The Saturday night Ingram Hill show is the sort that makes me wish I had been a little more familiar with the band’s music going in. Hill’s anthemia blend of 90’s alt-rock and 70’s southern rock is tailor-made to inspire simultaneous head-nodding and foot-stomping; and while I had no trouble doing either, I wish I could have sung along with the soaring choruses a little more.
Cain’s was sparsely populated for a Saturday night—at most there were about a hundred people in there, with no more than fifty standing around the stage at any given time—but the artists didn’t seem disappointed and didn’t hold back at all when they took the stage. The night kicked off with Montana native singer-songwriter Hana Pestle, who took the stage with just a microphone and a single acoustic guitar; once she started playing, it was obvious she didn’t need anything else. It was as though she was holding an entire orchestra in her hands—which was a plus, since it took a powerful instrument to back her strong, soulful voice.
The sparse crowd was supportive in its own way, with several fans yelling “Sweet!” and “Awesome!” which she yelled back, smiling and rolling her eyes. The songs she played betrayed influences that were all over the map, and in fact her covers ranged from Radiohead to Kris Kristofferson (both of which she pulled off effortlessly). She closed the show with an original called “The Red Death Ball,” based on Edgar Allen Poe’s short story “The Masque of the Red Death.”
It was a performance that had the crowd mesmerized, making it a tough act to follow—and, in fact, it was a little hard to shift gears from her nuanced, vulnerable performance to fist-pumping rock ‘n roll anthems. But when the Tennessee-based band took the stage, they threw themselves wholeheartedly into the performance, opening with their hit “Why Don’t You”—which easily put the crowd in the mood. As they continued playing throughout the evening, the standing crowd around the stage grew until almost nobody was sitting down in the back.
“It’s good to be back in Oklahoma,” said lead singer Justin Moore, decked out in a “Lionel Richie Fan Club” t-shirt and jeans. “Are any of you able to drive on the Muskogee turnpike without singing that [Merle Haggard] song ‘Okie from Muskogee’? Every time I see that sign I can’t get it out of my head.” The band powered through a set of their songs—plus a handful of covers, including songs by The Beatles and The Killers—pausing only briefly to jam out to a “half-assed reggae beat.” “If the show’s not going so well,” Moore told the crowd, “you go to the half-assed reggae beat, and things always improve. And if things are going well, you just go to the half-assed reggae beat, and things get that much better.”
But for the most part, the band simply played its songs to a small but very appreciative crowd (composed mainly of high school and college students), who sang along with nearly every lyric. I’ll have to download some Ingram Hill tunes, so that the next time they come to town I have something to sing.