Eric Church


By Adam Lucas

TINLEY PARK, IL—The moment Cody Jinks officially became part of the Eric Church tour family happened on Friday in Indianapolis.

Here’s an important fact about tour life: credentials are everything. A tour stops in a different city every night, with a completely different town’s security staff responsible for controlling access to the backstage area. So the highly artistic card-sized laminates become a golden ticket to move freely about the venue. 

Got your all access pass clipped to your belt or hanging around your neck? You can go pretty much anywhere you want.

Forget it in your backpack or on your dresser at home? You’re going to have a very difficult task talking your way past anyone. 

As you might expect, maintaining the integrity of those passes is paramount. Misplacing them is highly discouraged. So highly discouraged that when a verified tour member shows up without a pass, tour manager Todd Bunch long ago devised a very appropriate punishment: they are given a temporary replacement credential that reads, “I’m a dumbass who forgot my pass.”

“I also have an 8.5 by 11 version,” Bunch said a little evilly on Saturday evening.

But on Friday, something unexpected happened: it was opener Jinks who showed up without his pass. What to do then? You can’t really make Cody Jinks, he of “Must Be the Whiskey” and “Hippies and Cowboys” and “Somewhere in the Middle,” wear the dumbass pass, can you?

Even Bunch, who has been around long enough not to be impressed by anyone, said, “I wasn’t going to make him wear it.”

But Jinks insisted. “Hey,” he said, “I’m the one who forgot my pass.”

That’s how you win friends on a tour. He very easily could have sent someone else to do the dirty work for him, or rolled his eyes at the tour tradition. But he didn’t. And that’s a big part of why these last four editions of the Outsiders Revival Tour, with Jinks opening for Church, have felt so clean. Honestly, you could pick any of the last four—Raleigh, Bristow, Indianapolis, Chicago—and they’d be in the discussion for best show of the tour so far.

Saturday night was another standout. Credit Union 1 Amphitheater is enormous, with a listed capacity of 28,000, the biggest on the tour. There were people jammed into every corner of the structure, from the gargantuan lawn—with seating for 17,000, just the lawn is bigger than many entire amphitheaters—to the unique two-tiered suite level that hangs off the roof. 

Church came out wearing the familiar four-star city of Chicago flag draped around his neck, and from that moment forward the revival was in full effect. As a tribute to The Band’s Robbie Robertson, he played “Ophelia” for the first time since 2017. After being reminded about the song twice in the past 24 hours—including once at Saturday night’s meet and greet, so you never know when your comments might make a difference—he also did “Some Of It” for the first time since October of 2021. 

The giant crowd loved every second of it. After “Smoke a Little Smoke” they were high-fiving as if Justin Fields had just thrown a touchdown pass, and during “Give Me Back My Hometown” the decibel level at the front of house just from the roar of the crowd reached 110 for one of the few times on this tour.

It was, very simply, a night where everyone involved was performing at the highest possible level. As Church said at the outset when promising to take the crowd on a true revival, “We’re professionals and we’re good at this.”

And people noticed. Such as, for example, Cody Jinks. In each of his four sets on the tour, he’s made a point of complimenting Church’s crew from the stage. It’s not just rehearsed stage patter. He means it.

“Eric’s entire crew has taken such great care of us,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for 25 years. Their entire camp is as good as it gets. We’ve worked with some really big camps where that isn’t the case. I think it’s important to let the fans know that this is big business, and there are a lot of people involved. And it’s good to let a crew like Eric’s know that we appreciate it.

“Everything starts at the top. They’re just good people. They’re helpful, kind, and accommodating. That makes it fun.”

He’s right. It does start at the top. During the pandemic, Church kept all his regular crew on their normal salaries, despite the fact that everyone was sitting at home. Overall, the crew is unusually passionate about making sure they are putting on the very best show in the country.

It’s not unusual for sound board wizard Ben Rigby to walk the lawn during the opener. “I know this sounds corny,” he said, “but I just want to remember that those are the people we’re putting on a great show for.” During “Springsteen,” chef Bob Schneeberger spotted a young girl in the crowd whose even younger brother was battling to stay awake. He promptly walked into the crowd and delivered them a guitar pick. “For when he wakes up,” he told the kids’ mother.

It makes it so much easier to make an effort to take care of others when you know someone else is committed to taking care of you. During his first-ever headlining amphitheater tour, in the heat of summer, Church is paying for a full-time medical technician who can administer IV’s to keep the crew hydrated.

Here’s the difference about the last four shows: when Jinks saw the IVs being administered, he inquired about their benefits…and then paid out of his own pocket for his entire crew to receive the same treatment options. 

Saturday’s venue had one of the strictest and earliest curfews on this tour so far. But as early as 10 p.m., watching Church interact with the crowd and feed off their energy, it was obvious he wasn’t going to be able to leave them as early as expected. He came back out for “Springsteen,” and then, with some of his production staff likely breaking out in hives, proclaimed, “One more!” That led him into “Holdin’ My Own,” which he has frequently called his favorite song.

His favorite song was a fitting way to close a set of shows that immediately go into the favorite category. But it strongly feels like we may not have seen the last collaboration between Jinks and Church.

The last two nights, Church has tweaked the lyrics of “Mr. Misunderstood,” augmenting Jeff Tweedy to also include, “Think Cody Jinks is one bad mother.” It’s one of the highest forms of praise from someone who is so very intentional about every word of every song. 

“Cody is exactly who I wanted him to be,” Church said. “I was already a fan. But I’m a bigger fan after meeting he and his crew and most importantly his family. He is exactly the guy I will always pull for. It was a pleasure having him join our circus.”