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Whiskey Myers Takes on Arenas

The lights go down on a standard midsize concrete adorned arena in Shreveport, Louisiana.  The crowd roars.  An artistic video reel rolls out in triplicate across three screens that heretofore in the evening were only used in solo or tandem mode.  A trippy light show begins to dance across the backdrop as spotlights dance across the assembled masses.  The roars get louder as the band’s logo flashes across the middle reel.  That logo belongs to Whiskey Myers.  As does this tour.

Whiskey Myers has been a band carrying the torch of southern roots music for close to a decade.  Busting out of the regional Texas scene, the band has forged a path all its own on the strength of throwback Skynyrd and Allman style jams infused with their own east Texas modern twist. The band has leapt from bars to sheds, bottom of the poster to biggest font on the poster.  They’ve opened for the Rolling Stones at Soldier Field.  Their credentials and reputation speak for themselves.  Yet, despite all they have accomplished, they have embarked on their grandest undertaking so far. 

A months long arena tour with their name on top of the marquee. Supporting acts ranging from the white hot Red Clay Strays (who we will get to in a moment), legends such as Blackberry Smoke, burgeoning acts such as Treaty Oak Revival and established fan favorites such as Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real and Whitey Morgan and the 78’s among others.  It’s a celebration of independent music with edge.  Raw, unfiltered and loud.  A throwback to the tours of the 70’s.  One night stands in flyover states and the coasts.  Major markets, midsize markets and a few places that don’t usually get such a high profile event.  The Whiskey Myers boys are doing it up right.

To pull this off, they assembled a dream team of behind the scenes crew folks that have worked on those 70’s throwback tours.  The lighting director has run shows for Led Zeppelin.  The overall creative director has consulted with Bruce Springsteen on multiple tours.  When these grizzled crew guys were asked why they’d want to embark on such an undertaking with Whiskey Myers in 2024, they simply responded “the music.”  Just like the fans, the music brought them to this band and tour.  The million mile veterans related that there just aren’t any other bands out on the road doing what the Myers boys and this scene are doing.  Real music in front of real fans.  Grassroots.  Independent.  True.  Inspired by that ethos, the maestros went to work creating a state of the art stage show that could fill any space from the best auditorium to the largest NFL stadium if need be. 

And so it was on the evening of March 8, 2024 in Shreveport that after months of planning, weeks of rehearsals that the debut performance was set to launch.  To set the stage for the night’s main event, the management team wrangled two bands to set the stage.  The first act to hit the Brookshire Grocery Arena stage to a still arriving early crowd was Alabama native Reid Haughton.  Haughton is a natural and charismatic performer with woodshed sharpened chops that evoke the youthful days of Haughton’s co-writer and fellow Alabaman Adam Hood.  Haughton closed his set with a rousing and soulful cover of Charlie Daniels Band’s “Long Haired Country Boy” which really set the vibe for the rest of the evening.

After a short break in the action, another Alabama crew confidently strode onstage.  The Red Clay Strays are the band of the moment.  Their rise has been relatively meteoric as we have previously documented.  “Wondering Why” has become a TikTok sensation that has the Strays being played on radios nationwide regardless of genre.  Rock, pop, country.  Everyone is digging on some Red Clay Strays.  Brandon Coleman was a striking vision on this night in a baby blue sport coat that underscored his Elvis moves even more than normal.  His efforts were aided by being projected on a couple of the tour’s large video screens.  Capturing each smirk, wiggle, lip curl and leg shake in HD.  The Strays had an ambitious setlist for their stage time allotment and did their best to squeeze in all the tunes before having to chop off the last number.  The crowd got what they came for though. 

Drummer John Hall is also always a fun watch during a Strays set.  On this night, he was a little more subdued than usual.  Which really just means he kept his shirt on.  But, he did keep the beat steady and the shuffle smiling on top of the grooves.  Guitarists Drew Nix and Zach Rishel along with bassist Andrew Bishop looked at home on such a big stage.  Each member of the Strays looked like they’d been on stages this large for years.  The thundering adoration from the sellout crowd certainly reinforced that it won’t be too long before the Strays will likely be hosting their own headlining arena shows.

A half hour can be a long time or a short time depending on the setting.  It can seem interminable when sitting at a concert waiting on the headliner.  Crew guys buzz around like worker bees in service of the queen.  Beer lines grow longer than the women’s bathroom line.  Murmurs of conversation swell into a loud buzz over the house music.  On this night that house music was a choice collection of Tom Petty and Traveling Wilbury deep cuts. By the time the lights dimmed for that artistic video reel, everyone was primed for the jams that would soon greet their ears.

With ringing guitars and a two level stage set-up the opening strains of “Wolf” howled out of the arena speakers.  Cody Cannon bellowed what has always seemed like a mission statement, but felt even more appropriate on this night, in this setting.

Yeah, I kiss my wife goodbye, howl at the moonlight

Time to make some money, everything's gon' be alright

They tried to hold me down, but can't nothin' last forever

I feel it in my bones, there's a change in the weather

Put me back in the saddle out on the road

This way I make a livin' is the only way I know

You're messin' with some forces that your mind can't comprehend

I've done been to the bottom, I ain't goin' back again

Cannon belted from front center stage.  Guitarist John Jeffers stage left and Cody Tate stage right took turns trading solos and riffs that bounced off the cavernous arena walls.  Behind them on the second level were drummer Jeff Hogg, bassist Jamey Gleaves and percussionist Tony Kent.  The weeks of stage preparation, set list building, tweaking of the lights and video elements with help from masters of the past all came to a crescendo in front of a rowdy audience.   Whiskey Myers kept the focus on the music.  The bells and whistles are merely addendums to what they already do.  It’s still a true blue Texas rock n’ roll show.  Just with a few more lights.  Albeit, really cool lights.  21 songs. Jeffers taking lead vocals on “Bitch”.  Kent taking a turn at the piano and leading vocals on a prime cover of Jackson Browne’s “Running on Empty”. Soon enough the rocking gave way to the “Broken Window Serenade” harmonica humalong and crowd singalong.  Whiskey Myers are bonafide rock stars.  They’ve proven it over one thousand shows leading to this one.  This one served more of a crowning achievement and the start of a next level phase.  They’ve always taken an old school approach with everything about their career and this arena tour is no different.  

Standing in the middle of the floor level near the front of house console, you could close your eyes for a moment and be transported to 1974.  The smell of spilled draft beer.  The thundering echoes of Gibson Les Pauls channeled through some stacks.  Double percussionists.  Thumping bass.  Powerful vocals. A raucous crowd singing along, stomping and standing for the duration.  An American rock show.  The fact that it is actually 50 years after that time jump is of no consequence.  Bands like Whiskey Myers are a pathway back to a better time in many respects.  In their values.  In their sound.  In their approach.  This arena tour won’t be their last, but there may not be many like it in the ensuing years.  Go see this band and tour while you can.


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