Zac Brown Band: Black Out the Sun Tour
Location: Citifield, Flushing, New York
Review By Melissa Minners
I have a loved one who is really into country music. I enjoy country music, but not every band suits my taste in music. That being said, a certain birthday was coming up and I wanted to take this person to a concert she would enjoy…but one that I, too, would enjoy. When I heard that the Zac Brown Band was coming to Citi Field in Flushing, New York, I knew that this was the concert I was looking for. I got tickets for it the day they went up for sale and was completely stoked.
On Friday, August 19, 2016, we headed out to the stadium early. The ticket instructions said that the gates would open at 3pm and that tailgating would be allowed. I was worried that traffic and parking might be an issue. We got there around 5pm and I was surprised by what I saw. Usually, when I attend a New York Mets game at Citi Field, tailgating is allowed, but the gates don’t open until three hours before the game and the tailgaters are usually relegated to the back parking lots. Not so this time – tailgaters everywhere, making it difficult to find parking as they were taking up three and four spaces with tents and grills and coolers. Somehow, I found a space close to the Main Gate.
Funny enough, hardly anyone was standing around the gate – they were too busy tailgating, I guess. That meant we were in front of the line for the security checkpoint. We heard the security supervisor telling her people that the band was requesting no selfie sticks, no iPads, no cameras larger than pocket size, no beach balls and no recording devices. The security checkers began getting nervous saying that fans were going to be upset, but I thought these were reasonable requests. I opened my purse to have it checked when the security gates opened and thought it odd that security didn’t really look in the bag at all. When I approached the guy with the security wand, he seemed surprised that I assumed the search position…something I do when I come to each baseball game here. Clearly this wasn’t the usual security staff.
We headed straight for the bathrooms…which are always clean thanks to the incredible Citi Field cleaning crew. Then it was right to the souvenir section for our Zac Brown Band: Black Out the Sun Tour t-shirts. After that, we headed to the Pat LaFrieda’s Steak Sandwich kiosk. If you have never had one of these, you have no idea what you are missing! Three large cuts of filet mignon, melted Monterey Jack cheese, sautéed onions and beef au jus loaded on to a toasted baguette. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. We stood at a table near the restaurant and ate (all the more reason to get to the stadium early) and washed it down with a ShockTop White Belgian Ale. For dessert, a Magnum ice cream bar and water.
We headed to the seats just before the start of the opening act and wondered at all of the empty seats around us. Guess people were still tailgating. They missed an incredible band – Drake White and The Big Fire, whose first album, Spark, debuted in record stores on that day. Drake White’s style is a lot like Zac Brown’s in that he can perform pure country, rock and roll and hillstomp, all with the same energy. The band was great and I can’t wait to get my hands on the new album. Drake White and The Big Fire was a great way to get people pumped for the main event and it’s a shame that those tailgaters missed it…they started trickling in after the opening set was over, then ran out of the arena when a sun shower started. I sat there shaking my head – what kind of country music fans were these folks if a few sprinkles could send them running for cover.
Finally, the Zac Brown Band hit the stage and everyone was on their feet, applauding and singing along. The band sounded exactly as they do on their albums which is an amazing feat when you consider how filtered and altered other recording artists are, leaving you disappointed when they actually get on stage. The band played songs from their most recent album, Jekyll + Hyde, like Beautiful Drug, Loving You Easy, Remedy, Castaway, I'll Be Your Man (a great song for fathers and daughters), Homegrown and Tomorrow Never Comes. They played songs from their other albums as well, including Sweet Annie, Keep Me in Mind, Chicken Fried, Toes and Free. They even played The Way You Look Tonight, one of my favorite Sinatra songs, S.O.B. and Jack and Diane with Drake White accompanying on vocals. The band intro was amazing – these guys are tremendously talented whether it’s the amazing violin of Jimmy De Martini, Coy Bowles on keys, Clay Cook on electric guitar, Daniel del Rios on percussion, Chris Fryer on drums, Matt Mangano on bass, the vocal harmonies by John Driskell Hopkins or his guest background vocalists (one of which burst into an amazing rendition of Stevie Wonder’s Living for the City). Zac Brown is an incredible frontman, capable of performing hillstomp, country, rock and pop – old school or today’s pop. And he can really energize a crowd! Nobody was sitting and everyone was singing, myself included.
The concert was terrific but for some security issues totally uncontrollable for the bands. When you have so many people tailgating and there is no alcohol cutoff, there is bound to be trouble. I had to talk to an inebriated woman who kept pushing in front of us to dance with her friends in seats on the other side of us. I explained that we were all here to enjoy the concert and even pointed her to seats closer to her friends, which she happily slithered to. This brings me to another point – ushers and other security members were not really checking to make sure people were in the right seats, causing some issues amongst folks who paid good money to find their seats taken by others who should have been in nosebleed sections. Then there were the two chicks in front of us vaping weed in our faces and the folks down near the stage lighting joints – thought that stuff wasn’t allowed. And the selfie sticks! Those were definitely on the banned list.
Leaving was a nightmare. Some folks were still partying. Trying to get out of the parking space was treacherous for both pedestrian and drivers, who had to check under their tires first before pulling out or they might drive over the glass bottles strewn everywhere. I actually witnessed someone relieving himself next to a car that wasn’t his before stumbling over beer bottles to join his friends. Drunken patrons were tumbling everywhere – I had to honk at a guy who was stumbling backwards into my car just to make sure that we didn’t collide. It took over half hour to get through the parking lot which looked like a disaster zone and there were no security folk in the aisles to organize the exit. The only security present to usher folks around were at the gates – it was the drive to the gate that was more treacherous, yet even then I witnessed a drunken patron (yes, these folks were driving drunk) almost run over the usher in an attempt to enter the line exiting at the gate.
So, in summation, the Zac Brown Band is definitely worth seeing in concert and I would be happy to purchase tickets to another one of their concerts. Drake White was amazing and I am definitely going to check out his new album. And Citi Field has a lot to learn about how to safely control a concert venue and the crowd when it leaves.