The Zac Brown Band and a host of friends serenaded a sold-out crowd at the Fox Theatre with more than four hours of music Friday night, in a benefit to rebuild the Georgia Theatre.
The historic Athens venue burned in June, putting the AthFest music festival on the spot. It’s a hall that has nurtured many young bands, including the Zac Brown Band.
Besides putting on a great show Friday, Brown ably handled responsibilities as a traffic cop, bringing numerous friends and colleagues on and off the stage. At one point he had 17 musicians crowding the ample Fox facilities, including two drummers and five guitarists.
Rumors flew thick and heavy the weeks before the show and the list of anticipated guests stopped just shy of the second coming of Hank Williams Sr. The actual show was slightly less star-studded – there was no Kellie Pickler, Luke Bryant or Kenny Chesney — though some of Brown’s lower-tier colleagues gave the most affecting performances.
“I’m so proud to be from Atlanta,” Brown told the audience, introducing his marquee guest a good way into the show, “but it never hurts to have support from somewhere else. From Detroit, Michigan . . .” he continued, drowned out by cheers for Kid Rock.
Kid, in black hat, saggy jeans and shiny belt buckle, offered the Marshall Tucker sing-along, “Can’t You See,” and the Skynyrd-channeling “All Summer Long.” Hands went up in the air. It’s a good bet Kid didn’t relax at the Waffle House, apres-show.
Other guest musicians included Atlanta’s Shawn Mullins and Angie Aparo, the duo Joey and Rory, Texas man Nic Cowan, Dacula songwriter Levi Lowrey, vocal quartet Little Big Town and female vocalists Aslyn and Sonia Leigh.
Members of Zac’s own band were also highlighted, including the energetic Clay Cook, who dashed from keyboards, to mandolin to guitar and back again, and Jimmy De Martini on fiddle, who, predictably, cooked on the extended “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”
Wilmot Greene, owner of the Georgia Theatre, spoke of how the notable venue showed off such acts as R.E.M. and was a place “where young people could come and let their freak flag fly.”
The chatty, beer-drinking crowd showed their appreciation for the radio hits “Toes,” “Whatever It Is,” and “Chicken Fried” that launched Brown into platinum territory but continued chatting even during sweeter slower numbers like “Jolene.”
Ever the gracious host, Brown persevered, and encouraged those who bought “merch” to stick around afterward. “We’re going to stay until we sign everything.”