Tonight we were back at the fair for a free show with Mo Pitney. Ed’s blogging tonight, so I should apologize in advance.
Q100 Country, the “other” radio station in Knoxville hosted Mo for this show that was in the Pepsi tent just down the hill from Homer Hamilton, where a sold out REO Speedwagon (who knew they still toured) was going on for 5,000 fans.
My only impression of Mo Pitney up to this point was from hearing his first single “Country” on SXM’s the Highway #OnTheHorizon show. The lyrics were great, but otherwise had an open mind about what kind of show he’d do.
We got there a bit before 7 and a decent size crowd was under the tent, probably 100 people by the time show started. There was no sign to indicate what was going on, but the Q100 van was out front and a couple of people had on Mo Pitney shirts. Two of the station’s DJ’s introduced him at 7 and he came out in front of a full band.
At first the sound wasn’t very good and he was a bit hard to understand. He seemed a bit shy to start, but warmed up as he went through a good size set list. From the outset, his mannerisms and sound screamed “Bakersfield Sound”. I knew that he was positioned as “traditional”, but wasn’t expecting that to mean California traditional (reminded me of seeing Jon Pardi).
He worked his way to a song, “Come do a Little Life” he said reflected his current life, as social media reported this week he proposed to his girlfriend, Emily. He then did a song he played at the Opry and people kept calling the “Cheerios Song” as it talks about being on the cereal aisle in “Clean Up on Aisle 5.” As he started telling stories about the songs he’d written he warmed up and showed he was very personable and showed a little bit more of his personality, but you could tell he was still a bit reticent.
He mentioned he was from Rockford, Illinois and that Cheap Trick was from there and then did a very different sounding cover of “I Want You to Want Me“. The song, “Behind This Guitar” he said described him well, since he has been playing since he was 12, although it is the only one on his forthcoming debut album he didn’t write. He had a song called “I Met Merle Haggard Today”, which was about exactly that day in 2014 when he met Merle. You could tell from his style and his songs Merle and the older generation is really what he hopes to emulate and put back on the radio.
“Duct Tape and Jesus” had a great line in it about how those two things “hold it all together for me”. He then did his current single that was just released and Q100 has been playing, “A Boy and a Girl Thing”,
that about other things works in a reference to cooties. Before his last song he introduced his band and he had with him a couple guys that played with Brooks and Dunn, as well as his sister, Holly on harmony vocals and his brother, Blake, on bass (who apparently also plays in a bluegrass band).
At the end of his hour long set he did his first single “Country” that he sped up and was probably my favorite song of the set.
Mo is “old” country through and through. That can be good or bad depending on your point of view.
After the show we talked to the program director at Q100, who was extremely nice (and anyone competing against iHeart Media has to be a good person!), and I said I just didn’t see his music would sell. His response was it gave him options to spin on the radio, and that is very valid. For terrestrial stations, Mo Pitney or Chris Stapleton, Ashley Monroe or Easton Corbin give them that “traditional” sound to satisfy a segment of the audience who won’t want to hear “new”/”bro”/”pop” (or whatever your term is) country. My point when I see an artist like Mo who is very talented, is that music sales are a tiny part of today’s music business. Going to see an artist who stands behind a guitar and sings just isn’t going to sell tons of concert tickets and that makes it hard for them to have longevity.
I’m so glad Q100 partnered with the Tennessee Valley Fair to bring someone different and I’m glad we went out to see him. Mo Pitney has a musical point of view and he stayed true to it throughout. I think for that audience there is a niche for those like him who sound a bit throwback on today’s radio.
We’ll be headed back to the Fair on Thursday for Trace Adkins, our first time seeing him.