Friday, May 3, 2013

Our night opening for Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band

Hello All You Big Bus Lovin' Daddios!
This is the story of when we opened for Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band in Raleigh, NC.  At the end some of our closest friends have written about their experience of this night.  Enjoy...

Saturday morning, a week before the show, we were waking up at Scott and Karen's house and Scott got a call from his friend David White, the venue owner at Brackett Cedar Park where we were scheduled to play the following weekend.   David told Scott that he got a call from our agent about the possibility of us having to postpone our show for a chance to open for Bob Seger in Raleigh.  Our booking agent, Chris, has a ton of experience and doesn't throw out rumors like that unless there's some solid meat behind it, so we at least knew there was a good chance that this was real.  But even then, until something has a contract behind it things can change in a heartbeat, so you learn to not get too excited.  At the same time, wow, a full arena show!  A chance to experience the "Big Time" for just a few brief moments.  These are the moments that we spend years working up to.  Of course there were the obligatory high-brow grumblings of how commercial Seger is.  Musicians never miss an easy opportunity to establish their place on the high and mighty, yet illogical, real music vs commercial music spectrum.  It's a nearly automatic reflex conditioned by decades in the non-commercial world of folky Americana.  All that aside, a chance to play for 3,000 or 4,000 or 5,000 people?  Oh yeah!  (Little did we know the arena would be full when we started with upwards of 10,000 people!)

As Monday morning rolled around we got the word that the opportunity was there.  Seger management heard us and really liked our sound and wanted to confirm it fast.  Our manager, Tom, called me and started out with, "We have a big decision to make." He knew the Brackett Ceder Park gig was a hometown gig for Scott and people had been making plans to camp, so he was approaching it with utmost diplomacy.  I just started laughing and said, "There's no decision here, of course we'll do it!"  These are the opportunities that we've worked so hard for in the last few years, and they come few and far between, so you jump when they appear.

The week leading up to the show we were all asked the same question a hundred times, "Are you excited?"  I started thinking about this, and I realized it is both a yes and no answer.  Of course we're excited: this is huge!  But at the same time, all of us have played music for so long now that we've really learned to take things day by day, and we were concentrating much more on the Thursday show at the Berkeley Cafe in Raleigh, and the Friday show at High Rock Outfitters in Lexington.  Both venues are home-away-from-home places for us.  I'm sure we spent much less mental energy on the Seger show than anyone would believe.  Big shows like this can remain just an idea in the distant future until you're about to walk onstage in front of all those people, and then everything just hits you at once.  The beauty of this experienced mindset paid off as we played two of the best shows of our career both at the Berkeley and at High Rock that weekend.  You've heard of sports teams losing an easy game because they're "looking ahead to the next week."  Well, we've found a group that plays their hearts out whether it's 100 people or 10,000 people.

They asked us to get to the arena at 3:00 pm on Saturday, so we could play the age-old game of "hurry up and wait."  As we were driving in, someone commented how different it is to be able to find the venue by just following the signs for it off the interstate -- sometimes it's the little things.  A road crew of about 10 people walked out to help us carry all our gear into the cavernous opening at the back of the arena - always an odd feeling when we're so used to carrying everything ourselves.  When they walked out and asked if they could help, we almost found ourselves giving the perfunctory "Naw, we got it."  But then we realized it's their job, and they're really good at it.

We waited for a few hours and got the word that we can set ourselves up and sound check.  It is always such a pleasure working with sound crews of this caliber, people who know what they're doing and take pride in doing their job perfectly.

There is such a combination of emotions running through you as you walk onto a stage in front of a crowd of that size.  Nervousness is obviously one of the strongest, which is just plain human nature.  Excitement is there too.  You think about everything you've done to get to this point, like all those Monday nights we played at J Butler's in Clemmons, NC, packed into a tiny corner and having to share space with guys addicted to the digital slot machine.  You think about the future and wonder if this experience will happen again, or maybe with a little luck and hard work if this could be a normal thing.  The songs you've played 1000 times seem almost new to you -- as they should.  You look out into the 15 rows of people that you can see, noticing all the brand new faces, and wonder what they are thinking.  But mostly you just enjoy the music, because at the end of the day that's the one thing that drives us, to play music that we really love....and maybe, just maybe, make a good living doing it. 

Cass Copsey killin' it on trumpet!
Our direct emotional support team -- Beth, Christy, Karen, Megan
This really happened. 

 A couple of us did not expect them to turn off the house lights for our set.  A lot of times they will save that dramatic entrance effect for the headliner, but what do you know, they cut the lights and the stage was the only thing lit up.  As the crowd let out a louder cheer than we deserved I thought to myself, "Oh my God, they think we're Seger!  I hope they don't boo us when they realize we aren't!"  I hustled up to Scott and told him, "They think we're Seger.  You should probably tell them we aren't."  Try and head off those boos before they happened.  Scott nailed it with his engaging, upbeat stage presence that crowds just love. 

