That Time I Worked On a Country Music Tour

So last week one of my dreams came true. Casual. 

Most of us ignore the emails from Legends. In fact, it's kind of a campus joke. I don't know about you, but it's hard for me to find anyone anxious to see DJ Shiny Pants on the 1s and 2s on a gicen Friday nights (note: Shiny Pants is a real guy that I efinitely avoided). I don't know anyone whose legitimately tried out friday night speed-dating and I refuse to go to Hip-Hop night after a few traumatic freshmen year nights out. To sum it up, I realy only go out there for the semi-annual, semi-decent concerts they occassionally put together. But last week, a miracle happened. The heavens opened up, the powers that be heard my prayers, and Sam Hunt came to campus. #Blessed

To top it all off, thanks to social media, I got to skip the crazy line, meet some people on the tour, and work the event for a day. So here's the story about that time I worked on a national music tour. Warning: the following article is part review, part humblebrag. No shame. 

I first wrote about Sam Hunt after the release of his successful debut album Montevallo which is a pretty well executed country album. It's as much Luke Bryan and Josh Turner as it is Drake and Usher. Hunt has cited many genres as part of his influences and fused their sounds to create something incredibly unique in a genre where it's so easy for talent to get lost in the trap of homogeny. 

Getting On The Tour

Hunt is on the tail end of his first headlining "Lipstick Grafitti" tour, which has crisscrossed smaller venues across the country promoting Hunt's new album. Montevallo has three singles playing concurrently on country and mainstream radio, a kind of success that's almost unheard of for a solo newcomer. And while Sam's tour is riding a buzz that seems to be predicting massive mainstream success, his tour is still pretty grassroots. I got my shot at helping out thanks to a Facebook post.

So I sent an email about 30 minutes later-shamelessly attaching a link to my article - and heard nothing for the next month and a half. Fast forward to a week before the show, and suddenly I get an email from Craig, the new merch guy on Lipstick Grafitti, asking if I'm still down to help sell merch at the ND stop on the tour. And I can't believe my life.

It was all very informal. He asked if I was still free for the show. I said yes. He told me to get to the venue two hours early and text him. That was it. I was working the tour for a day. 

A friend and I met Craig in the lobby of Legends exactly two hours before the doors of the show were supposed to open.

Everybody Is Young

Aside from ND-provided security, nobody on that tour was over 35. Though we were on a country tour, aside from a guy in a camo sweatshirt and a banjo perched up against the stage, you wouldn't know it. Everybody looked like an urban musician. AKA hipster casual. Lots of beanies, tattoos, and under-cuts. 

It's a Boys' Club

All of the roadies, musicians, tour workers, and everybody else is a dude. They're all pretty friendly and there's a strong sense of bromance throughout the place. If there was any tension, we saw none of it. 

The Tour Is Your Life and Your Life Is The Tour

In order to get the kind of visibility to take an artist from up and coming to bona-fide star, you have to be performing... constantly. Nobody has time to shower. Nobody knows where they are or where they're headed. They do know their drink orders. Everybody puts in crazy hours. And, even though they've done the same set a thousand times, they're all really into the music. 

Groupies Are Real. And They Are Wild. 

One of the best parts about working with Craig (aside from finding out he read my article!) was talking to him about the tour and his time in the music business. Craig wears a lot of metaphorical hats on tour (and works a mean beanie). Aside from managing t-shirt sales, he does a lot of coordination work and handles instrumets during the set. But some of the craziest stories he had were about the fans. Craig has bounced around on a couple tours and told us stories about hardcore fans. One of the wildest was when a known stalker moved to an act's city and took a job disturbingly close to their families. 

Musicians bring out a lot of interesting fan behavior, the Notre Dame stop was no different. Girls asked if I knew Sam Hunt and offered me money (lol $2) to meet him. Legend's staff set up a human barricade to the backstage area and I spent a lot of my night watching girls try to talk their way around it. My favorite was when an umm...overserved girl started begging a merch guy to admit he liked her...exacty two minutes after meeting him. All in all, it was hilarious and painful to witness. 

Sam Hunt Puts on a Hell of a Show.

Though he's got a strong set of material, he's also backed up by some obviously talented musicians. They somehow manage to have a very tight, cleaned up, and rehearsed sound that's still fun. One of the best parts of the set is the acoustic break where Hunt covers classics like "Dust On The Bottle" and "I Wanna Dance With Somebody", proving once again that he can make any genre work. From a lesser act it might seem fragmented. From Hunt it's effortless. 

I met the opener and had no clue. 

The tour was all about the group effort. Everyone's goal was to put on a great show that runs smoothly, so there was a pretty cool sense of comradery. They're all friends, which makes it difficult to immediately figure out the hierarchy- if there even was one. Aside from Sam, all of the musicians moved in and out of the backstage area and interatced with everyone. So when a dude in a camo sweatshirt introduced himself at the merch table, we had no clue he'd be the opener whose cocky smile had girls screaming for him to get in their beds throughout his entire set. To us he was Michael, another in a long line of attractive, friendly dudes working the tour. 

Michael aka Michael Ray, the opener.

All in all working the merch table was a crazy opportunity. It's not often that one gets to work on a tour, especially for an act like Hunt's which could become very famous very quickly. A quick shoutout to Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg for helping check something crazy off my bucket list. And to the guys of the Lipstick Grafitti tour, thanks for an epic night. 



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