The Bowery Presents
Zac Brown Band

Zac Brown Band

Blackberry Smoke, Levi Lowery

Sun, November 18, 2012

Doors: 6:00 pm / Show: 7:00 pm

IZOD Center (East Rutherford, NJ)

East Rutherford, NJ

$89.50, $69.50, $49.50

This event is all ages

Zac Brown Band
Zac Brown Band
After an eventful year on the charts and on the road, GRAMMY-Award winning
Zac Brown Band has proven that "overnight success" can be years in the making. New fans drawn by the irresistible hit singles, the awe-inspiring musicianship and dynamic live shows might have thought the Zac Brown Band emerged from nowhere. In fact, the band has paid its dues for years and put in its time for just this moment, it may have happened quickly, but it's definitely built to last.

Zac Brown Band's second major label studio album 'You Get What You Give' (Atlantic/Southern Ground Artists, Inc.) was released on September 21st, 2010 and debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 chart. The album features guest appearances by Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett and as Zac explained to Associated Press, "It's a defining record...Every step of it's done the right way and I expect people are really going to love this record and see the depth of our musicianship, we're always growing. Not that we've arrived at any grand finale or anything, but the progress from this last record to this one, it's tremendous and I'm proud of it."

On the eve of the release from the famed Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Zac Brown Band streamed their live show - dubbed "Best. Concert. Ever." (Cleveland Plain Dealer) - to fans everywhere via powered by Ustream. Touting nearly a half-million live views, the concert was among the most-viewed on Ustream. The band also recently earned four GRAMMY nominations including "Best Country Album" for 'You Get What You Give' and five CMA Awards nominations including "Entertainer of the Year." Previous honors and accolades include their 2010 GRAMMY win for "Best New Artist," 2010 CMA win for "Best New Artist," 2009 Academy of Country Music Awards win for "Top New Vocal Group" and the 2009 "Breakthrough Video of the Year" from CMT and USA Weekend for "Chicken Fried."

No question, the past year has been dizzying for the hardworking act. The band's first major label release, 'The Foundation' was one of Billboard's Top 20 albums of 2009, and was the first major label debut album in 18 years to yield five No. 1s including "Chicken Fried" and "Free." Released on November 18, 2008 on Atlantic Records, 'The Foundation' debuted at #17 on the Billboard Top 200 Chart and #3 on the Top Country Albums Chart. It's now certified double platinum by the RIAA, which Brown says, "solidifies an achievement that has been more than a decade in the making."

"There's no way to predict how fast everything is going to come together," adds the down-to-earth Georgian. "Or that it took 13 years to get to the beginning of it."

In 2009 and 2010 Zac Brown Band successfully headlined the Breaking Ground Tour. "For us to come into our own, we had to make it happen as a headliner," notes the Dahlonega, Ga.-raised Brown. There's no question that the road-tested band had the chops to pull it off. In addition to bassist John Hopkins, violinist Jimmy De Martini, guitarist/organist Coy Bowles and drummer Chris Fryar, this year the band has added multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Clay Cook, well respected as a musician's musician and an MVP-caliber performer on the Georgia music scene. Cook, perhaps best known for his co-writes with Grammy-winner (and former Lo-Fi Masters bandmate) John Mayer, rounds out the ZBB sound on guitar, vocals, organ, mandolin and pedal steel.

"We've got a great following," Brown affirms. And while the band strongly identifies with country music and country radio and, of course, continues to have great success there, it's not an easily pigeonholed crowd; while loyal country fans show up in droves, the band also appeals to lovers of bluegrass, jam bands, reggae and seemingly everyone in between. It's no wonder that another famous genre-hopper, Michigan's Kid Rock, has performed with the band and given them his strong endorsement. Zac Brown Band also shared the bill for several Dave Matthews Band dates on their summer 2010 stadium tour, including NYC's Citi Field and will make their Meadowlands debut as well as several stadium stops across the country in 2011 as part of Kenny Chesney's "Goin' Coastal Tour" starring Kenny Chesney and Zac Brown Band.

