Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sugarland @ The Gwinnett Arena

Just over a week ago, Meg and I were lucky enough to attend Sugarland’s sold out show at the Gwinnett Arena. Thanks again to our good friends Jenn and Mark who really hooked us up! Meg, Jenn, Tamara and I were excited and anxious to get into the arena. Not only because we were going to be VIP’s for the night, but also because there was a huge storm about to hit the area. We decided to take advantage of the passes and head straight back stage to see what was going on. To get backstage, we walked next to the stage and then passed the enormous amount of equipment it takes to put on a show like this one. There were sound boards, light boards, computers, guitars, cables, wires and tons of other things that are required to put on a rock and roll show like this. It was really a cool thing to see. I have been backstage at many different shows, but none the caliber of the one we were about to see. It truly is amazing to think that the crews setup and take down all of that equipment in just a few hours at a time on a daily basis during the tour.

Once were in the bowels of the arena we wondered around looking for the band or anyone else that Jenn knew. As we passed the dressing room for Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush, we realized that they were out fulfilling their pre-show obligations meeting the lucky fans who were able to score some meet and greet passes. So it was that point we realized that we probably wouldn’t see those two until after the show. Which is sort of true for Meg and I. I will explain more of that coming up. But then we passed the dressing rooms for the opening band, which was Luke Bryan. He is a local south Georgia product that has hit it big. His set was pretty good, but definitely more on the country-side than the rock-side. He did venture into the rock side on one song when he busted out a short version Metallica’s Enter Sandman, then back to his song. That was pretty rocking!
Travis, Meg, Annie, and myself later after the show

As we kept exploring, we passed the Karma room which will be used for the after show party and then found Sugaland’s bands dressing area. We decided to drop in and see what they were up to just before show time. They were chilling out, checking email, relaxing listening to some music and getting ready for the show. We were able to meet Brandon, the keyboard player (who is Kristian’s brother and is also a member of the band Train) and Travis, the drummer (who is a former member of Better Than Ezra and a well seasoned studio musician). Those guys couldn’t have been cooler to us. Annie, the bass player, was also back there, but she was off drying her and putting on her makeup. It was really great for me to talk to Travis about playing drums and other musical topics while Meg, Jenn and Tamara talked to Brandon about running and yoga. After talking to them for a while we decided to let them prepare for the show and get changed in private. So we moved on to the commissary to grab a quick bite. We are not talking about nachos and hot dogs they had some gourmet grub! The theme that night was Indian and there were some tasty Indian style combinations to choose from. I am talking shrimp, grilled chicken, tofu and different veggies, flatbreads, rice and sauces. The meal was excellent and it really hit the spot since none of us had time to eat before the show. While we were eating, the opening act hit the stage. We watched most of his set at the side of the stage. That is a pretty cool way to see a show. Obliviously being in front is ideal, but at this vantage point, you get to see all of the work the stagehands and techs go through to produce the show that the audience sees. It was crazy and hectic but things ran smoothly, just like a pair or corduroy pants!

After Luke Bryan’s set was over, we decided to move to our seats. The crowd was pumped and ready for Sugarland to come out and rock the house. Realizing that we were almost out of beverages, Meg and I decided to go get more drinks before the headliners came out. We hurried backstage to the bathroom and then on to the drinks. Once we were done, we were headed back to our seats. But we stumbled upon something that very few people get to see. The entire band was huddled in the hall doing their pre show prayer. Meg and I stopped in our tracks and tried to blend into the wall while this was going on. I didn’t want us to distract them or get in the way. But it was pretty cool!

Sugarland on stage

We got back to our seats just as they were walking on to the stage and we were ready. The place was packed and the atmosphere was electric! This was the first show of the new tour and that means new stage setup, new songs and new effects. The new lights were awesome, they aren’t on par with a Phish show, but they were still pretty amazing. They also used some new drop down lights to set the mode for the slower more mellow songs. They also incorporated bubbles, glow sticks, feathers, wigs on both Jennifer and Annie (for Love shack to emulate the ladies from the B-52s) and of course they still brought out the big hamster balls which Kristian and Jennifer went rolling over the crowd in. They also did a thing that you won’t see a lot of other bands doing. They signed a guitar on stage and Kristian ran out and up into the crowd and gave it to a little kid. Talk about a special souvenir and a way to ensure a fan for life! The only thing is, Kristian sprained his ankle while running back down to the stage. Most people would never know since he went on with the show as normal. It wasn’t until we were back stage that we knew this happened. It was a really bad sprain and I am amazed he continued to perform like nothing had happened. I am sure it really affected him when he and Jennifer disappeared for a minute and reappeared deep in the crowd where they played a song acoustically just before the encore. He had to cover a lot of ground in a short period of time. They played a great set list. They covered all of their hits, plus some new ones and a couple of great covers.
Check out the set list from the night
Here is Jenn, Brandon, and Meg backstage. Love the handle bars!

Jennifer, Tamara, and myself after the show

After the show was over, we headed straight back to the Karma room and waited for the band to show up. While we were there, some of Jenn’s friends from Decatur were there and luckily Lori had a camera, so we were able to take a few shots. Most of the band members showed up first and we were able to talk to our new best friends Brandon and Travis. It was really cool and as much as we wanted to say hi to Jennifer and Kristian, we would have been just as happy to hang out with Brandon, Travis and Annie the rest of the night. Once Kristian hobbled in, that is when we realized that he had twisted his ankle. Then Jennifer came in and she had sung so hard that her voice is gone and could only whisper when she talked. That just shows how dedicated these guys are to putting on an amazing show for their fans. The Karma room was almost empty before we got to talk to Kristian and Jennifer, but that was fine with us. We were able to spend more time talking about all kinds of things with them, for a while there it was more like talking to an old friend and not a rock star!

Meg, Kristian, and I after the show

Speaking of rock stars, Meg and I felt like we were rock stars that night. No, we didn’t get up on stage, but we did get treated great. We can’t thank Sugarland enough for being cool and putting on an excellent show. And of course we have to thank Jenn and Mark for hooking us up. It truly was a great night and we will never forget it.

Rock and Roll, yall!


kelly said...

sounds like a great night for VIP's like you guys!! I hear you also saw one of my fav's, Big Head Todd recently, I'm jealous...

Alan said...

To see a repost of this review or for more news on Sugarland, please go to