I think that we were all feeling pretty good about our set, fluctuating between "I think they like us" to "At least they're not booing."  At the end of Sweet Child when the crowd jumped to their feet and gave a huge arena style ROAR, we took a big collective breath of air and knew that we were doing pretty good.  We launched right into Sweet Water with our friend and old sound engineer, Cass Copsey, blowing the hell out of a trumpet, and again, another standing ovation as we walked off-stage.  It felt good, really good.  All the practice, all the shows where nobody shows up, all the rough days traveling, all of that got us here, and it felt great.

 I want to say one last thing before I let some of our closest friends and family describe their experience on this night -- Seger was really amazing.  He's in his upper 60's and his voice is as strong as ever.  All of the glowing reviews of his shows this year are well deserved.  Even his song, "Turn The Page," -- the song that's been overplayed on classic rock stations to the point of exhaustion -- sounded fresh, and I found myself caught up with it.  Any performer that can play songs that are decades old and give them a fresh new life, as if they were just written, is someone that deserves much artistic respect.  I expected to enjoy his show, but I had no idea just how much I would.  Seger sets the bar for an amazing career, and I'm glad he's still going strong. 

We were lucky to have some of our closest friends and family join us here.  A few of them have sent me paragraphs describing their experience.  You have to remember, the 5 of us have been at every BDL show together for the last year, but we've never seen a BDL show.  We have no idea what it is like from the audience standpoint.  So here's some audience perspective from people who've seen us every step of the way. 

Jennifer Swenk:
I was excited all week about BDL playing at PNC arena.  As the days and hours clicked by my excitement (and anxiety) grew.  I felt so nervous for them, getting on stage and playing in front of 10,000 people!  Not worried that it wouldn't go good, because I knew they would bring it, but just that nervous anxious feeling you get when something big is about to happen.  Sitting with my friends we were all a flutter, talking to each other, making BDL connections around us, and waiting, waiting for the clock to finally strike 8.  When the lights went down and they took the stage it was surreal.  Watching our boys walk around the bend and climb the stairs was magical.  The next 35 minutes went by in a blur.  I kept looking at the crowd and watching more and more heads bop up and down and knees dancing in the seats.  I watched as our boys played their hearts out, they left nothing on the table, they were all in.  The energy emitting from the stage didn't take long to ignite the crowd; and by the time Sweet Child of Mine rolled around, the crowd was hooked!  We were all teared up and filled with immense pride watching it unfold.  It was amazing, one of the most special things I've experienced in my life and I'm so glad I got to be a part of it.

Jeremy Bell:
I was fortunate enough to join BDL last Saturday as part of the crew, so I had all access to the entire arena from 3pm until after midnight. I started my day helping the guys unload the van, which didn't take very long because the arena had plenty of staff to make this happen with ease. After that I went into their dressing room where it was a typical green room scene, snacks on the table, Swenk picking the banjo, Ashley smiling and talking to whoever came through the door, Scott Moss being his normal cheerful self, Joey with his clever one liners, taking it all in without even a hit of nervousness, and Scotty Lewis keeping it all together and keeping the vibe in the room nice and calm. I was probably the most nervous of everybody in there, and all I had to do was listen to the music that was getting ready to happen. 

At 7:55 I was standing on the side of the stage with all 5 of them, I could sense a little nervousness, a little anxiety, and a ton of excitement. At 7:59 iPhone time, the lights in the arena went down and the crowd erupted with applause, I'm sure thinking "Bob Seger is coming on early!" The five guys I had been hanging out with all day walked up on that stage like they owned it and took their respective positions like they've done hundreds of times before. The crowd was still cheering when Scott Moss said "We're Big Daddy Love from Winston Salem North Carolina and all I can say is wooooooooooow!" From that point on the 19,731 [editor's note: closer to 10,000] people in there were hooked. They opened with Family and the crowd was still very much into them, then Swenk started playing... the place went nuts again when he started playing that banjo, and they all knew they were in for a treat. 

I walked from the side of the stage, through the metal barricade and into the floor seating area to go find a seat, instead I found a beer vendor. I got in the very short line behind 3 women, all dancing like they knew this song. Less than a minute later, and $8 poorer I was on my way again. I decided early in the day that I was going to watch the BDL set from a seat as far away from the stage as I could get because I never get to experience them like that. I found a seat in the very last row straight in front of the stage just below the luxury boxes. From Scotty's kick drum shaking my shirt to Joey's smoking guitar,  this was by far the best seat in the house!

