Old Dominion Plays Incredible Surprise Show at Joe’s On Weed St

Written by: Ryan Winters – Photos by: Frank Griseta

I arrived an hour and a half early to the show, only to find a line of fans wrapped two blocks around the corner just to get in! I thought to myself well this place must be worth the wait. Folks, let me tell you it absolutely was. Joe’s on Weed Street is a bold, homespun, oasis of country living in the middle of Chicago’s bustling downtown scene.

My in-house experience began with an observation of the absolute attention to detail in the venue and more than ample space for patrons on the dance floor. Deeply inviting reds and an authentic rustic design throughout the inside of the bar/nightclub’s ballroom-sized venue space gave the place an intimate home-town feel that many are used to. The space is characterized by dim natural-looking lighting, rustic knotted exposed woods, as well as metal trimming and accents throughout.

If you feel that Joe’s and its country design may not be your vibe, stage lighting makes the space more engaging and vivid with its use of cooler tones like blues and purple to catch the eye as well as amber hues to tie in the venue space with the front of the house.

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Three half-bars and a beer cart surround the dance floor as well as a full bar up front in the dining area. It should be noted, that Joe’s on Weed Street is a 21 and up establishment so you’ll have to leave the kids at home. This space was rich with socializing and small talk from concert-goers and crew members alike, no doubt improved by the presence of Nashville’s Old Dominion, specifically from the laid-back and relaxed disposition of frontman Matthew Ramsey.

Old Dominion was more than enough to keep everyone moving, grooving, and chomping at the bit for every guitar solo, whether it came from Brad Tursi on electric or Trevor Rosen on acoustic. Addictively uplifting songs were plentiful, like the playful “I Was On a Boat That Day” and their debut of a new, unreleased song titled “Ain’t Got a Worry in The World”.

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One thing that sets this powerhouse of a band as different from the rest was their insistence on a loose and more crowd-decided setlist. A suggest-list, as they called it. Fan-made signs for Old Dominion were brought to the stage and read off for the entire audience to hear, only to be given back and play whatever song those fans desired because the band likes to play a bit of everything, not just their new material.

But the welcome surprises didn’t end there. Country icon and legend Kenny Chesney made a guest appearance at the show, stopping by to sing a couple of songs, one of which being “Save it For a Rainy Day”, a Kenny Chesney classic that was actually written by Ramsey, Tursi, and the late Andrew Dorff in 2014.

Needless to say, the air was sucked out of the room for a few minutes and replaced with excited shrieks and chants.

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Old Dominion is a clear example of a band whose every member is needed and present in the music at all times and their gratitude is something that’s ever-present, especially since the four-time award-winning nightclub Joe’s has been their long-time haven in Chicago. It’s more than apparent the band is like family with the level of closeness between them and the patrons of Joe’s who show up to give their support whenever Old Dominion comes to town.

Country music is alive and well in downtown Chicago and you can see Old Dominion opening for Kenny Chesney on his Here and Now tour. But if you can’t make it and you’re just looking for a night out full of live music and drinks with your buddies at a top-notch country venue, then Joe’s on Weed Street is the place.

Check out more great photos from the show here!

Biography:

A few years back, when Old Dominion got together to record “Make It Sweet,” a beatific number that would appear on their 2019 self-titled LP, it was a definite change in their process: whereas before they’d typically written every song prior to entering the studio, that time around they instead wrote the entire track on the spot, quickly laying it to tape. All in one day.

“That was our first little taste of what that process could be like,” says Matthew Ramsey, lead singer for the chart-topping country band who to date has notched eight No. 1 singles at country radio, surpassed one billion on-demand streams, earned several Platinum and Gold single certifications and headlined arenas and amphitheaters around the globe. “We always thought ‘Man, that would be really cool to make an entire album like that.””

Recently, Old Dominion got their long-awaited chance to do exactly that: for the entirety of what became their stunning fourth studio album, Time, Tequila and Therapy, Old Dominion — which includes multi-instrumentalist Trevor Rosen, lead guitarist Brad Tursi, bassist Geoff Sprung and drummer Whit Sellers — hunkered down in an Asheville, North Carolina studio, and wrote and recorded the entire LP in a multi-week stretch. To hear them now relive those thrilling few weeks, the experience was nothing short of life-affirming.

Ask Ramsey about how important this time spent together was and, in turn, why Time, Tequila and Therapy is a true turning point for Old Dominion, and he doesn’t mince words. “I think it probably saved us as a band, honestly,” Ramsey offers of the album, produced by longtime collaborators Shane McAnally and Josh Osbourne. The album, he adds, “is a perfect snapshot of who we are and who we were in that moment in Asheville.”

They’d taken quite a journey to get there: in the years since they officially arrived on the scene with Meat and Candy, their platinum-certified 2015 major-label debut album, Old Dominion – five musicians who’d previously busted their asses in writing rooms and on dingy stages across the country before breaking big – had racked up countless awards, accolades and undeniable major success. With their rollicking live shows and supreme songcraft they quickly established themselves as one of country music’s most beloved acts.

Over the course of their career, the band had also been notably named ACM “New Group of the Year,” ACCA “Breakthrough Group of the Year,” AIMP “Songwriter Artist of the Year” and Music Row “Breakthrough Artist of the Year” and in 2017, front man Matthew Ramsey was ASCAP’s “Artist of the Year.” The band has also received nominations for CMT Awards, American Music Awards, Billboard Awards, and iHeart Radio Awards.

But at the core of who Old Dominion truly are is collaborators. Musicians. Songwriters. Friends. And that meant being together and being creative was nothing if not essential to their well-being Asheville, then, was the perfect solution.

