“We Love Gary Allan”
Cindy tells me this all the time.
When it was announced he was coming to H0-Chunk, Cindy and her sister J.J. were on board. She asked me if I wanted to go. Not sure if she thought I’d pass or not, but I said I was in.
Now, it is no secret that until I met Cindy, I was not a fan of country music. In truth, I was pretty much vehemently opposed. That was just a product of my youth and also the time of forced listening during my Wisconsin Cheeseman days however and I have softened that stance.
Listening to country on the radio in the car with Cindy in the past few years taught me that the musicianship and songs are not that far off of what I listen to now. Besides, I love Buck Owens and Wayne Hancock. So I opened my mind and found that I love Dwight Yokam, Eric Church and some of the newer stuff. It’s less twangy and more rocking than the stuff I heard and despised in the 80’s. My favorite country jam is “Tip It On Back” by Dierks Bentley.
We arrived at Ho-Chunk and rode the mighty escalator to the ballrooms upstairs.
The line was already pretty long, and there was a good reason.
Sold out! Wow.
We were going to be in the Upper Dells Ballroom. Kind of a first for this type of venue for me. I wasn’t sure what to expect inside.
Cindy had joined the Gary Allan Fanclub in order to get VIP tickets, which were the first 10 rows at the event.
Our tickets clearly indicated no photos
and there were signs by the stage as well indicating people taking photos may be ejected. Damn. This time I had brought my camera AND mem card too. Forgot it at The English Beat show recently and was bummed. Now I had it and couldn’t use it!
The ballroom was just what you would expect I guess… just a big open rectangular room with a raised stage at one end. Seating was in a U shape around the sound board and lighting controls and there was a bar at the back. Functional.
The VIP area was the first 10 rows that ran the length of the stage. You had to show your wristband to get into that area and it was first come first serve on the seating. We ended up about row 7 just off the right hand aisle. It was folding chairs for seating and it filled up fast. Sold out after all.
A comedian came out to give some announcements and some info about the show. HE said that photography was okay “Take all the pictures you want, just no video please” and suddenly I was back in business. Woo hoo.
When Trick Pony came out I started snapping.
Their first tune was rockin’ out and the crowd was into it. I was impressed.
Immediately I regretted not buying the signed EP that someone was selling before the show. I was really liking the band. They charged through several songs and then played a slow version of a Johnny Cash song that was very cool.
The singing was great, the music was great. I was kinda blown away at how much I liked it. Heidi played guitar…
and some harmonica too.
Cindy went for drinks and while she was making her way to the bar in back, the guitarist jumped down and walked in the crowd. I just missed getting him standing on some chairs. He was close to Cindy when he was out there.
It was a very entertaining show. I really dug it.
The only downside was when Heidi started talking about how the crowd the night before was too calm and that she wanted to see people up dancing. She yelled something like “come on down” and instantly the aisle filled up with non-wristbanded people in the wristband only area. It was not well received by many of the VIP area folks.
There was more than one session of people bitching at the intruders and I thought a fight was about to happen, but eventually an equilibrium was reached and a sort of peace settled in.
Trick Pony ended their set with their big song “Pour Me” and the crowd went wild.
Then there was quick set change over. The VIP area then performed what I can only describe as the “tightening up” ritual. They scrunched forward from what was nice rows reasonably spaced to a tight clump, paying particular attention to not HAVING aisles for non VIP’s to come up into. I think I ended up moving about 6 feet closer to the stage.
Gary Allan came out to riotous applause and woo’s and got right into it.
He was just singing at first. I even knew the song from the songs Cindy would turn up in the car, stating… “We Love Gary Allan”.
Then he strapped on his guitar.
The guy can play. Again I found myself being blown away by the music. It was great. His voice is nice with a little pain and edge to it. The crowd was all standing of course and loving ever song. Gary played a little in the middle, then would go to the sides and stand on these little square platforms. It was a very cool move and I’m sure the people in back were glad. He changed guitars a lot. I liked this lime green hollow body.
He mentioned at the beginning that he had a wrist injury and that he might not hit all the right notes and joked that he didn’t want any angry fan mail about it. If he did, I couldn’t tell. It sounded awesome.
Everyone loves crowd interaction.
His guitarist on stage right was doing some immense soloing too and he had a light behind him which made getting shots hard, but I did get this shot dripping with rock and roll atmosphere.
The show was non-stop rocking and there was only one song that you could consider slower. Other wise it was foot on the gas the whole way through.
The whole band was killing it.
The guitarist on the left (yes that’s 3 guitars if you are counting) was wearing a camo kilt. Couldn’t get a good shot of it, but surprisingly, he made it work.
Gary’s music is a nice mix of emotion and rhythms. You can get behind one or the other. Some of his music is sad and down, but the feelings are believable and not trite. I was having to admit that I really really liked this.
At one point, Cindy and J.J. were swaying and singing at the top of their lungs. It was cool to see them digging it. I was in their world now.
Near the end of the show, Gary asked Trick Pony to come on stage and join him.
Heidi had trouble with her mic and the first combined song went on a while as they got things worked out. Then she grabbed a harp and joined in.
They finally got it all together and did “Drinking Dark Whiskey”. It brought the house down. He brought out his dog for a bit of the song too.
I tried to get a we were here shot but the lights kicked in and drowned out Gary from the shot. Oh well. I kept it anyway.
There was a huge jam session to end the show with everyone on stage and rocking out. Heidi was blowing a mean harp and even the steel guitar guy was getting busy onstage.
It was amazing with everyone going all at once.
The show was fantastic and now when Cindy says it, I can agree and mean it.
“We Love Gary Allan”.