The country a cappella boys are at it again
By: Cindy McBride
Country music has been a staple in the United States since its debut in the 1920’s. Artists like Johnny Cash, Reba McEntire, Conway Twitty, Garth Brooks, and countless others have made huge influences on the country genre, not only to the older generation, but also to the younger as well. However, every now and then an artist or group emerges out of the woodwork and changes the game of country music as we know it. One band in particular has not only made an impact on the country music genre, but the a capella genre as well, and that group is Home Free.
In 2014, the five piece group based out of Mankato, Minnesota won the fourth season of NBC’s The Sing-Off, resulting in a recording contract and a $100,000 dollar prize. Since the win, members Adam Rupp (percussionist), Chris Chance (baritone), Austin Brown (high tenor), Rob Lundquist (tenor), and Tim Foust (bass), who have a combined vocal range of A0 – C6, have covered numerous country hits, such as “Colder Weather” by Zac Brown Band, and “Friends in Low Places” by Garth Brooks. Home Free has over 560,000 followers on YouTube, 690,000 followers on Facebook, and 45,000 followers on Twitter. The group has currently released four national selling albums, all of which have peaked in the top fifteen on the Country Billboard Charts, and their fourth album, Full of (Even More) Cheer, topped out at number two in 2016. What better way to celebrate their success than to go on tour at the start of the next year!
The first show date of the Home Free tour, entitled Spring Tour, took place on March 21st in Midland Texas, followed by shows in Wisconsin, Alabama, Florida, Pennsylvania, and even stopping to perform two shows at the Grand Ol’ Opry in Tennessee. This tour also included three show dates in North Carolina, including Wilmington, Charlotte, and Greensboro, and being a Winston-Salem native I chose to go to the Greensboro show, which didn’t disappoint in the least.
Mother Nature took a break from blasting North Carolina with its constantly changing weather on Tuesday, and allowed the numerous fans who lined the block to stand in comfortable weather as they patiently talked with other fans. When the doors opened at 7:00pm, fans were ushered into the historic theater in an orderly and surprisingly quick fashion. A few minutes after 8:00pm, the stage lights dimmed and one hell of a show began.
The first song of the evening was a mashup between “Fishin’ in the Dark” by The Nitty Gritty Dirt band and “Boondocks” by Little Big Town. Directly following the first song of the evening Home Free took off into their rendition of “Seven Bridges Road” originally performed by The Eagles. Taking a quick breather, the group greeted the audience and asked if they were ready to have a good time tonight. They then directed the lighting manager to turn on the house lights to better see the audience. Two fans seized this opportunity holding up neon green and pink signs that stated “California Country” and “My heart’s on Fire for Austin;” which not only caught the attention of the band, but received a special shout out from high tenor Austin Brown.
Wanting to give fans an opportunity to take that one perfect picture, the guys posed for what they called a family photo shoot, encouraging fans to share the photo on their favorite form of social media. Tour photographer Olena Noelle snapped a picture from backstage, which would come into play later on in the show.
The fourth song of the evening was a chance for newest member, Adam Chance, to show off his baritone skills as Home Free performed their cover of “Die a Happy Man,” sung by up and coming country artist Thomas Rhett. During the song fans couldn’t help but notice Adam slowly reaching out to place his hand on fellow member Rob Lundquist’s shoulder in a way worthy of an Oscar winning romance scene. Rob, not sure how to react scooted his bar stool further away from the baritone and began shaking his head. Ending the fourth song, percussionist Adam Rupp took center stage and stated “This is the only time I am allowed to speak during our set,” and introduced Rob, who in turn introduced the next member and so on and so forth.
As the seventh song of the evening neared the stage lights went out, only to reappear seconds later showing off that the guys had all donned snapback hats to show off during their cover of “Snapback” by Old Dominion. Throughout the performance the members of Home Free tossed their hats out into the anxiously awaiting hands of those fans located on the first level of the theater. With the conclusion of “Snapback,” bassist Tim Foust took center stage to announce that the photo taken by Olena was now posted on their Facebook, and that one lucky fan who commented on the picture would be granted access backstage for a meet and greet, along with a photo of a band. One woman in the balcony became so excited she began jumping up and down screaming to which Austin jokingly advised her not to jump, and that they didn’t have that kind of insurance between the band members.
Tim quickly quieted the audience down and announced that they were going to perform one more song before taking a quick break. He then began to talk about how the men of Home Free all appreciated curves which led into one of their most popular tracks entitled, “The Butts Medley;” which as you guessed it, is a song about butts. This song consists of hits by Trace Adkins, Jason Derulo, Queen, Luke Bryan, Sisqo and Sir Mix-a-Lot. Fans went wild when Austin gave Tim a slap on the backside before finishing out the track and exiting the stage.
Fifteen minutes later, the stage lights once again dimmed out as our favorite guys took to the stage once more opening with John Michael Montgomery’s “SOLD.” During the song Austin paraded his fellow band members around as if they were cattle at an auction, showing off their best features. Taking his moment to shine on the stage, founding member Adam Rupp ushered his fellow band members off the stage to entertain the audience with a seven and a half minute percussion-free for all, where he proved to everyone why he is known affectionately as a freak of nature by his bandmates.
The night continued on with several more songs including two originals titled, “Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget,” written by Tim Foust, and, “California Country,” written by Austin Brown. Tim Foust once again grabbed the attention of the audience by telling a story about how he thought rednecks were only in the southeastern United States. He found out he was sadly mistaken when he went up north to a small town in Washington State, about five minutes from the Canadian border. When their motel attendant was questioned on how to access the Wi-Fi, Tim and his friend were informed “it’s in the air.”
Taking a quick moment to announce the winner of the Facebook contest, the excited jumping fan on the balcony screamed in delight as her name was called. Austin read aloud to the audience her comment on Facebook which stated “I used to punish my son for staying up late listening to your music, now we are four hours away from home, and out on a school night.” Taking into consideration the winner’s son, Tim offered to bring both the mother and son backstage after the show.
Bringing back their dance moves from The Sing-Off, Home Free showed the audience their unforgettable hip wiggles during their cover of “Hillbilly Bone,” originally performed by Trace Adkins and Blake Shelton. This was followed by one of their most popular gospel covers, “How Great Thou Art.” Bringing the night to a close Rob announced that they would love to meet fans after the set, and encouraged everyone to stop by and say hello. The final song of the evening was one of their most popular covers, their rendition of, “Ring of Fire,” performed by Johnny Cash. The group received a standing ovation during the song, and the audience began singing their hearts out and clapping along not only in memory of the man in black but to the amazing guys who had made the evening a success.