Asher on Aspen: ‘Something in the Orange’
Concert review of Zach Bryan’s riveting performance at Belly Up
Asher on Aspen
It was a quarter to 9 p.m. when I first took my place in line. Driving up to the venue, I noticed the unusually long line wrapped around the block. Eager fans waited patiently on a chilly, February evening for the much-anticipated Zach Bryan performance at Belly Up.
With how fast the tickets sold out, I shouldn’t have been surprised by the number of punctual concertgoers. The superfans surrounding me swapped stories about their love for the band, and we all bonded over how lucky we were to have secured a ticket to this highly-coveted show that sold out within minutes.
Once inside, I quickly checked my coat, grabbed a White Claw, and began my quest to get as close to the stage as possible. While standing on the dance floor waiting for the show to begin, I realized that Bryan’s music had only just come on my radar as of last summer. The hit single “Something in the Orange” was a repeat song for me in the summer months, and I became even more intrigued with his sound after seeing him perform at JAS Labor Day while opening for Chris Stapleton. As moving as that show was, I was thrilled to be seeing him in a 450-person venue for a much more intimate experience.
Mainstream radio listeners may not know Bryan’s name — but they ought to. The 26-year-old Oklahoma native has quietly gone from serving in the Navy to rising to the forefront of country music as a captivating storyteller and an old soul with lyrics that bleed.
He earned gold certified singles for “Condemned,” “Letting Someone Go,” “From Austin,” and “Oklahoma Smokeshow,” plus platinum single “Heading South,” and now double Platinum “Something in the Orange.” The latter also garnered a 2023 GRAMMY Award in the category Best Country Solo Performance and made former President Barack Obama’s Favorite 25 Songs List for 2022.
This past Dec. 18, Bryan and his band appeared on the smash television series “Yellowstone” (Season 5 Episode 7), performing “Motorcycle Drive-By” and “Summertime Blues,” while “Quittin Time” also graced the soundtrack. “The Good I’ll Do” and “Tishomingo” have been heard in previous episodes and immediately ascended to the top of the Shazam chart in various locations around the world.
The lights dimmed, and you could feel the energy in the room skyrocket as patrons began to realize he was about to take the stage. Bryan emerged in full force, rocking a bright red Marlboro T-shirt and jeans, and a grin that was effortlessly contagious. The venue was packed to the brim, and the mega fans came in strong, singing every word to every song.
He brought an easygoing demeanor to the stage that had a melodic way of putting patrons at ease. His raspy voice, a mix of classic folk and outlaw country, captivated the audience with every passing lyric.
Bryan’s fan base is certainly a passionate one. Looking around, I saw the audience was packed with trucker caps and cowboy hats and singing at the top of their lungs to hits like “Heavy Eyes,” “The Good I’ll Do,” and “Burn, Burn, Burn.”
He even took this opportunity to perform his most recent single, “Dawns,” featuring Maggie Rogers, for the first time ever in front of a live audience. The room echoed in tandem as fans belted out the lyrics to his new hit just released Jan 27.
His performance style is straightforward. He doesn’t dance or run all over the stage like Garth Brooks or Tim McGraw. No, he lets his memorable songs, such as “God Speed” and “Sun to Me,” stand on their own merits. Though his entertaining ability might be simple, his lyrics are far from that. They are smart, nuanced, and they tell a story you’ll want to hear.
The night was extra special for one fan in particular, Wynne Williams. He apparently ran into Bryan when they were both arriving at the Aspen airport. Williams explained to Bryan that he wanted to catch the show while in town but couldn’t manage to get tickets. Bryan noticed he had a saxophone in hand and told Wynne he could come to the concert if he agreed to play on stage with the band. Of course, he agreed, and Wynne confidently swooned the audience with his saxophone medleys in both of Bryan’s back-to-back shows.
Will Zach Bryan be to Wynne Williams as Sturgill Simpson is to Tyler Childers? There is no telling where this talented young musician will go from here. It’s such a classy and down-to-earth move from Bryan to meet a fan who plays saxophone (not knowing if he was any good) and throw him on stage to play with the band and treat him like a professional. Bryan made that moment about his fans, not about him — and it definitely didn’t go unnoticed.
The encore was encouraged by a rowdy crowd, chanting “ten more songs, ten more songs.” Bryan came back on with an upbeat rendition of “All Night Revival,” while he acknowledged and gave shoutouts to each member of his band.
Seeing him perform in such an intimate space was such a surreal experience. The evening made me feel grateful to live in a town with a world-class music venue who frequently books musicians of this caliber. I’ll never forget seeing Kacey Musgraves and The Avett Brothers just a few years ago in the same room. Belly Up seems to have a knack for bringing in artists who are right on the verge of exploding — or in this case, who already have. You truly never know what Belly Up has up their sleeve, and who they’re going to announce next.
Student musicians take the Wheeler stage for Aspen Rocks competition on Saturday
For the second year, Aspen Rocks will return to the Wheeler Opera House where six student musicians will compete on Saturday night for a chance to win recording time with a professional engineer at the legendary Mad Dog Ranch+Studios.