Mama Tried

Apologies that things have been pretty quiet around these parts! My time has been consumed with training Teaching Assistants and denying the impending arrival of my 25th year of school. In the mean time, I saw Merle Haggard last night at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. As part of their Concerts in the Garden series, this was an outdoor show, and the whole things was quite lovely. Atlanta isn’t my favorite city, but the show last night was a fantastic experience. The Botanical Garden is just gorgeous; it wasn’t all that hot (well, you know for a Georgia evening in August); and, of course, it was Merle Haggard.

The crowd was fairly sedate for most of the night, although I’m guessing this had more to do with the humidity than our collective enthusiasm for Merle. The opening act was a guy named Chris Janson, a singer/songwriter who is now likely seeing a significant increase in his income, as he wrote the ridiculous current radio hit “Truck Yeah” (as performed by Tim McGraw). Janson was followed by Merle’s oldest son, who sang a couple of songs with the Strangers.

The venue was lovely, but the sound was lacking (especially unfortunate, considering how good the Strangers are). Granted, Merle’s voice isn’t the strongest and/or most consistent these days, but for his first few songs, it was barely audible. Also, it was difficult to hear all of the instruments most of the time, unless there was a solo, then that instrument was REALLY loud. And as someone who now thinks about production (in a different context, but it’s on the radar nonetheless), the lighting was pretty basic. Considering how many LEDs were available, the stage was primarily green (maybe that’s the Botanical Garden’s rule) with an occasional purple, and maybe one red scene. During solos, it generally took at least a measure or two before the spot found the player; perhaps this is why the sound guy turned up the solo so loudly… But these are just picky things (OK, the sound at a live show is actually reallyreallyreally important, but I’m moving on), the main thing was that it was MERLE HAGGARD, and he, of course, played tons of his amazing songs (so many country classics!), along with a cover of “Folsom Prisom Blues.” I was especially impressed with how he can still Play the Guitar. He played a ton of the lead licks and took a surprising number of solos (his youngest son is the current electric player for the band).

During the show, I remembered my first big arena concert experience. When I was a kid, my family went to Rupp Arena to see Lee Greenwood, the Judds, and Merle Haggard. I’m pretty sure we were there primarily to see the Judds, and as I recall, we left during Merle’s set, as things were getting rowdy (and drunk, I would imagine). In any event, here’s to my Mama (and Daddy) for a respectable “first show” story!


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