Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Double #Swoncert Weekend - July 2015

Warning:  This is a long one!

Is it possible to have the perfect concert experience weekend where everything goes just right even when it seems it’s going wrong?  If it’s possible, then my friend Amanda and I did just that. 

Amanda and I are big fans of The Swon Brothers - a country duo from our home state of OK - and have even traveled as far as Dallas/Ft. Worth to see them in concert....or what they like to call a #Swoncert.  We are also HUGE fans of their keyboard player, Seth Costner.  Being that big a fan of someone can cause you to plan a crazy road trip and decide to see the same band play 2 nights in a row in 2 different states.  Well, at least it can cause me to do that anyway.

Amanda and I found out The Swon Brothers were playing the Ellis County Fair in Hays, KS (5.5 hour drive) and had talked about going to see them.  Then they announced a show here in our hometown of Tulsa, OK.  We scored front row seats for that show but still had the bug to go to KS.  So, we decided to just go for it and make it a girls’ weekend and see them in both states.

We had a presale code for the Tulsa show and got front row off to the side but then, a couple weeks later, they opened up front row center seats.  So, of course, we bought a second set.  Within 2 days I had sold the first set to a friend who had read my blog about them from the Texas show we went to.  She had never heard of them but trusted me from my review and was excited to go and take her son who was turning 30 that week.  Sweet!

Our weekend started on Friday, actually.  We drove to Hays in a yellow convertible Camaro that Amanda rented.  You should have seen the 2 of us trying to get the top to open.  Neither of us had ever driven a convertible before so the owner’s manual was our friend!  And even with that, it took a bit to figure it out.  We finally got it open but it didn’t last long.  No way were we doing that whole trip with our hair whipping all over the place.  Plus I would have to wear sunscreen to keep from frying in the sun.  Redhead problems!

As we were leaving, our friend Kristina Carlyle from the radio station 106.1 The Twister played us a request of the The Swon Brothers song “Later On” and then dedicated another song to us for good travels on the road.  Too fun!  This day was off to a great start.

We took our time driving and managed to find “Road Trip Radio” on SiriusXM that just played great songs.  Amanda found out that I know the words to A LOT of songs.  Didn’t matter what genre, I was belting out the songs.  Have I mentioned before that I’m kind of addicted to music?

We arrived in Hays about 5:00pm, checked in to our hotel and headed to the fair.  This was just the cutest county fair ever!  You could tell they put a lot of work into it and the community really comes together for it.
We didn’t do too much walking around because our main goal was to secure front row for the show.  We were the 2nd set of people to go in the concert area.  We were able to rent chairs for $1 each so we grabbed those and headed to the stage.  Front and center baby!  Right where we wanted to be!  We made friends with the other group that came in the same time as us.  We agreed to watch each other’s stuff if we had to leave.  In talking to them we mentioned we were from Tulsa.  “Oh!  We heard about you” they said.  What?  We had planned to have a great time there but were we already legends in Ellis County before we even got there?  Well, ok then.

We just hung out at our seats for a while and watched the opening act do their sound check.  It was 101° outside but it didn’t feel so bad.  We were in a little bit of shade from the stage and the wind was blowing.  And boy was it blowing!  All of the sudden, somewhere around 6:30pm, 70mph straight line winds started blowing across the parking lot.  Dust was everywhere and the stage started shaking.  The lights were moving, the speakers were swaying and even the drums were falling over.  It scared us a bit so we decided we were not going to be by that stage during all this.   We took refuge over by a beer truck.  At this point we figured out that our back stage passes had a typo.  They spelled Swon wrong!   Oh no!!!!  You had 1 job, Ellis County!  We had quite a laugh about that while we were in the middle of this horrible dust storm.

Then out of nowhere the heavens opened up and it poured down rain.  I mean hail and so much rain you couldn’t see 5 feet in front of you!  We raced into the 4-H building to stay dry.  I’m glad we did.  We got a chance to look around at the sewing and art projects, the veggies that were up for display and even got to cast our vote for the best bedazzled bra to raise money for charity.  Yep!  I said bedazzled bra!  The minion bra was in the lead when we left.   I told you this fair was just adorable.

