, because he can sing! Dierks finishes up in the back with “Say You Do” and a big dose of how close he is to the guys in his band.
The end of Dierks’ set on this night was emotional for him and the audience. “I Hold On” was preceded by the story of his white truck and his well used guitar. Everyone was cheering him on through this one, bringing their own emotion to the lyrics. He talked about how much this tour meant to him and how humbled he was to have Eric Paslay and Randy Houser as part of it. Dierks is a fan as much as he is a headliner and it showed in the exuberant way he expressed his gratitude towards them. The encore began with the song everyone had been waiting for, “Drunk On A Plane.” He started singing this one and just let the audience have it. The look on his face was priceless as he leaned into the mike and then backed away to listen to the group effort this song had become. “Sideways” was a crowd pleasing anthem where Eric and Randy came out to join Dierks in singing and say good-bye to a tour they all clearly enjoyed. The final song of the evening brought a group of Navy Seals to the stage who got a big thank you from Dierks and the entire arena. “Home” was like ending with the National Anthem, Dierks style. He ended the night on his knees, thankful for the life he has and the job he gets to do. This show of humility and respect for the fans who make that possible isn’t lost on anyone, and it’s one of the reasons he’s a fan favorite. What stands out at a Dierks Bentley concert is his total presence in the moment. For the couple of hours that he was on that stage, he was happy to be in Baltimore, Maryland, and not wishing he was somewhere else. Fans have a choice when making their concert travel plans, and because of nights like this, we’ll always choose to fly Riser Air.
Note: If you find yourself in downtown Baltimore, after a killer concert on a Saturday night (past 11pm) in search of food and drink, you may encounter a myriad of problems. Most places close at either 10 or 11pm. The ones that are open at Power Plant Live won’t allow you to bring in a professional camera out of fear you may want to take pictures of the unknown guitar player in the corner. The only restaurant that was open and did allow the camera in was The Cheesecake Factory at the Inner Harbor. They couldn’t have been more gracious and our waiter, Steffan, ROCKED! There was just this small little problem when we tried to leave around 1:30am and they directed us to exit through a locked mall. Fascinating window shopping, and no crowds, but also no way out. For future reference, simply return to The Cheesecake Factory and they will let you out the front door. Ladies and gentleman, we are clear for take off.
From WAY NORTH of NASHVILLE…Bev Miskus
Covering our #countrymusicnation.
All of the photographs in this article are courtesy of Bill McClintic of 90 East Photography. Please visit his website to see more of his outstanding work and for professional inquiries: http://www.90eastphotography.com/home.html
A lot of topics in country music give rise to debate. When it’s award season, Entertainer of the Year provokes the most heated discussions. This seems to be the one people are most passionate about. When the nominees are announced, there are the usual gasps at who made the list and who didn’t. The night of the awards ceremony, when the winner is revealed, will either be considered a coronation of the deserving nominee or a WTF were they thinking moment of dismay amongst fans. When I ask who the best are in concert, I hear the same names repeatedly. Some I’ve seen. Some I haven’t. Brad Paisley had been on my radar for awhile. I was intrigued by what I thought he was capable of and just what he might do at a live show. When he announced the title of his new album, Moonshine In The Trunk, my curiosity was piqued. Adding DEE JAY SILVER to the tour, sealed the deal. I had no idea what to expect from a BRAD PAISLEY concert and the date I selected made it even more uncertain. September 20 at JIFFY LUBE LIVE in Bristow, VA, was the last US stop on his COUNTRY NATION WORLD TOUR. Being such, I knew it would be a prank filled night where even he couldn’t predict what might happen.
The only time BRAD PAISLEY has won CMA ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR was in 2010. The devastating flood in Nashville earlier that year had wiped out much of what was needed to start his summer tour. With the help of his crew, they pulled things together and went out as scheduled. He dedicated the win to his crew for their efforts, not something I’ve heard anyone else do. “This Is Country Music” was his featured song that night. It was new and hadn’t been released yet. He called it a love song for his fans and the industry who allow him to do what he loves and make music people can relate to. Leaving the show Saturday night, thinking about what summed up the evening, that is the song that stuck with me. From the opening acts to Brad’s encore, it was a night of country music as wild and free as you can imagine. Innovative, current, relative, yet true to the roots of the genre, it was a concert event unlike any I’d ever seen.
Waiting for the gates to open before the show, I was standing in line with a friend who, like me, was a rock girl at heart. Country concerts are a very new thing for us and we were discussing with others Brad’s guitar skills versus say Slash or Eric Clapton. It was generally agreed upon that Brad and Keith Urban were two of the best country music had to offer. Could they hold their own with some of rock’s greatest guitar heroes? I’d seen Slash perform just two weeks earlier at this same venue when he opened for Aerosmith. Perhaps some of the lingering aura would settle on Brad’s guitar tonight. It was to be a jam packed show with three opening acts and the incomparable, DEE JAY SILVER, entertaining us between them. CHARLIE WORSHAM, Leah Turner, and RANDY HOUSER were all part of the COUNTRY NATION WORLD TOUR.
I went into this concert knowing that the opening acts would be solid if they were on the road with Brad Paisley, and they did not disappoint! CHARLIE WORSHAM has to be one of the most talented artists to ever open on a major tour. What he brings to the concert stage is better than what I’ve seen from some headliners. His voice is rock solid. He establishes a rapport with the audience the moment he steps on stage. His musicianship is off the charts astounding, and his stage presence is magnetic. It didn’t matter if you knew any of his songs, he captivated with sheer talent. I believe he changed instruments on every song, and I’m not just talking about the color of the guitar. He was like watching a pinball that was shot onto the stage with a force you weren’t expecting, and for the length of his set, he stayed in play no matter what obstacles were thrown at him…and there were obstacles. Being the last night of the tour, pranks were inevitable. He and his band members were teepeed (yep, wrapped in toilet paper by crew members WHILE PLAYING) multiple times. Charlie was slapped on the back, mid-song, enduring the installation of a “KICK ME AGAIN” sign on his back. At one point, he took off, running through the aisles of the venue while playing a guitar and singing the entire trip. He interacted with the fans in the pit and never broke his connection to the audience, come what may. The last song of his set was the title track from his debut album, Rubberband. Now I want you to think for a moment about Brad Paisley’s sense of humor. What do you think might have happened to Charlie while playing a song called “Rubberband?” That’s way too easy. Yes, he was bombarded by rubberbands from seemingly every crew member Brad could muster. It was a Yankee ambush on a Mississippi born Rebel. But the unflappable Charlie Worsham left the fans with an indelible impression. He ROCKED “Rubberband” instrumentally, vocally, and performance-wise. What a set! And his band gave an outstanding performance despite being tortured throughout. Charlie Worsham should not be Nashville’s best kept secret. This young Rebel just took the Union capital with a rubberband.
Leah Turner wasn’t added to this tour just to fill a gender gap. The girl can sing! There’s an obvious strength in her presence on the stage that warns you not to take her lightly before she’s had a chance to show you what she’s got. Leah is no shrinking violet. Her set was full of songs that showcased her vocal grit and the powerful emotion she brings to a song. If something is tugging at her heart strings, you’re going to feel it too. If she’s in love, she’ll sweep you up in the moment. If she’s pissed, stand back, or at the very least, get out of her way. She has two singles off her new EP, “Take the Keys” and “Pull Me Back,” which both require an emotional connection to breathe life into the lyrics. The grit in Leah’s voice seems to pull her vocals from the depths of her soul. Her mature sound defies her youth, making you forget she hasn’t yet lived a full life. What I loved about Leah’s performance was the straight forward approach she took to the music. She was there to wow the audience with her singing. Period. There was nothing contrived about her image or how she performed. Her spotlight prank of the evening came during one of her most powerful songs. She covered the Dixie Chicks’ “Cowboy Take Me Away,” during which she was literally taken away on the arms of Randy Houser’s band mates (all wearing cowboy hats of course). While being carried like a sacrificial offering, she still managed to sing the song and made every attempt not to lose eye contact with the audience. Leah keeping her composure during this physical interruption to her song was only part of why I was impressed with her. It’s been a very long time since I heard anyone cover a Dixie Chicks song. This tells me that Leah Turner is her own woman and refuses to be a cookie cutter version of anything. The last song on her EP, and one she performed, is called “My Finger.” Should you need any further convincing of her straight forward character, download this song. It was an empowering lyrical manifesto explaining what she will and will not put up with in a relationship and one that had the audience cheering her on. We may not have known what was coming when Leah took the stage, but there was no need to ask for ID when she left. Leah Turner. Damn straight.
When RANDY HOUSER takes the stage, you’ll know it. He does not come quietly into his set, nor does the outstanding band he has backing him up. Besides Randy’s commanding presence on the stage, I couldn’t help but notice his drummer, Kevin Murphy. From the outset, these two were like a one-two punch. The enormous sound coming from the stage had me wondering if they’d set those amps on Appetite For Destruction instead of How Country Feels. And this was not a temporary moment of sound eruption. They played like Guns ‘N Roses blazing the entire set. Lights flashing, drums pounding, guitars rockin’, and Randy’s big voice leading this barrage of sight and sound ammunition. Had we been paying attention in 2010, he warned us, “I ain’t just Whistlin’ Dixie.” Well that ain’t no lie! Randy’s set included all of his big hits and he was definitely no stranger to the crowd. He has a classic country voice with a rock star projection. When he goes for that big emotional note, hold on! Jiffy Lube Live lit up with the power he mustered and reverberated from the excitement of having a guy “goin’ out with his Boots On” leave a wake. His new single, “Like a Cowboy,” is a power ballad, and was expected to be an emotional moment in his set. Naturally, this would be where Brad would provide some comic relief. Rather than having Randy sing this heart wrencher to a woman, a man in a wheelchair, wearing a cowboy hat, holding red flowers, was wheeled onto the stage at the beginning of the song. I never quite got the significance of this other than to completely throw Randy off his game on this one. Nice try, but he held it together, for the most part. I was told, just prior to Randy’s set, that he would be my new favorite country singer after hearing him tonight. If this is “How Country Feels” with Randy Houser on stage, sign me up for the fan club!
Typically, between acts, the venue will play some preset music over the sound system and everyone will go about their business. Fortunately for us, Brad Paisley had DEE JAY SILVER on tour with him. Most people in the audience seemed to know who he was. When it was announced that he would be providing the music between acts, women stood up to dance. His job is to become a musical amphetamine. He selects songs that are addictive, mood-altering, and stimulating, thereby keeping our attention in focus and preventing us from falling asleep. He is a master at what he does and makes it look effortless. By the time that headliner is stage ready, fans may wish to hold him back for a moment, or at least until that AC/DC song Dee Jay Silver is playing is over. That’s when you know you have a good Dee Jay in the house…when HE becomes a show stopper.
