Concert Review: Granger Smith and Drew Baldridge Bring the Country to this “Tailgate Town”

I don’t know how they continue to do it, but KRTY topped themselves once again with amazing live performances by Drew Baldridge, Granger Smith and a special appearance by none other than Earl Dibbles Jr.

Earl_Granger

Just one night after Dustin Lynch, Chris Lane and Tyler Rich took the Rodeo Club stage, this trio had the unenviable task of trying to best them. As difficult as I thought that might be to do…I think they succeeded!

The night started off with a bang around 8:45 p.m. when Drew Baldridge arrived. Drew is a singer songwriter at heart. According to some background research I did ahead of the show, he grew up playing basketball and baseball, but would perform the National Anthem at all his games. As a teenager, he joined a quartet at church singing bass while his father sang tenor. Later on, he played acoustic gigs at a nearby bar on Saturday nights. Not a bad way to break into the business.

JohnDrew

In 2013, Drew signed with THiS Music, joining the company of a number of the most prominent and prolific songwriters in Nashville. Soon after, he released his debut EP, All Good and singles “BYOB” and “She’s Taken” became radio staples across the Midwest.

Known as much as a performer as a singer, Drew brings an energy-packed show to every performance. Doesn’t matter if he’s opening, or the headliner. He’ll always give you 100%. No less. Over the past few years, Drew has shared the stage with artists such as Alabama, Phil Vassar, and Josh Turner among others. Not bad company to be associated with, right?

I’ve got to say that I was thoroughly impressed with Drew and the band, so much so that I was sure to hit the merchandise table after the show and buy both his CD and EP. The setlist was packed full of songs that were both originals, as well as a few cover songs that sent the crowd into a frenzy. What i loved the most was how the band was always in sync and they entertained. That’s the key word. This was entertainment at it’s finest. You could tell they were having fun up on stage. Everyone danced together while playing. Seriously. Check out the live performance video link below.

His current single, “Dance with Ya“, which closed the set, was the most recognizable of his own songs and here in San Jose, we were sure to make Drew feel welcome. Nothing says “Welcome to KRTY” like a front row filled with Drew Baldridge bobbleheads, right? Yep, that’s me right behind Drew’s left hand, wearing my Oregon Ducks gear!

Bobblehead

Credit: Rudy Sabin (www.rudysabin.com)

The setlist also includes songs such as “Rebound” and the aforementioned covers of Walk the Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance”, as well as a medley of hits from the 90s including Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back”, Smash Mouth’s “All Star”, Sugar Ray’s “Fly” and Third Eye Blind’s “Semi Charmed Life”. Of course, the night wouldn’t be complete without a few country covers which included “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Play Something Country”.

Here’s a quick clip of the live performance of “Shut Up and Dance”.

Here’s a quick clip of the live performance of “Dance with Ya”. Thanks Maggie Doran for capturing it!

During Baby Got Back, the crowd was “treated” to a little rump shaking from the four guys in the band, which seemed to go over well. We also got a little “All About That Bass” from the bass player.

DrewBand1

Oh, did I mention the drummer, Simone Simonton? She was amazing! I mean she could flat out play. Her drum solo was one of the highlights of the evening for me!

I’ve seen a lot of shows. And I’ve seen a lot of so-called “opening acts”. Well I will tell you this. There is NO WAY that Drew Baldridge remains an opening act for long. The last time I saw an opener like this was when A Thousand Horses came to the Rodeo Club to support Josh Thompson. They blew the roof off the place that night, just like Drew and his band did opening for Granger Smith. I can’t wait to see what these guys have in store for them in the months and years to come!

DrewBand2

Drew is active on social media so make sure to check him out on Facebook and follow him on Twitter at @DrewRBaldridge. Speaking of social media, also check out the Drew Crew fan page on Facebook for news, photos and discussions about all things Drew.

After that set, I certainly needed to catch my breath. But I didn’t have long because soon after, the headline of the evening, Granger Smith, made his way to the stage (minus a guitar player who’s wife apparently went into labor!).

Before we get into the music, first, let me provide you with a little background on Granger. He was born and raised in Texas where he grew up with two brothers. Apparently his life changed when he was 14 years old when he decided to teach himself to play guitar. This was motivated by two things: He thought the guitar would make girls pay attention to him, and George Strait played one. Two great reasons!

JohnGranger

By the time he turned 15, he was performing weekends on small town stages in North Texas, and doing his best as a fan club member to attend every George Strait concert he could. By age 19, Granger was satisfied with enough songs he had written to make an album. As a freshman at Texas A&M, he was able to scrape together some money by pre-selling the album to friends around campus. That album eventually landed him a songwriting deal with EMI Music Publishing, and the following year, he headed off to Tennessee.

