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! 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Kenny Chesney - 5/14/15

Bucket list item:  Front row for a large show at BOK Center.  Check! 

Well, it wasn't really front row but it was in the pit, which was actually in front of front row and we were right next to the stage for Kenny Chesney, Jake Owen and Chase Rice on the Big Revival Tour.

How did we get these amazing passes?  Well, this time it wasn't me or Renee that won them.  I know, -- it’s a shock!  This time my mother-in-law entered a bad Hawaiian shirt contest on Facebook from 106.1 The Twister and won them and surprised me!  Best mother-in-law ever!

So Renee and I wanted to be able to secure our spots at the stage and we showed up at 5:30pm when the doors opened.   We were the first ones to enter the “sandbar”.  I was completely surprised that no one else was there and really it didn't start filling up until about 15 minutes before show time.  We found out later that they were handing out sandbar passes to people, aka pretty girls, as they walked in for the show.  Only a handful of people actually purchased these passes and the rest were won from radio stations or given out in the lobby. 

So we picked our spot and a few minutes later another few people showed up.   Tamara and Mike, our new friends, stood next to us and we decided we would help each other through the night if we needed to leave our spot for something.  It is definitely better to make friends in that kind of situation than enemies.  It will make your night go much smoother.

It’s also good to make friends with security!  This is Malachi (sorry if I spelled your name wrong, bud).  We got to know him pretty well over the next couple of hours too.  He was a nice little resource when some girls decided to pull some punches behind us.  The kept pushing and shoving each other to get closer and when they weren't allowed to do that anymore they started saying really catty things about how ugly the girls were and how bad their hair was.  Talk about “mean girls!”  We just stood there holding our spots and laughing. 

Pretty close to 7:00pm Chase Rice opened the show.  From where we were it was difficult to hear him.  He was over powered by the music.  Not sure if it was that way for the whole arena but was an issue for us.  He had a lot of energy.  He played to the crowd well and definitely tried to get those in the sandbar a lot of attention.  We got a hand slap a couple of songs in.

He sang “Cruise” - a song he co-wrote with Florida Georgia Line, “Ready Set Roll” and “Gonna Wanna Tonight” along with a couple others.  He reminded us of Sam Hunt in his style.  Not my favorite of the 3 but he was good.  The great part was his guitar player, Brandon Autry, was from Tulsa.  It’s so nice to see hometown guys up on stage.

After about a 15-20 minute intermission Jake Owen came out.  He was a hoot to watch!  He had palm trees set up in the background and performed his whole set barefoot.  He seemed like he was truly having the time of his life with a genuine smile from ear to ear his entire set.  He jumped and twirled around and even got up on one part of the stage and laid down while the band played. 

Renee saw Jake Owen with Jason Aldean in 2012 where she purchased a license plate.  She brought it in hopes that he would sign it.  However, he ignored our corner of the stage the entire time!  We didn't even get a hand shake from him during his set. 

Jake sang all his hits including “Beachin’”, “Anywhere With You” and the very touching ballad “What We Ain't Got”, which he mentioned was his favorite song.  He ended with my favorite of his “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” and mixed it with ”Theme from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”  That was a fun way to end his part of the show.

We waited another hour before Kenny Chesney came out.  He said during the show they were having technical difficulties and thanked everyone for being patient.  I found out from my niece who had seats up above us that the board to the side of the stage was not lit up and they were frantically trying to get it to work.  She said they even group hugged when it started working.

Finally at 9:30pm the lights went out and a video started.  There were very large screens to each side of the stage and a long screen high above the front of the stage.  Where we were standing we couldn't see any of them.  The first video was a lot of different people, including several celebrities, welcoming us to the show all while Kenny’s “Spread the Love” played in the background. 

After that video ended another one started.  I couldn't see what it was that night but I found a video on YouTube of another show and watched it.  It’s very hard to explain so I’ll just put a link below and you can see it for yourself.  Start watching about 1:45.

In our show it did not play on the curtain. That could have been some of the technical difficulties he was talking about.  But even as I watch it now I don’t really get it.  I know it has roots from his song “The Big Revival” talking about old time weird religions but honestly it did not fit with his whole beachy, no shoes, no problems persona.  And after waiting for an hour and then through 6+ minutes of videos I just wanted him to come out and sing.  I could have done without one or even both of the videos.

Finally Kenny came out and he did not disappoint!  I’ll admit I’m not a huge fan of his but I do like most of his songs.  But if there is anything about that man, he knows how to put on a show!  His smile is contagious and you can tell he loves his job….and his fans!  Since we were behind him at times, we could see what he was seeing.  There were several times where he looked up into the crowd and picked out one person either taking a picture or dancing around and pointed them out.  He was extremely good at that audience connection that I feel is so important in a show.

