[In which Kim Prior writes a guest post and makes ME cry – and describes eloquently exactly why the Saturday Night Special is so powerful and emotional and transformative. And so very special. — Lynn]
I have written several reviews of the Saturday Night Special. Usually I enjoy the challenge of finding new words and new ways to describe my love for Louden Swain, for this concert.
This time is different.
While I was in Nashville, someone said something to me that made me feel dejected. Devastated, to be honest. The details of that conversation are not important; what is important is that I really needed this concert. That person’s words were running through my mind, like a Tasmanian Devil, kicking everything, and breaking everything, and basically wreaking havoc. I needed the Saturday Night Special… I needed to get lost in the lyrics. I needed to get swept away by the music. I needed an infusion of energy.
And since I’m being honest, then let’s keep it real. It is… Louden Swain.
And oh my god, Rob.
So I was ready for the concert. But I was not prepared. Not even a little.
Louden Swain kicked off the show with “Only Lyin.” Really? That’s the opener?
“And you laugh / Despite yourself / You’re hanging on / You’re weak as hell / You’re only lying to you”
Just punch me right in the feels, guys.
The next song was “Present Time.”
“Hot highs and tricky lows / But there ain’t no time like the present time.”
So I guess this was how it was gonna go. Apparently they were just gonna perform songs to make that Devil slow down a bit.
Matt Cohen came out on stage, and I actually felt relieved. His songs are usually fun and carefree. And in all fairness, it was. But when the first notes were played, I felt a little sting inside my head, a little jab from that Devil, his way of making fun of me.
Matt sang “7 Nation Army” which is one of the chants during Ohio State Football games. Because I go to Ohio State football games, every year. Because I graduated from Ohio State. Because guess what, you stupid Devil, I am not dumb. I’m a freakin’ college graduate.
And Matt just kept singing, and he just kept having fun up there on stage. And little by little, his energy poured into my bones, and I slowly found my own strength to battle back at that Tasmanian Devil.
Louden Swain next performed “A Lot to Learn.” And there go my feels again.
“The picture’s a mess / What a mess / I’m a mess.”
Ugh. Maybe I am just lying to myself.
Ruth Connell, in all of her beauty and grace, took the stage next to sing “Glory Box.” Listen, her performance was sultry, and sexy, and sensual… and I just found myself completely mesmerized by all of it. And I think my little Tasmanian Devil was mesmerized too, because he settled down long enough to listen to Ruth.
Con photographer Chris Schmelke joined the band next to play bass guitar as they performed “Silverspoon.” The slow start of this song, the lower tones and chords building up to a powerful chorus… and I could feel my shoulders relax a little bit. I felt my body begin to sway to the beat of Norton’s drums. I was suddenly aware that I was singing along with Rob. I was finally getting lost in the lyrics and swept away by the music. And that stupid Devil was being lulled to sleep.
Emma Fitzpatrick joined the band next to sing “Cool If I Come Over” with them.
When Rob started to sing those first words – “ain’t it strange the way your mind works” – that Devil stirred for a moment. But Rob just kept singing, and Emma sang along too, and the music was so soothing, and I couldn’t help but be pulled into it. And that Devil just shrugged his shoulders and went back to his nap.
Next, the band performed “Rock Song,” one of the songs from their newest album, “Splitting the Seams.” This album is a collection of acoustic songs, some are new songs, others are older songs re-imagined as acoustic masterpieces. And let me tell ya, the acoustic version of “Rock Song” is a friggin mast-er-piece. It echoes. It echoes in the hall, in your ears, in your chest, in your mind. It is soulful, and woeful, and powerful. Rob pours out his heart as he sings, and my heart breaks. And I was 100% lost in this moment. I was fully immersed, consumed by every single note. And then Rob painfully asks, “where are all my friends?” And that stupid Devil jolted awake, and laughed at me, taunting me, ‘where are your friends now, you’re just a nobody.’ And I cried.
Oh but we’re just getting’ started, folks.
Up next: Briana Buckmaster.
Briana “I-ain’t-got-time-for-that-negative-shit” Buckmaster.
For a quick minute, I imagined all the performers talking back stage, saying something like, ‘Mama Prior is looking kinda sad out there,’ and then Briana says, ‘oh yeah? … hold my beer.’
Briana didn’t just sing “The Joke,” She OWNED It. She hit every note. She poured every ounce of every emotion into every note and every word.
And it was as if she was pouring her power into me, into my soul, into my mind. With every note and every word, she was reminding me to fight, and fight hard. And new thoughts started taking over inside my mind, thoughts that battled and stabbed and slayed that Devil in there, thoughts like “hey person who said that shitty thing to me, yeah you, guess what, the joke’s on you Man, The. Joke. Is. On. You.”
The band followed that with their song, “Eskimo.” It’s a fun song, great beat, makes you wanna just dance right out of your seat. And that’s exactly what I did. Well, kinda, I mean, I did have a camera in my hands. Anyway, I just melted away into the music, and melted into my lens, and I just melted. And it was wonderful.
So now it’s like a challenge, right? Briana had already done her song. And then the band rocked me with Eskimo. Well now it’s Kim Rhodes’ turn.
Kim sang a song called “I Love It.” I’m pretty sure she messed up the words at first, but she just screamed (f**k) and started over – she might as well have just given me a little wink, ya know? And she sang her heart out. “I don’t care / I love it.”
I wanted to shout, “Damn right! Hey shitty person, guess what, I don’t care what you think, I love photography and I’m gonna keep doing it and I’m gonna keep learning and growing and getting better at it, so why don’t you just shut up and sit down!”
And the more Kim sang – with such enthusiasm and energy and joy, let’s be real here, that’s pure joy up on that stage – the more she sang, the more I stopped caring about that Devil. And the more I stopped listening to him, the better I felt. I. Don’t. Care.