You’re not supposed to put Mountaineers (Big 12)
and Volunteers (SEC) together, in a song
And tellin’ folks we’re one big “Country Nation”
Can rub ‘em wrong
It ain’t hip to sing “Moonshine In The Trunk” and “Alcohol”
Near Westboro Baptist
Yeah that might be true
But “This Is Country Music”…..and you never know what Brad will do
For those of us who grew up on Saturday Night Live from its inception, there were seven words we looked forward to hearing every weekend….LIVE FROM NEW YORK, IT’S SATURDAY NIGHT! This marked the beginning of the best LIVE 90 minutes on television. It contained some of the best pranks, parodies, and live music you’d ever see on an “American Saturday Night.” If you took the components of that show, added a double shot of musicianship along with a generous portion of country music roots and a twist of “Limes,” put it all in a blender and let it rip, what you’d be sippin’ on is BRAD PAISLEYLIVE! Even his entrance onto the stage served to “Remind Me” of the unassuming way that show used to start. Brad didn’t drop from the ceiling, rise from the floor, or exit Air Force One in a grand show of “Celebrity,” (actually, that kind of happened but, shh…security here is VERY excitable!). The lights went down…and he walked on stage. No cliché pyrotechnics or flames needed to kick this show off. What ignited this night of music was “Moonshine In The Trunk.”
Well, you like to play a prank or two
On tour, and delight the crowd
Are you thinkin’ your opening acts would love to get you back
But don’t know how?
Do you wish your tour mates had the nerve
To show that childish boss of theirs
That payback is on their minds too
Well, this is the last night of the tour, and they do
Only Brad Paisley could write a song called “Ticks” and turn it into a hit. The silliness of this song proved the perfect opportunity for his tour mates to get a little payback. I’m sure Brad was expecting some sort of barrage for all the unanswered shots he’d fired, so when his companions on tour made their move, they brought the cavalry. Silly string was flying, and suddenly there were a lot of people on stage trying to pull off their version of Punk’d. Crew members appeared on the risers like holograms of guitar heroes. Each band member had a twin trying to engage them in a game of shadowboxing with instruments, and someone had the all important responsibility of disrupting the king himself. As expected, the master did not fall for this and finished the song as if nothing more problematic than a tick had crawled up his arm. He apologized for the “silliness” that went on during that song as if scoffing at their childish ways. Truthfully, he was probably a proud papa after this attempt thinking, my work here is done.
Brad’s set included 22 songs. He’s got a huge catalog to choose from and an infinite number of ways to stage them. What he did was use a bit of nostalgia to showcase this incredible night of music. If you see Brad Paisley do a single performance or hear one of his songs on the radio, it will not do justice to the artist and entertainer he is. Sit through a concert and I guarantee, you’ll be back. His set design was simple, yet high tech enough to accommodate 3D looking graphics and the appearance of throwback home movies. Throughout the show, the images on the big screen, located directly behind center stage, played like a film we’d come to see with a soundtrack that was Grammy worthy. Some of these images were taken from his videos and others were newly filmed. “American Saturday Night” and “Southern Comfort Zone” are both big sound songs with geographically diverse images illustrating our world connections. Brad’s guitar playing, along with the phenomenal talent of his backing band, was as big as the world we were looking at. These two songs played consecutively made us feel like we were standing on top of the Eiffel Tower looking down on Times Square. Cue the big guitar and church choir!
(Photo of Brad Paisley courtesy of 90 East Photography, Art of Reflection By Bill)
So turn it on, turn it up and sing along
This is real, this is your life in a song
Yeah this is country music
The next three songs in Brad’s set directed our focus to what was playing on the screen behind him. The video for “Waitin’ On a Woman” features Andy Griffith talking to him about the virtues of doing just that. The interplay between the two was brought to life on stage with an emphasis on the music track. At the end of the song, acknowledging the passing of that television icon, Brad tipped his hat towards the image on the screen. This would be the first of many acts of gratitude throughout the show. “Celebrity” brought to the screen the night’s first glimpse of a character I can best describe as Brad’s bobblehead twin. His gigantic head doesn’t exactly bob, but proportionally, the image suits. I have to believe the size of the head piece worn signifies the ego that often comes with celebrity. In one scene, Brad’s bobblehead wore a nude colored body suit, cowboy hat, and boots while swinging on a wrecking ball. Fully appreciating the parody of this, the audience laughed at the many outlandish stunts this ego driven bobblehead would try in this ode to adios reality. Perhaps because he followed that example of what not to emulate with “This Is Country Music,” it seemed to be a tribute to the legends of country music who Brad so obviously respects. Like something you’d see at the Country Music Hall of Fame, a highlight reel of country greats provided the back drop for this moving song. Seeing who was included in this montage spoke volumes about where Brad gets his inspiration from and his nod to George Jones (again with the tip of his hat), showed the humility he feels in their presence. Part of the lyrics to this song talk about serving one’s country and the devastation felt when you get the phone call no one wants to answer. Brad’s respect for the military and all those who serve is well known. This concert venue sits in what locals consider part of the suburbia of Washington DC and draws from all of the surrounding states. We have a high concentration of military members here and many were in the audience for this show. When the flag flies in the image on screen, the pride of patriotism ripples through the crowd and manifests itself in a loud ovation. This song was a defining moment in the show and one that left the fans beaming with pride over an artist who truly connects with his fans. As concert moments go, they don’t come any better than this.
Are you haunted by the stories of those nurses
At Bull Run?
Cryin’ as they lose another patient
To a soldier’s gun?
And if there’s anyone that still
has pride and the memory of those
that died just five miles from the site of this venue
This is Virginia…and we do
Whether it’s a lighthearted, playful song, or a serious power ballad, Brad sings a lot about his love for a woman. The next seven songs of the evening were devoted to just that topic. “I’m Still a Guy” has huge appeal for the male fans in the audience who more than applauded this musical defense of their actions. Appealing to the females in attendance, he poured his heart out in “She’s Everything.” In addition to the tremendous vocal performance he gives on this song, his heart strings play their love song on his guitar strings and you can’t help but feel his passion for both the girl and the music. Last summer’s seasonal hit song, “Beat This Summer,” was illustrated through images in a View-Master. Some of us are old enough to remember the original version of this toy that came with images on a paper wheel that was inserted into the “camera.” A slide show was presented by clicking the button on the side continuously. This was an awesome nostalgic touch to the set. He continued framing the evening with “The Mona Lisa” and “Then” turned our attention towards the back of the amphitheater for the night’s Kodak moment. He made his way to a platform located behind the last of the seats, just below the crowd gathered on the lawn. He introduced the song by saying if you’d come to make out with someone tonight, this would be your best chance. Part way through the song he stopped to allow a guy and his girlfriend to join him in the spotlight. It didn’t take long to figure out where this was going. Brad called attention to his military service in Iraq and gave him the floor to propose to his unsuspecting girlfriend. She said yes, Brad congratulated them, and finished the song. Is there any doubt what their first dance will be?
So turn it on, turn it up and sing along
This is real, this is your life in a song
Just like those country roads, take me home
To the place I belong…
Finished with the sentimental portion of the show, it was time to get a little “Mud On the Tires.” You cannot call it a country concert if there isn’t at least one ode to trucks and mud. You’re going to have to drive a ways to get mud on your tires in the DC area, but based on the pick ups in the parking lot that night, clearly there were some experienced fans among us. It wasn’t hard to guess that where there’s mud, there’s water. Brad didn’t bring just ordinary H2O to the stage; he brought the “Perfect Storm.” This is his latest single off Moonshine In The Trunk and it is an absolute stunner. Crashing waves and lightning enveloped the screen as Brad’s soaring vocal on this matched power with the awesome storm we witnessed. If they awarded standout concert moments that matched a powerful song to its staging, this would be a winner without question. Like the calm after the storm, we emerged from that force of nature to sunshine and “Water.” This song played out in home movies on the big screen of people of all ages enjoying summer’s most essential element. To illustrate just how important water is to our headliner, he testified in song. “I’m Gonna Miss Her” gave Brad a chance to ham it up over his decision to choose fishing over a woman. The men in the audience weren’t shy about their approval.
What happened next I’d heard rumors of but wasn’t sure how exactly Brad would include such a rock divergence into his This Is Country Music set. As I said earlier, nostalgia was in the air. Darkening the front part of the stage, our attention was diverted to the two risen platforms at the back of the set. Brad appeared on one and DEE JAY SILVER was on the other. Consider this the live version of Guitar Hero. Dee Jay Silver picked the challenging riffs and Brad had to answer. This was sweet satisfaction for those of us whose wheelhouse rocks. Playing to my heart’s desire, my favorite dee jay threw AC/DC and GNR Brad’s way. Just two weeks earlier, Slash himself had stood on that stage not far from where Brad was playing. When he launched into the opening riff of “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” the rock angels did sing. But don’t let Brad’s country picking fingers fool you. Apparently, he’s spent more than a few hours in his room practicing this riff, so feel free to crush it Brad, you nailed it! To further appease us throwback rock lovers, he then came down onto the stage and took us back to 1984, channeling his inner Eddie Van Halen. Say what you will about country bands, but this one ROCKED “Hot For Teacher.” And this was no karaoke version. His drummer, Ben Sesar, did a KILLER drum solo on this and his fiddle player – yes, I said FIDDLE PLAYER (whose name I sadly don’t know), was bad ass on this song! When this one was over, Brad’s guitar was seriously overheated.
(Photo of Brad Paisley courtesy of 90 East Photography, Art of Reflection By Bill)
Recharged from our rock interlude, it was time to play me some “Old Alabama.” This one is full of old school country and a nice tribute to an iconic country band. Carrie Underwood appeared via hologram to assist with their hit duet, “ Remind Me,” which would be the last of the serious song moments for the evening. His regular set ended with this summer’s smash hit, “River Bank.” The water skiing squirrel made an appearance on the big screen for this one and it was a fun way to bring the summer to a close. Brad made his way to the raised platform for the end of this one and thanked the fans for all their support. It was obvious from the way he looked out over the audience that he was taking in the moment and that his thanks was genuine and heartfelt. The platform on which he was standing had turned into a pool of sorts (think dunk tank) and he jumped in to exit the stage, appearing to swim away. The crowd applauded and whistled their approval of the evening’s entertainer, knowing full well he’d be back. Inviting everyone backstage, including his bobblehead, he reappeared with an entourage and a cart full of shots. The soundtrack for this finale would be, of course, “Alcohol.” All of the crew and the opening acts took part in this toast to a great tour. Shots were also shared with some of the lucky few in the pit area. Despite the celebration surrounding him, Brad continued playing, giving it his all to the very end – as did his band. Somehow I missed the partial unrobing of his drummer in all of this commotion. At the end of the song, he was suddenly bare chested. I learned later that Randy Houser’s drummer was responsible for this. All’s fair the last night of the tour I guess!
