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Bringing music to the masses
Boots and Buckles Country Bash and 17 South Funk Fest fill weekend at Aonia Park in Wilkes County

In spite of the threat of rain, last weekend was a star-studded one at Aonia Park near Washington. A Boots and Buckles Country Bash concert starring Tracy Lawrence brought in a couple of thousand people Friday evening. And the 17 South Funk Fest starring Zapp and Bar-Kays brought in a whole new crowd of music lovers on Saturday evening. Both concerts were hosted by Nside-Out Entertainment.

"Everybody was skeptical, saying we couldn't get those kinds of bands into the Washington area. ... But the people that did show up saw a great show," said Adam Hubbard, a spokesperson for Nside-Out. "It was a stepping stone for us. We knew going into it that there was a risk, because it is something new for the marketplace. But it worked out well. ... We were tickled to death."

Mr. Hubbard is also the general manager for the local band 17 South, formerly Southbound. 17 South was the opening act for Tracy Lawrence at the Friday night concert.

"It is a great honor," Tony Cannon, the lead singer for 17 South, said in an interview before the concert. "We'll actually feel like somebody to be able to take our music to another group of fans."

17 South band members are Mr. Cannon from Moultrie, rhythm guitar player Chris Powers, bass player Jake Jacobs, drummer Johnnie Brantley, back-up singer Robbie Ansley and keyboard and acoustics player Bart Ficzere, all from Thomson, and lead guitar player Ed Gaskill from Harlem.

With many concerts and one full-length recording under their belt and another one in the works, the band is no stranger to performing for a crowd.

"Their show Friday night was awesome," Mr. Hubbard said. "We actually had people saying on our MySpace blogs that they wish Tracy Lawrence stayed in the bus and they'd rather have watched us. ... The energy from the crowd was from 17 South."

Although there were 2,000 people at Friday's concert, Mr. Cannon said the numbers didn't make a difference in their performance.

"If you've got three people, then we go into show mode," he said. "It's in our hearts, it's our blood. It's like a hobby, but it's part of who we are."

Although they have opened for many acts, Mr. Hubbard said opening for Tracy Lawrence "got their foot in the door a little bit," for bigger things to come. Mr. Lawrence's success began in 1991, and he has since had 17 number one hits. The latest hit Find Out Who Your Friends Are was recorded under his own record label, Rocky Mountain Records and released in August, 2006 with a solo version and a remix version with Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney.

"I grew up in a town of 1,100 people, so playing in a small town is nothing new," Mr. Lawrence said in an exclusive interview with The Mirror before the concert. "I rode around the countryside today (Friday) and played some golf, and it was sort of like being home."

Mr. Lawrence released his first Christmas CD into stores on Tuesday. He told The Mirror that he let his daughters each choose a song for the project. He said Skylar chose Here Comes Santa Clause and Keagan chose Frosty the Snowman. The CD's title track, All Wrapped Up In Christmas, is a new song, which Mr. Lawrence said is his favorite right now.

During his concert at Aonia Pass, the country singer and his band took time to imitate Charlie Daniels, Steve Miller, the Commodores and Van Halen. But Mr. Lawrence knows from experience what has been the most requested song of his career.

"I know if I leave without playing Paint Me A Birmingham, you are going to throw stuff at me," he said to the crowd at the end of his concert.

And they weren't disappointed.

"Oh, I loved it," said Washington resident Laura Shedd. "I didn't buy my tickets until we got to the gate, but it was worth every penny of it."

4) 17 south4 -- cutline:

10) 17 south2 -- cutline: Tony Cannon, lead singer of 17 South - a McDuffie County band that opened for Mr. Lawrence - performs.

Web posted on Thursday, October 25, 2007

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