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25 Apr 2018

Live: Tenille Townes and Maren Morris, Pappy and Harriet's Pioneertown Palace, April 13

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Maren Morris. Maren Morris. Guillermo Prieto/Irockphotos.net

Friday the 13th brought Grammy Award-winning country star Maren Morris to Pappy and Harriet’s. The show was originally scheduled as an indoor gig—but plans were shifted after the show sold out in minutes. The concert location was changed to the outdoor stage, which has a capacity of more than 1,000—and the show was still a sellout.

Pappy’s was spruced up with a new wooden barrier erected behind the west perimeter wall that helped with the cold, breezy conditions. Maren Morris created a VIP check-in area that allowed guests to meet the artist and get a photograph with her prior to the general-admission gate opening.

I got there early so I could position myself in front of the stage—and I met super-fan Rodney Braman from Wyoming, who got the VIP treatment. Braman told me that he drove 14 hours with his family to catch the show.

Tenille Townes was an incredibly warm opening act. Hailing from the Great White North, she presented heartfelt lyrics, incorporating her new EP, Living Room Worktapes, into her short set. The songs on that EP include “Where You Are,” “Jersey on the Wall” and “Somebody’s Daughter,” the latter being a soul-tugging song about a homeless girl she saw while on a drive with her mother: “Probably somebody’s high school first kiss … she’s somebody’s daughter … I wonder how she fell and no one caught her.”

Acknowledging the cool evening, Townes said the weather reminded her of home. “We got to drive to Joshua Tree National Park—such a spiritual experience,” she said. I smiled, as it appeared she connected with the audience in a transcendent way.

Maren Morris’ robust vocals and touching lyrics delivered—demonstrating why this singer is worth watching; she already has four Grammy nominations to her credit, with one win—for Best Country Solo Performance for “My Church.”

She started with the song “Sugar,” from her album Hero. She followed up with “Drunk Girls Don’t Cry,” which got a cheer from the crowd. (Some attendees tested this theory: I witnessed a handful of people needing help from friends to stay upright for the concert.) “Bummin’ Cigarettes” was pure country that would make Wanda Jackson or Patsy Cline proud with the verse: “I should find the common thread that makes it all unravel, laying down my dollar just for a temporary high. I got to quit bummin’ cigarettes from the wrong guys.”

The concert took a more serious tone as Morris introduced “Dear Hate.” She explained that she was “deeply in shock” after the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting. She performed at the festival the night before the shooting in Las Vegas, and she penned the new song, with all proceeds going to the shooting victims. She added: “The purpose of music is to connect with people.”

Modestly, she introduced the song “The Middle,” featured heavily in Target ads, acknowledging to the crowd that they probably had heard this one before. Then she announced, “By the way, cheers! I am doing a Dolly Parton song,” before singing “9 to 5.” A chorus of “I love you” rang out from the audience, and she reciprocated with, “I love you, too.”

A little later, she said: “Pioneertown, I am taking you to church with this last one,” before leading into the song “My Church.”

Maren then took a short break before sharing: “I literally got back four days ago from my honeymoon. We wrote this song years ago for Tim McGraw. The first time we played this song was this year.” Her husband, songwriter Ryan Hurd, walked onstage to sing the song with her and close out the night.

I hate to label performers. Is Maren Morris country, or is she pop? Who cares?! She is an incredible performer worthy of your attention if you are a music fan.

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