September 23, 2023

The Outsiders Revival Tour - Alpharetta, GA 9.22.23 (Night 2)

By Adam Lucas


ALPHARETTA—They line up early in the morning for a 7:30 p.m. show, and you wonder.


They sing back every word of every song, new and old. They wear the shirts and buy the posters and listen to Outsiders Radio and there is nothing like them anywhere.


So there is one very simple question: why? That’s what you ask Jeremy Lamb on Friday evening. He was first in line at one entrance for Church Choir early entry, a perk on the Outsiders Revival Tour to allow Choir members to be the first ones into the venue, every single night. 


Jeremy and his wife, Stacey, have been all over the Southeast to see Eric Church in concert. They have been to Birmingham and Knoxville and Chattanooga and Nashville and Atlanta and probably a couple other places they can’t remember right now. They know it is certainly not the highest concert total of anyone in the Choir, but every chance they get that time and money and geography allow, they are there.  And why?


Jeremy looks at you as though you have just asked what you should do with your jacked up when the parking lot is muddy (the answer, of course, is “drop ‘er down in four by four,” and if you’re staring blankly at the screen, this isn’t the right story for you). 


“Because he’s the best,” he says.


Jeremy and Stacey used their Choir early entry on Friday night to be the first ones in line for the limited edition show poster. Friday’s version will hang proudly on their wall beside the posters from every other show they’ve attended.


Others use their Choir perks in other ways. Caryn Lee and Angel Haley-Busby were front and center on Friday—that is literally where they were located. Front, and center. They were in the prime pit spots well before opener Whiskey Myers took the stage, and well after the last note of “Springsteen” was played. They have seen dozens of Church shows. They both independently decided to get Church’s signature tattooed on their arms. Haley-Busby had on her aviators and belted out every word to every single song and Lee had a perfect explanation for why the Choir is so important to her:


“Every single person in the Choir is different,” she said. “But the music brings them all together. There’s no prejudice at all. We’re here for the music and we’re here for Eric.”


Sometimes they get a chance to be very, very close to Eric. Two weekends ago at the Gorge, Cory Jarocki arrived early to take advantage of Choir early admission. She chatted with a man in line who was attending solo. They talked about music and life and the wonder that is the Gorge. He didn’t know many people, so Cory introduced him to other Choir fanatics. This is how friendships are made in the Choir world. You go to a show by yourself, and you leave with a whole new set of friends from around the country.


A few hours into the conversation, the man mentioned a heretofore unsaid minor detail: he had two Meet and Greet passes for the following night, courtesy of his Church Choir membership. Might Cory want to use one of them as a small token of appreciation for her kindness?


“He had no idea how much that moment meant to me,” she says. “He was just being kind. That’s what being part of the Choir is about. They’re all there for the same purpose and have the same love for the music. They come from all these completely different walks of life but they all relate to each other for the music.”


Malia Keck won a Meet and Greet for last weekend’s Phoenix show. She’s a pilot, so her everyday life is filled with routine and double-checks and decisions that should be devoid of emotion. But when she’s at Church, well…”I am lost in the feelings and emotions of every single one of his songs,” she says. “I feel everything he’s trying to portray, and he portrays all those emotions in every single concert.”


This is partially why Church and the Choir get along so wonderfully well. They are just built the same way. It’s why he continues to do nightly Meet and Greets long after the point in his career when he has to do them. There are opening acts on this tour who don’t do as many M&G’s as the headliner. “He does it every single night,” Lainey Wilson marveled in Alabama last month. “And he’s Eric Church!” 


The implication is clear: those types of events are often reserved for beginning artists. Church simply doesn’t see it that way. It’s why he released the Mr. Misunderstood album straight to the Choir in 2015, before anyone else. It’s why he paid the Choir member dues himself during Covid, when he knew fans didn’t have as much discretionary income.


So: why? In a frequently fractured country, why do you look out in the crowd at an Eric Church show and see young and old and white and black and Democrat and Republican, and here, at the Ameris Bank Amphitheater, they’ve got their arms around each other and they’re buying each other drinks?


Ask Samantha Ducote. She is just to Church’s right in the pit, along with her eight-year-old son, whose name is also Eric. They are from Woodstock, Georgia, and this is Eric’s second ever Church show, but first in the pit. 


His mother established very strict rules for his first pit show. For starters: an afternoon nap was required. So they arrived plenty early, but before they went inside, Eric sat in the back seat, his Bad Mother Trucker hat pulled over his eyes, and slept. 


This provided all the energy he would need to make it through the entire show—from “The Outsiders,” in the leadoff spot on the set list for the first time this entire tour all the way through “Springsteen.” He didn’t fade even a little bit; during “Springsteen” he was still pumping his fist to every beat, still wearing his “Friday Night Soldier” shirt. He made a sign, referencing his lifelong—well, all eight years of it—Church fandom, which was cultivated by his mother, a Choir member for over a decade. Church spotted the sign and read it aloud to the sellout crowd. 


These moments are possible because Church has never gotten too big to lose his wonder, or to forget how huge these interactions can be for someone else. The symmetry was perfect; in the crowd was one eight-year-old having a moment he will never forget. And on the side of the stage was Church’s eight-year-old son, recording the show on his phone.


Church’s relationship with one of them absolutely influences his relationship with the other. He didn’t have to stop the show to read Eric Ducote’s sign. But he knew what it would mean, because his son has idols, too.


As the crowd filed out of the amphitheater, multiple fans stopped Eric Ducote to high five him or exchange fist bumps. He still had his ear plugs in, so it was a little challenging to have a conversation with him. But he had one overwhelming impression of the night he’d just experienced.


“That,” he said with a wide grin, “was awesome.”


Spoken like a future Choir member.