Monday, February 29, 2016

Bands of the Blackout Tour ~ Oklahoma City, OK

The Blackout Tour was so incredible it can not be properly justified in one review. Brantley Gilbert, Canaan Smith, and Michael Ray are all talented in their own right, but they each share the stage with some phenomenal musicians. Sometimes during a concert one member of the band or another may catch your eye. This could be due to a killer guitar solo or a beautiful melody on the keys. All three bands totally blew me away that night in Oklahoma City.
Photo Credit: @Little_Bridgie @auntie6127

When Michael Ray took the stage, he was accompanied by a guitarist, a bassist, a utility player, and his long time drummer. This was my first time seeing Ray perform with a full band and it was magnificent. Sitting at the side of the stage my view of the bands was pretty great. The guitarist was  Lucas Chamberlain and the only word that comes to mind is outstanding and the bass player of this talented foursome is Jonathan Sepulveda. I had a friend tell me once that there was just something special about bass players and Sepulveda proves it. The utility player of Ray's band is Kurt Ozan. A utility player is the band member who plays multiple instruments. Ozan was on the opposite side of the stage, but I did catch him playing both the pedal steel guitar and the electric guitar. Given his skill level on those two instruments, I am curious as to what else he can play. Rounding out this talented band was Andrew Beselica on the Drums. 

Photo Credit @little_Bridgie @auntie6127

Canaan Smith also has an incredible four man band sharing the stage with him. This band with its two guitarist, bassist, and drummer are one of my favorites to watch live. Each band member seems to have a passion for playing that almost rivals Smith's. As guitarist Kenny Fuller plays, you can see the pure joy emanating from him. One can't help smiling while watching him get lost in the music. Background vocalist Stephen Whitfield was one of the reasons I started paying closer attention to bands during live shows. He's got some pretty serious skills on the guitar and is quite proficient at the mandolin as well. The bassist for Smith's band is extremely talented and his name is Luke Berridge. The rhythm keeper of the band is none other than the drummer Tucker Wilson. Much like every other member of the band he is brilliant and extremely fun to watch.

Photo Credit @shanherrold @auntie6127
The Georgia native Brantley Gilbert took the stage with his five man band and the already high energy level soared through the roof. The variety of instruments Gilbert's band played that night was unbelievable. The utility player in the band is BJ Golden and as my friend put it he was mesmerizing. The band leader Jess Franklin skillfully plays both the guitar and the keyboard. While the amazingly talented Noah Henson rocks out in impressive style on his rhythm guitar. The bass quota for this band was beautifully covered with a stellar performance on both the bass guitar and bass cello by Stephen Lewis and last, but certainly not least, rounding out the band is drummer Ben Sims. The range of instruments these five talented men bring to the table is just plain phenomenal. The show in Oklahoma City was incredible and I have to once again suggest catching one of the remaining stops. My review of everything is here.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Brantley Gilbert ~ Oklahoma City, OK

Brantley Gilbert's Blackout Tour came to the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, OK on February 25th. His two scheduled openers were up and comers Canaan Smith and Michael Ray. I went into this concert the opposite from most attendees. For me, it was my first time seeing Gilbert, but my fifth time seeing Smith, and my third time seeing Ray. So I knew I was in store for high energy, amazing vocals, talented bands, and endless amounts of passion. The show began with a surprise fourth artist, Brian Davis. He got the crowd warmed up and ready with "Against The World" and "I Earned This Beer." Out next was Florida native, singer/songwriter Michael Ray.

The show got off to an explosive start when Ray opened his set with his highly energetic song "Another Girl." It is one of those songs you just can't help but dance to. Then he got everyone singing along when he let loose with a perfect cover of the Big and Rich song "Runaway With You." A song he actually helped co-write. He talked with and engaged the audience at every turn. Ray kept the great times coming with "This Love" and his first number one "Kiss You In The Morning." He also sang "Everything In Between," "Look Like This," and "Drivin' All Night" from his debut album not to mention a great cover of David Lee Murphy's "Dust On The Bottle." It was a treat watching Michael Ray perform. He was so full of energy, he was practically vibrating with excitement. Ray closed out his set with his second single and current top 20 hit "Real Men Love Jesus." The show continued with the Virginia native singer/songwriter Canaan Smith.

