By Andrew Ellis, Editor-in-Chief
Support for local music came out in full force at Big Wood Brewery. You could see a few people through the window looking from outside the brewery, but that was just a sampling. It was a Friday night atmosphere on a Thursday. The lighting was perfectly dimmed to give off that nightlife vibe. The perfect setting for local brews and local country music.
At 7:00 PM and it was standing room only. Any performer’s dream. The noise level required you to invade personal space to get someone to hear you. And while there may have been talking, the crowd cheered and clapped enthusiastically after each song.
The performers were an eclectic group. 19-year-old Devon Worley was the host (and will be for the remainder of the showcases at the brewery), and she was also one of the most enthusiastic audience members throughout the night. All performers each had their own set.
Justin Good started the night off. Accompanied by his guitarist Ben Osborn, he had the always-difficult task of grabbing everyone’s attention as they made the transition from talking to listening. But one by one people started tuning in. His set consisted of songs from the outlaw country band he fronts called That’s My Uncle, and a new one full of honesty called “Dick Jokes and Suicide Notes.”
Taking the stage next was Doug Collins who was arguably the best dressed. He had on a blue suit reminiscent of the days of Hank Williams when all the performers dressed up. He was engaging from the get-go as he went from song to song. He sang his songs and made everyone laugh. It’s clear he knew how to work a room no matter the atmosphere. He ended his set with toast to the crowd before launched into “My Friends.”
Before the next scheduled singer came on we had a surprise appearance by up-and-comer Kevin Qualy. He sang an original called “Gypsy Lady’ and it was one of the highlights of the night.
Mike Villalva was the next in line. The Up South lead singer looked like he just walked out of an old Elvis Presley movie, and it has lot to do with his hair. He went through his band’s catalog, and really won the crowd over with an older patriotic song of his called “I Still Love Her (America).” He also played Up South’s next single, “Paradise.”
Before the night was over it was Worley’s turn to take the stage with her guitarist and owner of Big Wood Brewery, Jason Medvec. And as usual her powerful voice practically drowned out any extra chatter in the room. She went through songs such as “Don’t Look Down,” a new song, and gave a nice energetic encore with “Wrecked & Mended.”
The night itself was a great embodiment of the Midwest CMA‘s goal. Five local artists with distinct styles singing their songs and telling the stories behind them. And there was the public out on a Thursday night supporting them. And it’s just getting started.
Photo credit: Jamey Worley