Standing out in the sun with the temperature over 100 degrees, it was clear this was a record-breaking day. Not only was Folk Soul Revival getting ready to play for one of the largest audiences yet, but fans would be rolled out on gurneys just before an emergency evacuation from an apocalyptic thunderstorm cleared the stadium in Bluefield, West Virginia.

Driving into campus of Bluefield College was a bit surprising. The traffic was frantic when I finally found a parking spot to pick up a cold drink at a convenience market. On the door, a bright yellow poster board with a hand-drawn message, “Concert Tickets for Sale.”

Evidently, as one fan told me, “Bluefield doesn’t have much entertainment and this is a big deal.”

The ‘Second Chance Rocks the Two Virginias‘ concert featured Eric Church, Jake Owens and Lee Brice. Folk Soul Revival was playing the gig and the guys invited myself and Kevin Jackson to perform before 15,000 fans in the mountain community.

When I arrived, Charles Fontaine was coming down the hillside with credentials and the rest of the band was cooling off in the brand new Folk Soul van.

Within a few moments were all standing backstage trying to get our bearings straight in a sea of road cases, lights and other stage gear. In fact, this was probably the most equipment I’ve ever seen on any stage.

The concert was held in Mitchell stadium and although there were plenty of stage hands on duty in the sweltering heat, we were the opening band, so we had to fend for ourselves.

Hauling the gear from the VIP parking lot we made for several trips up the hillside past the branded semi tractor-trailers and road crews. Guess this is part of the phrase, “paying the dues.”

By the time we had our gear on stage, we got word there would be a delay with our sound check. No big deal, but the sun was blazing through a clear blue sky and the 90 minutes in the heat was taking its toll. We were able to duck the instruments under a tent and waited patiently in the shade next to the concession stands.

It’s amazing how profitable the young country stars are equipped for festival concerts. The sound crews for this performance had to wrestle with thousands of cords, cables, lights, racks, cases and all the gadgets that make a concert like this. The stage itself was quite a mass of technology. With four drum kits on stage there was little room to walk for the opening acts.

Despite the obstacle course, around 6.30 the radio personalities hosting the show introduced the color guard, a local pastor and a young Bluefield songwriter sang the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ to start her set before the hometown crowd. Ten thousand people were finding their seats and taking shelter from the sun – nursing cold beers in small pockets of shade on the west side of the stadium – the show had begun.

At the moment you move to the front of the stage, you find yourself in a situation where every move is deliberate and any obstacle forces you to immediately make decisions on the fly. From the environment to the music, it’s a flow that marked by time.

With all the equipment of the headliners, Folk Soul had to rearrange their positions on stage, drop one song, add another and improvise in more ways than one.

Fortunately, this band knows how to adapt and even though there was only a 10×20 foot area to perform, Dan set up his drum kit on the side, Kevin, Brandon, DV, Vinnie and Daniel lined the front and I setup the keyboards off to stage left. I couldn’t see Dan on drums and after a small issue with no stage monitors, we were ready to strike up the notes to the new song ‘Derailed.’

Vinnie introduced the songs, greeted the crowd and we ran through a good 45 minute set for a crowd who was just beginning to settle in. We had to drop ‘Whiskey and Gin’ because the sound crew ran out of inputs for the dobro, but we substitute ‘She’s Gone.’

Other than a broken string in the middle of one of the songs, the music streamed comfortably and the crowd seemed to enjoy the performance. Best of all, it was nice to see over 200 of the ‘congregation’ in centerfield singing ‘Chinatown’ above the crowd noise.

And just like that, it was over. Good set, blistering heat and another introduction to several new fans in West Virginia.

After the set, we packed our gear and walked the instruments back down the hillside while Lee Brice turned up the temperature in the stadium with his rowdy dose of new country.

Backstage, I couldn’t help but feel terrible for the fans who were overcome with heat exhausting. I’m not exaggerating either. There must have been thirty fans who were wheeled out on gurneys to ambulances on the side, but that wasn’t the worst thing that happened.

It was long into Lee Brice’s set that some of the backstage managers were talking about a huge thunderstorm headed our way. Looking at my iPhone, sure enough, a graphic image of a green, yellow and red mass of rain, wind and lightening seemed to be looming. To the North the clouds started to turn dark.

After a few minutes with the band it seemed to be a good time to leave. Someone said the word ‘evacuation’ and even though I couldn’t imagine that, we certainly didn’t want to be caught in the traffic.

As I headed out of town, I stopped at a Wendy’s to pick up a chocolate smoothy and while sitting in the drive–through, Bluefield turned dark, the wind blew the top off a dumpster and the zephyr blew my sunglasses into the parking lot. It was one of those wind gusts that make you think all hell is getting ready to break loose. The dust from the hot dry days made it difficult to see.

On the way home through the hills of West Virginia, the wind was blowing against the Jeep so hard that I had to hold on to the wheel with two hands. At moments, it felt like I was going to be blown right off the highway. After the tornado last year in Damascus, I was especially concerned for the fans who were in the stadium.

Driving down Interstate 81 near Wytheville, I was surprised to watch the temperature drop to 76 degrees while the Tri-Cities, less than sixty miles away were still in the low nineties.

On Saturday, a Google search revealed that indeed the stadium was evacuated and although fans were told they could re-enter the concert after the storm passed, they decided instead to cancel the concert. Despite the disappointment, some decided to have their own concert in the parking lot.

Fortunately, the Bluefield Telegraph reports that Eric Church and Jake Owen will reschedule the performance later in the year.

Mother Nature dealt a blow to West Virginia on Friday night. Record temperatures and wild Summer storm reminded me of this state’s slogan – “Wild and Wonderful.”

Once again, I enjoyed an amazing experience with Folk Soul Revival and appreciate anytime that I get to hang out with these guys and sculpt their organic and original music from the mountains here in Tennessee.

Special thanks to Will Trotter who captured the entire show from his seat in the stands.

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