An Evening with Smalltown Poets

In October, I saw a post that one all time favorite bands Smalltown Poets would be playing a pair of Christmas shows the second weekend of December. I’ve been following these guys for over 20 years now and it had almost been that long since I had seen them live; the only issue is that the shows were in Nashville and Atlanta. With little hesitation, I started working on how I could get to Nashville for the Saturday night show. Luckily I was able to find a flight on southwest out of Oklahoma City on Saturday morning and back on Sunday afternoon.

I was hopeful when they released their first non Christmas full length album in nearly 14 years in May of this year that they would go on a tour this year, but I understand that the current state of their lives doesn’t really lend itself to a national tour. So I was definitely content to have brand new Smalltown Poets music in the form of “Say Hello.” My favorite songs are “Say Hello,” “Impossible,” and “Let Me Love You.” The last one is the original version of their song “If You Let Me Love You” from their debut album. More on that later.

Travel in December is always a little tricky. This is especially true in Oklahoma where all four seasons can take place in one day. Sure enough, the meteorologists were all calling for a winter storm with both ice and snow to hit Friday night into Saturday morning. Luckily they were all wrong with the forecast and we barely got a thing. So with the weather no longer being a threat, I caught my flight without issue.

I arrived in Nashville a few hours ahead of the show and was able to hangout with some friends before heading over. My ticket came with a VIP meet and greet option so I arrived at 5:30 to be able to take advantage of that. It took a bit of time while they sorted through some technical difficulties but we were eventually sent back to a waiting area just outside of the concert room. After a few moments Michael Johnston came out and I was able to meet him for a brief moment before heading in where I got to meet the rest of the guys and it was amazing! I got to ask questions about their music and express my appreciation for it.

After having a good bit of time visiting, it was time for a brief pre-show set. The Choir kicked it off and told a couple of stories and then Smalltown Poets came out for their portion. It was great to hear new songs live and stories around them. After the set we had a bit more time to visit before the rest of the crowd was let in. The Choir took the stage and set the festive mood with their holiday songs leading off the night. I enjoyed hearing Christmas classics along with the originals they did. I also appreciated the banter among the guys as they told old stories. There set was a marvelous lead in to Smalltown Poets taking the stage.

I will never forget the feeling of Saturday night. There was a perfect mix of Christmas music, new songs from “Say Hello,” and old favorites. I was over taken by emotions when they played “If You Let Me Love You” as this song came out not long after my dad passed away. I remember listening to it back then and thinking they were singing right to me. As I stood there Saturday night and those opening lines washed over me and I was once again that kid who needed to hear it.

“I don’t know what to do to ease your mind
I don’t have the perfect word to make it fine
I’m not so qualified for sympathy
Still I am not without love”

This is the reason I needed to try so hard to be there. I wanted to make sure I could tell them how much their music had touched my life over the years. How they using their gifts had inspired me to what to follow my dreams even now. I am humbled by the experience to get to spend that much time with a group of guys I’ve long admired. I hope that it will happen again soon.

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