On the Scene

He’s back: Your ultimate guide to Kenny Chesney concert Saturday

otaylor@thestate.com (803) 771-8362 otaylor@ thestate.com (803) 771-8362May 2, 2013 

Kenny Chesney

FILE PHOTOGRAPH — the state Buy Photo

  • If you go Kenny Chesney, Zac Brown Band, Eli Young Band and Kacey Musgraves

    When: 5 p.m. Saturday

    Where: Williams-Brice Stadium

    Tickets: $31.50-$227

    Information: www.lmctix.com or (855) 456-2849

    Weather forecast

    There’s a 30 percent chance of rain on Saturday, with temperatures in the mid-70s.

    Smoking section

    There won’t be one, so, once you enter the stadium, you won’t be able to light up. There is a no re-entry policy.

    Kenny Gate

    Kenny Gate will be in Gamecock Village, the tailgating area across Bluff Road from the stadium. WCOS-FM 97.5 will set up a stage and Craig Morgan will headline. Other performers include battle of the bands winners from Charleston, Greenville and Columbia, as well as Jon Pardi, Charlie Worsham and Joel Crouse. DJ Barry Carew will also play party-starting music, and Wild Wing Cafe will have a mechanical bull and other activities in the village.

    The gates open at 10 a.m.


    If you want to park in the lots at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds or at the former State Farmer’s Market, you’ll need to buy a parking pass. You should do so in advance for $44. On Saturday, passes will be sold — cash only — for $60 as long as spaces are available. Parking lots will open at 10 a.m.

    Passes can be purchased at the Colonial Life Arena box office through Friday. There is a two-pass limit. Parking spaces are first-come, first-served in the area for which the pass has been issued. The only reserved spaces will be in the premium North and South area at the old farmer’s market. Saving empty spaces is not permitted, but tailgating will be allowed.

    Lost or stolen passes will not be replaced, and passes damaged or without a barcoded bottom may be voided. RVs, buses, limos and other oversized vehicles will be allowed. For more on parking, visit www.coloniallifearena.com.

    Other performers The openers for Kenny Chesney’s concert at Williams-Brice Stadium in 2008 were LeAnn Rimes, Brooks & Dunn, Gary Allan and Luke Bryan. Here is a bit more about who is opening Saturday.

    Zac Brown Band: The Zac Brown Band is one of a handful of groups who will lead the country music genre for the foreseeable future. The band, which performed at the Colonial Life Arena in March 2012, took home Grammy awards for best new artist in 2009 and best country collaboration with vocals in 2010. It also won the CMA’s new artist of the year award in 2010. Nine ZBB singles — “Chicken Fried,” “Toes,” “Highway 20 Ride,” “Whatever It Is,” “Free,” “Colder Weather,” “Keep Me in Mind,” “As She’s Walking Away (featuring Alan Jackson)” and “Knee Deep (featuring Jimmy Buffett)” — have topped Billboard’s country charts, as the band’s blend of traditional country, jam, reggae and Southern rock has resonated. “Uncaged,” the band’s album that was released in July, won the 2013 Grammy Award for best country album.

    Kacey Musgraves: The 2012 top 15 single “Merry Go ‘Round” is the biggest hit for the former “Nashville Star” contestant who has toured with Lady Antebellum. Songs she’s written have been recorded Gretchen Wilson and Miranda Lambert, the latter who was on “Nashville Star” but didn’t win. That is a good sign for Musgraves.

    Eli Young Band: Mike Eli (vocals and guitar), James Young (guitar), Jon Jones (bass) and Chris Thompson (drums) have been playing together for more than a decade. In the last two years, the band has become an elite country music touring act. “Crazy Girl,” released in March 2011, was the top country song of 2011, according to Billboard Magazine. Written by Liz Rose and Sumter’s Lee Brice, “Crazy Girl” won song of the year at the 2012 ACM Awards. “Even if it Breaks Your Heart,” the second single off “Life at Best,” the band’s 2011 album, was released in January 2012 and also reached No. 1. The band played at the South Carolina State Fair with Jake Owen in October.

    Spurrier passes to Chesney

    The friendship between Steve Spurrier, the University of South Carolina football coach, and Kenny Chesney dates back to at least 2007.

    In April of that year at a concert at the Colonial Life Arena, the country music superstar brought Spurrier on stage. Chesney sang “Happy Birthday” to Spurrier and gave a cake to the coach, who, naturally, took a poke at Clemson fans.

    "If they weren’t friends before that, I’m sure they’ve been friends since," Global Spectrum’s Lexie Boone, general manager of Colonial Life Arena, said.

    It seems like an unlikely friendship, given their professions. But also because Chesney, who was a guest picker for ESPN’s “CollegeGameday” last season, is a Tennessee fan.

    Wasn’t it Spurrier who once said, “You can’t spell Citrus without UT,” an obvious dig at Tennessee’s previous bowl fortunes?

    Chesney is an unquestioned football fan. He went to “Jon Gruden’s QB Camp,” an ESPN segment where Gruden, an affable “Monday Night Football” analyst and former NFL coach, sits down with the year’s top quarterback draft prospects. There was footage of Chesney at a New Orleans Saints training camp, an outing Gruden put together for Chesney who wore a No. 7 Saints jersey.