This is country music
This is country music
Looking at the fans filing in for this concert, it was a cross section of America. There were families and young adults, corporate execs and farmers, grandparents with their grandchildren. Brad’s home state of West Virginia was well represented in their blue and gold Mountaineer sportswear. He appeals to all of these people. He puts on a show that everyone can enjoy and he does it with a big dose of humor, expert musicianship, and a healthy dose of humility and appreciation for his fans. His rapport with the audience is everyday man. He signs things handed to him, gave a signed guitar to a young child, accepted flowers from a fan, made a video on someone’s cell phone, and asked about the WVU game that was in progress during showtime (they were losing). I’m always impressed when a headliner with Brad’s reputation and expert musical skills takes the stage like he’s just another guy who plays guitar. The only pyrotechnics he needs come from his fingers touching the guitar strings. It’s cool and it’s classy. Everyone leaving this show left with a smile on their face. From the opening act to Brad’s encore, every part of this concert event left an impression on the audience. It was a display of truly excellent musicianship, not only from the artists, but their bands as well, presented in a way that was engaging and entertaining. I’ve often wondered about the CMA process for nominating artists for Entertainer of the Year. Living in the nation’s capital, we recognize politics when we see it and it appears Nashville is no stranger to its ways. If the nomination process and subsequent winner was based on a fan vote, it would be more representative of what the award stands for. How can you judge someone’s entertainment value if you haven’t been to one of their shows? Sometimes the people I expect to blow me away, don’t. Other times, I go with few expectations and leave so impressed I can’t wait to see them again. Two things are absolute at a Brad Paisley concert – This Is Country Music and Alcohol. Across our Country Nation, that’s a winner!
(Photos of Brad Paisley courtesy of 90 East Photography, Art of Reflection By Bill)
From WAYNorthof Nashville…part of one big Country Nation…Bev Miskus
The featured black and white photograph and others noted throughout the article are courtesy of 90 East Photography, Art of Reflection By Bill. For professional inquiries and to view more of his acclaimed photos, visit his website:http://www.90eastphotography.com/home.html
Friday Night Live! withBILLY CURRINGTON & SAM GROW
If you’ve ever been to downtown Baltimore, it doesn’t have that big city feel to it. This is a city that grew out of the Chesapeake Bay, on its east side, and reflects Maryland‘s love of the water. It is not a city of famous streets and tourist landmarks. This is a city of neighborhoods, each with its own unique flavor that adds to the unusual mix of people you’ll find here. It’s largely a working class town that gravitates toward the simple things in life. Here, that means beer (Natty Boh), baseball (the O’s), and Marylandcrab cakes. On a Friday night recently, I traveled to Baltimore for a concert being held at POWER PLANT Live! My 5pm arrival had TGIF written all over it. Traffic was backed up in all directions, pedestrians were crowding the sidewalks, and the roar of the crowd could be heard coming from Oriole Park at Camden Yards (the Yankees were in town). The popular Inner Harbor area acts as a beacon for those visiting the city, drawing them in for local fare, drinks, and entertainment. Just off the Inner Harbor, you’ll find Market Place, a revitalized area teeming with bars and restaurants and the concert venue known as POWER PLANT Live! The stage there plays host to musical guests from all different genres, but on this night, country music was in the early fall air.
Maryland is considered a Mid-Atlantic state that lies south of the Mason-Dixon Line, giving it a blend of northern and southern traditions. Country music has certainly made its way in recent years from the back roads they love to sing about to city streets and the venues therein. The crowd that assembled for this Friday night of live music was a hybrid that well represented the state and its multifaceted cultural influences. The set up at POWER PLANT Live! creates the feel of a block party with its open air stage, so the only thing left to do was invite the neighbors and turn up the volume on this Maryland kind of night. If you want to hear country music in Baltimore, you turn your dial to 93.1 WPOC (Pride Of the Chesapeake). If it’s a weekday morning, you’ll hear Laurie DeYoung. In the ever changing climate of radio broadcasting, Laurie is a constant. In 2010 she was inducted into the Country Music DJ Hall of Fame. This year, she has a CMA nomination for Major Market Personality of the Year. Laurie’s presence at this show was welcomed by an appreciative and enthusiastic crowd, many of which grew up listening to her before school or on their morning commute. She introduced the evening’s talent and was especially proud to welcome Southern Maryland’s own, Sam Grow!
When Laurie DeYoung introduced Sam Grow, she said how impressed she was with him. At the conclusion of his set, everyone else was too. Sam was the perfect fit for the venue and the neighborhood atmosphere Baltimore provides. He exudes Maryland pride and love for the community he was raised in. I’d seen Sam perform twice prior to this, both times as the headliner. I was curious to see how he would approach being the opener. Walking towards the venue earlier in the evening, I heard the last song of his sound check. There was the answer. When Sam Grow puts on a show, don’t expect a wine tasting. His opening song will hit you like a shot of whiskey. Serious, strong, and just right. He opened with The Allman Brothers Band’s “Midnight Rider,” and it’s the perfect choice for four reasons. It engages the crowd immediately because everyone knows it. Sam gets to showcase his powerful vocal ability and the finesse he brings to the song. It gives the audience a preview of what his band can do and puts them on notice – he’s schooled in the classics. After this kick start to his set, he talks about the new EP he has coming out soon and immediately plays two songs from that project. Both are fun, flirty songs that allow Sam to show off the range he has with his voice, style, and presentation. At the conclusion of the third song, he takes a moment to thank the crowd for supporting live music, which allows him to make a living doing what he loves. This is not a patronizing thank you. Sam Grow is as genuine as they come, and he never misses an opportunity to say thanks to the people who make living his dream possible.
His next two song choices display opposite emotional situations and both made the cut on the new EP. He calls them the “sexy song” and the “angry song.” Back to back he delivers the emotion necessary to convince someone to “Take It Off” and, conversely, that he is indeed “Over You.” Halfway through his set, Sam explains the dog tags around his neck and the best friends they represent. He ALWAYS gives a shout out to the military at this point and plays his friend’s favorite song, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man.” This has become one of my favorite parts of the show. There were a lot of military members in the crowd and this is such a cool moment of connection and appreciation for everyone. It doesn’t get any more heartfelt between a singer and a song than when Sam sings this one. Gives me chills every time. He also gives a shout out to his “band of brothers” here. They’ve been with him for awhile and are all from Southern Maryland. Mike Staceyon lead guitar; Gene Quade on bass; and Joe Barrick on drums. Mike has a fabulous solo in this song and Sam makes sure the audience knows who he is. He thanked the local radio station, WPOC, and the fans again for spending their hard earned money to come out and see him play. This is his few moments of grounding in every show to make sure he never forgets where he came from and who helped him get there. It’s a lesson a lot of headliners could learn from.
Sam’s drummer, Joe, got married recently, and he and his bride asked if Sam would sing their favorite song of his at the wedding. Since then, “We Got Tonight” has been dubbed “Joe’s wedding song.” Sam talks about the truly important events in life that don’t take place on the stage and the importance of keeping that in perspective. This is a beautiful song, and one that obviously means a lot to both Joe and Sam. Next he covered Darius Rucker’s “Wagon Wheel,” much to the delight of the crowd. Everyone sang along and the camaraderie in the room at that moment was magnetic. He finished the set with another original song and a classic that went down like the smoothest of night caps. Sam talks about his dad before this one and the relationship that exists between the classics, his dad, and his first guitar. I won’t share the details of that here because it’s so cool the way Sam tells it. The song is “Bring It On Home To Me,” by Sam Cooke. It’s a strong, soulful finish to a set that captured and moved the audience. Sam doesn’t play TO an audience; he plays FOR them. He wants to connect with the fans and he wants them to have a good time. He calls his band members out by name and thanks his sponsor, Hot Licks Guitar Shop, in Waldorf, Maryland. One last time, he thanks everyone for coming and being a part of his support system. He says without that, no dream exists. Sounds like a toast. Pour a shot of Fireball and I’ll drink to that!
To compliment the whiskey that Sam Grow brought to this TGIF party in downtown Baltimore, Billy Currington added a shot of sunshine after dark. There’s just something about him that says its time to relax, let go, and have some fun. Billy doesn’t take the stage with a lot of fanfare. He picks up a guitar like he’s just strumming around a campfire on the beach to entertain a few friends. It’s casual and fun. When he starts to sing, that’s when you feel the warmth of the sunshine he projects. His carefree set is perfect for a TGIF celebration and the crowd embraced it completely. There’s a wide range in what he brings, from traditional country to the latest pop tunes, yet surprisingly, it all works for him – and the audience. Nothing to be uptight about when you’re just blocks from the water. Whatever the tide brings in, roll with it!
From the beginning of Billy’s set, it was obvious that the crowd was no stranger to his music. They contributed to every song from start to finish. It’s a much different concert experience at POWER PLANT Live! than what you’d find almost anywhere else. It’s an open air, semi-enclosed area, with buildings on both sides creating the concert space in between. The cover that connects the buildings at roof level protects from the rain and shields from the sun’s blazing rays. The ground level is standing room only, general admission. A catwalk overhead about mid-way allows for viewing in a more private, less crowded setting. Billy didn’t take the stage until just before 10pm, but even at that hour, it still felt like a gathering of friends for drinks after work. I don’t know if people in Baltimore are always this happy and polite on Friday nights, or if it was the euphoria in the air coming from Oriole Park (they took two from the Yankees that night!), but this had to be one of THE most well behaved crowds I’ve ever been in. Billy’s music struck the right chord and the crowd welcomed him to the neighborhood.
Nearly all of Billy’s hit songs were in the set list. “Love Done Gone” got everyone swaying in unison and warming up their vocal chords for what was to come. Revving up his country side, he did two in a row that got a BIG reception. “That’s How Country Boys Roll” and “Pretty Good At Drinkin’ Beer” popped the tops on this party and the crowd responded loudly to let Billy know that, yes indeed, they’ve mastered the art of drinkin’ beer. Cheers! After all that exertion, he pulled them in with “Let Me Down Easy” and “Don’t.” You would be hard pressed to find an artist more capable of delivering the melt you love song than Billy Currington, and based on the female reaction, he gets an ‘A’ for this effort. “People Are Crazy” is a song most people know and is great fun to sing along to. Billy didn’t have to sing the chorus on this one, the crowd was more than happy to raise their voices and alert passersby that “God is great/ Beer is good/And people are crazy.” From there he went right into “Hey Girl,” one of the hits off his most recent album, We Are Tonight. The fans knew this one was coming and danced with delight when it did.
Not having seen Billy Currington in concert before, I had no idea what to expect from his set list other than the obvious hit songs. When he does a cover, he goes BIG! I was still in a state of reverie after hearing him sing “Must Be Doin’ Somethin’ Right” when the beginning of his next song snapped me out of it. I knew it. I’d heard it. It was a classic. Hank Williams Jr.?! By the time my mind caught on to the fact that I was hearing Billy Currington do HWJ, the crowd was answering his questions….LOUDLY. “Why do you drink? Why do you roll smoke?” And Billy answered, “I’m just carrying on an old FAMILY TRADITION.” The fans loved it and he nailed it. WOW! Seamlessly, he jumped right back into his own music with “We Are Tonight.” Taking in the lyrics, it was a great spot in the show for it. The crowd was singing, “It’s a Friday night/It’s a small town girl/Everything is right and we rule the world.” They were clearly happy and up for anything and this song is about just that kind of feeling. And from that high, he went low…. “Friends In Low Places,” that is. When the song started, you would have thought that Garth himself was standing on the stage. The reaction was deafening! Many of the people in the audience were too young to have listened to Garth when that song came out in 1990, but they recognized it immediately and sang every word. Hank, and now Garth. Where would our laid back headliner go next?
