I found myself last Sunday I never thought I would be doing. I went to a country concert. I am known for my rock/alt rock and new wave roots, but with a few exceptions there are only a few country artists I listen. I saw Travis Tritt and the Tivoli Theatre.
As a little kid when we first moved to Chattanooga that’s all you heard around here, a lot of country music but it was of great quality. Riding around with my dad we listened to Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Don Williams, Waylon Willie and the boys. I especially liked Jerry Reed and the song “When You’re Hot You’re Hot”. Back in the golden days of Chattanooga a lot of restaurants had personal jukeboxes at each table. There was one particular one on South Broad Street that comes to mind. I remember going in with my family for lunch and dad would pull out some coins and say, “Anything you want to her?” I yelled, “You’re Hot You’re Hot”.
As time went by I weaned myself off of country because no one in our neighborhood was in to country up on Lookout Mountain. As I grew older country when through that crossover stage and sounded more like a bad pop song than anything Johnny Cash would sing. And quite frankly once I discovered ELO, Styx and Elton John, game over. Unlike my older sister who was a Top 40 nut, my dad listened to everything. Any given day in the car with my dad he would put on his eight-track, The Doors, Janis Joplin, Merle, the soundtrack to “Jesus Christ Superstar”, Motown and more. I guess my appreciation for multiple genres of music is thanks to my dad. I always though as I got older that country was less country than it used to be. Of course most of the classics literally died off with only a few hanging around like Waylon and Dolly.
In college my fraternity brothers and I knew Hank Jr.’s Greatest Hits by heart. No one had a choice. We would bring the cassette to our favorite watering hole (Scrappy’s) and demand Joe or Rand-ell play it and we played it over and over again. By the end of one night we led the entire bar of the packed hole in the wall in a sing along.
After college my country days were over except a little Johnny and Willie as I was more into alternative rock and god ol’ rock and roll. I will confess however, I did go see Billy Ray Cyrus when that god-awful song “Achy Breaky Heart” was big. I had a crush on this little girl and even though she had a boyfriend I was able to get a tack of tickets to take a whole group to see him perform in some tent… kind of the way I thought most country converts at the time was performed in. I knew the name Travis Tritt, heard it a bunch but didn’t know any of his songs.
A pal of mine who worked for another magazine still to this day likes me to tell me the story that he got a call about doing a write up on this up and coming country artist by the name of Travis Tritt. “He’s about to blow up we think,” he was told. And he did. I think I heard that story for the 100th time a few months ago by my friend. I’m sure once he reads this he’ll tell me the story again.
Showtime came and a large crowd was on hand – a different crowd than what I’m used to. The crowd was mixed in age with many of the women in attendance actually dressed up – I’m guessing hoping to get Travis’ attention, or the fact they are more mature than most rock concert attendees who dress like it’s laundry day and eyes are filled with angst. The atmosphere was as much of a concert setting but more of cocktail party setting – not because of alcohol but people seemed to inter-mingle before show time between bands and not just attempting in vain to get as close to the stage as possible.
After a blistering set by Nashville’s Cadillac Three it was game on. Watching the stage crew change out the stage between acts was like clockwork with no major drama or excessive timing. It had an actual professional feel to it unlike a lot of rock shows I’ve attended. A pre-recorded message talked about visiting the merch table and like Elvis let everyone know Travis was in the house. That was updated a few minutes later letting everyone know he was almost ready. Another recorded message then came over the speakers and it was no one other than Larry The Cable Guy yelling, “git-r-done” telling everyone Travis is about to come out and to have a good time, visit the merch table but most important, “git-r-done!”.
Lo and behold the lights came on and a party was under way. Tritt took center stage surrounded by his band and a party started. The convert was like a wedding bride – some old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. Something old was some of his older songs, that surprisingly I knew. No one was more surprised than me. I perhaps was a fan and didn’t know it. I am now, but more on that later. Something new refers to the newer songs in his repertoire. Something blue refers to the blue jeans worn in attendance including Travis himself. And something blue were some of the songs her performed by other artists as famous as he. He even told the crowd he was going to play a whole bunch of stuff and he did just that.
If you ever go to a concert besides listening to the music, watch the members of the band, especially the singer it is easily to tell if they are just going through the motions. Tritt was on stage smiling the whole time, making faces – just having a good time and that is contagious. And the crowd who were already fans has even more reason to love Travis Tritt. It was more of a celebration than a recital, if you know what I mean. There was a generous amount of camaraderie on stage and even in the crowd as many joined in on a number of songs from their seats, unlike some rock shows where there seems to be a disconnect between the artist and the band, often excused as creative angst.
It was obvious that Travis Tritt came to town to party and he is without a doubt a great host. A lot of entertainers could learn from him and learn to enjoy their art as he does. I may have awakened the old country music fan in me thanks to Travis, we’ll see if it sticks.
– Dave Weinthal