It was a Friday night a good number of years ago. My wife and I went to one of the free concerts as part of the South Park Summer Concert Series. We joined my brother-in-law and sister-in-law that night.
The weather was nice, the crowd was decent in terms of size. We had brought our coolers, and sat in our lawn chairs enjoying the summer night.
I forget who the opening act was, but it was great background music for our conversation. That’s usually how we feel, particularly if we don’t know the headline act. We sit far enough back to talk and hear each other.
So, after the opening act finished, there was a longer-than-usual break between bands.
A relatively unknown country artist was supposed to come next. My wife and I like country music, and we had heard of this guy but not much.
A county parks staffer walked up to the mic and told the crowd that the next act was in transit. He had trouble with flights, and if my memory serves me, we were told he wasn’t even on the ground in Pittsburgh yet. But we were assured, he is on his way and he will perform as soon as he gets here.
With that, close to half the crowd packed up and quietly made their way to their cars.
It was around 8 p.m. on a nice summer night, so we stayed. We were having enough of a good time that we didn’t really notice how much time had passed, but after a few updates from a conscientious county parks employee on the stage, the main event arrived in a couple of those buses performers use.
Not long after that, the country singer took the stage to sound check. After about as genuine an apology and explanation as you would expect from a young country singer, he tested all the equipment as he normally would do in rehearsal right in front of his audience. Still, he didn’t waste any time.
Soon, he started singing, and playing, and talking, and then rocking the place. Throughout it all, he kept reminding the people who stuck around, he was going to give them more than they bargained for.
Since admission was free, that part was a low bar, but that didn’t matter to him. He played fast songs that got people dancing. He played ballads. He mixed it up and kept it up, and just kept playing. Clearly he was determined to make it up to his audience.
He played at least one encore, but I want to say two. And before he left the stage he made everyone of us feel we just saw one of the best country concerts we may ever have seen, free or not.
Normally, these events wrap up around 9:30 p.m., but as we made our way back to our car near midnight, we couldn’t stop talking about how great a performer this guy was, and what a nice guy he seemed to be. And we were definitely glad we stuck around to see his show.
The singer was Kenny Chesney. Kenny comes to Pittsburgh this weekend. Let’s hope it’s another great day for him and for Pittsburgh.
The PR lesson: Always do more. People won’t forget.