He would prove that he is just like everybody else when it comes to mixing up the music they listen to. For decades, kids have been expanding their musical tastes outside the confines of a single genre. This exposure is largely responsible for the cross-genre recording that’s become the norm. Billy’s penchant for delivering those dreamy love songs made the pop covers he tackled not at all out of bounds for him. Bruno Mars’ “Treasure You” was an ideal fit for his voice and smooth delivery. The crowd was delighted by the song choice, responding as if their favorite tune had just come on the radio. They sang along and moved to the music, not the least bit bothered by Billy channeling his inner Bruno. Pushing his boundaries a bit further, he went about as far outside the country line of demarcation as you can get on his last cover of the evening. Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” wins Billy the boldest move, without falling on your face, at a country concert award. It was a seamless transition from Bruno to Robin and the audience loved it! Looks like the Orioles weren’t the only ones hitting home runs that night!
Wrapping up this impressive TGIF party, Billy ended with the perfect song to put the night’s musical experience into perspective. “Good Directions” is from his 2005 album, Doin’ Somethin’ Right. Sam Grow pointed out, as I said earlier, that dreams don’t exist without a support system. Everyone who ever dreams of playing in big cities, on grand stages, starts out in their hometown – playing in their neighborhood, amongst friends. These early supporters lead to community sponsorship and a wider audience. Each level of support gives rise to the next, creating the steps needed to continue the climb to success. Once you’ve reached a higher landing, it’s easy to forget the individual rungs you stepped on to get there. Sam returns often to his native Maryland to connect with his family, friends, and fans, many of which made the trip to Baltimore to see him. His fans, in turn, support the headliner he opens for. The Marylanders, who bought tickets to see Billy Currington, were thrilled to have an artist with local roots on stage that night. Their pride was evident in the way they embraced his music and the journey he’s on. The local radio station, WPOC, their award winning DJ, Laurie DeYoung, and Baltimore’s fabulous venue, POWER PLANT Live!, all contribute to the support of native talent so vital to their continued success. Neighborhood by neighborhood, the blocks of support lead to big cities that will someday host our local favorites on their stages. Sam had the home field advantage in Baltimore, but Billy Currington was as welcome as Miss Bell’s sweet tea. No matter how far from home an artist may travel, it serves them well to remember their way back home. Good directions are a necessity… “Then a left will take you to the interstate/But a right will bring you right back here to me.” Welcome back Sam Grow….and Billy, feel free to stop by any time. Great night Maryland! Thanks for the hospitality Baltimore!
FromWAYNorthofNashville…very close toBaltimore…BevMiskus
Bringing the stories of country music to life!
There’s nothing better than LIVE music and nothing worse than a loved one not returning home from that great concert.Drink responsibly. Enjoy the show. Drive safe. Thanks for the reminder Budweiser!!
FROM LOAD IN TO THE LOAD OUT, JAKE OWEN’S BEACH PARTY MAKES PEOPLE WANT TO STAY.…JUST A LITTLE BIT LONGER
*Since the writing of this article, Jake Owen’s Days Of Gold Tour has come to an end. The guys from Averitt have been on the road for eight months, delivering the sights and sounds of this tour to Canada twice and 68 cities in 44 states. They’ve logged 37,958 miles in their North American travels and given new meaning to the term ‘road trip!’ A big thanks to Tim, Mike, Jeff, and Todd for their expert delivery of these tour goods and making our concert experiences possible!
Today’s live performances are often a spectacle of lights and sound. Our favorite headliners take the stage amid elaborate stage setups that often dwarf them in size and technology. Giant video screens broadcast the performance for fans whose seats aren’t near enough for an intimate viewing or the coveted selfie with the artist. But no matter where your assigned seats are, the focus of the event will be the artist at center stage. Like the view through a kaleidoscope, in your peripheral vision you will see thousands of images in various shapes and colors all vying for your attention. As the lights go down and your focus is diminished to just a small circle of light in the middle of the viewing area, what you came to see is revealed. Simply. Sharply. The euphoric party atmosphere ebbs momentarily as we look back to sunrise on this August day in Nashville to see what went into the making of this JAKE OWEN BEACH PARTY event as his signature trucks arrive for load in.
Tonight the people were so fine
They waited there in line
And when they got up on their feet
They made the show
Concert events come in all shapes and sizes. What’s needed for the production of these shows may take up just a single truck, or…it might take 27 of them! Delivery of the equipment necessary for this beach party event actually started in verbal form before it became a physical embodiment in need of transport. Jake Owen made a promise. When that happens, things are set in motion and some sort of delivery method will be required. Like Ticketmaster, he has options for delivery, but electronic is out of the question. Delivering on this promise will require several trucks and a skilled set of workers who know exactly what to do when those trucks arrive for load in. We’ve all seen the colorful trucks bearing the artist’s tour banner either on a highway or parked near the venue. We know they aren’t empty and whatever is in those trucks will be part of our concert experience. What happens between their arrival at one venue and their departure for the next is not commonly known. This being a Jake Owen event, he would know the procedures and many of the people who perform them. These guys are part of Jake’s tour team and integral to the show he puts on for his fans.
And that was sweet
But I can hear the sound
Of slamming doors and folding chairs
And that’s a sound they’ll never know
The BEACH PARTY was held in the BMI parking lot behind their headquarters on Music Row in Nashville. That would be the load in spot for Jake’s three drivers to deliver their concert cargo to. Tim Burnham is one of the drivers in this convoy and was kind enough to talk to me about what happens on show days. His rig is always the first to unload and the last one out after the show. There is a method to this madness! His two fellow drivers are Mike Wambles and Jeff Richardson. When a fourth truck is needed, Todd Pass drives that one. If you’re wondering how one gets this plumb assignment, being on tour with Jake Owen, it was earned. Averitt Express is the parent company that owns On Tour Logistics. They provide the drivers and the trucks for Jake’s operation. All of the drivers that applied for this assignment were vetted, their records thoroughly checked. They were brought to Nashville for interviewing and selected from a large pool of hopeful applicants. As you can imagine, being a tour driver is much more appealing than hauling freight so these assignments are much coveted. These drivers take pride in what they do and the company they represent. Job security may be directly related to how well you perform your duties and impress the headliner. It should be no surprise that not all artists are a dream to work for. As was stated to me more than once during this interview, Jake Owen is.
Now roll them cases out and lift them amps
Haul them trusses down and get ‘em up them ramps
‘Cause when it comes to moving me
You know, you guys are the champs
When the trucks arrived at the BMI parking lot on the morning of August 18, it was approximately 7am. Their typical load in time runs between 5 and 7am the day of the show, depending on their drive time and start time of the event. This would have been a short haul for the drivers because two of the trucks are parked in Nashville between tour dates and the other two in Montgomery, Alabama. Storage location of the trucks is dependent on what repairs may need to be done to the rigs themselves or the equipment they’re hauling. Three trucks were used for the beach party (they use four for full production) and their arrival is a coordinated effort. Once parked at the venue location, they are met by a team of loaders and pushers whose job it is to build something out of the rigging, lighting, and audio components that have just been delivered. They travel with 15 “true guys” who will coordinate this set building venture, but 90% of the workers used for load in and load out will be union local labor hired by the venue. This isn’t a motley crue assortment of guys they enlisted off the street. Over the next four to five hours, these trained professionals will be handling expensive equipment that has to be moved and assembled in a precise way. Damaging any piece of the production puzzle they’re building could cause a delay in the day’s tightly arranged schedule. When things go akilter, as they sometimes do, rental equipment must be arranged to replace what needs repair or didn’t arrive on time. In full production, Jake’s set design includes palm trees and a tiki bar. Should any of these pieces be damaged in transport or get held up by unforeseen circumstances, welcome to the nightmare of adjusting on the fly! Good luck trying to rent a palm tree or a tiki bar in Canada. But, the show MUST go on!
But when that last guitar’s been packed away
You know that I still want to play
So just make sure you got it all set to go
Before you come for my piano
On a normal tour day, after the load in, the trucks would stay parked at the venue in close proximity to the staging area. Due to the unusual location of the BEACH PARTY event in the compact area of Music Row in Nashville, the trucks would have to park several miles away. In contrast, we’ve all seen the trucks parked near or immediately adjacent to the stage. What we haven’t seen are the drivers of those rigs who’ve been up all night dodging the hazards of the open road. The miles they’ve logged on their night’s journey can range anywhere from a couple hundred to as many as 600+ on a particularly long trek. So while we’re asleep, dreaming of that incredible concert we’re about to see, these guys are battling the elements to make sure you’re not disappointed. Tim said they’ve been lucky on this tour so far as weather hasn’t played a big factor in slowing them down. Their toughest weather-related challenge has been dealing with high winds and having to control that heavy rig at the mercy of Mother Nature. Once they’ve safely arrived at their destination and the trucks are parked and unloaded, they’ll have to stay in or near them in case something comes up and they need to be moved. When zzzs are needed, these weary drivers don’t get to climb into a comfy hotel bed. They’ll attempt to catch a nap inside the truck. If it’s a larger venue and the trucks are parked some distance from set up, sound check, and surrounding activity, they might succeed in getting some much needed rest. If they’re parked at a fair, directly adjacent to the constant clatter of the event, not so much. I was told as fact that no one sleeps while on tour; you just nap. Throughout the day, the drivers will rest every chance they get. When you run a full tour season, tired is the new normal.
But the band’s on the bus
And they’re waiting to go
We’ve got to drive all night
And do a show in Chicago…. or Detroit, I don’t know
Doing a show in Nashville gives the headliner and the guys in the band a much appreciated home field advantage. For the BEACH PARTY event, they had a short commute to work. With any luck, they had a good night’s sleep beforehand. Such is not the case on tour. Fatigue isn’t only a problem for the truck drivers. Jake travels with three buses to his concert locations. One is his personal bus; one’s for the band members; and one is for the crew (light, sound, and production guys). Obviously, these buses do not drive themselves, so there is also a professional bus driver for each. He, too, will be up all night, tasked with the job of delivering his precious cargo to a stage near you! If you’ve ever tried to sleep in a moving vehicle (past the time you fit in a car seat), you know this isn’t ideal for REM sleep. It’s fitful, at best (unless you’re passed out and that comes with its own set of problems). Once the buses have arrived at their destination, the bus drivers will have hotel rooms to sleep in. Throughout the day, those buses may encounter more traffic in and out the door than they did on the highway. A driver trying to sleep through the congestion would not be a safe chauffeur come midnight. Hotel rooms may also become a restful haven for the band and crew members if time allows the indulgence. Often, the tight schedule they keep and extracurricular demands on their time may only allow for napping on the bus, or some attempt at that. Parking these precious buses and the contents therein comes with its own set of hazards and impending problems. When Jake played in NYC earlier this year, both the band and crew buses were hit by cars. The drivers had the unenviable job of navigating NYC traffic to drop the guys off and then had to park at an off-site location – a WAY off-site location! The truck drivers for this tour stop got to tangle with rush hour traffic in NYC at 8am with a vehicle not exactly made for tight spots and city drivers not pleased with their arrival.