Smith got the party back in full swing with "Gettin Into," a song from the deluxe edition of his debut album Bronco. He then went on to show off some of his smooth vocals with his song "Two Lane Road." A song about disappearing down a two lane road in order to find a little bit of peace and calm. Something I have noticed from seeing Smith live is you can feel how he puts his heart into every song each time he steps on the stage. That night was no different. Next up was his current chart climber "Hole in a Bottle." The energy level never faltered as Smith went on to sang us "Love At First", "One of Those," and "Fire." Some may not know this, but Smith actually contributed to the writing of several of the songs on Bronco including "American Muscle." The song that sparked a "U-S-A" chant led by a flag waving Smith. After that the set came to a close with his first single and number one hit "Love You Like That." However, when the last notes faded away, Smith wasn't finished with the crowd. He announced he would be out at the merchandise table signing autographs. After surviving the line to get his autograph, I made it back just in time for the Georgia native, Brantley Gilbert, himself.

Photo Credit: @Little_Bridgie

I think the perfect way to describe Gilbert is found in the very name of his newest album Just As I Am. Gilbert's set began with a song from that very album "Read Me My Rights." He kept the BG Nation up and moving with "Hell On Wheels," "If You Want a Bad Boy," and the ever popular "Dirt Road Anthem." Gilbert is a pro on how to connect with his fans and keep the energy level amazing. He was all over the stage, reaching out, and shaking every hand he could reach. I enjoy when artists tell stories before their songs and the lead into Gilbert's current chart climbing single "Stone Cold Sober" definitely had me smiling. "My Kinda Party," "That Was Us," and "My Baby's Guns N' Roses" kept the incredible night moving along. During the songs there would occasionally be photos playing on the large screen. For example during "You Don't Know Her Like I Do" and then those photos switched to ones of Gilbert and his wife. The incredibly sweet moment was followed up by one of Gilbert's number one hits "Country Must Be Country Wide." After getting everyone dancing he slowed it down with a beautiful two song acoustic performance of "Grown Ass Man" and "Them Boys." While talking with the crowd Gilbert mentioned how sometimes people will want you to change, but you need to be yourself. Once his cover of "Outlaw Women" finished, it was time for "Small Town Throwdown." He invited Canaan Smith and Michael Ray back out to cover the song with him. It was a sight to behold watching three artists with such obvious passion and love for what they do sharing the stage. That passion came though even more for Gilbert when he performed his number one hit "One Hell of an Amen." The emotion from that performance and the slide show was enough to move this country fan to tears. The show finished off with "Take It Outside," "Kick It In The Sticks," and an encore of "Bottoms Up."

Photo Credit: @Little_Bridgie

I was absolutely right about this show being packed full of high energy, amazing vocals, talented bands, and endless amounts of passion. I highly recommend trying to catch one of the remaining stops on the Blackout Tour. I wanted to say Thank You to 101.9 The Twister's The Buff Show for the amazing seats and let everyone know to stay tuned for a separate write up about the amazing bands that shared the stage with these three incredible artists!  

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Country Kindness with Parmalee

     The artists in the country music industry have some of the biggest hearts I have ever witnessed. They are constantly going above and beyond for their fans. Although they would never see it that way. They do things that seem like no big deal to them because that is just who they are beneath the music. One such case that will melt your heart comes to you out of Eau Claire, WI. On the night of February 20th, Terri Johank made her way to Wagner Lanes with her 21 year old son Cody. Cody has down syndrome, but that doesn't stop him or his mom from enjoying live concerts (and it shouldn't either). Before the 20th Cody had only been to two concerts, but as they say "the third time is the charm." Do you remember that feeling of excitement when you got to see your favorite artist live the first time? Well country rock band Parmalee is the favorite in the Johank household and mom Terri has seen them live multiple times. However, the 20th Cody was getting to see them perform for the first time. 

Before the Show with the band

When this mom picked up meet and greets for the band, to make the night extra special for Cody, she had no clue exactly how special it would end up being. When talking with her, she said Cody was a little shy during the meet and greet, but everyone from the band to the crew was incredible with her son. According to her the perfect cure for her son's shyness was the magic of Parmalee's music. Having seen Parmalee live myself, I could not have agreed more when she told me that their music is magical. Cody was apparently making himself all kinds of friends during the concert, even snagging some kisses on the cheek from multiple ladies. If the night had ended there it would have left a smile on Cody's face for days, but a simple gesture from the band made it a night young Cody will never forget. Scott Thomas, the drummer for Parmalee, came back out and gave Cody one of his drum sticks. That sweet gesture was not the end though. It lead to Cody and his mom hanging out a bit after the show with the band. Cody got his drum stick signed by all four members of the band, hugs, handshakes, a few guitar picks, and a new round of photos with everyone.

