Eric Church


By Adam Lucas

TORONTO—This is for the people in the pit.

You know the ones. Maybe you are one. Or maybe you’ve always thought you couldn’t be one, maybe you’re more of a lawn person or maybe you want your own seat without strangers in your personal space.

But trust me: you could be a pit person.

The pit people are the ones who showed up to get in line for Thursday night’s Eric Church show with Shane Smith & The Saints and Koe Wetzel—a 7 p.m. start—around noon. These are also the same people who checked a very formidable looking radar around four in the afternoon, saw an intense line of thunderstorms headed towards the Budweiser Stage, and never even considered getting out of line. 

Those storms, by the way, never completely materialized, leaving the crowd of 16,000 to fully enjoy the first international date of the Outsiders Revival Tour. 

“It’s humid here about once per year,” one of my new Canadian friends told me. “This is that once per year.”

So, yes, the pit was sweaty. The pit has its own distinct aroma. The pit can be tightly packed. But, oddly, it’s not unusual at all for pit people to be downright apologetic when they have to move. They then return carrying six cups of beer at once—yes, it can be done—and two of them are for you. 

The pit is kind of awesome.

The pit is awesome because of the people. It’s because of eight-year-old Jacklyn and 12-year-old Josie, who made the four-hour drive from Windsor with their parents. It’s Jacklyn’s birthday on Saturday, and it was the girls’ first concert ever. So, of course, they went to see Eric Church.

It’s because of Brooklyn, who had driven eight hours from Sault Ste. Marie with her dad. It was her first show. They drove four hours yesterday, four hours today, and they’ll start the process again tomorrow. They did all of that for two hours of live Eric Church music.

“This song,” Church said when introducing “Springsteen,” “was written about nights like tonight.” It was that kind of night for so many people in the pit. Donna and her 15-year-old grandson Drake. Donna cried when she approached the stage. 

Lisa and Scott were waving a North Carolina Tar Heels flag during “Give Me Back My Hometown.” Made the trip from down South? Nope, they’re not from North Carolina. They’re from Toronto, but have loved Carolina ever since Michael Jordan. So it just makes sense that they would love Eric Church, too. Tar Heels are everywhere. Church Choir members are everywhere. 

They were treated to a night that saw three songs performed for the first time on this tour—“Russian Roulette,” “Wrecking Ball” and “Hippie Radio.” The people in the pit sang every word. 

You don’t have to watch every show from the pit. But you should watch at least one, just to try it. One kid arrived to the pit with a sign announcing it was his seventh birthday and his first time at an Eric Church show. 

His reward? Church autographed the sign and gave him the guitar pick he used to play “Mr. Misunderstood.” 

It won’t happen every night. But sometimes, magic happens in the pit.

And that’s why twelve-year-old Josie had a permanent smile on her face after the show. She had watched from the very front row. She had gotten a set list courtesy of an incredibly kind crew member who—showing a keen understanding of family dynamics—also gave one to Jacklyn. There was just one more question to be asked:

Josie, what was your favorite song of the night?

She beamed the smile of someone who is going to be talking about this night forever. Someone who, anytime in the future, will hear this music and think about this night with the people she loves singing the songs she loves. “Drink In My Hand!” she shouted.

Teach ‘em young, Toronto. 

Teach them about Eric Church and staying out late on a Thursday night and putting your arm around a stranger to sing every word to “Hometown.”

And the pit. Definitely, absolutely, positively teach them about the pit.