It was a beautiful night this past Wednesday at the Conrad Botzum Farmstead located in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park just outside of Akron, Ohio.
Thanks to Sean Moeller of Daytrotter, the Barnstormer Tour 5 took over the farmstead for the night and turned it into one of the more unique venues that I have attended in quite some time.
What normally is a place for people to gather for parties and weddings showcased five unique bands including Wildlife, Princeton, Doug Paisley, White Rabbits and Hacienda within the walls of a giant barn. Each band set up on one side of the barn throughout the evening hours turning it into their very own stage. The atmosphere was perfect for such an event.
Having been to the 100-plus year old barn at the Conrad Botzum Farmstead before, I knew it was going to act as a beautiful landscaping for a great idea. Daytrotter for the last five years has done something different in means of live music performances by creating the Barnstormer Tour with one idea in mind – live music in barns. Sure, it may sound a little hick-ish, but it is more personable and traditional than any other type of live performance out there.
Daytrotter did the Barnstormer Tour mostly on their own and kept costs down. Tickets were sold on their website for a reasonable $20 exclusively to fans or they could be purchased at the day of the show for a few bucks more. There were no food vendors littering the grounds with $10 beers and $14 pretzels, no security telling you to bend over and spread ’em before you entered the area, and there was really only one rule: smokers please smoke by the firepit. In fact, this was a BYOB event (or BYOP for those who brought pretzels), and all who did maintained their trash and showed the utmost respect to the grounds.
Arriving much earlier than anticipated, bands were busy unloading their gear from white vans and transporting it up six steps to the large wooden porch that led into the giant barn. All who arrived for the show immediately marveled at the barn and explored the scenery. Some hung close to the stage area in the bard while others frolicked in the grass. One black and white striped pants wearing female was even seen skipping about in the fields of grain that reached beyond the fence.
The music started just before the sun began its departure into the western sky at around 6:30 pm. While in the barn, the sun actually made its way into the windows of the barn as Wildlife played their set opening up the evening. The pop-rock band from Ontario, who were all dressed in black, were actually quite impressive to watch even though the barn was just a tad too warm thanks to the sun pounding on the barn walls. “What a great idea” said one of the band members as they told the crowd they dressed alike on purpose forgetting about the sun. Whoops!
Princeton followed shortly after to a slowly increasing crowd. Perhaps it was the temperatures cooling down, or the fact that many of the fans, including myself, had a few beers in them, but everyone seemed very relaxed. Reminding me a lot of Phoenix, the band was heavy on the keyboards and encouraged the crowd to move a little. After seeing them live, I am intrigued by their sound and will be checking them out a little more in-depth shortly.
Doug Paisley, also from Ontario, took a more intimate approach and played to the decent sized crowd unplugged. This could be a misconception on my end, but I was not even aware he was playing in the barn while I was sitting by the campfire. It was only until I heard a loud uproar of clapping did I realize I was missing a performance. I quickly made way back into the barn and moved up front to take in Paisley’s set. Soft-spoken yet powerful songs came from that man and I have to say, I really enjoyed what i heard and if any artist should have played in that barn, it should have been Paisley. Oh, I should also mention the near assault of Paisley by a resident barn bat. No one was injured in the event.
White Rabbits stole the night as far as I am conderned. The UK band played song newer songs at the beginning of their set and by the end returned to a more falmilular rhelm. People were loving what they had heard and were jumping and dancing about. Luckily for everyone crammed in the barn, the floors never gave out. Having just gotten into White Rabbit a couple of week prior to the show, I was excited to hear a couple of the songs I remembered digging.
Hacienda closed out the night with some wholesome and soulful Texas rock-n-roll. The band, who recently just finished up recording at local native Dan Auerbach’s (Black Keys) Nashville studio, played a few new selections to the hyped up crowd. I was lucky enough to catch them support Auerbach as his backing band a few years back when Auerbach went on his solo tour. I knew well in advance that I was going to get into their set, and that I did.
The Barnstormer Tour was simple and fitting. It was the bands, the fans, and a whole lot of scenery for all to enjoy. It was indeed one of the more unique concerts I have attended, and it was only 5 minutes away from my residence – bonus.
The Akron Barnstormer stop was the first time Daytrotter invaded northeast Ohio and proved to be a successful display of live music for all who attended. I know there was concern on poor ticket sales for the Akron stop, but from what I saw, there was a good number of folk who attended and appeared to be having a good time. Of course it would have been nice to see thousands of people standing in and around the barn, but I suppose there is always next year.
Sean Moeller’s vision of taking live music literally to its roots in turn was a memorable experience I was happy to say I was a part of. I was stoked years ago when Moeller found an original idea to share bands by having them record sessions at his studio also known as the Daytrotter Session. I really feel he’s outdone himself by making the Barnstormer Tour more than a one time idea.
Here’s hoping that next year’s Barnstormer Tour considers returning to northeastern Ohio again. I’ll also be excited to see what bands he picks to have play out regardless if Ohio is a stop or not. I’d even be willing to travel to attend another Barnstormer Tour, it was that enjoyable.