He loved his front row and sandbar fans a lot!  He was constantly grabbing hands and singing to all of us.  He only came over to us twice but when he would stand in one place and sing he made eye contact with our side a lot.

His band sounded great and his bass player, Harmoni Kelley, was amazing! You don’t see very many women playing bass and she rocked it.  She also sang a cover of AC/DC’s “Whole Lotta Rosie” and that gal can sing!  I want to be just like her when I grow up.

Kenny Chesney has so many hit songs it’s impossible for him to get them all into one night but he sure tried!  I knew just about every song and he sang my favorite of his about half way through – “Young”.  He ended the night with “The Boys of Fall” and then brought Jake Owen and Chase Rice back for the encore to sing “Tractor’s Sexy”.

After they finished the song all three of them took time to sign autographs for people in the sandbar and front row.  We were bound and determined to get that license plate signed!  We yelled and screamed and Renee held it up high for Jake to see.  He finally came over and signed it.  Mission accomplished!

So overall, the experience in the sandbar was one I will never forget.  However, as a concert junkie, I realized that I actually prefer to be a few rows back from the stage.  I feel like I missed a lot of the overall show.  Now don’t get me wrong, it was amazing to be that up close and personal with the guys but really all we could focus on was them.  I missed being able to see the rest of the band play unless they were walking right in front of us.  It was almost a “can’t see the forest for the trees” type of thingI truly enjoy the whole show and being in a pit you definitely sacrifice some of that.  It’s a trade-off for sure. 

Renee and I also realized that we are getting just a little too old to be standing for 6 hours on concrete in one place, fighting off girls half our age to get a hand shake or an autograph!  We would have liked to have had a seat to sit in between the acts. 

But was it worth it?  Absolutely!  It was a fantastic show and one that I will put up toward the top of my list of great shows you should go see.  Would I do it again in the pit?  If I were given the tickets, I definitely wouldn't turn them down!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

98.5 KVOO 5 Man Jam - 4/28/15

You all know I love country music, small intimate venues, acoustic performances, seeing up-and-coming artists and doing it all for free.  So, naturally, I was dead set on going to 98.5 KVOO’s 5 Man Jam!  This was an acoustic performance by 5 artists all brought together by the radio station.  The best part -- it was free!  All you have to do is go get tickets from a specific business or win them on the radio.  This time it included Montgomery Gentry, The Swon Brothers, Brothers Osborne, Logan Mize and Ashley Monroe.

Since you could just go pick up tickets I decided to get a set and so did Renee.  I asked my friend Amanda to join us.  She said she hadn’t been to a concert in many years and was very excited to go.

When I go to these type concerts where it is general admission and I may not know all the songs, I prefer to be right up front.  The experience is heightened by the fact that you are so close and the artist can draw you in.  If you sit or stand in the back, it is still nice but you can get distracted and just don’t feel a part of the performance as much.  I know some prefer that, but not me.  I need to be right up front!

The catch to that need to be in front means you have to go and stand in line for several hours to get the spot you want.  I don’t mind at all!  Amanda and I arrived at River Spirit Casino around 4:00 even though the doors didn’t open until 6:00.  We were first in line!  We got to know the people around us over the next 2 hours.  This is where having buddies can pay off.  If you are friendly with the people by you, they help save your spot if you have to go to the bathroom and they don’t trample you when it’s time to go in.  We even joked that the 3 guys right behind me were going to be my offensive line if I needed it.  They were some big ole’ country boys!

We got inside and claimed our spots right up front and a little to the right.  Was hoping to be in front of The Swon Brothers and Montgomery Gentry and we did that perfectly.  Now we had to wait another hour for the show to start.  If you are keeping tabs, we stood for 3 hours waiting for a 2 hour show.  And it was worth every minute!

Johnny Dee from KVOO was the DJ playing the music inside.  I’m normally not a fan of DJs.  They cut songs off half way through and mix them with weird songs they don’t belong with and do too much crowd hyping.  Just shut up and play the music we can sing and dance to while we are waiting.  He didn’t do a lot of that.  Great job Johnny Dee!

The first artist to come out was Ashley Monroe.  She was adorable.  Although the first thing we thought was she needed to eat a cheeseburger or two!  Even Eddie Montgomery mentioned later in the show that she needed to eat something.  Hilarious!  She did have on these to-die-for thigh high boots that I really loved.  

