But my favorite surprise of the weekend so far didn’t come from Nissan Stadium.
Because just across the river from the main stage, as the headliners were performing on Saturday night, Turnpike Troubadours stepped onto the stage at Spotify House, hosted at Blake Shelton’s Ole Red, to deliver an absolutely incredible 6-song set of some of their biggest hits.
The room was packed, with a line that still wrapped around outside the building as Evan Felker and crew took the stage for the performance that had been kept a secret for much of the week.
But as they launched into their newest single, “Mean Old Sun,” to kick off their set, the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd was suddenly transported from the bright lights of lower Broadway to the dusty honky tonks of Oklahoma and Texas where the legendary band got their start.
It was a masterful performance that reminds you just how Turnpike came to be one of the biggest names to ever come out of the red dirt country scene – and why they belong in the same conversation with the superstars of Nashville.
Sure, there were some people who were probably there to see Brothers Osborne and didn’t know the words to “The Bird Hunters.” But there were just as many who screamed along to every word of the set that also included “Every Girl,” “7&7,” and “Gin, Smoke, Lies.”
And by the time the band wrapped up the all-too-short performance, the crowd was screaming the words to “Long Hot Summer Day” as Evan stepped back from the microphone to let fans take over the chorus.
It was a magical site to see Turnpike playing on a bar stage once again – and in Nashville no less. And probably an opportunity that won’t come around much more, if it ever does at all.
Here’s a video of their finale performance of “Long Hot Summer Day.”