For two weeks when the August sun goes down in Obion County, Tennessee, the county fair becomes the only place anyone will be found. Everyone gathers for arts and crafts exhibits, demolition derbies, local and national concerts, corndogs and fair rides. As a teenager, it was the first placed I ever experienced a sense of community.
I moved away from Obion County almost a decade ago, and memories of those nights at the fair still remain some of my favorites. Almost three months ago, I headed out west to Los Angeles, my new home for a bit. And when I saw the advertisements for the 2016 OC Fair (a different OC than the one back home, for sure), I knew I had to go. It was when I spotted a Matt Nathanson show at the Pacific Amphitheater that I had a date locked in. This was happening.
We fought L.A. traffic like champs and arrived around 5:30pm. First thing on the agenda: corndogs and waffle fries. Second: take the whole scene in.
It was exactly as I remembered as a child: only greater, grander, and more spectacular. The rides were bigger, the food was tastier and the fairgrounds seem to go on for miles.
A Great Big World
A Great Big World, best known for their international hit song “Say Something” with Christina Aguilera, took the stage promptly at 7pm. Beyond their monstrous hit, I was mostly unfamiliar with their catalogue. By this morning, I own two of their albums.
In a world with a social climate this tumultuous, Grammy award-winning A Great Big World is almost a necessity to help counter-balance. Their positive messaging laced in lyrical beauty doesn’t just inspire- it moves. When an opening band can warrant a standing ovation, they’ve hit a nerve emotionally, and A Great Big World did just that last night.
Their catchy single “Hold Each Other” exemplifies a band that is helping society move forward with an acceptance of One Love and no apology for it. Chad sings the lyric, “Something happens when I hold him / He keeps my heart from getting broken,” a highly buzzed-about lyric that has resonated with a community that has long-awaited this type of mainstream recognition.
Although Ian has probably performed “Say Something” over a hundred times this year, he sings it like the night he wrote it. The emotional connection throughout the crowd drew a surprising hush amongst the thousands.
A Great Big World has the special sauce: passion, lyrics and courage.
Check out their upcoming tour dates here.
As a music writer, I attend hundreds of shows a year. And I can say, without a doubt, Matt Nathanson is among the best, if not the best, show I’ve seen this year.
One part comedy act, one part concert, one part interpretative dancer, Matt is the ultimate entertainer. He kicked off the set with the appropriately titled “Gold in the Summertime,” followed by dance-worthy “Kinks Shirt.”
It’s not enough for Matt to be one of the best songwriters of his generation; he is equally hilarious. His ongoing interaction with the crowd seemed surprisingly unrehearsed and natural.
He recognized a kid in the audience for a “poop emoji hat,” encouraged specific people to get up and dance or clap, and attempted to explain his sexy “Run” in child-friendly terms after noticing a child in the pit area. (“This song is about two people…frictioning…is that a word?”)
It felt like time stopped when he sang “Bill Murray.” With tears misting up in my own eyes, I looked around to see the reaction around me. I wasn’t alone. It’s a beautiful song in its own right, but hearing it live can be likened to a spiritual experience.
An old boss of mine always said, “A good show should be like church. You should leave changed and moved.”
In that vein, “Bill Murray” is Matt’s best sermon.
One of the biggest take-aways from Matt’s show was just feeling good. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been guilty of being sucked in by the negativity on the news and social media. And for a couple of hours, I forgot about everything else in the world and danced in the California heat, smiling and laughing alongside thousands of other people. Priceless.
Matt finished his set with his biggest hit, “Come On Get Higher,” intermixed with Grease’s “You’re the One That I Want.”
Fitting, because Matt was exactly the one that everyone at the Pacific Amphitheater wanted…and perhaps even needed.
Check out Matt Nathanson's upcoming tour dates here.