After the show with the band

As you can tell, a picture truly is worth a thousand words. Just look at the difference in young Cody's smile in the above photos from prior to the show and then after it. If that smile is not enough to tell you that this simple act of random country kindness left an important and lasting impact on Cody's life look at this last photo:

 It's been a week since the concert and according to mom, he sleeps with his signed drum stick every night! Apparently he has even started asking when they get to see "the guys" again. Its stories like this one that make me love country music even more. Thank you Parmalee for proving the world is still full of people who actually do nice things and do not expect anything for it.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Who is Waterloo Revival?

As proven by the guys of Waterloo Revival, Cody Cooper and George Birge, passion and talent can be formed and nurtured from a young age. These talented artists have not only been friends since middle school, but they've been involved in music for just as long. The members of Waterloo Revival are not just extremely vocally talented and ingenious guitar players. They are true magicians with pen and paper. They've been writing songs together their entire lives and say it is one of their biggest passions. 

Waterloo Revival
Both Cooper and Birge grew up in the musically vibrant city Austin, Texas and are very proud of those roots. In fact the duo's very name is recognizing were they came from. Most may not know this, but Austin, Texas was originally Waterloo, Texas. The duo recently released an EP titled Front Row. The six songs are "Summer Thing," "I Could Get Used To This," "That Damn I Didn't Give," "Backwood Bump," "Front Row," and "Meet In The Middle." They lent their song writing talents to each song. The EP is available on iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play. Waterloo Revival recently made The Reviver Nation very happy with the unexpected release of an additional song titled "Racin' To The Redlight."

The official "Bad For You" music video 

     Their first show together as Waterloo Revival was back in 2012 at Lucky Lounge and they have since toured all across the United States including the Grand Ole Opry, twice! I had the pleasure of catching this duo during an acoustic show put on by my local radio station 98.5 KVOO. Let me tell you, just because they were sitting on a stool playing for us doesn't mean you couldn't feel the excitement radiating from these guys or the passion behind every note. There was not one single moment they did not have a smile on their faces. In the spirit of this #Artist411 if you follow this link, you'll find a YouTube interview with the guys were they share some basic 411 info with you. 

The lyric video for "Hit The Road"

 They are extremely active on social media with their fans (Revivers), very humble, and having the time of their lives fulfilling their dreams. Country music truly has a diamond in these self proclaimed nerds at heart.

Follow Waterloo Revival on Facebook, Twitter (@WaterlooRev), Instagram (@WarerlooRevival), and even SnapChat (waterloorevival), so you do not miss what comes next from this on the rise duo. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Who is Parmalee?

Do you know the mythology behind a Phoenix? It is a long-lived bird that obtains new life by arising from the ashes. That is what comes to mind for me when I think about the country band Parmalee and what this talented band has over come to get to where they are.

Cain's Ballroom, Jan. 2015

Parmalee is a four man, family band, made up of Matt Thomas (lead vocalist), his brother Scott Thomas (drums/bass), their cousin Barry Knox (bass/drums), and their brother from another mother Josh McSwain (guitar & keys). This gifted four some is North Carolina born and bred. All four men grew up on music. In fact, they started out performing with their fathers and uncle. In 2001, at Corrigans, a local venue, near East Carolina University where they went to school, Parmalee was officially born.

Left 2 Right: Matt, Scott, Barry, Josh

Do you know were this band came up with their name? Let me tell you. These proud NC natives stayed connected with their roots and named the band after the town in which Parmalee practiced every Tuesday and Thursday (according to their bio) Parmele, NC. The guys toured all over including New York, Los Angeles, and Atlanta ultimately discovering they needed to be in Nashville. In 2010, the band's journey was altered amidst a terrible tragedy. Scott was shot during an attempted robbery after a show. He was in a coma for 10 days and hospitalized for over a month. In true Phoenix fashion, they rose from what most would have considered the ashes of a promising career. In February 2011, the band, Scott included, performed a showcase that landed a record deal.

Tulsa State Fair, Oct. 2015

Five years later, this incredible band, that is the epitome of never give up on your dreams, has been nominated for an ACM award for New Vocal Duo or Group of the Year! They have a debut album out titled Feels Like Carolina. They have had three consecutive top 10 hits, including #1 hit "Carolina." In addition to countless appearances on their own across the country, they have also toured with both Jake Owen and Brad Paisley. In fact, they are currently back out on the road, as well as, spending days off in the studio working on what is sure to be a steller follow up to Feels Like Carolina

You can keep up with the band on several social media platforms including FB, Twitter (@parmalee), Instagram (@parmaleemusic), and even SnapChat (parmaleemusic). Check out their website for more info on tour dates