Granger’s little brother, Tyler joined him in 2008. Together they worked from the ground up with the goal of not only building an artist, but a brand. Like many others, they embraced social media, searched for real connections with fans, and most importantly, ignored their doubters. They created alter-egos through videos to help promote the music and that’s where the world-famous Earl Dibbles Jr. came from back in 2011. While it may have started out as a short, funny video, it turned out to be something that completely changed the shape of Granger’s career.

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After independently releasing seven studio albums, a live album and two EPs, Granger signed his first record deal in 2015 with Broken Bow Music Group (BBR Music Group). And as they say, the rest is history…

So before the doors officially opened, a crowd of about 100 of us were lucky enough to attend an “Album Preview Party”, hosted by KRTY, which gave us a few snippets from his upcoming album “Remington”, due out on March 4. Granger took the stage and introduced each of the three songs and gave us a little insight into the making of the album, and the stories behind the songs. I’ve got to say that the title track is a hit waiting to happen. Although, I wasn’t disappointed by any of the songs that were played. I could easily see all three as follow up singles to his current hit “Backroad Song“. Definitely looking forward to purchasing the album, and I’m sure I’ll order it when pre-orders begin on February 5. Additional details on the new album can be found here.

Now on to the show, and what an action packed set it was. Granger knows how to play to an audience. The guy has a charisma and stage presence that is infectious. Apparently he also has a beautiful smile according to the girls next to me, but I’ll leave that up to you.

And can I just say that he’s got an amazing touring band. Guitar to bass to drums, these guys rock. I kept watching the drummer, Dusty Saxton, who was hidden in the back in his plastic enclosure, leading the organized chaos on stage.  Also had a pretty good view of Jonathan Wisinski on the bass. I’d love to see these guys in an arena or an even larger venue.

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Granger has a full archive of his own music that I swear could fill three full shows. At this show, he ran through a great assortment of favorites and new songs including “The Country Boy Song”, “Bury Me in Blue Jeans”, “Tailgate Town”, “If the Boot Fits” and “Backroad Song”.

 

Now, before I get too far into this, did I mention this was an acoustic show? Now let me ask you a question. How many times have you been at a show where the band blows out the sound…on an ACOUSTIC show??? Well, Granger and the band were successful in accomplishing this. Something I’ve never personally witnessed, but pretty cool in its own right. To pass the time, Granger signed some autographs, took a few pictures with the crowd and was both amused and stoked by the “USA…USA…” chant from the folks in San Jose.

Upon fixing the sound issue, the crowd was treated to a few more song and then, just as quickly as the show began, it appeared to be over. The stage went dark. The crowd went silent. Was it really over? Were we going to get an encore? Was there anything else to come?

Well, for those who know Granger, they also know his alter ego, who I mentioned earlier, Earl Dibbles Jr. Decked out in his white t-shirt, overalls and an American flag, accompanied with a full bag of tobacco, it was Earl time! Needless to say, the crowd exploded with his arrival.

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I don’t know many other artists out there who have an alter ego (Garth, we’ll forgive you for Chris Gaines). But Earl Dibbles Jr. is certainly my favorite. He bleeds red, white and blue and he loves his fans. Not only did we get a stirring rendition of “A Country Boy Can Survive”, but he also spent a good 10-15 minutes at the conclusion of the set signing every single autograph he could from the stage. Gotta love that!

Before you do anything else today, make sure to check out Granger on Facebook and follow him on Twitter at @grangersmith.

I really hope that the San Jose crowd appreciated what they saw tonight. We saw two (OK 3) young, talented, up-and-coming artists who blew the roof off the Rodeo Club. I don’t say things like this lightly, but these guys are heading for the top. I could certainly see them headlining large venues in the years to come. They’re that good. If you see them coming to your town, cancel your plans, get a babysitter and GO TO THE SHOW. You will not be disappointed.

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As always, I want to give thanks to the folks at KRTY. Thank you to Nate Deaton, Julie Stevens, Tina Ferguson, Gary Scott Thomas, Randy Jones, Indiana Al, Jamie Jackson, Jenna Johnson etc…for once again bringing the best in up-and-coming talent to the South Bay. Let’s see any other so called “local country station” in the Bay Area try to do that!

Were you at the show? Have you seen Granger Smith, Earl Dibbles Jr., or Drew Baldridge live? Let me know your thoughts on these guys in the comments section below.

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2 Comments on “Concert Review: Granger Smith and Drew Baldridge Bring the Country to this “Tailgate Town””

  1. Linda Wallace Says:

    Saw them all in Boise Idaho, and the day after the show, Drew had a radio station performance at a local coffee shop (shout out to Dutch Bros). Drew Baldridge and crew are by far the most personable, down to earth, appreciative musicians that are going to EXPLODE in the next year. So happy I can say I met him at the beginning of his breakout career. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE them (my daughter is Travis’s future girlfriend) and wish them all the blessings they deserve!

  2. Kreuzer33 Says:

    Fantastic show. Both artists are one to watch. Can’t wait to see what they do next!


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