I sat there in awe and truly couldn't believe what I was seeing how comfortable they all looked, I could see them very well on the 2 jumbo screens on each side of the stage. From song to song, all 5 of them owned that crowd and it was very obvious that they were doing what they were born to do.  After every song the crowd cheered like they were seeing the band they had waited all day to see all day, and wanted more.

Scott Moss, Brian Swenk, Joey Reccio, Ashley Sutton, and Scotty Lewis are by far some of the best people I have met in this crazy North Carolina music scene and they deserve the chance to play in front a crowd that size. I hope that this opens up many doors for them. They certainly deserve it.

Teri Dosher:
While sitting at the PNC Arena Saturday night, waiting for BIG DADDY LOVE to take the stage, I thought back to December 2009.  We had made a road trip to Winston Salem to see Yarn play at the Garage, after the show I met Ashley Sutton and he said I should check out his new band BIG DADDY LOVE. Rhythm and Roots in Bristol the next September was my first chance, I was sucked in right away, not just because the music was great, but you could tell they loved what they did, and they loved the people who loved them, they had what I call really good karma.  I was hooked, I’ve traveled many miles, and visited many venues to see them play live, sang their praises far and wide, and I have made so many wonderful friends along the way.  The guys in BIG DADDY LOVE are some of the nicest people you will ever meet and their fans are as well. I knew one day, if the world was right, they would get the attention they deserve.  So Saturday night, when they took the stage in front of all of those people, I could feel magic was about to happen, and when they wrapped up “Sweet Child of Mine” (which also happened to be the song that let me know “everything was gonna be alright” the first time I heard Scott Moss take the lead) and 10,000 stood up and cheered, it brought tears to my eyes.  It was a beautiful night for all of those who have loved BIG DADDY LOVE from the very beginning and for all of those who got a chance to finally hear them for the first time.

Kelly Farmer:
As our group walked down to our seats, it was exciting to see that most of the arena had already been filled with fans.  They were going to be glad they got there early.  Any similarities to other opening bands stopped when Joey hit the slide for the first time.  I laughed out loud as I watched people snap to attention.  The BDL “hook” had been set.  Conversations were stopped.  As BDL rolled through the set list, phones came out, people started getting on their feet, and the dancing began. After a 35 minute set and two standing ovations, the new fans were high-fiving, fist-bumping, and smiling that "BDL" smile.  Even though they came for Seger, I knew the Love Bus was going to be a lot more crowded on the way home.

Camille Hall:
Words cannot begin to describe the emotions I felt as BDL walked onto the stage Saturday night in Raleigh.   It was if I was walking onto the stage with them.   My heart was racing, my hands were sweating,  my knees were shaking  and tears were falling from my eyes.   I have believed in the talent found in this band for four years so it was like I was living a dream also.   They did an incredible job.  Hearing them with that size and quality of sound equipment was like hearing them for the first time.   Their performance was so spot on that an audience of thousands who had never heard them play before came to their feet.   I didn't get much sleep Saturday night  and my over three hour drive home Sunday was through a down pour.  I walked into work Monday morning with swollen red eyes and "dead" on my feet.  When my co-workers asked me if it was worth it my only response to them could be a very enthusiastic, "HELL YEAH  it was worth it!"

Jenny Viars (or Dancing Lemur):
When I found out this opening slot for Seger was happening, my second question to Brian was "And do I get to go and shoot??" (right after "ARE YOU MAKING THAT UP??"). They were nice enough to try to get me a press pass for Seger's set too, but I wasn't even vaguely disappointed when the answer was no. I wasn't going to see Seger; I was going to see BDL hit that big stage. I spent the whole week leading up to it bursting with pride and excitement; I could not shut up about it to anyone who would listen. Once we got there Saturday afternoon, I found out that I'd be able to shoot on stage as long as the band was cool with it (hint: THEY WERE) and that unlike the press photographers, I'd have the run of the arena during BDL's set. I started out on stage left side at the start of the set; I started grinning as soon as they hit the first note and the crowd gave the kind of roar you can only hear in an arena. I made my way around the back of crowd, stopping here and there to shoot. I danced in the aisles and sang along, and I kept on smiling at the people who looked at me oddly from their seats. I wiped tears away, too. I finally made it onto the back of the stage and climbed all the way up onto a top tier drum riser, which gave me (in my opinion) the best view in the whole place: the band, the lights, and the HUGE crowd. These guys work SO HARD, and it was more than right to see them tearing it up for a whole crowd of brand new appreciative fans. The second best part of the night happened while Seger played, and we all went up to the first level balcony and met up with several BDL fans. We hugged, celebrated, listened to a music icon, and basked in pride and happiness for this band and the family we've all formed. I kept noticing strangers approach BDL members and compliment them on their set. Get used to it, guys...this will be the norm soon enough!

Thanks everyone for sticking with us through this crazy journey!  See ya soon!

Brian and BDL