The Zac Brown Band has not quite identified where it fits on the radio dial, but it certainly knows the demographic that's listening: College kids, beer drinkers and anybody who likes to party all night — even if they have to be at work the next day.
Thursday night Zac Brown & Co., country radio's other next big thing (besides Lady Antebellum), arrived for its inaugural performance on the RodeoHouston stage to prove that you don't have to be a rock star to feed the passions and the bar tabs of those came to RodeoHouston to party for spring break, St. Patrick's Day or whatever other excuse one needs to break loose with a little spring fever. The band's one-hour, 12-song set was the balance to the bombast that Kid Rock and Kiss opened the rodeo spring break celebration with earlier in the week.
Not content to get labeled as a "country band," "bluegrass band," or "stoner band," the Zac Brown Band instead draws a little from all three standards to make a college kid party soundtrack worthy of Bob Marley and the Steve Miller Band.
The night's party started surf side with the Jimmy Buffet Nashville-meets-Nassau inspired beach bonfire romp, "Toes," from the group's Grammy nominated, 2008 major label debut, The Foundation. The song is played on country strings but the island vibe exuded makes Kenny Chesney look as traditional as George Strait by comparison.
With a band packed with above-average guitar, fiddle and mandolin players, this is what Alison Krauss' top-notch band, Union Station, would sound like if Krauss took a vacation. Or perhaps what Robert Earl Keen could evolve to with a little prompting.
"Knee Deep" from the Zac Brown's Band more recent album, You Get What You Give , followed the same beachcomber formula (on the album the band is joined by Buffet for the song just to hammer the point home).
In between, Brown led the group through an intricate and lively version of The Charlie Daniel's Band's party anthem, "The Devil Went Down To Georgia," as well their own light-hearted debut top-charting jig, "Chicken Fried." About the only solemn moment of the night was a tribute to our overseas fighting forces on "Free."
The crowd heard every single that the Zac Brown Band had to offer in their brief three years of stardom. About the only red flag about the song selection was how reliant they were on first album glories at the expense of playing as many You Get What You Give new works. Young acts should always be trying to push the hype forward.
But during spring break that's just splitting hairs. As far as spring break concerts go, the Zac Brown Band is about as genuine as it gets.