We do so many shows in a row
And these towns all look the same
We just pass the time in the hotel rooms
And wander ’round backstage
Till those lights come up and we hear that crowd
And we remember why we came
Forgoing some of the problems unavoidable on tour, Jake Owen, his band, and the production team got to entertain a homecoming like crowd in the BMI parking lot. This was the second free party event, and with Jake’s popularity exploding as the result of his first headlining tour, THIS was a jam (and fan) packed show! I was fortunate to have two outstanding resources for this on-site accounting of what it was like to be in that crowd of reportedly 40,000+ fans. Patti and Bill McClintic are loyal Jake Owen supporters who traveled 700 miles from Buffalo, NY, to attend the event. Having made the trip for last year’s show as well, they got to witness firsthand the swelling of fans that made this year’s concert a tightly packed affair. They were not up front for this one, as they were last year, so their vantage point was much different this time. Bill, an acclaimed concert photographer, shot the show last year and was attempting to repeat his success. The challenges he faced didn’t come from the performers on stage. He got to experience, up close and personal, the true meaning of action photography. As Bill wrestled with the demands of shooting around moving, space invading, camera blocking obstacles, to get the 800 shots he captured that night, Patti took in the sights and sounds of this unique concert. It’s no secret that Jake Owen is an extremely generous performer. Not only is he generous with his friends, his family, and his fans, he is also a selfless supporter of other artists, songwriters, and musicians, regardless of genre. The advent of his now famous FREE BEACH PARTY is the result of just such generosity and selfless behavior. In some ways, this event was a living documentary of Jake Owen’s life, manifested in his music career.
Now we got Country and Western on the bus
R & B, we got Disco in eight tracks and cassettes in stereo
We’ve got Rural Scenes and Magazines
We’ve got Truckers on the CB
Jake Owen may come off as lighthearted and easy going, but don’t misinterpret that for a casual attitude when it comes to his music or his fans. The loyalty he gets from his fan base he gives back tenfold. And when Jake Owen makes a promise, you can tattoo it on your arm in indelible ink. The BEACH PARTY isn’t just a party. It’s the sound check on that promise, and it’s free because he wants ALL of his fans, regardless of their VIP status in life, to be able to hear that promise coming through the speakers loud and clear. Last August, prior to the release of his latest album, Days of Gold, he wanted to do something for his fans and celebrate all that the song “Days of Gold” speaks of. He set a date for the event and invited his fans to show up in Nashville. For those of you who may be new to Nashville, you’ve probably heard a great deal about this first block party. It was attended by roughly 20,000+ fans. Jake put on an amazing show that wowed his fans in the manner they’ve become accustomed to. What you may not remember is that Jake had a portion of one of his fingers amputated that morning, prior to show time. A serious infection that developed in the finger, due to a prior accident that summer, forced this emergency procedure at a less than ideal time. Many artists would have sent a replacement, and Jake certainly could have found one, but not wanting to disappoint his fans or break a promise he’d make to them, HE showed up as scheduled. He gave everyone in that parking lot the party they came for, with no regard whatsoever for his personal discomfort. That’s what serious artists do.
And we’ve got Richard Pryor on the video
We got time to think of the ones we love
While the miles roll away
But the only time that seems too short
Is the time that we get to play
Last year, Jake’s Summer Block Party was more of an impromptu event. This year, it was a highly anticipated gathering. Jake is several months into his first headlining tour and it’s been an unarguable success. Given that, it was expected that the beach party may well take up more than a block this time around. In the same space designated for the event last year, they packed in double the amount of attendees. Patti described the scene on the ground as a violation of the fire code, had there been one. Jake’s meteoric rise in popularity, both hit music and reputation driven, brought his fans out in record numbers, and they were willing to withstand heat and sardine-like conditions to see what Jake had in store for them. He doesn’t come alone to this party. He brings friends. Lots of them. And in true Jake fashion, you never know who might show up, unannounced. If you’ve seen Jake on the Days of Gold Tour, you know that his show is beach party themed. This would be no exception. Beach balls were flying through the air and the festive atmosphere was palpable. Old Dominion got things started off with a lively set intended to get this party started off right. Their songs play right into the mood Jake brings to every event he hosts. His invited guests for the evening are perfectly suited to the type of party he wants this to be. Their music is intended to mingle with the tastes of his BEACH PARTY fans and not create a hyper-charged, star-studded show and sing. Jake is very supportive of new artists and sensitive to the struggles of everyone trying to make it in the music business, regardless of their contribution. Bobby Bones’ band, The Raging Idiots, made an appearance with up and coming artist, Lindsay Ell. She is relatively new on the Nashville scene, but she is no stranger to that guitar in her hands. Giving her this guest spot not only puts her in front of 40,000 potentially new fans, but lets them know the girl can PLAY!
People you’ve got the power over what we do
You can sit there and wait
Or you can pull us through
Come along, sing the song
You know that you can’t go wrong
The rest of the evening would be a musical testament to who Jake Owen is in the most unassuming ways possible. The Brothers Osborne have been making a huge splash among country music fans with their infectious single, “RUM!” Jake topped this day off with a sinking summer sun, so why not mix it with RUM? Mmm. Mmm. He joined one of the Brothers Osborne on stage to duet this effort, no doubt with the enthusiastic approval of the fans. They’re another new act around town and this exposure of their hit single, in advance of a new EP, was Jake’s way of entertaining while endorsing – wholeheartedly. Singer-songwriter, Sonia Leigh, made an appearance at this party. She’s not new to the country music scene but some of her contributions have probably flown under the media radar outside of Music City. There are always songwriters behind those big hits, but rarely do fans know who they are. Sonia was a co-writer on two Zac Brown Band hits, “Goodbye in Her Eyes” and “Sweet Annie.” She’s an accomplished solo artist in her own right, and giving her the spotlight on this big stage gave her the opportunity to showcase her singing talent in front of fans who likely weren’t familiar with her. Knowing Jake’s deep appreciation for songwriters, highlighting her efforts here would also be a reason she was an honored guest. Hot country duo, Dan + Shay, crashed onto the country charts with their debut single, 19 You + Me. It didn’t take long for their music to catch on and put them on the fast track to being an in demand opening act. Their sound suits a beach party, even if it is in a parking lot. Fans of Jake Owen would welcome their summer feel music and give a big nod of approval to their performance. Earlier this summer, Jake collaborated with pop artist, Mike Posner, on a remix of his #1 single, “Beachin’.” He surprised the crowd with Mike’s guest spot, which got the ENTIRE audience jumping as a solid mass to his mega hit single, “Cooler Than Me.” Definitely a cool moment in the show!
‘Cause when that morning sun comes beating down
You’re going to wake up in your town
But we’ll be scheduled to appear
A thousand miles away from here
The Cadillac Three have been on the road with Jake since the beginning of the Days of Gold Tour in March. They open for him at every stop on the tour. They took part in the first Summer Block Party and were invited back for this one. Their friendship with Jake is no secret. What may have surprised some fans this time was the shout out Jake gave to one of the members of TC3, Jaren Johnston. Jaren is a well known songwriter in Nashville and a co-writer on five of the tracks on Days of Gold. Jake took a few moments during the show to offer a toast of sorts to Jaren for writing the songs that he says changed his life. “Beachin’” and “Days of Gold” were both co-writes for Jaren. To some, it might seem odd that Jake would pick this time to thank a songwriter. What better time to give a songwriter his due than in front of 40,000 of your fans who clearly LOVE those songs? They were already standing, Jake just gave them a reason to offer the ovation to a deserving friend and songwriter. Exceptionally classy move. Lee Brice‘s appearance had everything to do with a song. “Parking Lot Party” was a huge hit for Lee. He was a co-writer on that tailgate anthem and it was a song practically written for this occasion. Neither of these attributes was lost on Jake that night. Lee’s career is taking off under the power of his great voice and award winning song choices. His new album, I Don’t Dance (already a #1 single), is due out this week. The two had a ball with the song on stage and shared a beer to illustrate the fine art of tailgating before a show…or in this case…during the show.
Just a little bit longer
We want to play
Just a little bit longer
Taking in the sights and sounds of JAKE OWEN’S BEACH PARTY, Patti described to me in great detail the mood of the crowd, some of the more colorful incidents that happened throughout the evening, and the audience’s reaction to the performances. She was in the thick of that tightly packed mass of fans and felt as if she were being squeezed into the mosaic of shattered, colorful pieces that made up the periphery of the kaleidoscopic image that twisted and turned with each new musical guest’s appearance. Their focus would be in and out of the events on the stage with the intensity the moment dictated. Amidst the party atmosphere that permeated the event and the engaging way Jake Owen puts on a show, his connection to a song and a songwriter would turn out to be a defining moment for everyone. Following the success of his summer smash hit, “Beachin’,” Jake recently released a ballad off Days of Gold as the next single. “What We Ain’t Got” was co-written by Travis Meadows. It’s a time stopping song that forces you to step outside your noisy, chaotic life and take stock of the things you do have and the value we sometimes overlook in them. Travis is a brilliant songwriter with many hits to his credit. The struggles he’s faced likely weren’t known to the crowd, but no doubt Jake knew about them. He brought Travis out on stage with him to personally say thank you for a song that Jake says “may be the one I hang my hat on.” He’s full of pride when he talks about recording this song and releasing it as a single. For him, it was an honor to have Travis there to sing the song. The setting exemplified the meaning of the lyrics. Jake could have chosen to make the performance of this song all about him. The event itself could have been a celebration of all that he’s accomplished in his career thus far. Instead, he chose to put the spotlight on a raw moment of heartfelt emotion, poured out in a simple arrangement, accompanied by a piano. Travis and Jake sang together and Joe Arick played the piano. Jake knows that you can get caught up in all that life has to offer, especially when you’re in a position to grab a bigger piece of the pie. This was his way of counting his blessings instead of his money, and giving his fans the impetus to do the same. Only someone who doesn’t know Jake Owen would see this as out of character for him. He isn’t the life of the party with an occasional aha moment. He’s serious about connecting with people through his music and building a camaraderie that can celebrate life’s good times and lift you up during the lows. It’s exactly why his legion of loyal fans always wants him to stay and sing just one more song.
