Sept 23 – Garth Brooks Comes to Town

Having friends in low places was definitely an asset when it came to snagging a spot inside Gruene Hall on Monday night when superstar Garth Brooks played the iconic dance hall. It was his third stop on his Dive Bar tour that when finished will see him performing at seven small venues in America. His first stop was at Joe’s Bar in Chicago on July 15 where he played 17 songs to a packed house. When he played his new single, Dive Bar, it was broadcast on Jimmy Kimmel’s TV show. His second stop came a month later on August 15 at Buck Owens Crystal Palace in Bakersfield. He once proposed to his wife Trisha Yearwood on this stage, a fact he mentioned during his 14 song set.

 

The idea behind this tour of small venues came soon after Garth released the single, which features a duet with fellow Okie Blake Shelton. It was about a month ago that it was announced the Gruene Hall show would be his third stop. His previous two shows weren’t given this much advance notice and fans wondered if he had something special in store for our town. Those plans were revealed when the two trucks rolled in with the massive jumbotron screens on board. Shortly after lunch, portable bars were set up all around Gruene and fans began filing in with lawn chairs and coolers in tow. Our city can throw a party within a moment’s notice.

 

The hall was cleared at 4:30pm so the band could do a quick soundcheck without Garth. Rumors ran rampant about his arrival time and several false sightings brought spontaneous cheers from the now 1,000 plus crowd gathered in front of the hall. Tickets to get inside were given out on radio stations across America. I spoke with several contest winners, some from as far away as the east coast. Nicole Ganem and best friend Jen Powell live in Pownal, a small town north of Portland, Maine. After talking to many fans, it’s a safe bet that they traveled the farthest. Nicole won two tickets from WPOR 101.9 in Portland. “I’m part of a morning text club,” she explained. “So I replied to a text and a few weeks later I found out I won. At first they were sending us to the Bakersfield show but due to travel issues, they promised us tickets for the third Dive Bar show, but they didn’t know where it would be yet.” Once Gruene Hall was selected, Nicole and Jen were on their way to Texas. The contest paid all expenses including airfare, hotel rooms and free vouchers for Lyft rides.

 

The doors opened at 5:30pm and fans were surprisingly well behaved as they ran past us slower people to snag their spot in front of the stage. Garth’s private jet landed at our local airport and he was promptly driven to the hall. After a quick meet and greet with local VIP’s he was led to the famous Willie door behind the Gruene Hall stage. The entrance got its name when Willie Nelson played the flood benefit in 1998. They cut the chicken wire backstage so he could climb in rather than walk through the crowd. Garth did a nice Facebook post as he was riding over to the hall and at one point lowered his window so he could wave to the fans lining the street.

 

He took the stage about 8:15pm and opened the show with All Day Long, a rocking anthem said to be on his next album titled simply Fun. After the opening number, the rest of the songs followed in quick order. They played Rodeo, Two of a Kind, Two Pina Coladas, The River, Dive Bar, Ain’t Going Down, Unanswered Prayers, Amarillo By Morning, That Summer, Much Too Young, Calling Baton Rouge, Thunder Rolls, Beaches of Cheyenne, Friends in Low Places and The Dance. I was a bit surprised that he didn’t do an encore, but it was a solid 90 minute set and I didn’t hear anyone complain when the house lights came on. His pre-show set list had 13 songs but he added Amarillo, Much Too Young and Beaches of Cheyenne as spontaneous choices. After the show ended Garth was whisked away to the airport and another fantastic night in New Braunfels was over.

 

This event was a massive undertaking by the staff at Gruene Hall, Garth’s crew, the NB Police Department, the Sheriff’s Office, NB Fire Department and many other first responders. I heard estimates of as high as 15,000 fans watching on the big screens but a 7,000 number seemed more correct. For their first time at tackling such a large event that had many moving parts, I think they all deserve a round of applause. Working together like a team shows everyone here from another town or state just how great our city is. Kuddos to everyone that made this such a special night.

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