Ten reasons Zac Brown Band will never win us over
It goes without saying that country fans and foes alike love Zac Brown Band in all their genre-bending glory, and many will no doubt turn out in droves to see them when they play the Target Center on Saturday.
Fronted by a robust, bearded man by the name of, yes, Zac Brown, the band was established in 2002, a smaller act than they are today at just three members. (Today, they're a seven-piece.) The following year, Brown started his own label called Home Grown, which still operates today but under a new name -- Southern Ground. In 2004, Brown and his father opened a music club and restaurant in Lake Oconee, Georgia, calling it "Zac's Place." When a developer purchased the restaurant, Brown's band bought themselves a tour bus, and then embarked on full-time touring. And the rest, they say, is history.
Oh, but the story doesn't end there. In 2008, I heard them and decided I didn't like them -- because - and to help us all put a finger on just what it is about this band that is so... so... so ugh, here are ten important considerations.
A little background: The scene is my mom's living room, one week ago today. Watching the Country Music Association Awards (which brought the band only two nominations and zero wins), we see Zac Brown and company take the stage to play a coveted early spot in the show's telecast.
Mom: You like Zac Brown Band?
Me: (Aghast.) No.
Mom: (Sincere.) Why not? I kinda like them.
Me: I don't like them... because. Because, Mom!
My conviction was strong and yet, the conversation brought about an unhealthy amount of navel-gazing over this Atlanta-based country/folk band okay not really country/folk let's be honest, they're a bona fide jam band. Why are they so ugh!?!
10. Summer 2008 Earworm
"Chicken Fried." It was featured in a 2008 Larry the Cable Guy piece entitled Witless Protection, a filmic endeavor which won numerous awards and the accolades of both the motion picture establishment and the indie underground. For a moment in the summer of 2008, we thought this might be a catchy little tune. Maybe we like it! But then it never went away, and we'll never forgive you for it, Zac Brown Band. Ugh that opening guitar lick! Make it stop!
9. Behold the Bonnaroovian Code, maaaannn...
Sure, they play all the big country festivals - CMA Music Festival, WE Fest, Cheyenne's Frontier Days -- but you'll as likely find them at hippie hangs like the Hangout Music Festival and Bonnaroo, or opening for a Dave Matthews Band tour. How many frisbees have been tossed to the gentle sounds of Zac Brown Band? How many?!?
After several years participating in the annual the Rock Boat theme cruise, in September 2010 Zac Brown Band hosted their own. It was called "Sailing Southern Ground," and it featured Michael Franti and Spearhead. You know, in case you've never thrown a frisbee overboard or been trapped at sea with Michael Franti, this was your chance.
Do beanies fill you with raaaaaaaage? Does the fact that Zac Brown always wears one just make you so angry? Is an omnipresent beanie not reason at all to dislike this band? To the logical mind, that's correct. You shouldn't hate a band over a beanie. And yet, you do. It fills you with the rage of one hundred bare Michael Franti feet.
PLEASE EVERYONE STOP TRYING TO BE JIMMY BUFFETT. Please. One Jimmy Buffett is Jimmy Buffett enough for this world.
5. On Southern Ground
Southern Ground is not only the name of his record label and cruise. According to the band's website: His Southern Ground banner flies over everything from metalworking to leather goods. In addition to housing offices and rehearsal space, the former industrial warehouse in Atlanta that serves as the company's headquarters also features a full kitchen for "Chef Rusty" Hamlin and his crew, the better to power those much-talked-about "eat and greets" that Brown, a former restaurant owner, hosts for lucky fans. The most farsighted plans reach beyond the warehouse, to a plot of land south of Atlanta where plans proceed for a nonprofit camp aimed to help kids overcoming behavioral and learning disabilities and disadvantaged backgrounds. Simultaneously, Southern Ground has secured a studio in Nashville for future recording needs. At this point it's safe to say that the Zac Brown Band is more than an act--it's quickly becoming a way of life.
Okay, we can't fault a dude who starts up a camp for kids. Who are we kidding. Yes we can, and we just did.
4. The DMB Connection
You know how people hate Dave Matthews Band? Sure you do. And why do people hate Dave Matthews Band? Beats me. They just do. It's like that, mom. Okay? Gawd.
3. Bands like this are why people think they hate bluegrass
I mean, bluegrass bands "jammed" before jamming was a jam, you know what I'm saying? And then the Grateful Dead came along, and that was pretty okay, but then "progressive bluegrass" bands from the String Cheese Incident to our own Trampled by Turtles followed, and all of a sudden, everyone hates bluegrass. Bill Monroe says that ain't fair! Or more accurately, he says, "That ain't no part of nothin'."
2. And the biggest ugh ever uttered
Was upon reading this, their own description of their latest album, Uncaged, which debuted at Number One on the Billboard 200 and which was described by Brown as "your basic country-Southern rock-bluegrass-reggae-jam record":
The result of a highly collaborative process, it's the sound of a group of versatile musicians gelling into a formidable unit and realizing they're capable of anything their fearless leader happens to dream up, from traditional country ("The Wind") to Caribbean rhythms ("Jump Right In") and even slinky bedroom R&B ("Overnight"). Running roughshod over genre boundaries, and bringing its audience along for the ride, its title is absolutely accurate--this is truly the sound of a band 'Uncaged'.
1. We are sad, sad haters with joyless lives
To be honest, this might be the real reason Zac Brown Band makes us groan. We just don't know how to be happy about anything, ever. Can you turn up that sad love song by that guy who killed himself? Thanks.
So fine. You can have your hacky sacks and tie-dyed beardos. Come Saturday the rest of us will be listening to Little Jimmy Dickens make the same old tired jokes on the Opry. Enjoy the show.
Zac Brown Band plays Saturday 11/10 at Target Center with openers Levi Lowrey and Blackberry Smoke (7:00, $31.50-69.50).
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