A typical July afternoon in south west Georgia. Typical of many of our days in the summer, by late afternoon the heat had become so intense, the humidity so high, that the sky had to shed some of its excess water.
Just before the scheduled showtime of 7pm on July 3rd, Sasser Flea Market was hit with a huge thunderstorm dumping several inches of rain while concert goers sat in their cars, waiting for the storm to pass so the concert could begin.
By 7:30 a reprieve from the rain had been granted and fans of Craig Morgan, Landis Frier and Stephen Harrel began pouring past the gate into what had become a steamy mud pit. Those of us who had access to weather radar knew that the event wasn’t out of the woods yet. It looked like only a short reprieve before more bad weather moved back into the area. Craig Morgan and his team tried their best to protect their gear, but it was reported that their sound board had gotten damaged during the storm. Rather than cancel the concert, Craig Morgan graciously offered to do an acoustic show inside the long, low laying barns that are normally host to flea market shoppers during the day.
Anxious to see a show, fans started making their way into the long building with their lawn chairs and coolers in tow. Not scheduled to be the opening act, but realizing the crowd had to be entertained as soon as possible, Landis Frier grabbed his six string and began singing his song “Dirt Road”. Dripping with sweat and with no electricity for amplifiers or a microphone, Landis did his best to entertain the crowd as Delia West (owner of the venue) and her staff scrambled to get extension cords and a PA system in place. After only a few songs, Landis’s friend and lead guitar player Carlos Barrientos had found electricity for his small amplifier and a couple stools for the two of them to sit on. As Carlos plugged in his Telecaster and a mic was put in front of Landis, the crowd was treated to a impromptu duet by two fantastic musicians. With the sounds of amplified music coming from the low lying barn, more people started pouring in.
Never intended to house this many people, the heat inside the barn was almost unbearable as revelers began to pack in even closer and tighter as the evening went on. Many more people choose to sit just outside the crowded barn and enjoy the music under dark skies that threatened to dump even more rain on the area. As many ticket holders realized there was going to be no large outdoor show, a few were given rain checks for the next big concert event. Most others decided to make the best of a difficult situation for all involved and these people were treated to a very special performance in exchange for their patience.
By the time Stephen Harrel took his turn in front of the crowd, a proper PA system and a few electric fans for the audience had been put into place by the hardworking team of security. Carlos graciously agreed to sit in with Stephen as the crowd was treated to another country artist. Stephen’s strong, powerful voice, that reminds me a lot of a young Hank Williams Jr, might have projected over the large crowd even without a microphone. Powerfully sung ballads and fun straight ahead driving country party tunes kept the crowd entertained as the night worn on and the people packed into the barn even tighter.
As Craig Morgan took the stage, the crowd came to its feet in expectation of the headline act. Seeing Craig Morgan in such an intimate setting, up close and personal, was something no one expected when they bought their tickets to this concert. Craig took the opportunity to really interact with his fans and give them their dollars worth of a show. Watching Craig in a venue like this and seeing his country boy roots was almost like having this country music superstar over for a couple beers as he played in your garage. I’m sure Craig was reminded of all the small honky tonks, tractor pulls and country fairs that he played as he clawed his way to Nashville and eventually to his place in country music history. It came through in his genuine desire to be in front of these people, never mind the sweat running down his back or that the rain may have cost him a very expensive soundboard. Craig was there to entertain and he gave it his all.
Every musician, every stagehand, every security guard worked as hard as possible to try to make the best of a very bad situation after the storm drenched the possibility of the scheduled outdoor concert. The large number of fans who choose to stick it out were rewarded with a night they wont soon forget. This was Delia West’s third attempt at a major concert on her property. I certainly hope that this crazy night doesn’t dissuade her from continuing to help promote local artists by giving them a chance to have their music heard as they share the stage with some big names in country music.