Save a Horse ( Ride a Rays Fan )
Jim Thacker /DDR Back in early 2000, I went to work in the Florida Panhandle for Buffalo Rock Pepsi, a local Pepsi distributor who ran a small warehouse out of Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Even as a kid, I was never a die-hard country music fan. But considering my new job required me to drive at least 10 hours per day from various stops on the beaches of Destin and nearby Eglin Air Force Base to the Alabama border, I would spend a huge amount of time listening to music on the truck radio.
Jim Thacker / DDR Sure there were Rock stations all up and down the dial, but this region was dominated by the country twang.
This was when everyone began to idolize the music of Alan Jackson and Garth Brooks and a new music revival was taking over our ears of to explore our Country Music roots. I began to listen more to the rhythm of the steel guitar and the sweet female Southern drawls coming out of my radio and found it to my liking.
Jim Thacker / DDR
And also about this same time Country artists were began to incorporate more rock and roll beats and rhythms and this style of music soon melted the two different brands of music together to form a fresh vibrant version of country that seemed to please everyone from sea to shining sea. The music had started to become a focus all over the country, not just to the southern and mid-western parts of the country.
And among those bands using the rock and roll based stage pyrotechnics and lighting antics was newcomers Big & Rich.
Jim Thacker / DDR The band was different because they wanted to send their fans homes yearning for more of the new brand of entertainment that they presented to the masses at their concerts, and with their CD recordings. They wanted to send you to a new place within Country Music and make you hungry for more. And they truly did just that last Saturday night when they performed a postgame concert during the Rays Country Night.
Jim Thacker / DDR Considering the band got on late thanks to the Rays staging a comeback victory over the Texas Rangers, thank goodness for the 10th inning heroics of Carlos Pena who sent a ball up the middle to score Evan Longoria and giving the team their second straight win against the Rangers. It was rolling past 11 pm when the stage was finally beginning to be set up and the crowd energized knowing they were going to see Cowboy Troy, Two Foot, Big Kenny and John Rich soon making music as charter members of Nashville’s MusikMafia.
Jim Thacker/ DDR I have to honestly tell you, I have not been a long time follower of Big & Rich’s music, but during this show I did enjoy and will go to ITunes and download a few of their songs I heard that evening/early morning. I did not have the dedication and the stamina of a pair of Season Ticket holders who sit in my Section who had the field wristbands for the night and went downstairs after the 4th inning and stood all that time in line to be able to get a front row view of the concert.
Jim Thacker / DDR
I even saw a few of the Rays players like Matt Garza, James Shields and Texan Scott Kazmir mingling up front during crowd shots during the concert. Those two fans from Section 138, Jim and Debbie Thacker must have stood under and behind the rightfield stands for about two hours before they were able to run and at least stretch their legs a bit before the concert officially got under way around 11:30 pm that night.
Jim Thacker / DDR And by the end of the night, Debbie would be rewarded with the back panel of the “Hick Chicks” guitar that was smashed on stage by the band right about the 12:30 am mark. But the band did entertain throughout the night and did an awesome job of keeping us on our feet and bopping our heads to the drummers beat. Heck, every photo listed on the blog today was taken by Jim as he was in the front row and got some incredible photos for me.
Jim Thacker / DDR The band even brought up a young local Rays fan and let him finish off the song “Big Time” with the band right up on stage in front of the 29,000+ Rays fans who stayed for the concert. But you could tell the kid was nervous, but he was a total trooper and did a great job on the fly up there singing with the band. “Big Time” was one of their earlier hits that made it all the way to #20 on the charts. And was one of the first songs that night I knew would have a place on a CD real soon in my collection.
Jim Thacker / DDR And it really impressed me that they did a 20 minute plus extendion of their song “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)” marked with extra riffs and timely ad lib verses to celebrate the night and the Rays. Have to admit here that the next day I was pretty wiped out by all the dancing and the singing I was doing from my seat that night. They were not all songs that I knew by heart, and even some like “8th of November”, which honored the story of Nile Harris a veteran of the Vietnam War caught me a bit off guard.
Jim Thacker / DDR And before that night I had never heard their hit “Wild West Show”, which is full of Native American imagery and tones. This song is definitely another one of the tracks I am purchasing from Itunes soon. And more than one woman in the crowd around me were voicing that they wanted the wedding ballad “Lost in this Moment” to be played at their wedding reception or ceremony.
Jim Thacker / DDR I truly did not seem to attribute this song to the band if I heard it outside of tonights concert because of the gentle vocals of the song, but then I forgot Rich used to be a member of the ballad-rich country band Lonestar before forming this band. The song actually was so well recieved it crossed over onto the adult contemporary charts and rose to the # 12 spot. That is a song that stayed with me long after the end of the concert that night.
So as I walked to my car right about time the DJ at Ferg’s called “Last Call” for the night, I still had a few of those songs ringing round and round in my head. And I know that in the next week or so I am purchasing songs online and maybe even a CD or two of their music for more enjoyment as I travel to and from games. It truly made the night something to remember. Big & Rich did everything they advertised that night. It was loud, wild and full of unexpected moment from the first note to the last.