    But Chesney didn’t participate in drills. He said he told a Saints receiver coach that, "I don’t want to block and I don’t want to go across the middle."

    How would Spurrier feel about a player who said as much?

    “Spurrier knows it,” Chesney said in a phone interview. “And I’ve become pretty good friends with Steve. I’d tell Steve the same thing.”

    He’ll get the chance to tell him in person. Not only will Spurrier be in Williams-Brice for the concert, but Spurrier plans to be on stage.

    Spurrier has had a No. 7 Gamecocks jersey made for Chesney, and he hopes to present it during the concert.

    Gamecocks equipment manager Chris Matlock was responsible for having the Chesney jersey made.

    “Matlock came by, and I said we’ll see if Kenny will answer (his phone),” Spurrier told The State before the Gamecocks’ spring game.

    “He doesn’t answer all the time, but he answered this time. He said, ‘Hey coach.’ I said, ‘We got a jersey here for you.’” The No. 7 is a nod to Chesney’s high school number, not Jadeveon Clowney.

In 2008, it was apparent that Kenny Chesney was too big to play at the Colonial Life Arena. So the arena brought Chesney’s “Poets & Pirates Tour 2008” to Williams-Brice Stadium. Here are my favorite moments from covering the concert.

1. I do: Not a moment from the show, but a detail that makes the concert memorable. I missed my college roommate’s wedding to cover the show. Five years later, I still wrestle with that decision. Chesney did break his foot, and my story blanketed the web — well, my reporting, rather, as it was repurposed without credit. Who knew that would be such a problem for newspapers? I was in the wedding party and I didn’t show up. I still received a gift, a Coach money clip. “I wanted to give a practical gift that people would actually use and since you guys are all ballers,” my former roommate wrote.

For what it’s worth, Neil, I balled so hard at the concert that I should’ve been fined. The party was that “cray.”





2. Mantastic: By noon, I had been convinced, by a Corona-drinking tailgating group, to wear a pink T-shirt with the words “Kenny is mantastic” written on the front. I wore it for the rest of the night. I hope I run into those people again.





3. Pirates of the parking lot, part 1: No Shoes Nation, the name given to Chesney’s loyal fans, like dancing barefoot in the sand — at tailgates that have pirate flags flapping in the breeze. Fitting since “Pirate Flag” was the lead single off “Life on a Rock,” Chesney’s album that was released Tuesday.





4. Pirates of the parking lot, part 1: There was a pirate ship at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds. John and Beth Waller built one using John’s 2.5-ton U.S. Army cargo truck. The truck, with its bow created by fabric draped over bent PVC pipe, was a popular attraction with its treasure chests, skeletons and, of course, drinks.





5. Tiki bar: There are Tiki bars, some with palm trees and a lot with imported sand, everywhere. And, it seems, everyone wants to share with everyone else. As long as the sun is out, hanging out at a Chesney tailgate is better than visiting Margaritaville. (Trust me, I’ve been to both many times.)





6. Celebrity appearance, part 1: Chesney, who is known to ride through No Shoes Nation tailgates, appeared the night before at a competition to see who would open his concert. Jon Michaels, one of the contestants, graciously ceded the stage to Chesney who wore cutoff khaki shorts, a USC baseball cap and New Balance sneakers. He performed a playful rendition of “Old Blue Chair.” (By the way, Michaels won NBC’s “The Today Show” jingle contest in January.)





7. Celebrity appearance, part 2: One of the celebrity judges that picked Woodwork Roadshow to open was Jamie Hill, Miss South Carolina USA 2008. Hill, a 2005 USC graduate, was a contestant on 10th season “The Amazing Race” before winning the crown. (The CBS reality show likes S.C. beauty queens. Miss South Carolina USA 2009, Stephanie Murray Smith, competed on the 17th season. She got engaged on the show. And who can forget Caite Upton, Miss South Carolina Teen USA 2007 whose stumbling answer at the national competition made her a star? She was on the 16th season, and the camera loved her.) Back to 2008, Kenny invited Hill to meet him.





8. Inside the action: CMT Insider filmed the tailgating. The Chesney fans outside Williams-Brice appropriately mugged for the camera. Will the cable network return?





9. Ella, ella, ay-ay-ay: Though, if you’re going to the concert, you probably don’t want to consider this, but the phrasing from Rihanna’s hit “Umbrella” is apropos. There was a downpour five years ago that sent people scurrying for cover. Wind swept tents across the fairgrounds. I know where to hide if this happens again — under my umbrella...ella, ella ay-ay-ay.





10. “Live Those Songs” again: Chesney was singing it — the first song of the night — when the injury (his foot was crushed between the stage and the lift that was elevating him from beneath the structure) occurred. “Live Those Songs” is about memories forever associated with songs, and wanting to revisit those moments in time.

After the concert, long after Chesney’s boot was cut off and he was taken to the hospital, some of the show’s crew — promoters, publicists, friends of Chesney and others who had worked that day, including myself — hung out in the stadium’s parking lot. There was pile of ice, a few feet high, taking its time to melt on the asphalt. Hands plunged into the ice to pull out bottles of cold Corona. A bottle opener was passed between friends, acquaintances and people meeting for the first time.

It was the best after-work social I’ve ever been to.


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