A Night with Zac Brown Band

zbbtheater.jpgAfter seeing their amazing performance of “Devil Went Down to Georgia” at the Country Music Awards my wife and I became hooked on the Zac Brown Band – a group we had never heard of before that moment. Seeing talented musicians who love what they do and have a huge appreciation of all music genre’s is refreshing in this age of studio wizardry and lip sync’d concerts. A quick YouTube search of the band found many videos of them mixing classic tunes with songs from their debut album, "The Foundation", and it converted me into a full-fledged fan club maniac. My wife and I had stopped going to concerts many years ago unless a friend was performing, but this band was different and I jumped at the chance to see them in person – even if it meant a 100 mile drive to Santa Barbara. Getting the opportunity to “Eat and Greet” with the band before the show sealed the deal.

zbbcookbook_cover.jpgA unique take on the pre-show meet and greet, they look at it as a way to treat their fans as family and sit down to dinner before they hit the stage. In that vein they ask guests to defer autograph or photo requests. (You wouldn’t sit down to dinner with your uncle and ask him to sign the napkin.) All the musicians want to do is mingle, talk music, and share stories. Zac’s longtime friend and fantastic cook, chef Rusty, arrives in each town before the concert and goes out to local markets looking for that evening’s meal. After a few moments chatting with Rusty it was clear he takes great pride in mixing fresh regional fare with Zac’s various recipes and homemade rubs. They are notorious for eating very well, so Zac gathered his best recipes, along with some childhood and road stories plus photos, and put them together in the Southern Ground Cookbook. After tasting his amazing Pocketknife Coleslaw and Beef Tenderloin, it was obvious he takes as much pride in his food as he does in his music.

Everyone we met was very humble and friendly and T-Bird, the fan club liaison for the Eat & Greet event, made it a painless procedure to get your tickets and join the fun. All the musicians helped out in any way to make the event enjoyable and trouble free for their guests. It’s a funny moment when you realize the guy handing you a beer is the drummer and the one scooping coleslaw is the guitarist. Zac, being the most recognized, personally greets everyone on the way in and talks to as many people as he can, but isn’t above cleaning a table or passing out cookies. Tables are setup family-style, which makes the meal feel like a lazy afternoon picnic. After about an hour, the band ambles off to get ready for their “day job” and prepare for the show.


As you sit in your seat expecting a normal concert, you quickly realize that simply playing their hits ain’t how these guys operate. During dinner we learned from Nic Cowan, one of the other musicians on the bill, that the band has such a broad knowledge of music they can play almost any song ever written, across every genre from reggae to hip-hop. They meld classic tunes seamlessly into their own, creating a live music experience that transforms their music into more than just a hit song and gives every band member more than one moment to shine. Unlike most concerts where you have to wait an hour for the stars to come out, on the Southern Ground tour it only took one song into Sonia Leigh’s opening set for Zac to amble out and play along. Before you knew it, all the ZBB guys were on stage playing any instrument just so they could jam along with their friends. All those people hanging in the bar waiting for the “real” concert to start missed a lot of great music.

zbblevi.jpgIn addition to Sonia, the night included other artists – Nic, Levi Levitt, and the hosts Joey & Rory – who have all been chosen by Zac for their love of honest, original music. They all met up on the Atlanta music scene, which gives them an ease with each other on-stage you just can’t fake. They are having the time of their lives and their joy reverberates thru the audience. All of them had CD’s available for sale which we purchased for the long drive home. It’s so rare to enjoy entire “albums” anymore, but all of these singer/songwriters deliver unique sounds and sentiments. After a 2-hour dinner, 4 hours of amazing music and a 100-mile drive listening to those same musicians trying to hold onto the concert’s electric energy my wife put it best as we pulled into the driveway “they renewed my faith in music.”

I didn’t expect them to win the Academy of Country Music award for Entertainer of the Year, but I know they should have. It was the best concert I’ve seen in my 45 years. If you had been there, you’d say the same thing.

Dave Dinsmore is an IT professional with an obsession for high tech toys, especially ones from Apple. When he's not researching and installing the latest gadgets, he's at his day job at Dreamworks Animation.