Now the promoter don’t mind
And the union don’t mind
If we take a little time
And we leave it all behind, and sing
One more song
All of the Jake Owen fans I’ve spoken to lament that time at the end of the show when they have to say good-bye to their favorite headliner until next time. They’d stay all night if he’d just keep singing. I asked Tim, the driver of one of his trucks, if he gets to watch all the shows. He said he could if he wanted to, and he did for much of the first few months of the tour. Unfortunately, show time is when he can try and get some rest before the all nighter he’s about to pull. As soon as the show ends, the work will begin again for the drivers and the crew who have waited patiently all day to tear down and pack up what you hoped would never leave. Tim told me that it takes a couple of hours to complete the process known as load out, generally putting them back on the road about 2-2:30am. JACKSON BROWNE immortalized “The Load Out” in a song by that name as a tribute to his roadies and his fans. It’s a song Jake Owen would appreciate for the sentiments expressed and one his driver, Tim Burnham, proudly made me aware of. It’s a song I grew up singing, without ever really paying attention to what the lyrics were talking about. We all go to concerts, love the shows we see, and go home, never giving a second thought to what happens after we leave. As they wait for the load out to be complete, Tim tells me that their longest stretch on the road without getting home was eight and half weeks. It’s becoming a more common occurrence among drivers on tour, due to the increasing demand on the artists to stay out on the road longer in order to make ends meet financially. Jake didn’t schedule stops in Canada during the rough winter season but there are plenty of other acts who did. If that trend continues, we may soon see the ice road truckers sign on to safely deliver the goods to igloo amphitheaters up north. Welcome to 21st century On Tour Logistics!
Oh, won’t you stay
Just a little bit longer?
Please, please, please
Say you will, say you will
Once the trucks are loaded and the checklist is complete, there’s no time for delay. Tim and the other drivers have a specific routine they follow when pulling out of a venue in search of the next. Tim’s truck will be the last to close it’s door after the final cargo is loaded, but the first to signify departure. The procedure they follow exiting the parking area has become one of superstition among them. Disregard it, and your safety could be in peril. Their official tour song is one recorded in 1984 by Ronnie Milsap called “Prisoner of the Highway.” Tim started playing it over the truck CB when they rolled out early in the tour season and it stuck. It talks about the freedom of the open road and the need to pacify a restless soul. The lyrics are something that resonates with the drivers and makes them appreciate the job they have. Tim said Jake’s crew members and tour drivers are a great bunch of guys. They all like the work and despite the fact that it is work, they have a great time doing it. Sounds like a philosophy Jake adheres to. The alternative to tour driving for many of the guys would be hauling freight. It’s an option they’re ok with, but one they’d rather avoid if a touring slot is available. These assignments are strictly based on a single tour schedule. There is no long term contract that guarantees you’ll be back with a particular artist when the next tour begins. True to Jake’s loyal character, he’s already said he wants the same guys back with him next year and though they know that anything can happen, they’re thrilled by the prospect of getting to stay on with Jake. He seems to have that affect on people. Anyone who’s spent any time around him just wants to stay a little longer. Leaving the BMI parking lot in the wee morning hours after JAKE’S BEACH PARTY, just after “Prisoner of the Highway” ends, driver Jeff Richardson will come on the radio with a weather report for their intended destination. Stay as they might like, this is the green light that it’s time to move on.
Oh, won’t you stay
Just a little bit longer?
Oh please, please stay
Just a little bit more
For everything we know about our favorite artists, there’s an equal amount we don’t know. The same could be said about the shows they put on and what went into the production of that concert we’re dying to see. We pass the trucks, see them parked at the venue, marvel at the stage setup and technology used at the show, without ever thinking about the crew and the skills involved in making all that concert magic happen. Just the logistics involved in getting everyone and everything delivered safely to each tour stop location is a minefield that must be traversed daily. The production materials have to arrive AND work to make that band look and sound as good as they can. Just as important is the safe delivery of the artists/musicians. Without them, you’ll be getting a refund (and probably be unhappy). The demands of touring, with the expectation of perfection in every performance, will take a toll after a long season that just keeps getting longer. As the headliner, all of this expectation from the fans, those counting on you for a job, and the label you’re signed to, will fall squarely on your shoulders 24/7. Add family responsibilities and a personal life to that, and anyone who can reasonably pull this off should be named entertainer of the year!
Now the promoter don’t mind
And the roadies don’t mind
If we take a little time
And we leave it all behind, and sing
One more song
Artists live for the concert experience. The pinnacle of that is being a headliner. By the time they’ve reached that lofty place, a lot has gone into the making of the music that will be played and the relationship the artist has built with the fans. Fans love a great concert, and when it’s their favorite artist, they always want them to stay and sing just one more song. That’s what encores were made for. If you stumbled upon JAKE OWEN’S BEACH PARTY and didn’t know who he was, you might make certain assumptions. As you were walking past, you’d see what he looked like, hear a sound byte of his music, and hastily pass judgment. Depending on what part of the concert you saw, your opinion of Jake Owen would be different. If you were there for the entire event, you would have a better understanding of Jake, his music, and his character. Bill McClintic‘s pictures from that night captured more than just Kodak moments from the show. When you photograph Jake, you get as much of his personality in those shots as his physical features. His character is present in every picture. Jake doesn’t take the stage at an event like this with 40,000+ fans screaming at him and think ‘Wow! Aren’t I cool?’ He thinks there’s nobody cooler than his fans…each and every one of them. Jake relates to people on a personal level, and his music is the expression of that connection. When Jake commits to a tour stop or an event, you don’t get an ‘I’m just passing through’ representation of him. You get ALL of him. He doesn’t hide away in his bus until show time. He immerses himself in the opportunities to leave something behind besides just empty beer cans and a half-hearted “thanks for coming.” He’ll invite some fans to lunch and pay the bill. Being the health nut he is, he likes to see kids eat, especially on his dime. If he has beer, he’ll find someone to share it with. If he’s got a night off on tour, he’ll ask at the local bar if he can play a free show for whoever shows up that night. Find a group of middle-aged women celebrating their birthdays, and he’ll leave tickets for the show and invite them on stage. Jake can be silly, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t be equally serious. He makes music that takes you where he’s been and shows you where his heart is. Music is a gift in his life and it’s one he continuously pays forward. The trucks bearing the Days of Gold banner will continue across America like a rolling stone. They’ll make stops in cities and the country alike before ending the tour in Jake’s home town of Vero Beach, Florida. He may look a little worse for wear when he gets there, but they won’t judge him for that. He’ll make the rounds, say hello to everyone, and probably play a free show back where he started at the RIVERSIDE Cafe. The visit will end too soon. They’ll wish he could stay, and he will too….just a little bit longer.
From WAYNorthofNashville…Bev Miskus
Bringing the stories of country music to life!
P.S. The live version of Jackson Browne’s song, “The Load Out,” was recorded at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD, on August 27, 1977. Jake will be playing at Merriweather Post on October 4-5. I bought those tickets long before I decided to write this article or had any idea that his drivers had a connection to the song. All in favor of Jake playing that song there…it’s overwhelmingly YES JAKE!!!
All of the photographs of Jake’s tour trucks and drivers appear courtesy of Tim Burnham (On Tour Logistics).
Special thanks to Tim Burnham and Bill and Patti McClintic for their ENORMOUS contributions to this article! Without them, the facts and event photographs would not exist!
Jake’s band members provided not only the AWESOME music for this concert but the rock star poses for the pictures!! They are: Dave Wallace (guitar), Derek Williams (guitar and whatever else needs playing), Rob Emerson (bass), Joe Arick (keys, guitar, harmonica), and Myron Howell (drums).
JAKE OWEN – WHAT WE AIN’T GOT – DAYS OF GOLD
Download Jake’s new single! Only .69 NOW on iTunes! HERE
Music venues are rankedbased on their size and desirability within the industry. Carnegie Hall, Madison Square Garden, the Hollywood Bowl, are all marquee venues that indicate one’s status as an artist by having played there. For some, it’s the pinnacle of their career. But prior to performing on those grand stages, these acts will play plenty of local venues, honing their performance skills in anticipation of big cities, bright lights. The smaller venues scattered across the music map will have to compete with one another for big name acts and patrons alike to fill their limited spaces. The owners work diligently to find their entertainment and even harder to bring the fans in. When you find the right connection between act and audience, the end result can feel like a standing ovation at Carnegie Hall. Something organic happens in small venues. Absent the glitz and glamor, the music takes center stage. You can’t rely on state of the art acoustics, comfortable seating, or media enhancements to your set. You’re there with the basics, and you have to make that work, and and the beauty of that is….anything can happen.
The TALLY HO Theatre was built in 1932 in Leesburg, Virginia, a suburb of Washington DC. It fronts a quaint downtown street in what is now the historic district. It was originally built as a movie theater with a stage for live performances as well. It was purchased two years ago by its current owners, Jack and Don Devine, and has since been renovated to accommodate a variety of stage and floor set ups. The theater seats have been removed and the slanted floor remains open to allow for a standing room only crowd of 650. The night I was there it was set with chairs to the left and right of center stage, leaving an open aisle between for standing and dancing. High top tables with stools were set up along the outer walls. The balcony area above serves as a VIP lounge offering guaranteed seating and access to food and drinks. On the main level there are two bars serving beer and wine, one in the lobby and one in the rear of the theater with high top table seating. A light menu is available offering finger foods made fresh at La Lou Bistro next door. Merchandise tables for each of the artists were set up in the bar area. The show on this evening started at 8pm with doors opening at 7pm. Our tickets were scanned as we waited in line outside the front doors and hand stamps were given to those 21 and over with proper identification. This proved to be a very efficient way of handling the entry process. In every aspect, the staff at the Tally Ho was polite, professional, and always helpful. As a matter of additional conveniences offered, free parking is available in the parking garage adjacent to the theater. La Lou Bistro is located next door, providing the perfect spot for a pre-show dinner. They serve exceptional Mediterranean cuisine in a casually elegant setting. At the Tally Ho, happy hour drink specials are offered in the hour between doors opening and show time. The night I was there the special was Blue Moon on tap for $3. This provided the perfect setting for what was sure to be a fabulous night of live music!
The Morrison Brothers Band brought their local roots to the Tally Ho for a performance that was a declarative statement. Having taken the Ice Bucket Challenge to promote ALS awareness just minutes before taking the stage, it was imperative that they heat up the stage, and their body temps – rapidly. They opened with Delbert McClinton’s classic hit, “Everytime I Roll the Dice.” Lead singer, Willie Morrison, delivers this one like testimony from a tent revival. The bluesy grit he draws through his vocal chords will make you a believer. Amen and hallelujah! Feeling like you’ve Never Been Rocked Enough? Prepare yourself for a country blues sermon, only out here, we’ll call it the Leesburg Address. They followed that one with a couple of songs off their latest album, State of The Union. The instrumentation and vocal approach they used on these had a different feel than the studio sound. Kevin Nolan led on guitar and set the groove for an intimate jam session with “Easily Pleased.” Willie’s vocals followed the groove and melded with the moment. In “Gimme All the Love,” the jam session unfolded, inviting the other instrumentalists to participate. Harmonies lifted the music and Matt Nolan on drums reigned them in for a finish that had the audience clapping along. Clearly an amen from the crowd!