In fact, the Zac Brown Band's rehearsal space provides strong clues that the unit puts no artificial limits on itself. While one wall sports a whiteboard chock full of upcoming coast-to-coast tour dates, the other is graffitied with hundreds of song titles-sharing space on a wall that also includes a Bob Marley banner and a framed portrait of Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. "Everything has to do with the song," Brown observes. "Every song is born and wants to go its own direction. When audiences hear a new song for the first time, if at the end of it they're going crazy and cheering, you know you've pulled it off."

Brown launched his Southern Ground Artists, Inc. record label in 2009 and signed Atlanta-based artists Sonia Leigh, Levi Lowrey and Nic Cowan. In addition to the music, Brown has also launched a line of steak rubs and barbecue sauces under the Southern Ground label, and in collaboration with photographer Jeffrey Skillings and writer/bandmate Coy Bowles, released his first cookbook 'Southern Ground' in 2010. As Brown notes, these projects have their roots in Zac's Place, a lakeside restaurant he used to co-own and run. "For me it's about creating something that's really excellent," he says. "People are going to be blown away by how good the products are."

As if all this weren't enough, Brown is developing a charitable foundation to run a children's camp, which recently began clearing land for its planned site. Despite all the irons in the fire, Brown nonetheless calls his foundation and camp plans his "life's work." "Having the camp and giving back is important for me," he says. "I'm very blessed to have what I have, and I know a lot of that's on credit for what I do down the road. It's very important for me to keep that in mind. I want to leave something behind that does some good after I'm gone."

While Brown focuses on doing good, his audiences will continue to focus on feeling good, as the band builds upon its grassroots following with media exposure and gigs in larger venues, such as the recent high-profile gig at the Bonnaroo festival that Brown calls "electric" in both the performance and the response. (Performances on the late-night television circuit-David Letterman, Conan O'Brien, Craig Ferguson and Jimmy Kimmel and cover features on American Songwriter and Billboard have only accelerated the momentum.)

And while audiences party, they'll be doing well to keep up with the musicians onstage. "We laugh all the time," Brown notes. "You're either sleeping or up laughing and having a good time. Or we're playing music. It's better than I could have dreamed of."
Blackberry Smoke
Blackberry Smoke
Levi Lowery
Levi Lowery
It's a wedding ceremony. The groom and visibly pregnant bride are impossibly young—so young, they must still be in high school, or only recently graduated. "Do they know what they're getting into?" you wonder.

It's an indelible scene from "Hold On Tight," a song from I Confess I Was A Fool, Levi Lowrey's Southern Ground debut. It testifies not only to his skill as a songwriter, but also to his unsparing honesty. You see, he was that nervous groom, all of 19 at the time. And the expectant bride? Now his wife of seven years, and mother of his two small boys. "Hold On Tight" is her favorite song, Lowrey notes.

"I write from true experience," he says. "And I find a lot of inspiration in sorrow, pain and stupid mistakes."

It's that honesty—and the skill with which it's conveyed—that sets Lowrey apart both as a performer and songwriter. And as word of his prodigious blend of talents spreads, his live audiences keep growing. Truly, after a lifetime of playing music, then seven years of playing in a band before striking out as a singer/songwriter, this is his moment. And I Confess I Was A Fool—with its masterful, song-serving performances, pitch-perfect songcraft and unflinching confessions and observations—is his calling card.

Levi Lowrey may be a guitar-toting troubadour today, but he began as a fiddle player. No surprise, since his great-great-grandfather, the late Gid Tanner, was also a fiddle player and today stands as a towering figure in country music history. Tanner and frequent rival "Fiddlin' John" Carson were among the first "hillbilly" musicians to take advantage of the fledgling broadcast and recording industries of the early 20th Century. As a result, Tanner—a chicken farmer by trade—became one of the first country music stars, along with his band the Skillet Lickers.

Despite such a legacy, Lowrey felt no pressure, and he took naturally to the fiddle—it's in his blood, after all—playing in school orchestra, at bluegrass festivals, in weekly jam sessions in his hometown of Dacula, Ga. and with various relatives who have kept new incarnations of the Skillet Lickers going since the band's 1930s heyday.

Curiously, for someone so skilled as a lyricist, the first songs Lowrey wrote were wordless. Early recordings of his were all instrumental, a mix of traditional country and bluegrass numbers and new compositions based on the traditional tunes he'd grown up with. It was only at this point that Lowrey picked up a guitar and even then, it was only to lay a musical bed for his fiddle compositions.

