For the first time this week, my feet genuinely hurt. I'm taking it as a sign that it's time to go home. I had grand intentions of getting up early today to pack so I'd save time tomorrow morning, but we all know what happens to good intentions...
Instead, I left the hotel in the early afternoon to attend the Crabb Family showcase. I missed the opening songs, but arrived just as Aaron and Amanda Crabb were finishing a song. From there, the other three Crabb incarnations each took the stage for 2-song sets. Mike and Kelly Bowling sounded great with strong vocals. Next, Crabb Revival came on stage. I had sent them my demo when they were looking for a third singer. Seeing them today, I realized two things: One, I was not the singer for this group. Two, I am an instant fan of Crabb Revival! They were awesome! It was driving and rootsy and had lots of groove. Killer vocals and awesome instrumental parts made everything soulful and cool. Love them!
Jason Crabb was backed up by a five piece band, and he was just incredible. (No real surprise there.) There is nothing like Jason's voice, his phrasing, his choice of riffing notes. Always wonderful, always musical, always spiritual. After Jason's songs, the rest of the family joined him for the 'reunion' part of the showcase, but I had to leave early to hear my friend Wess Adams in the Regional Artist Showcase. Wess is a Stamps-Baxter friend, and I've heard him sing many times, but today was definitely his best performance that I've seen. The Dove Brothers were one of the guest artists on the showcase, and the audience nearly lost control when they sang "Get Away Jordan".
The exhibit hall was sheer madness for the first two hours tonight. NQC moved the Singing News Fan Awards to tonight, and I'm sure there must be a difference in attendance. Singing News had a songwriting contest this year, and part of the prize was a performance of the song on mainstage. Well, the quartet to sing the song was Allison Durham Speer, Johnny Minick, Aaron Minick (my fabulous producer!), and Mike Allen. They are still performing as an unnamed quartet, so tonight they announced their new contest called NameThatQuartet.com Actually, that was supposed to be announced, but the audio was out on Bill Gaither's taped piece that made the announcement. I watched their performance with Brian Speer, so I got the inside scoop.
After their performance, I got to spend some time with Allison and Brian and show them my banner and booth. Since they were part of the Banner Photo Selection Committee, it was great to be able to show them the gorgeous finished product. We also did some Elijah Conference chatting. I can't believe that's only a few weeks away!
Freedom Hall was packed again tonight, so Tara and I watched most of the awards from a live feed in the exhibit hall. Tara was getting a drive back to Nashville tonight, so she left just after the awards, taking her table and stools with her. Naturally, that pretty much dismantled the booth, but I was determined to keep my half of the booth going, so I left my banner up, and put the CD rack on the chair with a few artfully displayed business cards. Later, Wess gave me the flowers from his booth, so I placed them strategically and decoratively by the chair. Probably didn't bring me any business, but it all made me smile. I spent the next few hours visiting booths, saying hi to people, booking another SGM Radio interview (Mark Bishop!), and shopping for CDs. I also got to meet two more radio people, so that was cool.
My friends, the Stutzman Family, had comfy couches and a live feed in their booth, so near the end of the night, I just hung out with them, watching the final mainstage performances and eating their homemade cookies. Last year, Mark Lowrey and Lordsong were one of my favourite acts all week, and tonight's set kept the standard high. I guess, like a lot of people, I mostly know Mark through his Gaither appearances. Maybe I don't know enough about him, but I feel like he's found a new level of performing in the last few years. His voice is great and his patter is smooth and easy. He has you laughing hard, and then boom, he nails you with this serious, heartfelt thought. Lordsong sounded incredible, and the whole presentation was very professional and entertaining. I'm not quite ready for Mark's senior tour, but I'd be interested in seeing him in a solo performance.
Finally, it was time to break down the booth (or my half-booth, as I started calling it). As I was bringing stuff to the car, I started to think about the week. I know I'll spend more time with this as the week goes on, but for tonight, I think I'm really pleased with it. I think we came here with realistic goals, and overall, I think we met them. I learned a lot, I met lots of great people, I made some great connections, and I feel I performed well. Now, it's just about getting a good night's sleep and having a safe drive home tomorrow. Can't wait to see the puppies!