FRIENDS IN LOCASH PLACES……A MARYLAND HOMECOMING
They say you can tell a lot about a man by the friends he keeps, and if that’s the case, Saturday night at The Fillmore in Silver Spring was a LoCash tell all. For Chris Lucas, Maryland is home, and there was no denying his celebratory homecoming. The Fillmore played host to this highly anticipated stop on The Fighters Tour, and the friends, family, and fans of Chris and LoCash came out in force. The main floor and upper VIP sections were packed, and the energy in the room was palpable. Anyone who’s been on this journey with Chris and his partner, Preston Brust, know that this duo’s music is roots based. Everything they’re made of, musically, is a by-product of where they came from and who they are. Their current album is titled The Fighters, and it couldn’t be more appropriately named. Every day of their career has been a blessing and a lesson, not necessarily in equal proportion, but their songwriting and live performance is a testament to the value they place on who they are and how they got here. In support of their efforts, the spirit of Maryland was in the house to cheer them on.
Two acts would take the stage before the hometown heroes arrived, Michael Tyler and Ryan Follese, and their opening sets were both spot on. Songwriting is at the heart of LoCash, and these two artists have proven themselves on a professional level. Lyric-driven writing might just run in their veins. Michael Tyler is a labelmate on Reviver Records, and a frequent co-writer. In addition to writing his own music, he’s had cuts with Jason Aldean and Dierks Bentley. At just 23, he’s already writing like a veteran. His debut album, 317, is set to be released on March 17, and he had a hand in writing every song on it. Listening to his live set, he could give Taylor Swift a run for her money in the songwriting department. If you don’t want to end up inspiring a song, watch your step. CMT picked Michael as one of their “17 for 2017” new artists to watch, and early in his set, I knew why. This guy can tell a story, and he’s got a voice full of emotion. Youth and good looks are just icing on the cake.
Michael’s roots are in Thayer, Missouri, a railroad town. He’s a descendant of Jimmie Rodgers, widely regarded as “The Father of Country Music.” After meeting with Michael Knox (Jason Aldean’s producer) via social media, he played a show for him in Nashville and the deal was sealed. As a songwriter and an artist, he’s got that “IT” factor. That was evident Saturday night. Highlights from his set included his current single, “They Can’t See,” “Love Myself,” off his upcoming album, and “Somewhere On A Beach,” which he co-wrote, and was recorded by Dierks Bentley. “Love Myself” is a reactionary song he wrote after a “goodbye and good riddance” break up. That one will be downloaded a few times. His stage presence has everything to do with his command of a song. When he sings it, there’s no doubt he’s written it, and that kind of kinetic relationship can’t be a product of smoke and mirrors. He owns it, and that authenticity is golden in the music business. This Maryland crowd loved him. Watch this one indeed.
Ryan Follese is no stranger to commanding a stage or an audience. In 2005, he was a founding member of the dance-rock band, Hot Chelle Rae. Over the next ten years, they released three albums, had a single go double platinum, and toured with Taylor Swift and Demi Lovato. Announcing their hiatus in 2015, the door was open to pursue solo careers. Ryan is in the process of making that happen. His parents are country music songwriters, having scored hits with Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Martina McBride, and Lady Antebellum, so at a young age, he went the opposite way. With having formed a successful rock band on his resume, he’s now returning to the family business. He said he grew up listening to the songs his parents had written over dinner. Now on his own, he’s putting his pen to more lyrical songwriting. He co-wrote all the songs on his debut EP, released last year, and his single, “Put A Label On It,” is currently playing on Sirius XM The Highway. He was dubbed a “Highway Find” last summer, and is one of Live Nation’s “Ones To Watch.” His talent seems endless.