“We’d just wake up in the morning, write the song, and then go upstairs and record it that evening,” Ramsey continues before adding, “It got to the point where we were like two weeks in and going, “I can’t believe we’re still coming up with stuff! How are we doing this?””

In the end, Old Dominion left Asheville with an entire new album. What they also walked away with was a much-needed creative shot in the arm — a reawakening of sorts after the tumultuous and — as multiple band members admit — mentally challenging struggle through the first six months of the pandemic. Having spent more than a decade together – in the studio, on the road, just living life by each other’s side – last year Old Dominion were forced to separate from one another for nearly all of 2020.

“It was such a confusing time for us,” Ramsey admit of a stretch between March and September 2020 where the band gathered only virtually. “Whereas at first we just thought it was a little break, then it got longer. And then it started getting harder to even write songs. It was such a difficult time to figure out what the hell we were supposed to be doing.” What ultimately saved them, Ramsey believes, was inking a date on the calendar for them to regroup at Asheville’s Echo Mountain studio and begin hammering out what became Time, Tequila and Therapy.

“It was so exciting to all get back in the same place and be creative again,” says Rosen, and the songs — catchy, poignant, meaningful ones; the sort of tunes this Grammy-nominated band has always thrived on— started popping up near immediately. “The excitement and the happiness just to be back revealed itself in the creative process.”

“We didn’t set too many expectations. We figured if we did this thing and we ended up with four or five good songs that would be a success,” Rosen continues. “And then the first day we wrote a song like that” — snaps fingers — “and the next day we wrote another song. We got so much done in such a short span that then there was no pressure at all. It just became fun.”

The songs were spilling forth in waves, much as they always have –inspired bursts from every one of the band members. “And even if you’re not the guy leading the charge with the idea that day,” Ramsey explains, “you at least know and trust your bandmates and your co-writers that it’s gonna be good. Something is going to happen.”

Never before has the reigning CMA and ACM “Group of the Year” been so free to follow their creative intuition. On rollicking songs like the tequila-fueled lead single “I Was On A Boat That Day” or the funky “Blue Jeans,” you can palpably feel the exhilaration bursting forth from the band. As Rosen explains, this idea of a complete creative license has been embedded in the band’s DNA from Day One.

“We’ve always chased what we like,” Rosen says. “So we’ve always felt free to do that. So when it worked at the beginning and it’s continued to work you just trust that it’s gonna work. That’s always been our motto: if we like it somebody else will.”

“And as our career grew, our audience came to expect us to take left turns here and there,” Ramsey adds. “So we definitely have paved the way for this type of thing. We don’t feel like we are boxed in. We can chase whatever the song is asking for.”

For tunes then like the floating “Hawaii” or the heartfelt yet whimsical “All I Know About Girls,” it meant following their muse – even if in the former’s case it was merely a Hawaiian-themed dinner that served as inspiration. One song, however, that the band agrees is particularly meaningful is “The Lonely Side of Town,” not only because it’s a heartfelt treatise on love and loss and learning to accept your place in the world, but also because they recruited the legendary singer Gladys Knight to join them on it.

Yes, as it turned out, Knight lived in Asheville and was even friends with the owner of Echo Mountain. “[The owner] called Gladys, who didn’t even hear the song and Gladys immediately said, “Yah. I love those guys!”” Ramsey recalls with a smile. “It all happened so naturally.”

Now, as Old Dominion look to the months ahead, they’re nothing if not grateful to once again be taking their cherished songs on the road. Because returning to the stage and, by extension, to one another after such a long time away, Ramsey admits, was and continues to be an emotional experience.

“Once we went out on the stage that first time back, I think we all knew it was going to be special and we all knew it was going to be emotional,” the singer says, “but there’s no amount of thinking about it that really prepares you for the things that you forgot. “

Namely, how much Old Dominion still loves what they do.

“Anytime something gets taken away from you it makes you appreciate it that much more,” Rosen says. “When we got back together the appreciation for it all was just right there.”

Tour Dates:

JUN 25 – CHICAGO, IL – SOLDIER FIELD

JUL 02 – KANSAS CITY, MO – ARROWHEAD STADIUM
JUL 07 – FORT LORAMIE, OH – COUNTRY CONCERT 2022
JUL 09 – BOZEMAN, MT – BOBCAT STADIUM
JUL 16 – SEATTLE, WA – LUMEN FIELD EVENT CENTER
JUL 22 – PASO ROBLES, CA – CALIFORNIA MID STATE FAIR 2022
JUL 23 – INGLEWOOD, CA – SOFI STADIUM
JUL 24 – CORNING, CA – ROLLING HILLS CASINO
JUL 28 – MINOT, ND – NORTH DAKOTA STATE FAIR CENTER
JUL 30 – DENVER, CO – EMPOWER FIELD AT MILE HIGH
JUL 31 – SWEET HOME, OR – OREGON JAMBOREE MUSIC FESTIVAL 2022

AUG 05 – SIOUX FALLS, SD – SIOUX EMPIRE FAIR 2022
AUG 06 – MINNEAPOLIS, MN – US BANK STADIUM
AUG 12 – MONTRÉAL, QC – LASSO COUNTRY MUSIC FESTIVAL
AUG 13 – EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – METLIFE STADIUM
AUG 20 – DETROIT, MI – FORD FIELD
AUG 26 – FOXBOROUGH, MA – GILLETTE STADIUM
AUG 27 – FOXBOROUGH, MA – GILLETTE STADIUM

Links:

Official: https://www.weareolddominion.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/olddominionband
Twitter: https://twitter.com/OldDominion
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/olddominionmusic/