Corb Lund Plays To a Tiny Audience in Atlanta

Sam Gazdziak | October 6th, 2009

File this as: Corb Lund begins conquering the U.S…

…or how a great singer/songwriter thoroughly entertained the friends and families of his opening acts, as well as a handful of die-hard fans.

In case you didn’t read Brady’s interview of Corb Lund from last week (and if you didn’t, what’s your problem?), the Canadian singer/songwriter notes that his biggest shows in Western Canada can attract a couple of thousand fans. It may take a little while for him to attract those same numbers in the United States, if Friday’s appearance at Smith’s Olde Bar in Atlanta is any indication. Despite a batch of great new songs, a standout band and a winning stage presence, Lund sang his last song in front of about 20 people–several of whom had drunk so much that they may not have been aware they were still at the concert.

Fortunately for everyone involved, his two opening acts brought with them a batch of family members, friends and fans, as that helped boost the crowd numbers to about 50 as Lund started his set. If he was disappointed at the turnout, he didn’t show it, as he and The Hurtin’ Albertans played for about 90 minutes, took a request from the crowd and even gave the die-hard fans a two-song encore. It was technically a CD release party for his newest album, Losin’ Lately Gambler, and he played several tracks from it. He said that “Devil’s Best Dress” showed off his Marty Robbins obsession, and he described “Long Gone To Saskatchewan” as a tribute to a fantasy place, where all your dreams can come true.

More than anything, though, this concert was Canadiana 101: Introduction to Corb Lund. A fair section of the show was also devoted to his two most recent releases, Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier! and Hair In My Eyes Like A Highland Steer. He showed off the full range of his songwriting abilities, from the humorous monologue of “All I Wanna Do Is Play Cards” to the mournful “Especially a Paint.” Just when you think that Lund writes mostly for humor’s sake, he breaks out a song written from the perspective of a former Nicaraguan Contra fighter, taking the CIA and the Reagan-era U.S. government to task for sending him out to kill communists, “but it was kinda hard to tell.” Bear in mind Lund sang this in a Red State.

Since the two local opening acts brought out a fair share of the audience, they deserve a mention, especially because the Georgia/Nashville pipeline that brought Alan Jackson and Travis Tritt to prominence is still churning out acts like Sugarland, Jason Aldean and Zac Brown Band. Chris Unck & The Black Roses definitely fall on the “alt” side of the country scale and had the biggest fanbase on the bill. Unck sounds a bit like Ryan Bingham, but even more whiskey-bent and hellbound. Oldstar, despite being only three months old, put together a pretty strong set of original material and a nice countrified cover of John Prine’s “Paradise.”

I don’t know if it was the economy, the fact that people were gearing up for the Georgia/LSU game the next day or that Chatham County Line was playing at the same time in Decatur, diluting the Americana audience. Lund would be best appreciated in front of a standing-room-only crowd hollering and clapping along to his music. That’s apparently the kind of reception he gets in Canada. Hopefully, he’ll start getting it down here, too.

  1. Brady Vercher
    October 6, 2009 at 8:52 am

    Sorry to hear the crowd was small, hopefully they’ll start to grow a little for Corb. I wish he would’ve played “Especially a Paint” in Austin.

    As far as “Student Visas” goes, I don’t think it’s as politically motivated as you insinuate. Even so, with only 20 people in the audience, it probably didn’t matter what color the state was ;)

  2. Rick
    October 6, 2009 at 10:22 am

    Now that Corb has an American label he should do well on the Americana charts and become more widely known. When he performs here in LA at The Mint he also draws tiny audiences for his 45 minute sets, many of them Canadian immigrants. Corb recently opened a show at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica for Ian Tyson, and McCabe’s has a huge email list for their concert announcements so a whole lot more people in LA have seen Corb’s name now. I just like the fact that whenever he’s passing through LA on his way to Australia he tries to do gigs here! Go Corb!

  3. Truersound
    October 6, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    When I saw him in Nashville the Basement was jam packed. Course that’s not a very large place, but still, he put on a great show. I usually prefer the smaller places anyway

  4. Lucas
    October 6, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    I’m not really surprised that Corb Lund didn’t have many people – he’s Americana/Folk. Not exactly today’s hottest commercial format.

  5. Noeller
    October 6, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    I think it’s going to take awhile for people to “get” Corb. A lot of what he does is considered “Canadiana” for lack of a better term, and I’m not sure how it would connect with American audiences. Hoping for the best for him down south!!

    Next up, y’all need to learn about Doc Walker!!

  6. Sam G.
    October 6, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    A lot of Canadiana acts do pretty well in Atlanta. Fred Eaglesmith and The Duhks have had standing-room only shows here, and The Clumsy Lovers have had some pretty decent audiences here too. I think (I hope) that maybe the word needs to spread a little more to get Lund that kind of crowd.

  7. Steve Harvey
    October 6, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    I’ve seen Lund play for a tiny crowd before, and he delivered one of the most intense, energetic shows I’ve ever seen. I saw him the week after play for 4,000 and there was no difference in the energy level. He just delivers.

  8. DS
    October 7, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    The next night in Raleigh was also a small crowd of maybe 50 at most. I will say U2 was in town the same night though.

  9. KathyP
    October 7, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    Earlier this year I saw Dale Watson play to a crowd of less than 50 in Newport, KY. It’s a shame such top notch talent as he and Lund don’t get the audiences they deserve.

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