One thing that was evident right away was Ryan’s ability to put some killer musicians behind him. His backing band consists of 19-year old, John Prentice, on guitar, who plays well beyond his years, Jeremy Bryant, who exudes personality and panache on bass, Dylan Jones, who puts some flare into his keys playing, and Wendell Holmes, Jr., who’s like Bonham meets Nate Smith on drums. His solo was all Bonham, but the finesse was Nate. To call him a powerful drummer is an understatement, but there’s such fluidity between strength and finesse, you never see the shift coming. As a frontman, Ryan has a lot to work with. His arsenal of material is stacked, and he has a band that can roll with whatever he throws at them. This is a young artist who isn’t relying on recorded sounds to augment his band’s playing. They’re straight up playing the notes, and it was fun to watch because of the musicianship. Ryan sang his own stuff, including his new single, some of the hits his parents have written, Hot Chelle Rae’s smash hit, “Tonight Tonight,” as well as a few covers, and the audience responded boisterously. There’s not much lull in his set. It’s continuous, fun music, and everything an opener can do to warm up the crowd for the headliner. The energy for LoCash was running high.
This was my first time seeing LoCash live. I’d watched the Live Nation stream of their show in Indianapolis, and immediately bought my ticket for this one. The energy in that performance made my viewing of it nearly a 3-D experience. This one was going to take on another dimension. Over the next two hours, Chris and Preston, and everyone on that stage, poured everything they had into making this night one to remember. It was the epitome of what live music should be, creating a unique experience that exudes musicianship over machinery, interpersonal communication with the audience over video screens. This was not only a celebration of family, friends, and fans, it was an ode to great music, past and present.
The show had a little bit of everything – country, rock, and pop, and plenty of grateful moments and fan appreciation. Both local country radio stations, WMZQ and WPOC, had representatives in the house. They’ve been extremely supportive in playing LoCash songs and attending their events in the greater Washington, DC area. As we would find out later, they even had a hand in getting the guys their recent #1 radio hit. “I Know Somebody” got a big local push to get it to the top spot, and LoCash was in Baltimore when they got the news. It seems Maryland has been very good to this duo. Chris talked a lot about his music influences growing up, and how he and Preston have drawn from their interests and experiences over the years to write the songs that make up their discography. It’s been an evolving process, and their latest album suits their current state. Over the course of their set, they played most of the songs on The Fighters, and every one left an impression for a different reason. Watching the album come alive throughout the night had a big impact on how I’ll listen to it in the future. The history of Chris and Preston that went into the making of that album was present, on stage and in the audience.
I got the feeling, very early on, that the set list for a LoCash show is merely a suggestion. They may have some loose outline of what and when, but calling the shots on stage seems to jive better with the personality they inject into the show, and their band is very much a part of that personality. One of the things that jumped out at me when I watched the Indianapolis show was the incredible band they had with them. These weren’t just hired guns told to dress in black and fade into the scenery. They’re highly encouraged to turn this duo into a rock band, a real live play it like you mean it rock band. And there was no perfunctory introduction of band members, or meaningless shout out to the collective. Their introduction was an integral part of the show. It highlighted the versatility of the musicians and the skills needed to pull off such a diverse, history-driven set, with elements of multiple genres. You can disguise Andy Wood on any number of country music stages, and he’s masterful in that genre, but there is a rock guitarist just waiting for someone to ask for White Snake, or ZZ Top, or any other classic rock tune you can throw at him. I doubt there’s much of anything he can’t play. The other guitar player is Paul Scott, an animated badass who clearly loves his job. He was everywhere on that stage, pouring his energy into every chord, and when he had an electrical glitch during his solo, he was encouraged to start over and play the whole thing. As Preston said, “If Adele can start over, our guy sure can.” On the restart, he carried it out flawlessly, to much applause. The rhythm section is made up of Zach Fowler on bass and Mark Chrisawn on drums. Zach is no ordinary bass player. He’s not afraid to exert his musical presence when the song calls for it. It isn’t often I see a bass player get lost in a song, a seamless connection between player, instrument, and the music. Mark’s seat above the stage floor gave him a panoramic view of his impressive fellow players, and the two guys he would musically follow around all night. There’s an ebb and flow between the music and the interaction Chris and Preston have with the audience. Mark’s job is to keep whatever beat serves the fluid situation, and he does so as if he knows exactly what’s coming next. He says it keeps him on his toes throughout the performance. When the rock songs come up, Mark is in his element. There’s passion and power in his playing that shines on the more demanding tunes. Will Doughty was asked to play a medley of sorts on keys, with Chris urging him to show off his talent. Not sure if I was more impressed with his playing or his rumored shoe collection. Either way, I’m a fan.