I am on cloud freakin nine at this point. This concert is exactly what I needed.
When Jason Manns walked onto the stage, I was ready for whatever was next! And they decided to slow it down for a minute, perhaps to catch their breath, perhaps so I could catch mine. Jason joined Rob and Billy to sing one of my favorites, “Hallelujah.” Usually it is so incredibly quiet in the hall, some sort of silent solidarity amongst us as we listen to this song.
But not this time. No, this time, the crowd actually sang some of words. Rob and Jason stepped away from the mics and let us sing. And it was a Moment, ya know? We were there for them, to listen to them and support them and appreciate them. And at the same time, they were there for us, listening to us and supporting us and appreciating us. It’s a moment I won’t soon forget.
Next, we heard one of my favorite Station Breaks songs, “The Slightest Thing,” with Jason and Rob on vocals. The words are so perfect right now: ‘It’s simple, but it’s true / the slightest thing will do.’
And Jason’s note at the end – oh be still my heart.
And then Richard Speight Jr. joined the band, playing bass as they sang “Leg Up.” While the song starts slow, I can feel it building in my chest, I can feel my heart begin to beat along with the bass.
‘And I close my eyes / and let go of the hurt inside.’ Ugh. I am just drawn into those words, and I’m melting as I see Rob up there on stage, with his eyes actually closed. You’re right, you’re so right. I can just close my eyes and let go of that awful hurt inside.
Rich stayed on stage for the next song, “Good Hearted Woman.” I admit, I didn’t know this song. But at that point – I don’t care, I love it. Seriously.
I love watching Rich up there on the stage, singing and playing his guitar, jammin’ with his friends. It’s a glimpse into their friendship. It’s fun, and it’s raw and it’s energizing. When Rich jams alongside Billy, that’s just gold.
Swain’s next song was one of my favorites, “Amazing.” And by favorites, I mean this is a song I listen to on a daily basis. It’s kinda like an anthem. The opening notes are so crisp, so pure, and I am immediately drawn into a new headspace. The words speak to me on a very personal, very intimate level. ‘Give me a taste of your amazing grace.’
And the way Billy plays that guitar solo, it just builds and builds until it explodes into multi-colored notes of pure inspiration. And the words take over my mind, seeping out of my soul. And I absolutely believe I Am the Captain of My Story.
[Lynn interjecting because whoa, Billy’s hair is ON POINT!}
Their next song, “This Is How,” was a little slower, but the energy continued to flow… wait, or was it me? I mean, I was already singing the words in my head: ‘I find my voice and sing it from the rooftops / Stand up tall and slowly take a bow / This is how.’
What happened to that Devil inside my head? Oh honey, listen, he up and left a whole bunch of songs ago. I guess my voice, my true voice, was more than he could handle.
The band left the stage, returning for an encore minutes later. What an encore it was. First they performed “She Waits,” a song that makes me cry, a song that breaks me every single time. Just as he always does, Rob poured out every bit of his heart as he sang the words. And just as we always do, we gently took his heart, and we held it. We reminded him that he’s gonna be okay. And this time, for the first time, I felt that too, I’m gonna be okay too.
The night ended with Rob, the band and the other guests performing “Momma’s Jam.” The house lights came on, and everyone was on their feet, singing and dancing. It was a full-blown, full-hype, full-rockin jam to end the show. And I was on my feet too, completely caught up in the moment.
I suppose I should summarize the concert, perhaps offer some sort of proverbial moral-to-the-story. So here’s the thing:
If you ever have a chance to go to a Saturday Night Special, GO.
Go and get lost in the lyrics. Go and be swept away by the music. Go and allow Rob, and Billy, and Michael, and Stephen to pour their energy into your soul and let it consume you.
And maybe you can battle back that Devil.
And maybe, just maybe, you’ll find a little piece of inspiration, a tiny little bit of whatever it is that you need to carry with you, to Carry On.
Sunday at #SPNNash coming soon,
5 thoughts on “The Saturday Night Special, Nashville!”
Lovely, lovely review – thank you so much! I had to miss NashCon this year, heartbreaking, but I love having a chance to live it through the reviews you all provide. Thank you for the review and the incredible photos!
You captured the exact reasons why the Saturday Night Special is so special in words and pictures. Thank You for sharing you talents and memories.
I hope to meet you at some point. I cant afford the conventions, so I live through the you tube videos, vlogs, and photos of everyone else. I’m always drawn back to yours…every time there is one that I scroll back to again and again. It is usually one of yours. I read alot, so reading between the lines of this, I assume some of the comments the devil made, can I give you some other comments?
Your pictures put words on my heart.
Your pictures put tears in my eyes.
Your talent is so far above most people. It amazes me.
Please keep doing what you do. Keep growing, trying, challenging yourself. It is Beautiful. Thank you.
I’m going to AHBL10 (also went to 8) & can’t wait for the concert!! Music fills my heart & speaks to my soul & your words describe the emotions perfectly, as do your A-mazing pics. Big hugs & much luv, would be honoured to meet you one day xxx
I had never heard a Swain song when I went to my SNS. Admission came with my con package so I went to check it out. I was, just as you describe, completely swept away by these guys, their energy, and their music. I had never FELT songs like I did at that show. I found myself holding a battery operated candle high above my head, crying, swaying in solidarity with my fellow audience members supporting Rob through every word of “She Waits.” Screaming out “Love you Rob!!” while he stood, heart-hands over his head for us, after the song. I had walked into that show having no idea I was about to be changed forever by a brand new love ♥️ Since falling head over heels for Swain I’ve learned nearly every song in their catalog, and seen them in a show of their own earlier this year. They are truly a special group of men and musicians. I will continue to see them as often as possible for as long as they continue to take the stage.