But the siren call of rock stardom beckoned, so as a high schooler he joined a band, and though he wasn't the primary songwriter, he began haltingly adding lyrics to a composition here and there. Inspired by Butch Walker and his Atlanta power-pop outfit, Marvelous Three, Problem Thomas became the venue where Lowrey got comfortable onstage and grew into his role as a songwriter. He also began leading worship at his church as the band ran its course—in fact, its core now remains as Lowrey's touring ensemble, the Community House Band.

"Then, I just came full circle and started writing stuff that was more derived from my roots and how I grew up, how I learned how to play," he recounts. "It's not North Georgia string band music; I wouldn't call it bluegrass. I don't think I'd even call it country, but it has all of those elements within it—it's just a melting pot of my influences."

It may be tough to label, but it's bound to resonate with anyone who loves top-notch songwriting and keen musicianship. The songs include a memorable, story-telling nod to Charlie Daniels ("All American"), an upbeat country rocker ("The Problem With Freedom") and plenty of more laid-back, introspective moments, redolent of Lowrey's heroes Kris Kristofferson and Darrell Scott ("Freight Hopper" "Another Sunday Morning Hangover.") The lyrics ride the typically southern Saturday night/Sunday morning dichotomy, with debauchery, foolishness, regret and confession in equal measure.

"My wife was out of town," Lowrey recalls, about "Another Sunday Morning Hangover," "so I was a useless human being. I woke up on my couch and I was watching TBN for some reason. I guess I came home hammered and wanted to watch the televangelists. When I woke up I found a napkin laying on the coffee table, and I couldn't even get up—it was the worst hangover I've ever had in my entire life. So I just leaned over, grabbed the napkin and started writing the song down."

Lowrey isn't just an explorer of his own heart; he's also equally adept at telling others' stories—exhibit A: "Roselee And Odes." It's a tale of the older couple who lived next door to him and enjoyed a lifetime of love, which turned to heartbreak when Odes passed away. "I was very hesitant to play it for Roselee," Lowrey recalls. "She's still not over him. It took her a long time to even get to the point where she could get out of bed in the morning. But she loved the song."

As Lowrey has matured as a songwriter, his gifts have been employed increasingly by others. He along with Zac Brown, Wyatt Durrette, and Zac Brown Band member Coy Bowles wrote "Colder Weather" which became Zac Brown Band's seventh consecutive #1 single and received a CMA Award nomination in 2011 for Song of the Year.

A full telling of Lowrey's story would be incomplete without mentioning Brown, as well as fellow singer/songwriter and Southern Ground labelmate Sonia Leigh. Just a few years ago, they were all compadres on the Atlanta singer/songwriter scene, playing dive bars, acoustic-music showplace Eddie's Attic and anywhere else that would have them.

After his band broke up, Lowrey ended up in Leigh's band as her full-time fiddle player while continuing to write and perform the occasional solo gig. Meanwhile, both of them could tell big things were ahead for Brown, who'd already paid lots of dues on the local scene.
"The first time I ever saw Zac, I just knew," Lowrey recalls. "I can't even explain. It's like, the same way that you feel about him when you see him in an arena today, and how incredible the show is—imagine that feel, that vibe and that energy packed into [300 capacity] Dixie Tavern."

So when the Zac Brown Band broke through on the charts and established itself as a concert draw, Brown was true to his promise to come back for his friends. After he established his own record label, Leigh and Lowrey were among his first signings along with Nic Cowan, and they have already played sizable venues—arenas and amphitheaters—as opening acts.

Despite the boost, Lowrey has a one-step-at-a-time attitude about his career, trusting his audience to find him organically. "I'm not trying to be a superstar right now—that's not on my list of things to do," he says, noting that he still lives in Dacula, his hometown, and that's not likely to change. "What I've been trying to do is write the next song better than the last one. Honestly, I get to do what I love for a living, my kids eat, my wife is provided for, and we're able to help out others who are struggling. We're very family oriented, and I think that's about as good as it gets."

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Venue Information:
IZOD Center (East Rutherford, NJ)
50 State Rt 120
East Rutherford, NJ, 07073