Meeting Mat Kearney

My autographed poster.

Let me start by saying this: If you don’t know who Mat Kearney is or you simply just haven’t bothered to listen – do it! All of his albums are a little different, but still within the same sort of sound. His newest album as some great upbeat tunes to dance around to and I especially like running to it.

Back to the Beginning
In the summer of 2006 my mom and I went to see the band Train at Wolf Trap in Vienna, Virginia. Usually not too impressed with opening acts (my mom and I are very critical of enjoyable music), we were pleasantly surprised when Mat Kearney took the stage and started to perform. At one point he sang All I Need, a song he wrote about two of his friends that were in New Orleans during Katrina. We were sold. After he finished my mom went up to the merch booth and bought his CD. Five years and 3 CDs later, we’re still huge fans. Unfortunately he hasn’t been around on tour where we’ve been able to go see him. My mom bought tickets to the Kelly Clarkson tour that he was going to open on just to see him, but Clarkson ended up cancelling the tour. So when I heard he was going to be playing in Columbus at a smaller-sized venue, I was kind of disappointed that I didn’t know of any one that would want to go to the show with me. Being a Tuesday night show, there was no way my mom could fly out to join me.

Nothing Left to Lose
I contemplated just buying a ticket at the door the day of the show and just going myself, but I knew I probably wouldn’t end up doing that. Then this past Saturday evening I was driving over to my friend’s house for dinner listening to the radio. Hey Mama was playing and when it was over the DJ said something along the lines of, “Mat Kearney’s in town Tuesday. If you want to win passes to his sound check you can enter on our website.” I text my mom and told her I was going to enter and see if I would win.  Sunday evening I filled out the online form and entered. I went to bed and forgot about it until I missed a call on my cell phone at work and had a voicemail: “Hi Ariana, this is so-and-so calling from Mix 107. You are one of the grand prize winners for the Mat Kearney sound check. You can bring a guest and you’ll get to see his sound check and there’ll probably be a little time for autographs and photo and then you will get two tickets to the show.” FREAK OUT at my desk, while still trying to contain my excitement, when I suddenly remembered that my coworker Crystal really likes his new album. I walked over very fake-calmly and asked her if she wanted to go and she was so excited.

Haven’t We Met Before? She Said No, it’s Only Noon
Tuesday afternoon Crystal and I had registered to go to  a local business expo, so after the expo we headed over to the OSU campus and got ready in one of the bathrooms. We headed over the venue and waited outside with a few of the other winners. The promo manager from the radio station let us know that we would go in, hear a few sound check songs, and then they would give us posters to have signed and we would get a picture with him. After waiting for about a half an hour they finally let us into the venue. Mat ran through Ships in the Night, All I Need, and Nothing Left to Lose.

During sound check.

After a few snare drum and mic fixes, he hopped off the stage and led us back into the lobby. We each got our turn going over to Mat and having him sign our posters. He asked everyone their name, made sure it was spelled correctly on the poster, and took about a minute to chat with each person before taking a picture. No rush, no hurry to get through it, just taking his time with each fan and making sure he didn’t miss anyone. I went up and he asked my name. When I told him he told me it’s a really pretty name and was also his best friend’s sister’s name. While he was using my back to sign the poster (they didn’t give him a table.) I told him my mom and I had seen him at Wolf Trap in Virginia in 2006 when he opened for Train and he said, “Oh yes, that was an epic show.” Then I told him what my mom had asked me to tell him: “She was sad she couldn’t be here today so she wanted me to tell you that she loves you and she loves your music” and he said, “Aww, tell her I love her too and hi.” Then we took our picture and I thanked him and he said, “Yeah, tell your mom hi!” After all the photos were done he thanked us for coming to his “sound check party” and told us to enjoy the show.

Me with Mat Kearney!

I’m Gonna Get There Soon, You’re Gonna Be There Too
After a quick trip to our cars to put our autographed posters away and a short dinner, we headed back to line up at the “special” doors so we could get into the concert first. Now I must go a little off-topic here because there is a kind of funny story. There is only about 6 of us waiting to get it and these two women that had been in the same bar as us for dinner (they had had quite a few beers) asked the people in the front of the line if they were in the “Decibel Club” but of course they said no since they were contest winners. Once the doors opened, the women felt the need to jump in front of 4 out of the 6 of us that were in line (I guess since Crystal and I as well as the two girls behind us were young they felt they had authority) calling out “We’re in the Decibel Club!!!!”. They literally power-walked up to where they scan their tickets, forgetting they had to have their ID’s checked first. So then they cut us off to get their wrist-bands at which point I loudly said, “That lady is a freak!” hoping she’d hear me. They rushed into the concert venue… to go stand on the side not even that close to the stage. For the next 15 minutes or so Crystal and I were super perplexed by their actions. Anyway, Crystal and I got a spot right up in the front where we proceeded to be “those girls” … the ones that dance around like idiots and act like they’re having the time of their life. Except, we really were having a blast. The concert was amazing. Up beat and energetic. Mat Kearney’s guitarist, Tyler, was awesome – great voice too! The opening act was a group called Leagues. I wasn’t too crazy about them, but the guitarist and drummer also played during Mat’s set.

Mat playing "All I Need"

Highlights during the concert:
– Mat going out into the audience and walking around during one of the songs
– His song transition from Girl America into Chasing Pavement
– Mat’s rap during “Chicago” about Ohio including a line about “Tressel finding jerseys”
– Bringing the opening act back on during the encore to cover Foster The People’s Pumped Up Kicks

She Don’t Wanna Go, Don’t Wanna Go
He closed the show with his first single off his new album, Hey Mama. They took a bow, then he picked up his set list and walked over and handed it to the audience. And I got it. Over all it was an amazing night. I can’t even communicate how absolutely fun his hour and a half-ish set was. I was so impressed with Mat Kearney’s patience with us during his sound check & meet and greet. It was set up by the record company for promotional reasons, but Mat was very genuine and chill during the meet & greet and it didn’t feel like we were being rushed in and out in hopes that we’d keep spending money on his albums. I definitely have an even greater respect for this already seemingly down-to-earth artist and I am looking forward to seeing him again in concert, even if I’m in the back row… I just hope I don’t have to wait another 5 years!

Mat's set list ... now mine!

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