Keeping the jam session alive, they debuted a new song that took off like a train ride and we were the lucky passengers. Matt Nolan was clearly in the engineer’s seat on drums with the guitars helping to pull the song along the tracks. Just as it would slow to gather steam, it would race off again at Matt’s command, all with Willie singing off the back of the caboose, reminding us where we’d been in those passing miles. As the trees fall away in the distance, trigger the whistle and the puff of smoke, this relationship just went “Up in smoke, down in flames/Jump on up, rolling like a freight train.” MBB’s cover of “Up In Smoke” could very well be their signature sound. Willie’s vocal is spectacular here and the tight musicianship behind him makes this a standout moment in their set. From there, they debuted two new songs set to be released in the coming months that are both testaments to love. It was a two-sided musical approach to the same sentiment. Either way, the crowd loved it all. Covering Sturgill Simpson’s “Life Ain’t Fair & the World Is Mean” brought that train back to the tent revival. Willie’s vocal was pure honky tonk preachin’ with every instrument providing its own unique amen.
Having captured the attention of everyone by this point, the last few songs in their set put an exclamation point on who they are as a band. “Without Me” was the only ballad of the night and a showcase song for them to silence the crowd with the emotion they bring to it. This one got a huge reaction, and they followed that up with another show stopper. “Copperhead Road” is an iconic Steve Earle song. For some bands, taking that on might be risky. Not here. Drummer, Matt Nolan, OWNS this song! It’s the only one he takes lead vocals on, twisting the power of his voice around the forceful performance he gives on drums. The other instruments attempt to take on this venomous explosion of sound but the bite of this copperhead proves fatal, making this a KILLER song! Can’t say he didn’t warn us to stay away from Copperhead Road. Willie rolls out the blues for their cover of Ray LaMontagne’s “Trouble.” His interpretation brings a depth of emotion to the song that the instrumentation supports. The set ends with the reveal of another new song set to be released as the snow starts falling. It’s a beautiful song that somehow manages an upbeat bluesy feel to it that will have you wanting to dance barefoot in the summertime. Having done their time at the tent revival, The Morrison Brothers Band leaves us with a shot of “Little Miss Whiskey.” After all that redemption, the crowd reacted with a cheer for the whiskey and it set the mood for the party the Girl in Your Truck Song was about to bring to the stage!
When I arrived at the Tally Ho, Maggie Rose’s stage set up was in place. The first thing that caught my eye was the drum head. The large picture of Maggie’s face that was on it was tagged ‘MAGGIE ROSE BAND.’ That moniker spoke volumes about the show we were about to see and even more about the woman the band is named for. Maggie Rose is no diva. She does not take the stage and demand the spotlight. She opened her set with a song that invited us to the party she was throwing on her home turf. She grew up just 36 miles from the venue. As the hostess, the first thing she did when the song ended was politely introduce the group by saying, “I’m Maggie Rose and we are the Maggie Rose Band.” It would be the only formality of the evening. From that moment on, we were treated like friends and family who’d been invited for drinks and entertainment after work. TGIF! She made us feel welcome from the outset. At the start of the second song, she engaged with the family and friends gathered there and invited us into the performance. The song, “Fall Madly In Love With You,” explained her reticence for following the rules and expressed her desire to just get on with things. From that bold move, she made another.
Without giving us a chance to pass judgment on her intentions, the band, as if having her back, played boldly behind her “Mostly Bad” confession. It was a shameless vocal with no discretion in its intention to make us all sinners. The forbidden fruit she sings of is a dress that’s Cut To Impress, but with her powers of vocal persuasion, fashion choice is irrelevant. The audience reaction was clearly ‘show us your horns, Maggie. Halos are overrated.’ Imploring us to support her choices and join the chorus, she turned up the heat with an ELO cover of “Don’t Bring Me Down.” This throwback to a rock classic was not the least bit out of its era in this setting. Maggie’s musical soul seems to transcend her youth and she delivered with the authenticity of a vinyl recording. It got a huge response from the crowd. At this point in the set, Maggie brought the audience closer to her, not in a physical way, but rather in making an emotional connection through her commentary and the music. Embracing the family atmosphere she’d created, it would be the first of several times throughout the evening that she would give a shout out to her opening act. She applauded them as if she were a proud sister, and encouraged us to do the same. From here, she started to share pieces of her life with us as they related to the songs she performed. In the spirit of TGIF, she said they’d written this one in the back of the tour bus to capture the feeling of celebrating the weekend. The band’s emphatic performance of “Goodbye Monday” invited the audience to participate in this joy ride set to music.
This led to one of the more intimate parts of the set, which included two songs that Maggie poured her broken heart into. She’s begun work on her second album and we were treated to one of the songs that’ll be on it. “When You Drink Tonight” is a bad relationship inspired song that everyone can relate to. There’s a strength and tenderness to it that only Maggie can deliver, making it a musical salve for the heart. Cementing her bond with the audience, she shared her personal connection to her hit single, “Better.” There’s a thread that runs through this song that started when Maggie first heard it. Over the years, as fans have told her what the song means to them, she said it resonates with a deeper meaning every time she sings it. The emotion she captured in this vocal with its accompanying harmonies and instrumentation was simply magnificent. This was performance art at its finest. After this show stopper, Maggie introduced the members of her incredible band. They are: Jason Graumlich on guitar from Nashville; Sarah Tomek on drums from Asbury Park, NJ; Tim Braisted on bass from PA; Zac Lasher on keys from Brooklyn; and Luke Moller on fiddle, mandolin, and guitar from Melbourne, Australia. This mixture of hometowns together on one stage, and that being a country stage on this night, led perfectly into Maggie’s reality check song, “Hollywood.” For those who think they’re above country music lyrics, she holds their lives up to a mirror in this one and tells ‘em what’s what. “Dysfunctions, dysfunction/No matter what state you come from.” The crowd finished this one and roared their approval! Again, showing her love for The Morrison Brothers Band and the many times they’ve played together, she reveals a little secret here. Sorry. What happens in Leesburg, stays in Leesburg.
As any good hostess would do, Maggie checked in with her guests frequently throughout the show, just to make sure we were all still having a good time. After treating us to some “Good Clean Fun,” she invited everyone to see her after the show so she could meet all of her new friends. This led into a part of the show that demonstrated the diversity that Maggie Rose brings to the stage. Her rendition of the Hank Williams classic, “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” was a jaw dropping vocal, accompanied by instrumentation that fed off the soul in her voice. Had you closed your eyes and just listened, you would swear you were in a 1940s blues club. No one can top what she did with that song. Stunning, MAGGIE ROSE! Wondering how the hell she was going to follow that, she takes us to an execution. Her own. Providing the background for this single, “Looking Back Now,” her friend, Lisa Carver, wrote it the first year she was in Nashville. Maggie marveled at her friend’s ability to put “Sodium theopentol drips” legitimately in a song lyric. The novelty of this song was too good to pass on so in a way that only Maggie could, she turned a double murder/execution into a hit song. You go girl! Setting up the next song, she shared a little of her background with drummer, Sarah Tomek. At 15, Maggie was part of a Springsteen tribute band called the B Street Band. She met Sarah while playing at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ. What better way to reminisce than with a Springsteen song. “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” brought the Jersey Shore to Leesburg! This was definitely a crowd pleaser. Changing gears and taking us back to the country, the band kicked it up with “You Never Drank With Country.”
Putting her musical signature on the evening, Maggie finished with three sensational observations from the female side of things. “Girl In Your Truck Song” is her latest single and one that’s perfect for singing along with the windows rolled down on a summer night. Here, she reminds us what’s missing in all those cliched truck songs and offers to fill that void. This one got a great reception from the crowd. Bringing us in closer, she hesitates and asks if she can tell us a secret. Calling us family, she wants to share the secret behind her dark and dramatic song, “Preacher’s Daughter.” With the drum backing her up for emphasis, she let the bombshell explode across the room. Starting the song off with instrumentation that suggests a showdown in a small western town, this is the original “Got a real good feelin’ something bad about to happen.” Her dramatic delivery of this one was murder mystery brilliant. I’ll smile every time I hear this song from now on, just thinking about Maggie’s revenge. Sorry, no tabloid journalism is going to reveal this front page secret. If you want to know what really happened, check out Maggie’s tour schedule. It’s best she tell you this one herself. With our hostess ready to say her farewell, she thanks everyone for coming, shouts out her band and The Morrison Brothers one more time, and leaves the men in the room with this thought, “Guys, we love ya, but “I Ain’t Your Momma.” It was a perfect end to a MAGGIE ROSE kind of night.
Live music events are a staple of weekend entertainment plans. The vast majority of these will not take place in grand venues like Carnegie Hall. Instead, local concert halls, theaters, and bars will play host to up and coming acts as well as seasoned veterans of the concert circuit. Acting as a supportive family, they provide the stages and a place for fans to gather, listen to, and applaud their efforts. Coming to the Tally Ho felt like being welcomed in by an old friend. It’s a warm, inviting place where you can share a few drinks with friends and listen to some fantastic live music. Every aspect of the experience they provide shows a deep appreciation for music and the potential that hovers over a live performance. As a fan of live music, conditions don’t come any better than this. It’s a TGIF environment without the hassles of a typical bar scene, alive with the possibilities an unrestrained jam session can bring. The combination of homegrown talents, The Morrison Brothers Band and MAGGIE ROSE, was a perfect display of the best our State of The Union has to offer. Local talent, combined with a local venue and the people who’ve been fans supporting their journey, is a fitting tribute to the community effort it takes to launch a music career. Dreams of bigger stages start on smaller ones just like this. The Morrison Brothers Band‘s “Small Town” explains that “To save my soul I need another taste/of the place I used to be.” Having gone off to New York City, they realize “This big city sure has found/the small town in me.” The quality of their live show is big city. The sentiments expressed are small town. Their delivery is jam session passionate, intimate and full of raw emotion. What connects them to MAGGIE ROSE, like family, is the deep way they connect with the music and the soul their music reveals. Willie Morrison called Maggie Rose “the queen,” but you won’t see her sitting on any throne. Maggie’s throne is the stage on which she sings the blues. No crown needed to display the command she has when she sings. She rules from the microphone. “Put Yourself In My Blues” is a formal invitation to her live show. No one gets more life out of the music than Maggie Rose, and what she gets, she gives back tenfold to her audience in a breathtaking performance. Leaving the show, someone said to me, “WOW! That MAGGIE ROSE can really sing.” The only answer that seemed appropriate… “Hell yeah!”
From WAYNorthofNashville.…..Bev Miskus
Bringing the stories of country music to life!
