Photos by ANDREW MATHER
Story by ANDY LYONS
(SEDALIA, Mo., digitalBURG) — The young people were out in force Wednesday night at the Pepsi Grandstand. Local favorite Tyler Farr and Lee Brice performed on the eighth night of the Missouri State Fair.
Performers have drawn mixed crowds during the fair, but the crowd changed from predominantly middle-aged fair-goers to a crowd dominated by people in their early 20s. Farr and Brice are amongst the most popular of current country music performers dominating the radio waves.
Performing at the Missouri State Fair may have been new to Farr, but attending the Fair isn’t. Farr is from Garden City, Mo., and is no stranger to the area.
“I’m looking forward to playing for the people I grew up with,” he said during a phone interview on Monday. “A lot of the songs I write are honestly inspired from growing up in that area, in rural Missouri.”
Farr said he’s looking forward to being back where he started, and that he misses rural Missouri.
“Hell, I wish I could just come back and go fishing at Truman Lake. It’s one of the sacrifices; you have to give up certain things,” Farr said. “I love Nashville, but when my career is over I’ll come back to the middle of nowhere. I went to New York City a few weeks ago and I about had a heart attack.”
It was another cool night at the Fair, with temperatures in the lower 60s. The crowd was on their feet from the time Farr and his band took the stage until Brice closed the show several hours later.
One of the things that really stood out to me was that it seemed like everyone knew each other. From my position along the fence at the back of the track seating area, groups of friends popped up all around me. The beers flowed from early in the evening and the conversations and laughter grew as the sun went down.
The music was a bit upbeat. As I’ve noted previously, country isn’t my preferred style of music but the experience of it all is the reason I jumped at the chance to go to these shows. I had the opportunity to talk with Farr earlier in the week and Brice before the show and I told both I was going to review it and I’m relatively unfamiliar with their music.
The crowd was dominated by ladies in tight jeans with their hair curled and men sporting trucker hats and of course plenty of flannel. The music centered on blue-collar life and, of course, beer. While the twangy guitar is one of the things that turns me off to country, I was really interested to see an organ player with both groups.
It was clear the crowd was revved up and ready; by the time Farr finished his set the track area was buzzing as people hit the restroom and came back double-fisting beers in time for Brice.
The drummer hit the bass and the place went wild. Throughout both sets Farr and Brice constantly addressed the crowd, commenting on life, love and, well, beer.
It was interesting to see the crowd throughout the night. Several girls gathered nearby stumbled into the folding chairs that make up the track seating area. One young woman’s dance moves would have had the ladies at nearby Fantasy Ranch tossing one dollar bills. Throughout Brice’s set, the track area never calmed once, with people milling around shaking hands and talking to their friends. It was a new, unique experience for me.
The crowd continuously sang along with both performers, which wasn’t a surprise to me. Farr and especially Brice are extremely popular artists and the energy they bring to their live performance proves these guys have a love for what they do.
As Brice finished a song that was an ode to the drinking class he thanked the crowd and promptly walked off stage. The crowd cheered and waited, expecting an encore.
I was a bit surprised when Brice and his band came back on stage, to a rather anti-climactic encore. I’m used to bands hitting the stage and going into one of their hit songs. For Brice, he took the time to introduce each band member during an interlude period that lasted about 10 minutes. Each member was playing, but it seemed that as he introduced each one, they played with more fervor, really highlighting what they played and the skill.
When he introduced guitarist Travis Bettis is where I gained a lot of respect for the group and started bobbing my head. He had such a range, and that’s why my preference is rock music; the guitar speaks to my heart.
As the introductions were still going, one of the girls nearby went face-first into the chairs again. It started drizzling, sending scores of fans out of the track area. I had a renewed respect for Brice, and just then Farr returned to the stage to sing with Brice and Co.
As they sang Brice’s song “Parking Lot Party,” the crowd bought in completely. Fueled by the ridiculous amounts of beer they had clearly consumed, fans had their hands in the air and their heads tilted back as they sang along. For the final song, a cover of Hank Williams Jr.’s “Family Tradition,” Brice and Farr again sang together. Brice pressured Farr into singing the last verse, which highlighted the single life, because Brice has married since he wrote it.
Farr said Brice is one of his best friends and that he had been looking forward to performing with him.
“Lee’s one of the best there is out there right now,” he said. “I watched Lee’s career. John Rich came from a trailer in Texas. Lee’s still putting it all together. Being around these guys is gonna make you set the bar higher. I’ve tried to surround myself by good people and good things happen.”
While I’m still not a huge fan of country, I really did enjoy the show. Both performers gave complete demonstrations as to why they’re big names in country music; Farr’s single “Redneck Crazy” went gold last week and Brice is a perennial on the radio. The fans sang along from start to finish and were clearly enjoy themselves and, of course, the beer.
Farr’s new album releases Sept. 30 and he’ll be on tour this fall opening for Florida Georgia Line.