A Lesson in How to Be the Best Kind of Rockstar

Last night, I did the unthinkable: I braved 5 o'clock Los Angeles traffic to drive down to the Orange County Fair, all in the name of Gavin Degraw

 OC Fair, July 26, 2017

I've been lucky enough to catch his shows more than a few times- on tour with Shania Twain, the Grammy's after party this year, the Greek Theatre last summer- and he consistently puts on one of the best shows in the music industry. 

I could go on for hours about Gavin's bluesy vocals, his bright energy that bubbles over from the stage or the adorable way he dances to "Best I Ever Had." I might even mention his superhero capability of surviving a Southern California night on stage in a leather jacket. (Seriously, though- how?)

But the thing I find most worth mentioning from the evening was Gavin's behavior after the lights went down, when the crowd was steadily exiting the venue. 

You know when artists are new, and they're still earning your affections? They offer meet and greets at the merch table after the show, they answer your tweets, they listen post-show to your stories about what their music means to you. They put in the time, because that's what it takes to build a fan base. 

When artists hit it big, everything tends to change. Schedules and security are tighter, and the musician is being pulled in multiple directions.

Over the last few years, I've covered hundred of shows, ranging from stadium shows to intimate venues, but riddle me impressed- I witnessed something truly unique last night. 

The last song of the encore, I Don't Want to Be, finished to uproarious applause. As Gavin took his final bow with his bandmates, I expected him to exit stage left immediately. I would be wrong. 

Gavin did head stage left....but to begin a long line of signing autographs and taking selfies with fans that clamored to get near. And it wasn't just an artist snapping mindless photos- he was shaking hands, thanking them genuinely for coming to the show (eye contact and all!), asking about their lives and...wait for it...listening intently. He didn't rush anyone, he never gave the "save me" look to his manager, who would make up an excuse to hurry him off.

At one point, he just sat down on the edge of the stage and talked to the large group of fans gathered. It was all so casual- just Gavin Degraw, an artist who can sell out amphitheaters, hanging out. Fans openly shared stories of survival through his music, and he seemingly took it all to heart. 

All in all, he took his time for about a half hour, and even when he had to leave, yelled out to the remaining fans, "I love you!" 

And you know what? I believe him. 

Just a week ago today, we lost Chester Bennington to suicide. And earlier this summer, we lost Chris Cornell. Kindness is exactly what this world needs right now, and last night, I witnessed the truest form of it. Not only did I leave moved by the music, but I left inspired by Gavin's actions. 

So I guess what I'm getting at is....Gavin Degraw is not only a bad ass who doesn't pass out from wearing leather in July- he's also the nicest freakin' guy....probably ever. 

Train & Midnight Hour at the OC Fair

This summer, the OC Fair has become my favorite spot to see a show. The Pacific Amphitheater is gorgeous, the night air is perfectly chilled and the acts have been phenomenal, with a range from alt-rocker Matt Nathanson to country crooner Hunter Hayes all the way to last night's multi-platinum Grammy Award-winning Train. 

And as fantastic as Orange County's fair is, their talent rises to the occasion as well. Opening band Midnight Hour hails from the OC, and they took the stage promptly at 7:30pm to a venue a little over half full already. 

Midnight Hour

  Midnight Hour opens the Train show on Sunday, Aug. 8, 2016.                   Photo: Frank Germano

Midnight Hour opens the Train show on Sunday, Aug. 8, 2016.                   Photo: Frank Germano

It became evident that lead singer Brad Lodge was not only dressed to kill, he was there to slay. Lodge is ready: for the big stage, for a crowd that sings his lyrics back to him, to be on the covers of magazines. With a definitive style that is equal parts rock star and designer, he already looks the part, and paired with his incredible voice and stage presence, he is the part.

  Photo: Frank Germano

Photo: Frank Germano

By the time the band finished playing, the venue was nearly full, and as each song closed, there was a murmuring throughout the crowd as people tried to sing along to the chorus. Without seemingly any effort, these songs are catchy and radio friendly. Look for Midnight Hour to be one to watch. 


Train

  Train plays the Pacific Amphitheater at the OC Fair on Aug. 8, 2016.            Photo: Frank Germano

Train plays the Pacific Amphitheater at the OC Fair on Aug. 8, 2016.            Photo: Frank Germano

Train has frequented the charts since "Meet Virginia" hit the airwaves in 1999, following with hit after hit from each album. They are one of those bands that everyone loves, or at the very least, likes, because they offer a little something for everybody. 

Nearly 8,000 people showed up to see Train on Sunday night, and it became very clear why after only one or two songs: Pat Monahan is a study in how artists should treat their fans. 

He proves nice guys don't finish last, with crowd interaction that varied from taking selfies with over a dozen people's phones while singing "If It's Love" to throwing out t-shirts, including the signed one off his back (women were clamoring for that one!), to eventually coming out into the crowd and walking the length of the arena through a row in the middle of the section and singing "Bruises" while he did it. 

  Pat Monahan walks the length of the amphitheater while singing "Bruises." Photo: Frank Germano

Pat Monahan walks the length of the amphitheater while singing "Bruises." Photo: Frank Germano

If you were there, you weren't simply watching a concert, you were participating in it, as well. 

Train played all the old favorites while sneaking in a few lesser known and newer ones, including a couple off the upcoming album, which Monahan mentioned would be released in January. 

As he sang a few bars off one of the new ones, "The News," completely a cappella, it was clear why Train is still relevant after all these years. As a Train fan, I can honestly say that "The News" is already one of my favorite Train songs, and it shouldn't surprise me that Monahan finds a way to trump everything he does.

He is one of those songwriters that stays innovative and constantly pushing forward. We haven't heard anything stagnant from Train throughout their whole career, and that is perhaps the rarest quality in a band that's been playing together for nearly two decades. 

  Photo: Frank Germano

Photo: Frank Germano

Train returned for an encore to play the fitting "Hotel California," and end the night with their biggest hit to date, "Drops of Jupiter." 

A perfect night at a perfect venue achieved yet again.