Jay Psaros supporting Chris Daughtry Artist Review
Casino Ballroom, Hampton Beach, NH
July 6, 2017
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Greetings everyone, and thank you to Live Music News and Review for inviting me to do an “Artist Review” of my July 6th, 2017 show at the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom with Chris Daughtry. Over the past few years, I’ve been blessed to have shared the stage with a bevy of national acts, many of whom I grew up listening to. Every show has been a little different; the room, the crowd, the atmosphere and the vibe. All in all, they have all been a positive experience which I feel grateful to be a part of.
I first supported Daughtry last year at The Casino Ballroom when he stopped in for a three-piece acoustic show. As with all larger gigs I tend to get the nerves before the show which usually subside a song or two in. Getting the call to open for Daughtry was no different in that regard although given his genre, I had a bigger case of “the nerves.” Daughtry is a bit outside my genre. His new age rock with an undeniable vocal prowess when seen up close is a force to be reckoned with. Me, being a folksy singer/songwriter with an emphasis on acoustic guitar really made me wonder how things would go in front of a sold-out room coming to see one of the era’s most prominent rock vocalists. I often have to remind myself when doing opening sets that, regardless the genre, everyone is, essentially at the core, a singer/songwriter…and that music is simply music. Filled with variety yet one in the same. But this isn’t the show I’ve been asked to review. I’m here to talk about opening this year’s show with his full band in tow!
I’ve been gigging for the past couple of months with very few days off. Some of the gigs have been great, some of them have been a grind. With the Daughtry show on the schedule at one of my favorite rooms, The Casino Ballroom, I was energized and excited to get up to the beach-side venue on a prime summer day. Loading in as the opening act, especially an independent act like myself is always a humorous thing. I drive a Jeep Liberty and it always gives me a chuckle rolling up next to the headliner’s tour bus and in this case, both of them with an eighteen-wheeler semi. I gathered my gear (two acoustics, a pedal board, merchandise and show clothes) and climbed the metal stairs that lead up to the side stage entrance at venue. When I walked in, Daughtry was sound-checking with “Home” while the engineers tried to work out any last kinks in the band’s sound.
Once in the venue, I checked in with the Casino Ballroom’s staff (they have some of the best staff around) and made my way to my dressing room, which is partly shared by Daughtry’s road crew. They all recognized me from last year’s gig. This is always a gratifying feeling because, as the opener, we come and go. It’s nice to be remembered and welcomed back on board. To me, it makes me feel as though I’ve made a good impression and can be trusted in their work environment. Once I was all settled into the venue, the next hour or so is spent on soundcheck and getting the merchandise all set up.
Sound checking, especially through a system like the one they have at The Casino Ballroom is always a thrill. My single acoustic booms through their system with heavy lows and clear, crisp highs. The stage is rigged with line arrays for mains and a great monitoring system complete with side fill monitors. I always love stages with side fills because I get a blend of my monitor and house mix which makes me feel more connected to the room.
Once sound checked, it was doors…and the long two hour wait until show time. This is always the part that I hate most. As Tom Petty says, “The waiting is the hardest part.” The first hour, no sweat. I kill time talking with staff, checking out the gear of the headlining act, tweaking my set list, a couple guitar warm-ups, etc etc.
The second hour, time starts to slow down. Twenty minutes before show time, the room is filled. It is a standing room general admission show, so people are packed up tight at the stage barrier waiting for the show to start. Some have been there for close to two hours. Ten minutes before the show I’m pacing a little bit and anxious to play. Five minutes before the show I’m summoned by the stage manager and move backstage to await house lights. Those last five minutes feel like an eternity. Then finally, house lights go down, stage lights go up and I walk out on stage to a cheering crowd filled with energy.
Once on stage, I kick into my act and hope that the crowd receives me well. From my first song, I knew this was a great audience. Sometimes it takes a little bit to win over a crowd. Sometimes, it just doesn’t happen and the room doesn’t seem to “pop” during your set. In this particular case, the room seemed to pop right away. My first song was a tried and true finger picking tune called “Whiskey in the Rain,” followed by an energetic new tune called “Anything at All” and then into “You Don’t Know How it Feels” by Tom Petty which is great when the crowd is in the mood to sing along and on this night, they were. So far, so good…the audience had been treating me kindly.
I followed with a couple more lyrically-focused folksy tunes called “Young Man” and “The Orphan.” “The Orphan” seemed to strike a chord more so than “Young Man.” Next on the setlist was a cover of the 90’s song “Kryptonite” which I thought would resonate well with this crowd followed by my song “Bar Room Singer,” which is a great place to insert some looping. I glanced down at my clock to notice that my set was nearing the end. The half hour before feels like a day. The half hour during feels like a second.
I began to de-tune my guitar for “Tripping and Running,” while thanking the audience for being so kind and welcoming of me. Their response was so genuine and joyful. I finished my set with “Tripping and Running” and headed off stage to cool down for a minute. What a thrill! It all happened so fast.
It was another half an hour or so before Daughtry came on. I’ve worked with a lot of acts of many different genres over the years. One thing that holds true is that, regardless of one’s personal music taste, etc. etc., every act at the headlining level hits the stage and absolutely delivers 9 and a half times out of ten. From the very first note. Daughtry was no exception to this. His band was seamless, his vocals strong, his presence impactful and his audience captivated.
My favorite part of a night like this isn’t necessarily my time onstage but my time on the side of it. I love getting to watch how musicians, band and crew work together to make a show successful is an education that can’t be found unless you are immersed. I cherish the opportunity to open shows for larger acts but I also cherish being able to learn from the experience. Everything from how bands communicate, the role of the stage manager, how they rig their gear, touring logistics. All of this has to come together to make a show spectacular.
After Daughtry’s set I was able to hang out with him for a while. He was a great guy and as it turns out, we have some mutual friends and acquaintances. Before I knew it, the night was over. As with most stories, the rising action is long, the climax is fleeting and the falling action is short. It’s gigs like these that keep me energized, and excited about what the future holds. They also remind me that I have a lot to be thankful for. I have a couple days off before heading out for another great weekend of shows. This time supporting Lisa Loeb at The Natick Center for the Arts on July 13th and supporting The Mavericks at Indian Ranch on July 16th.
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