Tulsa, Oklahoma radio station 98.5 KVOO has put on their 5 Man Jam for the past five years. The format for this free concert is to bring five country up-and-comers in for an acoustic show and give the fans a chance to see the artists in a more intimate setting before they rise to superstardom. Each year there have been great acts, but this year’s line-up had incredible chemistry and it proved to be the best show yet. The lineup for the 2016 5 Man Jam included Chris Janson, Drake White, Brandy Clark, Jordan Rager and Drew Baldridge.
Chris Janson opened the show and acted as the host for the evening. Even though he said he had never hosted a guitar pull before, he was born for that role. Throughout the night he kept the banter going with those on stage, especially between him and Drake White. Janson had flown in on a very small plane and there were heavy thunderstorms and tornadoes happening all around (it is Oklahoma after all), so he mentioned how nervous he was coming into Tulsa. White had the best line of the night when he said “We thought you were going to have to buy a damn boat just to get here tonight.” The crowd went wild with the first of many “Buy Me A Boat” references of the night. Early in the evening a yell came from the crowd that some kids had a sign for Janson. He brought the two little boys, who couldn’t have been more than five years old, on stage where they gave him papers they colored especially for him and he took pictures with them. He talks about being a family man and how much his kids mean to him and that moment showed he has a huge heart and loves what he does.
The artists came out one by one until they filled the stage. They took turns singing their songs and giving us a little personality along with stories behind the songs. Janson started off with a song he wrote for Tim McGraw “Truck, Yeah.” It was the perfect way to get the crowd amped up for the evening. He also performed his latest single and one of his personal favorites, “Holdin’ Her,” along with the smash No. 1 hit “Buy Me A Boat,” where the entire crowd sang every word.
When White took the stage, Janson couldn’t help but mention how utterly cool White was. Janson said White looked like the “country Johnny Depp” with his signature fedora and laid back style and White retorted that Janson was the “country Mick Jagger.” This kind of back and forth talk continued throughout the evening. White performed his hit song “It Feels Good” and his current single “Livin’ the Dream” about loving life and being grateful for everything you have instead of what you don’t. He pointed out a little boy in the crowd and said we all need to remember the simpler things in life like sitting on your dad’s shoulders and then he sang “Back to Free.”
Brandy Clark was the only female in this 5 Man Jam and she added grace and beauty to the stage. Clark is a Grammy nominated and CMA Award winning songwriter but this is her first entry into being an artist out on stage. Her style has a little bit of a throwback appeal and reminds me of Trisha Yearwood in the 90s with just a little more sass. She sang her current single “Girl Next Door” about how she is definitely “not some Debbie debutante standing in an apron frying up your bacon” and had the crowd clapping along to the chorus. She sang what she said was her version of a revenge song called “Daughter” from her album Big Day in a Small Town (set to release June 10) and then threw it way back with the Buck Owens tune “Together Again.”
Jordan Rager was definitely a fan favorite. The ladies screamed every time his name was mentioned or he started talking or singing. He sang his song “Whatever” which he mixed with Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” and entertained the crowd with his current single, a duet with Jason Aldean, called “Southern Boy.” He mentioned his final song, “All Out of Beer,” is his first song to be cut as a songwriter and will appear on Aldean’s next album. I really liked that song and can’t wait to hear Aldean’s version of it.
Drew Baldridge opened with an upbeat, toe tapping song called “Train.” There is no lack of energy when it comes to Baldridge. He didn’t stay seated on his stool during his songs and you can tell he just likes to move. He mentioned he wrote his current single “Dance with Ya” because he just wanted a song to dance to and that he, and even his band, did. His last song was the title track of his first album due out June 10th called “Dirt on Us” and talks about best friends living in a small town.
To finish off the night, Chris Janson said since they were in Oklahoma they were going to do some Oklahoma songs. Following Janson’s lead, the whole panel of artists broke into a medley of songs including Merle Haggard’s “Okie from Muskogee,” Don Williams’ “Tulsa Time,” Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places,” Roger Miller’s “King of the Road,” Toby Keith’s “I Love this Bar” and they ended with Hank Williams, Jr.’s “Family Tradition.” The best part of that finale was when Janson started making up his own words to the verses of the songs. It seemed like it could have been rehearsed but we found out that it was all off the cuff and he did a fantastic job ad-libbing and making it an extra special evening for all those in attendance.
All the artists that came to the 5 Man Jam this year put on a fantastic show. Next year’s lineup will have big shoes to fill and we can only hope that the chemistry between that group is as amazing as this one was.
Who would you like to see at next year’s 5 Man Jam? Tweet me your favorite @shanherrold.