Story By ANDY LYONS
Photos By ANDREW MATHER
(SEDALIA, Mo., digitalBURG.com) – The Pepsi Grandstand was full of flannel shirts and cowboy hats Thursday night, as Will Hoge and Chris Cagle took the stage at the 111th Missouri State Fair.
Country music, especially live, is beyond my expertise. It was my first time being at a country concert and to say I was not prepared would be an enormous understatement.
Hoge is a Grammy-nominated musician from Nashville. During the performance, he told the audience that his influences range from Shinedown to Sugarland. I wasn’t surprised; I actually enjoyed some of the more blues-influenced songs he did.
The seats were relatively empty on opening night at the State Fair, which I thought was a bit surprising. Hoge took the stage at about 6:30 p.m. and the seating in front of the stage was about half full, with fans spread throughout the bleacher seating in the Grandstand.
Hoge made sure to plug his new album, which releases Oct. 15, before he played his new single, “Strong!” from the album.
As his group thanked the crowd and left the stage, the seating in front was chaos. People left to use the restroom and fill up on beer. Ladies with up-dos and tight jeans and men with large belt buckles and trucker hats went every which way. After nearly half an hour the crowd was set, and about twice the size it was for Hoge.
The lights dimmed to a light blue and smoke shrouded the stage. The audience roared as band members took the stage and peaked with a climactic blend of “woos,” “yays,” and more when Chris Cagle walked to his microphone stand, acoustic guitar strapped across his shoulder.
The crowd was clapping, gyrating and singing along with Cagle, who paused the show with a tear in his eye at the crowd’s response. I’m used to bands thanking the crowd, but Cagle consistently thanked the crowd and took note of them singing along and expressed his appreciation throughout.
It was a new experience. I’m used to mosh pits and head banging. The fans were swaying back and forth and holding their hands in the air, no “metal horns” to be found. There were songs where the electric guitar took the lead, more of a rock-infused country sound. It wasn’t my style, but being there and hearing Cagle pour his heart out on stage was something I’ll always remember.