It was a great night for Independence, as well as surrounding communities, as the new Independence Events Center welcomed the Zac Brown Band to perform as the first concert of the season.

It was a great night for Independence, as well as surrounding communities, as the new Independence Events Center welcomed the Zac Brown Band to perform as the first concert of the season.

The venue is sharp, but homey, and not only did the entire experience make you feel at home, but so did the citizens of this community. Everyone was excited, friendly and seemed to be having a wonderful time. No “first time” will go without hitches, so there were bound to be some, even if not seen, but the overall experience was one that should make fans return.

Free parking started the night off right and traffic was not overly congested leaving the venue. The food stations and eating areas where you could relax and visit before the show were very pleasant.

The venue seats 5,666, with floor capacity bringing it to 7,000. Ticket sales were pushing more than 4,500 by the time the show started. It was a great crowd for the first concert at the Independence Events Center.

The show was in “festival style” with fans having the opportunity to stand in front of the stage. It was a crowd that interacted with these talented musicians and seemed to enjoy every minute of the very long show (which lasted about three and a half hours).

The night started with an unusual concept, the Zac Brown Band “Eat and Greet.” Select fans were fed a meal prepared by Chef Rusty with dishes from the kitchen of Zac Brown himself (look for upcoming cookbook collaboration between Rusty and Zac). Fans were warmly greeted by Zac, treated to free beer from Budweiser and then welcomed by Zac and Rusty. Band members mingled with fans, and everyone enjoyed a great meal and talking music.

The meal included pork tenderloin with Zac’s “Love Sauce,” beef tenderloin with his Georgia Clay rub (which will soon be sold on their site at www.ZacBrownBand.com,, Zac’s Pocket Knife Coleslaw and a collection of Rusty’s side dishes that included spaghetti squash and the best grits out there. It was southern down to the sweet tea!

The show had an unusual three opening acts – Levi Lowrey, Sonia Leigh and Nic Cowan. They mixed it up with Zac and his band, as well as other musicians, for an interesting and diverse offering of music.

Just when you might have thought you could compare this show to a particular type of music or artist, it moved into another realm. It was creativity personified. The musicianship was unsurpassed. At the end there were 13 musicians on the stage and during the show you would find electric guitar, acoustic guitar, steel, dobro, stand up bass, fiddle and mandolin with incredible harmonies. Everything was collaboration.

The song highlights included their own songs from their CD, “The Foundation,” including “Toes,” “A Different Kind of Fine,” “Highway 20 Ride” and the one of a kind, “Sic ‘Em On A Chicken.” Intermingled with the songs were songwriter stories from Zac and the musicians on stage that co-wrote many of the band’s material.

The highlight of the evening for at least one lucky fan was the opportunity to text to win a chance to be on stage during the band’s signature hit, “Chicken Fried.” Not winning the special prize didn’t deter the rest of the audience from being part of the show as they clapped and sang along throughout the night.

A strong “A” for both the Independence Event Center and the Zac Brown Band.