Eli Young Band's House Party With Pat Green, Gary Allan, Cody Johnson and Maddie and Tae Globe Life Park, Arlington Saturday, November 8, 2014
Before Saturday night's House Party at Globe Life Park, it was a mystery to me why the Eli Young Band wasn't a bigger deal or more well known or why Nashville hadn't fully embraced them yet. They have a decent number of catchy radio-friendly hits and the band's leader, Mike Eli, is a plenty marketable frontman. They're just as good as anyone else in today's country music.
I had only seen Eli Young Band live once before and that was in college when they played for a fraternity's charity event. That was five years ago, and they were good from all that I can remember -- maybe not quite remarkable, but pretty good all the same. Seeing the band's second annual House Party, however, gave me a little bit of clarity.
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From the start of their set headlining the evening, the sound was bad. The vocals and instruments seemed to not be properly balanced and Eli's words and vocals were hard to decipher. Frankly, karaoke on a Saturday night at the Round-Up Saloon sounds better than Eli Young Band sounded at their own party.
They started their set at about 10 p.m. Right off the bat, during "Prayer for the Road," Eli sounded off-pitch and the sound squealed like a turn-your-head-because-that-hurts-my-ears sound. Within about 20 minutes, people had begun flooding out of the ballpark.
@paginaskinner It's sad. Was really hoping for a great show.— Shannon (@sgkdub) November 9, 2014
Before long, the ballpark looked similar to a typical Tuesday afternoon game in July when the Rangers are below .500. People were leaving like they actually needed to sober up and get a good night's rest before church in the morning. It could have been the cold or it could have been that opening acts Pat Green and Gary Allan already played and the Eli Young Band wasn't doing much to convince people to stick around.
There were some even weirder interludes that popped up as the show went on, too. During recent hit "Drunk Last Night," the opening acts played beer pong/ping pong (basically it was a bunch of drunk country singers playing with balls) on the stage behind Eli to give the song and atmosphere that frat-boy-party feel. But when Eli's microphone went completely out about halfway through, crew members grabbed the beer pong table and escorted it off like cops just busted their frat party. The band never returned to or finished that song, instead just moved on after about a one-minute break to try to sort out the sound issues.
After a few more songs, during their more ballad-type tune "Guinevere," Eli stopped the song, and the band followed, stopping all music. Eli handed over his guitar to a stage manager. He didn't speak into the microphone to let anyone know what was happening. Instead, he crouched down and began taking selfies with the crowd in the pit. After several minutes of complete silence from the stage, band and crew members began throwing out T-shirts because when all else fails, free T-shirts.
Rangers announcer Chuck Morgan soon spoke over the PA, because apparently he works at all times, to let the crowd know it was an issue with the power generator, but ensured everyone that the band would play their entire set even if they had to play all night.
After the 15-minute break, the band did come back to play "Small Town Kid," but the sound wasn't any better. Eli told the crowd -- who by this point were only the most dedicated and drunk -- that even though he had a smile on his face, he was probably going to punch a wall that night and follow it up with a lot to drink. He didn't have to wait too long because after their next song, "Crazy Girl," the show was over. The drummer tossed his drumsticks to the crowd and Eli waved goodbye. As a sort of "Let's see if I can help my buddies out," Green came back onstage and signed autographs for fans in the pit. Hey, he didn't have a bad show. No need for him to sulk.
Eli's woes were particularly unfortunate because everything up to that point had made for a good time. Green, Allan, Cody Johnson and Maddie and Tae all had great shows and no problems with the sound or power generator. Their sound was clear and balanced enough to understand what they were singing even if you weren't familiar with the songs. Green is and was the epitome of Texas country with his Rangers jersey and guitar that sported a Greg Abbott sticker. His between-song filler speeches centered a lot on drinking and Texas and drinking. The crowd ate it up.
The crowd was at its biggest and loudest during Allan's set when he played his hits "Watching Airplanes" and "Every Storm (Runs Out Of Rain)." Allan was born and raised in California, but the crowd wouldn't know the difference, especially with his twang. Cody Johnson began to play his set of red dirt tunes just as the sun was setting and more people were arriving. He sang, played the guitar and ran back and forth on stage.
Maddie and Tae, who hail from Texas and Oklahoma respectively, aren't quite Texas country, but they helped balance the otherwise all-male lineup. They're sort of Carrie Underwood-meets-Taylor Swift with their pretty blonde hair and high school-sense songwriting, which they echoed in their song about a mean girl called "Sierra."
In theory, Eli Young Band's House Party is a great idea. Globe Life Park isn't home to a lot of concerts, like the other sports stadiums in town (AT&T Stadium and American Airlines Center) but that could be because it's outside and Texas is either really hot or bitterly cold. People with field access -- a lot of high schoolers wearing letterman jackets -- could stand close to the stage, sit on blankets where third base usually is or hang near the back and two-step. The fans in the stands, typically older fans of Texas country who probably cringe at the idea of bro country or mixing country and rap, could sit comfortably and watch the acts on Globe Life's big screen.
Eli Young Band's House Party drew about 15,000 people out to Arlington to enjoy a six-hour concert of five different musical acts, all for a relatively cheap ticket price. It's a great idea even if the headlining act was a bit of a flop (but nothing Texans won't forget in a year's time. Example: the Texas Rangers).
As far as Eli Young Band's sound trouble, it could have been just a fluke and something they didn't catch during sound check. Or maybe they're more suited to play at fraternity charity events. But when so much of the appeal of country and Texas country music comes from seeing it live to drink, two-step and hold your girl tight to like the band sings about, the live performance has to be the band's best trick. Hopefully next year will wash away the troubles from Saturday night.
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