If you notice an increase in the number of tour buses parked around Fresno this weekend, there’s a reason. There’s a mass of professional musicians passing through town.
In span of three days, the city will see performances from nearly a half-dozen country artists at the Save Mart Center and Clovis Rodeo. An equal number of Christian musicians will play the massive Worship Night in America tour, and more than 30 hip-hop, reggae and assorted indie rock bands will play this year’s Grizzly Fest music festival at Chukchansi Park. That’s not counting the theater and club shows.
Here’s more on how the weekend breaks down.
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Chris Tomlin’s Worship Night in America tour started as a one-night, sold-out concert at Madison Square Gardens. That one show turned into three shows, at venues like Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado. Those three shows turned into five, which turned into Tomlin’s current run of 23 shows in cities like Fresno, where it stops Friday night.
“It’s just a great night of some of the greatest songs in the church,” says Tomlin, who stands as one of the biggest names in contemporary Christian music. For the tour, he brings along some of the genre’s rising stars – Big Daddy Weave, Phil Wickham, Zach Williams, Mosaic MSC and Jason Barton.
Each acts gets its moment during the night, Tomlin says. There are no openers here. In fact, all the artists share the stage, which means Tomlin gets to play both frontman and backup. It’s something he loves, sometimes more than playing his own songs, he says.
You will hear Tomlin’s hits, don’t worry.
With the country being as divided as it is, the tour is a means of coming together for a shared experience, Tomlin says. It is reflected in the tour’s name.
“It wasn’t worship night in Fresno. It wasn’t worship night in Dallas,” he says.
It was important that he reach as many cities as possible, with the hope that his message will have reach beyond nightly geography, Tomlin says.
Each year, the Clovis Rodeo brings two country artists to headline its annual festivities. In years past, it has been guys like Jerrod Niemann and Tyler Farr.
This year, Joe Nichols, whom locals will remember opening for Garth Brooks, kicks things off Thursday night. Texas’s Eli Young Band headlines Friday, playing hits like “Crazy Girl,” “Even if It Breaks Your Heart” and “Drunk All Night,” and likely its new single, “Skin and Bones.”
It’s been four years since the band was in town, opening for Kenny Chesney on his No Shoes Nation tour.
This may be the most intimate show of the weekend – read, not an massive arena or festival show.
Local rock band Stoneshiver celebrates the release of its new EP, “Character Development,” with a concert party Friday at Strummer’s. The release comes on the heels of gigs at FresYes Fest and as a finalists at BlazeFest’s Battle of the Bands and features a stellar lineup of local support including Call Me James, Westhoward and Werebear.
A Grizzly city fest
Grizzly Fest is the weekend’s best bet if you’re into spending the day seeing a massive amount of reggae, hip-hop and indie rock and EDM.
The annual downtown music festival is working to establishing itself as a major regional draw (think Bottlerock Napa or Los Angeles’ FYF Fest) with a lineup that includes mainstage performances from Cali rock reggae band Rebelution, Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco, Bay area rapper E-40 and Pennsylvania rock band Dr. Dog; plus Collie Budz, Dilated Peoples, Thee Commons and Fashawn. There’s also a whole host of locals, including 40 Watt Hype, Sagey, Wee Beasties and The Faculty. A full list of bands, stages and times can be found on the Grizzly Fest website.
Details: 2 p.m. Saturday. Chukchansi Park, 1800 Tulare St. $45. grizzlyfestival.com
What the hell
To get a sense of what touring with Dierks Bentley is like; he travels with his own bar. It’s dubbed Whiskey Row and gets set up backstage most nights.
“It’s just a party,” says Bentley, talking on the phone in advance of his tour stop Saturday night at the Save Mart Center.
“A meaningful party,” he says.
He’s actually talking about what happens on stage. Bentley, whose album “Black” was released last year, is known for party-centric country rock and ferocious live performances.
Those performances are driven by friendly competition with his openers, he says.
“I bring people out on the road with me who I know are hungry.”
Both would show him up each night if he let them. That ensures he’ll at his best for every show.
That makes for a fun tour, Bentley says.
“I have the best time every night.”
Asleep at the Wheel
For the last four-plus decades, Texas’ Asleep at the Wheel has honored the legacy of Bob Wills as the modern purveyors of Western Swing. The Austin, Texas band won its 10th Grammy Award in February for its tribute to Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys; the band’s third such tribute.
Bottom line, this is for fans of country and western music.
Mike Epps, Keyshia Cole and the The Audibles are at the Selland Arena for “Empowered: a Night of Energy.” Epps is the actor/musican/rapper and stand-up comedian best known for roles in the “Friday” films and the “The Hangover.” He was featured for one season of the ABC sitcom “Uncle Buck.” Cole is an R&B soul singer and reality television personality who had a string of radio hits in the 2000s – “Let It Go” with Missy Elliott and Lil Kim. The singer had early ties with rappers MC Hammer and Tupac.