The anticipation was palpable as I joined the Ragweed faithful in a rainy lineup. As I spoke with those in line, I was amazed at the geographic makeup of the crowd. First of all, everyone was very friendly and completely stoked for the show. I met a couple from Texas. There were a couple of guys who made the trip up from Georgia. I met some really great people from Colorado. And I'm from Ontario, Canada, so that in itself should tell you the reach and influence that Ragweed has on the populous. Everyone knew this was a rare occasion, and one that was not to be missed.
Opening act Wade Bowen was fantastic. He did more than an adequate job of getting the crowd ready and in the right frame of mind for the reason we were all there. The room, filled to capacity with thousands of members from the Ragweed nation, was at a fever pitch when the introductions were complete and the first notes of "Mexican Sky" were blasting through the sound system. The first thing passing through my mind was "Damn, these guys have pure talent." The second thing was, "This is going to be one awesome show." We were not to be disappointed.
Rocking through opening tunes "Cold Hearted Woman" and "Dimebag Darryl", the first surprise of the evening was upon us. Citing the wonderful support from their peers in the industry, Cody Canada welcomed their duet partner from 2005's "Soul Gravy" album, Lee Ann Womack, to join them on stage and perform their hit "Sick and Tired." The song, which is a wonderful ballad, also afforded the first comedic moment of the night, with Canada admitting later on that he allowed an audience sing along to take place because he forgot one of the middle verses. As always, the Ragweed faithful were there to support, as the audience started singing along with assistance from Womack until Cody was able to re-join. It was a great moment that lent itself to the spontaneity and celebratory nature of the event.
Other ballads that followed were "Lonely Girl", written by Cody Canada for his sister and one of their earlier hits, "Constantly." It didn't take long for the boys to rock it right back up though, as they ripped in to such crowd favorites as "Anywhere But Here" and "Oklahoma", the latter performed with Stoney Larue. Wade Bowen was brought back out to perform with his brother-in-law, Cody Canada, and the boys.
In all, Cross Canadian Ragweed performed 30 songs in total, it was like nothing I have ever seen before and will not likely see again. Closing the show with an encore that consisted of "Carney Man" and a cover of Neil Young's "Keep on Rockin' in the Free World," Ragweed went out in style. After a show that lasted 4 hours, Ragweed nation could go home with their heads held high. Their heroes blew the doors off the place. For this Ragweed rookie, it was one of the best shows I have ever seen. I was impressed and depressed at the same time. I would love to have caught another show by these guys. But, if I could only see one show, I am so glad it was this one. This was the show to be at and I am thrilled to have been a part of that whole experience.
I would like to make some acknowledgements before I close this column. First, it would be remiss to not acknowledge the contribution of Wade Bowen to this night. Wade Bowen and his band performed a show in Texas (I believe it was in Amarillo ... please correct me if I'm wrong) the night before. Giving much credit to his bus driver, Bowen and crew were at Joe's Bar in Chicago to answer the 8:00 show time call. That is no small feat. But as Cody Canada pointed out in the Ragweed set, those Red Dirt musicians take care of each other. Wade Bowen was there for his brother-in-law and brothers of the road. I really liked his show and I'll be doing a piece on Wade Bowen in the future.
I asked a question of some fans outside while we were waiting to get in, and that question was "Why Chicago? Why not somewhere in Texas, like Billy Bob's? Why not Oklahoma, say at Cain's Ballroom?" From what I gather, both places would have been more than justified, hell, Ragweed is from Oklahoma and Ragweed is legendary in those states. The answer I got from a longtime friend and fan of Ragweed was that Joe's Bar has been very good to Ragweed over the year's, giving them an outlet for their music before they became the huge success that they are today. Joe's was selected as a "thank you" to that establishment for all the years of support at all stages in their career. Of course, this is speculation. Whatever the reason, go to Joe's Bar in Chicago if you are ever in the Windy City. It is a great establishment with great and friendly people running the show.
Thanks to KNBT-FM from New Braunfels, Texas, for thinking outside the box. They streamed the show live on their web site for all the folks in Ragweed nation that could not be at the show. It would be nice if more stations would do this sort of thing. They will have an encore presentation of the show starting at 8:00pm EDT, 7:00pm CDT on Thursday October 28. Do check out this radio station, it is a good one. Their link is www.knbt.fm
And finally, thank you Cross Canadian Ragweed and Ragweed Nation. It is because of Cross Canadian Ragweed that I am now a follower of the Texas Red Dirt music and Americana music scene. Thanks for one of the best shows I have ever seen. Ragweed Nation, thanks for reading my little series on the boys from Oklahoma. This is still a fairly new blog and I appreciate the time you have taken to check it out. I hope you'll come back and check it out, we're only getting started here. And by all means, if there is anyone out there that you recommend I check out, let me know. This was a lot of fun. We will do this again.