It didn’t rain for very long so we headed back to our seats to assess the damage.  Chairs were still there but just wet.  I had brought a towel with me so we wiped them down and took our seats again.  The parking lot was muddy but not for long.  Within a half hour or so it was completely dry.  Amazing!  The winds didn’t quit though.  The band members were having a tough time keeping the instruments upright for a while.  One of the drummers ended up just sitting at his drums for about 20 minutes so they wouldn’t fall over again.

The opening act was Curtis Grimes.  He was a contestant on the first season of The Voice.  We had meet and greet passes with The Swon Brothers so we didn’t get to see most of his set.  He did a great job with the few songs we did get to see him perform.

Curtis Grimes

I mentioned band member Seth Costner earlier.  I became a fan of his after seeing him with The Swon Brothers the very first time back in January.  He released an EP several years back and when I heard it I couldn’t stop listening to it.  He has so much talent.  Over the last 6 months or so I have listened to his music so much I pretty much have every word of every song memorized.  He has new music coming out soon so I’ll be bombarding all social media about it when it happens.  But for now, go listen to his EP From the Ashes or check him out on YouTube.   Here’s a great one to start with and also my favorite song of his. Seth Costner - "The Easy Part"

Anyway, Amanda and I decided just for fun we would have some t-shirts made to support Seth.  We even had one made for him.  He came out to say hi before the show and we were able to give him the shirt.  He even wore it for the concert that night.  

When we went back to meet Zach and Colton Swon they noticed our shirts right away and loved them.  We got to talk to them for a little bit, got a picture and then it was back out to watch the show.

The start was delayed because of the wind but they finally decided to go for it.  They had to keep the roof of the stage lowered until about half way through the show but it didn’t seem to matter.  They started the music and Amanda and I were on our feet dancing and singing for the next hour plus. There’s nothing like being front and center and the only ones up dancing.  But that seemed to be a theme for the weekend.

The Swon Brothers

Zach Swon
Colton Swon
Later on in the show, when they introduced the band members, they called Seth to the front and mentioned his shirt.  They then pointed us out and said that we had come 5.5 hours to see him and didn’t we realize we were at a Swon Brothers concert?  Too funny!  Yes, we love you boys too but you already have your own shirts.

Not too long after that, Colton came over and put the mic in front of Amanda to sing Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Fishin’ in the Dark” with him.  Totally made her night!

Seth Costner
Aaron Wolfcale
Joe Henderson

These boys really can put on a show!  If you want a detailed review of what they can do, just read my previous blog entry here.

They are working on new music now and I videoed one of the new songs “Just Another Girl.”  You can see it on YouTube here.

After the show was over we got a chance to talk to several of the band members who are all just the nicest guys ever.  Then we headed out with the convertible top down to grab some late night food at IHOP.  No way were we sleeping for a while after the day we had!

Day 2:

As much as we wanted to sleep in, we needed to get back home for our second concert of the weekend.  So, we said good-bye to Hays and drove back to Tulsa Saturday morning.  After just a couple of hours at home we were off to Hard Rock Casino for what was sure to be another amazing show. 

We had meet and greet passes for this night too.  So once the doors opened we headed over to get in line for that.  Remember the person I sold the other set of front row tickets too?  Well, she happened to be handed meet and greet passes as she was coming in that night for the show.  And it made it even better that it was her son’s birthday.  I even saw after the show that he got one of the drum sticks.  How perfect!

We got our picture again with Zach and Colton and they were even kind enough to sign our tickets for us.  You really can’t ask for nicer guys!  They remembered us from the night before and asked us where our Team Costner shirts were.  We opted for Swon Brothers shirts this time.  It is their concert after all.

The Joint was sold out.   The opener was Corey Kent White who was on this last season of The Voice.  He is from Bixby, OK.  I grew up in Bixby so it was really neat to see a hometown boy make it big.  He sounded great!  He’s got a smokey voice.  He played several songs but his cover of The Beatles’ “Come Together” was fantastic!  His voice is perfect for that song.  I would buy a copy of that for sure.  I also liked his song “Till I Find a Keeper.”  I hope he goes far.  He’s got the talent for it.