Note: The other two members of The Morrison Brothers Band who were not mentioned by name in this article are Truman Morrison on guitar and Dave Benson on bass.
Because Maggie considers her family too, a big shout out goes to the fabulous Raina, who handles the merchandise table brilliantly! Her recommendation of the pink shirt was spot on! LOVE IT Raina! Thanks!
WhenI set out on my journey through the back roads of west central Ohio, I had no idea what I would find along the way, or at my intended destination. My philosophy has always been that in order to truly understand something, you need to immerse yourself in it. Consider this a textbook case of Country Music Immersion 101. My vacation plans landed me in a suburb of Cincinnati last week. I had been tracking Rodney Atkins tour schedule for an opportunity to see him in concert and this was the closest I would get. So on Friday afternoon, August 8, I took a map, Map Quest directions (God help me!), and drove north on Route 127. According to the map, I would run smack into Celina, Ohio via this road and a couple of turns would put me at the gate to the Mercer County Fair. How hard could this be? Well, given my recent history of attending events at fairgrounds, anything is possible!
It was a beautiful summer day in Ohio and I was looking forward to the quick and easy two hour drive to Celina. Route 127 is mostly a two lane road with posted speed limits of 45-55mph. Turning off the highway onto my idyllic back road, there were initially a few stoplights in a few small towns that looked long forgotten. Once bustling Main Streets were now gas, fast food, and go stops. Further along the route, I started to see yard sale signs and road side stands selling farm fresh produce from local farms. Picture perfect middle America. Continuing northward, the yard sale signs became more frequent. A lot more frequent! Hmm. Passing by these yard sales in yards fronting this route, traffic would slow to about 30mph or less to allow for those car window shoppers to stop…in the road…look left or right…and decide if they wanted to pull over. Sweet. Oh look, there’s a barn for sale! I wonder if they deliver? Moving on, a sign just off the road caught my eye. “127 SALE!” “WORLD’S LONGEST YARD SALE!” Welcome to the country.
I was supposed to be on Route 127 for 85 miles…of yard sales. Oh wait, there’s a bright orange sign up ahead. DETOUR. Apparently they had sold a portion of Route 127 because the sign said, “Road out next 5.6 miles. Please use detour.” Well, at least this would get me away from yard sale traffic for awhile. Proceeding slowly along the smaller two lane roads I’d been directed to, I was now in farm country. And the corn was looking good by the way! Sweet corn for sale! Not to be outdone by the bargains being offered on Route 127, yard sales popped up along these roads as well. I don’t think they were doing as well as the vendors on 127 because all I passed the entire detour was a couple of tractors. This was truly a Norman Rockwell landscape. If you were looking to get right with your soul, this would be a good place to start. The detour lasted maybe 15-20 miles before it tossed me back onto yard sale avenue for the rest of my “Take A Back Road” journey. The two hour tour I was promised took three and a half. Looking on the bright side, I was in the perfect frame of mind to see the guy who’d encouraged me to “put a little gravel in my travel.”
Driving up to the ticket booth at the Mercer County Fairground, I sensed a time warp. The entrance fee was just $6. Perhaps that’s standard in the Midwest but definitely a bargain by east coast prices. I glanced around the setting and thought I’d arrived back at my childhood (which took place in Missouri). This was most definitely a community event. The kinship was featured everywhere. I met some friends I’d had the pleasure of communicating with via phone and internet but hadn’t met in person yet. They were as delightful as the setting (read AWESOME!!). We surveyed the scene together and decided dinner at grandma’s would be perfect. My friends being New Yorkers and I residing in the DC area, when we saw that the price of chicken was $2.75, we stared in disbelief. It was an a la carte menu that offered an array of side dishes and more kinds of pie than I’d ever seen in one place in my life. The total for this all-american gourmet treasure was $9.25, and that included a drink and dessert. Nostalgia…priceless.
The set-up for the Rodney Atkins concert was your typical fairgrounds grandstand seating. The stage was set up in the infield, there were chairs in front of it on the track, and the rest of the seats were in the grandstand. Rodney was the marquee event for this fair with the Swon Brothers opening for him. By show time, the seats were nearly filled and introductions were made. The local radio station, T102.1 WIMT, had representatives there and along with fair organizers, welcomed the artists and took time out before the show started to do a very American thing, but an unusual concert thing. A local talent sang the National Anthem and a fallen hometown hero was honored with a gun salute. I can’t imagine a more perfect line-up to follow that to the stage than the Swon Brothers and Rodney Atkins. Two authentic country music acts on the purest of American stages. “It’sAmerica” indeed!
If you didn’t know that the Swon Brothers were from Oklahoma, you’d have thought Celina was their hometown. They were welcomed like family and performed as such. Their set was an entertaining variety of old and new songs that the crowd clearly enjoyed. It’s an energetic, feel-good show that involved bringing an audience member up on stage to sing with them. When she finished, they let her pick anything she wanted from their merchandise table and the gesture was much appreciated. They closed the show with their hit single, “Later On,” and it was a definite crowd pleaser. As we sat in our seats on the track, we noticed people carrying plastic bags all around us. Closer inspection revealed the concert equivalent of the holy grail…the bag of beer. A quick consultation revealed that none of us had EVER seen a bag of beer at a concert or anywhere else. The heavy duty plastic bag contained five cans of your select beer ON ICE, and the price for this marvelous invention was just $10. I’ll give you a minute to just sit in stunned silence and appreciate this holy find. Celina, Ohio – home of the bag of beer! Instant cooler at your feet. And there were a lot of coolers purchased that night. The added beauty – everything in that bag, including the bag, was recyclable. Awe inspiring to say the least! So far, that country music immersion class is working out just fine, and it looks like we’ve got a full house to start the show! Any time you’re ready Rodney…
For all those who think “real” country music doesn’t exist anymore, you aren’t looking in the right places. Rodney Atkins is the embodiment of country music and all that it stands for. This was not just a concert; It was a country music experience. Rodney’s show is a celebration of the heart of America, the values this country was founded on, and the storytelling country music was built on. He takes the stage with a simple presence that glows with authenticity. He belongs on that stage, in that setting. The stage was as basic and yet as grand as it needed to be. His semi was backed right up to the side of it. No extreme light show. No jumbo trons. Nothing to distract the audience from what mattered. Rodney comes to entertain, and he does it from a rock solid foundation. What’s it’s built on is his pure country voice (no autotuning necessary), his engaging frontman personality, songs that have depth, both lyrically and instrumentally, and a rock band that he stole from another decade. You could not ask for more in a single concert performance than these guys gave that night. Simply stunning!
Behind this rock band heist are five incredible musicians, and it is obvious by watching them interact with Rodney on stage, that no one appreciates their talent more than he does. Kevin Rapillo is the drummer; Dan Galysh plays lap steel; Judd Fuller is the bass player; Phil Shouse is on lead guitar, and Liam Bailey plays guitar and anything else that needs to be played. They are a tight group, on and off stage, and it shows in their performance. Nothing is out of sync, and even the unrehearsed parts of the show have a polished shine to them. Rodney casts his set like an expert fisherman. He baits the audience with his hit songs that the audience knows and loves. Taking the bait, the crowd sang back to him on more than one occasion that night. In between those songs, he tested the waters. He might cast out a bit farther with an unfamiliar bait and sing some of his lesser known songs, both tender ballads and toe tappers with a beat. Borrowing from some of his fishing buddies, he reeled in a few cover songs that proved to be a great catch. Charlie Daniels’ “Long Haired Country Boy” was a perfect fit for this band. It was a great tribute to a country legend and yet unique in its interpretation.
Throughout the show, Rodney proved what a genuine entertainer he is. There was a constant dialogue between him and the audience, whether through song or spoken word. He expressed a common bond and authenticated that through the songs he chose and the values he exhibited. When he took the time to thank his audience for attending the show, for the blue collar lives most of them led, and for their military service, it wasn’t just a thoughtless cattle call. He meant every word of it, and not one person in that crowd doubted his sincerity. Having seen more than a few country concerts, what he did in the middle of the show was as generous as I’ve ever seen a headliner be. Knowing full well what his band was capable of, and what his audience would love, he turned that rock band loose. He stepped back from the front of the stage and turned the spotlight on their talents. Each member did a solo, and not just a soundbite of one. Judd Fuller‘s bass solo was sublime! Rodney asked him how low he could go and Judd spared nothing in demonstrating his bad ass bass chops. Awesome! Judd then acted as referee of a guitar hero showdown between Phil Shouse and Liam Bailey. Trading riffs from instantly recognizable rock classics, no one wanted this battle to end, least of all – Rodney! From this dynamic display, he set up Kevin Rapillo‘s drum solo. Complete with the skull flashing on the front of his drum kit, Kevin exploded on those drums and Rodney cheered him on. To end this live vinyl portion of the show, the entire group turned their focus on Dan Galysh and his steel guitar. It was a beautiful finish, showcasing the intricacies of the instrument and the precision he uses to deliver that unique sound. What a gift for the audience this was!
Country music often takes a beating for what it is and what it isn’t. The same could be said about the Heartland. Both are supposed to embody the values of America and the things we hold dear. County fairs are a staple of summertime entertainment in the country. The people of Mercer County in Celina, Ohio, were best in show for the fair they offered. Pride in their community was abundantly clear. When I looked out over the crowd assembled for that concert, it was an extended American family. Grandparents sat beside their children and grandchildren, neighbor beside neighbor. The only colors that mattered were red, white, and blue. They sang together, danced together, and listened to someone they could relate to. He didn’t roll into their town and present himself as a gift they should be grateful for. With humility and American pride, he relished the opportunity to do what he loves amongst families with service members who fought for the freedom that allows such things. The respect that was evident between Rodney Atkins and his audience was illuminated in the song they sang together, “These AreMy People.” The crowd knew every word, and it was sung with as much pride as the National Anthem. This is country music, alive and well in America’s Heartland and every time Rodney Atkins takes the stage. So the next time you’re feeling disgruntled about the music you’re hearing on the radio, turn it off, pop in a Rodney Atkins CD, and “Take ABack Road.” Who knows? You might make some new friends or find a bargain at a yard sale. If you take the right detour, you just might end up at a great concert with a bag of cold beer at your feet. “It’sAmerica!”
Bringing the stories of country music to life!
Note: The night of this concert happened to be Kevin Rapillo’s 50th birthday. As families do, a cake was presented…during the concert…by Rodney Atkins. He then led the audience in singing “Happy Birthday” to his drummer. Again, a generous and classy move by Rodney.
All of the concert photographs are courtesy of Bill McClintic III at 90 East Photography.com
Great concert moments caught on film!
Judd Fuller killin’ it on bass!
Phil Shouse smokin’ that guitar!
Liam Bailey lost in the music!
Kevin Rapillo clearly enjoying his job!
Dan Galysh in tune with the music!
Winner of the guitar hero duel – Phil Shouse!
Rodney has an outstanding group of musicians backing him up who are all accomplished in their own right. To find out more about them, read my interviews: