Rock meets country at Zac Brown Band concert


Lead singer Zac Brown sports his signature beanie hat as he performs on the guitar.

Lead singer Zac Brown sports his signature beanie hat as he performs on the guitar.

For students at the University of San Diego, Sunday nights can be very stressful. Generally, they represent the waning weekend, reminding students of all of their unfinished schoolwork and looming demands for the upcoming school week. This past Sunday, however, many USD students decided to take a break from the midterm madness and flock to Chula Vista’s Sleep Train Amphitheatre to see the Zac Brown Band and all of its Southern flavor.

Junior Joseph Stavola, who attended the concert, was very pleasantly surprised by all of the students who packed the lawn.

“Overall there was a great USD turnout,” Stavola said. “It was cool to see how people of all ends of the USD spectrum came together to appreciate such a great band.”

That crowd absorbed all of the energy from the opening song, turning the lawn into a mix between a swing dance competition and a karaoke concert. Junior Telemahos Korbakes found it to be one of the big highlights of the concert since everyone seemed to be really enjoying the show.

“The atmosphere was very laid back and folksy,” Korbakes said. ‘The people were all so excited to be there and it seemed that everyone got to hear what they wanted to.”

Appealing to all of the eclectic musical tastes in a crowd is incredibly difficult to do, but Zac Brown Band utilized a diverse set list from an array of genres to create a concert experience unlike any other country music show. Stavola agreed that the signature sound separated their live performance from many others.

“The concert was different than any other I’ve been to, including their performance last year,” Stavola said. “They brought their typical country or island reggae feel, then suddenly would switch to rock with some classic covers.”
Among the covers they performed were Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Under the Bridge,” Billy Joel’s “Piano Man,” and Queen’s iconic hit, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which brought every member in the crowd to their feet.

“The Bohemian Rhapsody cover was my favorite part,” Korbakes said. “I did not expect to see that at all and it was really cool to see a country band pay tribute to a classic song like that.”

Another unexpected moment happened when the band performed a cover of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” substituting the guitar solos for equally effective electric violin solos. Many of the students there started jumping when the song came on, including junior Tobin Gramyk who especially liked the way that the metal rock anthem was portrayed on the country stage.

“The ‘Enter Sandman’ cover was awesome and it really revitalized the crowd coming off of some of their acoustic songs,” Gramyk said. “It was reminiscent of hearing it at a sporting event in the fact that it got everyone excited.”
While the covers added a surprising element of rock and roll to the concert, Zac Brown Band still found a way to return to their roots and play their signature blend of country, island and feel-good folk music. Whether it was through summer anthems like “Toes” and “Knee Deep” or through love ballads like “Colder Weather,” the band had the crowd holding onto every single word.

As anticipated, the band closed out its show with its mega-hit, “Chicken Fried.” Stavola found this to be the best part of the show, but surprisingly it was not because of the song.

“The best part [of the show] was definitely in ‘Chicken Fried’ when the band brought out a member of the military in full dress,” Stavola said. “With the large military presence in San Diego, that moment evoked a lot of patriotism and seemed to wrap up the night very well.”

The night was a great representation of Zac Brown’s universal outreach and its ability to unite their fans through a large variety of music styles and powerful messages.