Corey Kent White

Now time to bring out The Swon Brothers!  We noticed that everyone stayed seated during Corey’s set.  This worried us a little bit.  We tried recruiting those around us to stand with us but it was no use.  The music started, we jumped to our feet and we were the only ones.  I was quite a bit self-conscious about it at first.  We could see our heads bobbing up and down on the big screen.  But it didn’t take long for me to forget there were 2,500 other people in the room.  It was all about having a great time and for me that means dancing!  So I apologize to anyone that might have been behind me that night.  But sitting just wasn’t an option.

Zach and Colton Swon
Colton Swon
Jeff Coleman

Seth Costner

Aaron Wolfcale

Joe Henderson

I have seen The Swon Brothers play 5 times now.  This was the best I had ever heard them.  I don’t know if it was the home state crowd and all the family and friends there to support them, the venue itself or a combination but they sounded amazing!  By the time they got to the classic rock portion of the show several more people got brave and stood up.  That added even more energy to the place.  As soon as the show was over I said “I want to do it again!”  I sure didn’t want it to end.

After the show we were able to chat with the band again.  Then we got in line to meet Corey and the brothers one last time.  I can’t say how much these guys appreciate their fans.  They just get it.  They stayed to sign autographs and meet each and every person.  That means a lot to the fans and you can tell it means a lot to them that people are there to see them play.

And that was the end to our amazing Double #Swoncert Weekend.  We could not have asked for it to be any more perfect.  The next time The Swon Brothers play your town make sure you go see them!  I can’t promise a perfect concert experience but I can promise a really, really great show!

Do you love The Swon Brothers, Corey Kent White, Curtis Grimes or any of the other band members?  Chat with me about them on Twitter @shanherrold

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Swon Brothers - 5/22/15

So by now you have all learned that I am totally addicted to music and concerts.  But my habit/hobby is an expensive one so I do my best to not pay for as many concerts as possible by winning contests.  That being said, there are a handful of artists that are my total, absolute favorites and I don’t care what it costs, I will pay to see them.  An even smaller group I would call myself an uber fan; I have every album they make and I even join their fan clubs.  That list currently has 2 on it -- Josh Groban and Lady Antebellum.  Those 2 are about to get some company.

I saw The Swon Brothers late last year for K95.5’s Girls Night Out and again last month for 98.5 KVOO’s 5 Man Jam.  They are Zach and Colton Swon from Muskogee, OK which is just a short drive south of where I live.  They competed on The Voice Season 4 on Blake Shelton’s team and came in 3rd place.  I watched that season and voted my little heart out for them.  On the show they did a lot of Eagles and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers covers and those are 2 of my all-time favorite bands, which made me like them all the much more.

The 2 shows I saw them were acoustic and they made me want to see their full show but at the time the closest they were coming was Billy Bob’s Texas in Ft. Worth – 5 hours away.  My friend Amanda had gone to 5 Man Jam with me and we decided we would take a road trip to see them.  Our husbands even agreed to go with us.  Road trip and date night all wrapped up in one!

I have not been so excited to see a show in a while.  If you aren’t familiar with Billy Bob’s, they claim to be the “world’s largest honky-tonk.”  My husband and I love to dance – we even met in college at a country dance bar – so this was perfect.  We all went early so we could do a little dancing before the show.

This place was massive!  There were several bars, a pizza place, a BBQ restaurant and a large concert area.  There was also a dance floor with a live house band called Midnight Thunder.  They were really good.  Their guitar player even had a prosthetic hand he used to play.  That was amazing!  They played a good mix of country, blues and southern rock. The lead singer sounded a lot like Willie Nelson. 

You could also watch live bull riding at 9:00pm and 10:00pm.  It was $3 to get in but we heard the DJ say he had free tickets for a handful of people.  I’m sorry, did you say free?  I’m on it!  We raced up to the DJ booth and got our tickets.  He did it a second time for the 10:00 round and guess who was right there first in line? Yep!  We ended up seeing both rounds of bull riding for free.  Score!