Bringing a band of this caliber to the stage means LoCash is serious about the quality of their live show. Most of the time, there’s minimal separation between what they do as frontmen and playing or singing as part of the whole. Both Chris and Preston are fantastic at working the stage, working the audience, and keeping a dialogue throughout the night that makes the fans feel like they’re part of the show. This was a special case, being a hometown show, but shout outs were plentiful, and recognition was given to local radio, Under Armour, and Maryland as a whole for their unyielding support over the years. The most poignant moment of the evening came when Chris introduced Nick Tasker, a young boy fighting cancer. LoCash has taken up his cause, helping him and his family to overcome this hardship. As he sat on a chair in the middle of the stage, they sang the title song off their album, “The Fighters,” dedicating it to his fight with cancer. It was incredibly moving, and speaks to the nature of these guys. In any way they can help, through music or otherwise, you will find them at the center of the effort. Their dedication to such causes is inspiring.
To complement the rock influences of their past, Chris talked about the impact of 90s country music on his career choice. He’d seen a Garth Brooks show when he was young that left him wanting to be a country artist. “Friends In Low Places” was a highlight of their salute to 90s country. It also included songs from Brooks and Dunn, Dwight Yoakam, Alan Jackson, Vince Gill, and Joe Diffie. To showcase their songwriting success, they performed the song they wrote for Keith Urban, “You Gonna Fly,” and Tim McGraw’s “Truck Yeah.” Their overall song selection made for a great night of music, inclusive of the diversity that shaped their artistic direction. They ended the night with the song that speaks to their current mood, “I Love This Life.” The crowd seemed nearly euphoric in singing along and celebrating their recent accomplishments and a tremendous night of music. Even after two hours, no one wanted this night to end.
I’ve been to a lot of concerts, from the honky tonk bar kind to marquee stadium shows. What LoCash put into those two hours at The Fillmore was a concert experience that can only exist in that moment. Everything that brought them to that place in time became a part of that show. Coming off a high from scoring a number one song and an ACM nomination for New Vocal Duo or Group of the Year, surrounded by many of the people who’ve supported their long journey, their was no containing the celebration that ensued. With grateful hearts, they dug in and went to work doing what got them there. There is no quit in LoCash, and their set is a working man’s soliloquy. It wouldn’t matter if they were playing to a crowd of 100 or 100,000, their dedication to putting on the best show possible is just part of their makeup. They played over 200 shows last year, and there are no signs of slowing down. Their hard work and genuine appreciation for the people around them has pushed them to the next level. But no matter where they go from here or the grandeur of any venue they may play, this night in Maryland will always be a benchmark. They won’t forget it, and none of us will either. For Maryland’s native son and his musical brother, blame it all on their roots, they showed up in boots, and owned this LoCash place.
WATCH the video for “Ring On Every Finger.”
VISIT LoCash’s website: http://www.locashmusic.com/
DOWNLOAD The Fighters: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/the-fighters/id1113103130
WATCH the video for “Put A Label On It.”
VISIT Ryan Follese’s website: http://ryanfollese.com/
DOWNLOAD Ryan’s EP: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/ryan-follese-ep/id1147299860
WATCH Michael Tyler perform his single, “They Can’t See.”
VISIT Michael Tyler’s website: http://www.themichaeltyler.com/
PRE-ORDER 317: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/317/id1197370791
Read Nick Tasker’s story and CONTRIBUTE to his fight against cancer:
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