audience member of the year

What do Easton Corbin, Randy Houser, Eric Church, the JaneDear Girls, Steel Magnolia, and the Band Perry have in common?

They’re all country music artists Joannie has never heard before this week!

And they’re all up for Top New artists at the Academy of Country Music Awards Show this April.

My friend Ann and I were chosen to be audience/seat fillers for a country music showcase at the Ryman (the mother church of country music) that will be part of the ACM Awards.  We didn’t really know what to expect, other than there was a good possibility we were going to see all of those artists, plus Luke Bryan (who was hosting the show) perform.  Even though I didn’t know any of the artists, I figured they were a pretty big deal in the country music world if they were up for these awards, and when else would I have the opportunity to be an audience filler?  What if the casting agency loved me so much as an audience filler, they decided to cast me for the Academy Awards someday, and I could sit in the stars’ seats while they used the restroom?

(it happens.)

We waited in a back hallway of the Ryman with the other audience fillers for awhile, listening to the artists do sound checks and waiting our directions.  After the main doors opened and the ticket holders were finding their seats, the casting director began arranging the front row.  Since this was going to be televised, they didn’t sell the front row and instead used seat fillers so they could ensure the people were properly and nicely dressed.   We had a dress code (no white or light colors, no shiny things, no patterned shirts, no skirts or dresses, long sleeves) to ensure that we looked the best on camera.  She arranged the front row, taking into account what colors people were wearing, hair color, sex, and height – both of all of us and of the people in the second row (you don’t want too many blondes in a bunch, for example, so since the second row had a lot of blondes in one section, she took that into account when “casting” that part of her first row.) It was fascinating to watch- partly because I had no idea that it happened, yet it made complete sense.

When the show was about to start, she led the front row out, and then the rest of us were “fillers.”  So we stood in the back with her during Luke Byran’s first song while she scanned the seats to see where we were needed.  Again, since it was televised, it would look pretty bad to have large gaps in the audience.  The 7th row was almost completely empty-  right in the center of the auditorium- so it was pretty clear where we would be sitting.  If the ticket holders ended up coming late, we were to report back to her and she would seat us somewhere else.  Ann and I ended up staying put all night, so we enjoyed fantastic seats and great music.

I love live music, so even though country music isn’t my favorite, I had a lot of fun.  It also helped that the artists were great performers and the audience was really alive.   Each artist performed three songs, and then Luke Bryan performed at the beginning and the end.

Some highlights:

We were sitting right behind this kid and his mom.  Of course, I had no idea who the kid was– I just thought he was hilariously adorable.  But Ann and everyone around us knew who he was, and it was funny to see people’s expressions when they realized who he was.  He sang along to a lot of the show, especially to Randy Houser, of course, and then when Randy played “Boots On,” he was really dancing and playing his little guitar (just like in the video).  Ann talked to him at intermission and he was hilarious.

Luke Bryan told a random story about his wife getting him a popcorn maker for Christmas, and then after he told the story he confessed he had no idea why he told it and he apologized for taking away 30 seconds of our lives.  For some reason, that made me really like him.

When Luke was closing the show, he told us that he had a surprise for us.  Someone had stopped by the Ryman and was going to come perform with him.   Before she came on, he said something about writing the song with her band and that she sang backup for him, and everyone went nuts.  He said it was a surprise performance that only we would see (I suppose that means it won’t be part of the televised portion) and everyone kept going crazy.  Once again, I realized that I’m out of the country music loop and I should have probably known who it was — but I didn’t.  It turned out to be the female singer of Lady Antebellum, Hillary Scott.  Now, it could have been a lie and it could have been planned — but that’s the sort of thing that happens around here, so I’m not completely doubtful it really was an off-the-cuff performance.

After that, Luke thanked us for coming and performed his last song.  As the song started, something sounded bad — like someone messed up — but I (of course) didn’t know the song and didn’t know what had happened.  Luke turned away as he was playing and I could tell he was laughing, and the guitarist hung his head and looked mad.  So it was pretty clear he had messed up.  After the song was over, everyone was getting up to leave, even though Luke was still on stage sort of jamming away.  The announcer gentleman (who had been doing the commercial breaks, just like they always do at the Grand Ole Opry) asked us to please take our seats again because there was going to be another song.  He asked us to please look surprised and pretend as if we hadn’t just heard it — because they were going to re-do the last song.  The magic of television!  When they re-did it, it became obvious to me that the guitarist had just come in too early the first time.  So we enjoyed an extra performance, and I was actually sort of able to sing along since I had now heard the song before. : )

So that was my night!  Eight country music acts, one classic venue, and my first job as an official seat filler.

And who knows… maybe this song will end up on my iTunes playlist.

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