What we didn’t realize was one of the local radio stations, 96.3 KSCS, was set up and registering people for a meet and greet.  We found them too late and the meet and greet was already happening.  Ugh!  But I did meet a fun guy from the station named Josh who gave me a t-shirt and bag.  Thanks Josh!

The show started at 10:30pm. The reserved seats were only about 1/3 full.  You were seated at long tables that were lined up perpendicular to the stage.  I did not like this at all!  Because of the way it was set up they did not want you standing so that everyone can see.  If you did stand up you were politely asked by someone to sit down.  That is the worst thing you can do to me – make me sit down during a concert!  I am a Zumba© Instructor.  I don’t sit down normally when music is playing and especially not at a concert!

The Swon Brothers gave their all up on stage.  They sounded great.  I really love how their voices blend.  The whole band played well and really filled up the whole place without being too overpowering.  I really enjoyed watching Jeff Coleman on guitar.  He seemed to be having a great time on stage.  He is from Tulsa so we had to give our hometown boy a little extra love.

The crowd was a little subdued which I believe is a result of having to sit down.  The whole band was giving us so much energy and I felt bad that we couldn’t give them that same energy back.   But you better believe I screamed my little heart out.  As a matter of fact, I can barely talk today because of my screaming. 

They started out the night singing some songs from their self-titled album including “What I’m Thinking About,” “Songs That Said It All” (I love this one), “95,” “Pretty Beautiful” (Amanda’s favorite) and “Pray For You.”  Colton mentioned before “Pray for You” that it is a song about something they still believe in - prayer.  It’s nice to hear that.

One of the most popular songs that they covered on The Voice was Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Fishin’ in the Dark.”  Love that song and they do a great version of it.  At this point in the show Colton wanted to find someone in the audience to sing along with him.  He found a girl in the front and asked her if she knew the song.  She said yes and they started it back up.  After the words “fishin’ in the dark” she stopped singing.  He stopped and said “I thought you said you knew the song.”  She said “I knew the fishin’ in the dark part.”  Too funny!  They tried again and then finished the song.

After that they asked us if they could do a new song and test it out on us.  It was called “Soakin Up the Sunshine."  I liked it. It’s exciting to hear they are working on a new album. 

At this part of the show, most of band goes away and they do a medley of pop songs with Seth Costner on guitar and Zach on drums.  I talked about Seth Costner in my KVOO 5 Man Jam blog.  Go check it out and remember that name!  He’s crazy talented and will be putting out his own EP this summer.  I’ll be letting you all know when it is out!

Seth started off the friendly competition of how to win the ladies with pop songs with a cover of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.”  Love his falsetto!  Then Zach comes back to the guitar and did his lady-killer version of Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me.”  Colton went old school and followed with his version of The Temptations’ “My Girl.”  This is the part of the show that I had seen before and I love it!  It’s fun to see them step out of their box and do something a little different.

They played several covers including Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine,” Eagles’ “Life In the Fast Lane,” Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page” and The Doobie Brothers’ “Listen to the Music.”  Classic rock has a special place in my heart and it was killing me to sit there and not be dancing around to these amazing songs.

Zach Swon is the lead vocalist on most of the songs and not only can he belt out “Ain’t No Sunshine” but he can play the guitar pretty darn good too!  Here’s a little snippet for your enjoyment. 

They ended the show with their hit “Later On.”  This happens to be my favorite song of theirs.  I remember hearing it on the radio for a long time, loving it and not knowing who it was.  Once I found out who it was, I was hooked.  At this point in the show, I was tired of sitting.  I wanted to be up and dancing.  So I got up on my feet and belted out that song as if I was the only one there!  FYI – it’s also a perfect song to 2-step to.  It’s my new request when we go out dancing.  I also love the banjo in that song.  Ok, I just really like the song!

For their encore they sang “Long Time” by Boston and then my favorite cover “American Girl” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.  You can’t help but dance to that one!  It was the perfect way to end the night.

They definitely put on a great show!  Last week they announced they are going to be playing The Joint at Hard Rock Casino Tulsa on July 18th.  Go get tickets for this show or any show that is near you.  You will not regret it.  Amanda and I have front row tickets for the Tulsa show and you better believe we will not be sitting for that one!