The only thing that I knew about Ashley Monroe was her duet with Blake Shelton “Lonely Tonight”.  She had a really great country music voice that reminded me of some of the classic women of country.  She sang a song called “Weed Instead of Roses” that had lyrics in it like “let’s put up the teddy bears and get out the whips and chains” and “give me weed instead of roses and let’s see where it goes” which caused us to say multiple times…did she really just sing that?  I don’t think that one will get played on the radio.  But she did have a great voice and her song “Like a Rose” was beautiful.

They put Ashley as the host for the evening so she had to introduce the others as they came out for the first time.  I don’t know if it was just nerves, the fact that she was the only woman on the stage with a big group of dudes or that she wore a really short skirt and had to try to be lady like and not flash anyone while sitting on a bar stool, but she seemed very uncomfortable and not so happy to be there when it wasn’t her turn to sing. 

After Ashley sang her first song she introduced Logan Mize – another artist I was not familiar with.  He had a great voice, some fun songs and told great stories about them.  He even got the crowd to sing along to “Can’t Get Away from a Good Time”.  

During the times when the others were singing he seemed to be calming his nerves with a double Maker’s Mark on ice.  He even made mention early on that it was really good and would love whoever made it to make him another.  He looked like he was going to throw up at any moment.  We were even making a plan of how to dodge it if he did since we were directly in front of him.  LOL  But every time he got up to sing his whole demeanor changed and he seemed very comfortable.

Next to come out was Brothers Osborne.  I had heard “Rum” on the radio and liked it but I wasn’t too familiar with them either.  They are an interesting pair.  John Osborne looks like a mountain man with his full bushy beard and feather in his hat and TJ Osborne had a little more rough around the edges, bad boy look to him.  They sure seem the type of boys who know how to have a good time.

When they started their first song and TJ started singing, Renee turned to me and said “Where did that voice come from?”  I was instantly hooked.  I loved their songs, their voices and John’s guitar playing.  They had a little more blues sound to them and it made them unique.  I really think they will be big.  There is no one out there that sounds like them.  They definitely gained a fan in me that night and I’m pretty sure I will be dancing around to “Stay a Little Longer” all summer long.

Next up was our home state boys The Swon Brothers.  I was extremely excited to see them again.  I had been to a Girls Night Out given by another radio station where they played an acoustic set and we got to meet them.  They are just so fun!  I love the way they play off each other in who’s the better brother.  It really gives them personality.  

Colton Swon does a great job of playing up the crowd while Zach Swon just sits back and makes you fall in love with his voice.  They sang “Pretty Beautiful,” “Pray for You,” and my personal favorite “Later On.”  They sounded great and seemed to have a great time up there.  One day I would love to hear them do “Seven Bridges Road” in concert like they did on The Voice. They sure do make us Okies proud!

A little side note about The Swon Brothers’ guitar player, Seth Costner.  He was backing up the boys but let me tell you, he is very talented and deserves to be up front.  He played with them the last time I saw them and there was just something about him and his voice.  I downloaded his first EP and have not been able to stop listening since.  He is in the middle of recording a new EP and I will be the first one to buy it!  I’ve even got Amanda hooked on his music now.  Check him out on YouTube.  There are some great videos of him playing his music live.  This one’s my favorite:

Now for the veterans of the bunch – Montgomery Gentry.  Renee and her husband Erik are HUGE Montgomery Gentry fans and have been front row for several of their performances including at Cain’s Ballroom.  I had never seen them but have always been a fan of their music.  It was actually Renee who convinced me to go get in line early to get up front.  She had said they were amazing to watch but I didn’t realize just how good they were!

It was extremely obvious that they have been around for a while.  They really knew how to hype up the crowd and Eddie Montgomery is quite the character.  I don’t know how he gets away with his dance moves but it just works.  And his boots were amazing! 

Troy Gentry sat down, played his guitar, sang and let Eddie work the crowd.  Eddie kept inviting everyone on the bus for an after party.  Now that would be a fun time for sure!  They played all the favorites and got the whole crowd singing “Hell Yeah” – my favorite of theirs.  At the end they came back out for an encore and invited all the other artists to play with them on “Gone”.  True entertainers and great singers for sure.  I ended up with their set list and gave it to our new friends from the line who screamed like a girl when I handed it to them. I made me happy to see them so excited to have it.

This really was a great show.  I think when someone plays an acoustic performance it doesn’t let them hide behind the smoke, lights and loud music.  They have to be genuine and real and if you can’t really sing it’s going to show.  All of these artists were true talent and I really love and appreciate that.  Thank you KVOO for putting together such a great group and please do it again.  I’ll be there, front row, dancing and singing right along.