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Zac Brown Band likes to take it out to the ballpark

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Friday, September 11, 2015

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The Zac Brown Band has played in just about every circumstance since the group formed during 2002 in Georgia.

But longtime member John Driskell Hopkins says "there's nothing like" playing the baseball stadiums that have been highlights of the octet's summer touring schedule this year -- including Comerica Park this weekend and three sold-out shows earlier this summer at Boston's Fenway Park.

"Back in 2011 we did 10 or 12 football stadiums with Kenny Chesney, and there's something completely different about baseball stadiums," says Hopkins, 44, who himself played third base and outfield as a Little Leaguer but gave up the game to concentrate on swimming as a teenager.

"Baseball stadiums are just beautiful. Football stadiums are cool, but you wouldn't call them beautiful 'cause they're so gigantic and a lot of them are domes, where baseball stadiums are open-air. You feel like you're at a ballgame the whole time you're there, and you're surrounded by humanity. It's a cool thing to be part of."

Being able to play those kinds of venues certainly speaks to the ZBB's popularity, which includes three platinum-or-better and three consecutive No. 1 country albums, a dozen No. 1 country singles, three Grammy Awards and a Vocal Group of the Year nomination for this year's CMA Awards. And, Hopkins acknowledges, the ZBB has achieved all that without sticking strictly to country music confines but rather taking a broad approach -- especially on the this year's "Jekyll + Hyde," which even found the group collaborating with Soundgarden's Chris Cornell on the heavy-hitting, Hopkins co-written track "Heavy is the Heart."

"Our fans are very dedicated and they're great about supporting us and hanging on tight for the ride were about to give 'em," Hopkins acknowledges. "We don't always throw out there what they expect, so it's good to have patient fans who are willing to indulge our experiments and loyal fans who have been here and just won't give up on us."

Hopkins adds that the ZBB's experiment "happen gradually," and he says the key to making those songs work -- especially in concert -- is by mixing them properly within the rest of the group's body of work.

"We've always delivered what everybody's come to see while also pushing the boundaries a little bit," he explains. "There are one or two songs a night that are surprised. If someone's upset with that, that's when they go to the bathroom or get a beer.

"We're very realistic when it comes to what people are enjoying and what they're not. If it's a bomb, we'll toss it out the window, whether we like it or not. There's a lot of stuff we like that people haven't responded to and lots of stuff we like that they have. You just have to be aware and ready to switch it up, all the time."

Zac Brown Band and Drake White & the Big Fire

7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12.

Comerica Park, 2100 Woodward Ave.

Tickets are $25-$125 with a $99 four-pack available. Call 866-668-4437 or visit olympiaentertainment.com.

Web Site: www.olympiaentertainment.com

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