Concert lineups and their locations often provide a rough approximation of a performer’s success or status: Opening act, middle act or headliner? Small club or arena?
For Texas country singer-songwriter Cody Johnson, Friday’s country show signals how far he’s come in about seven years. He’s the headliner, with Pat Green and Flatland Cavalry the middle acts in a four-band lineup, and, until weather forced a change in concert plans earlier this week, the original venue was to be Touchdown Alley, an open-air space outside of Baylor University’s McLane Stadium, that can handle thousands of fans.
That’s success, a step up from the four-band shows he’s headlined the last two springs at the Extraco Events Center, where the lineups included Mark Chesnutt, Roger Creager, William Michael Morgan, Mo Pitney, Josh Ward, and Shotgun Rider. Friday's concert was moved to Extraco after heavy rain midweek with a forecast of more for Friday.
Johnson, 31, brings his “Ain’t Nothin’ to It” tour to Waco in a month that includes performances in Nacogdoches, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, New York City and New Braunfels, as well as a sold-out debut May 4 at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium.
Johnson’s album “Ain’t Nothin’ to It” represents the latest rung in a career ladder that started back in 2011 when the Texas native and former rodeo rider decided to leave his job as a Texas State Penitentiary guard and pursue his music full time.
He built a considerable fanbase, nicknamed CoJo Nation, as an independent performer, with his 2016 album “Gotta Be Me” opening at No. 2 on iTunes Country Album Chart and adding to his more than 100 million song streams by online listeners.
The new album, released in January, is Johnson’s first release on the major label Warner Music Nashville, and fans’ initial response — a No. 1 debut on Billboard’s Country Albums chart — seems to support the multiple 2019 Artists to Watch lists that had Johnson’s name.
While Texas remains the heart of Johnson’s support, his popularity isn’t contained by state lines: His May 4 Ryman Auditorium show sold out four months in advance.
The middle acts in Friday’s lineup are no slouches, either. Fort Worth-based country star Pat Green, who spent his youth in Waco, returns to his former home territory. With more than two million album sales over his two decade career, Green continues to write and perform in addition to co-owning The Rustic, a successful restaurant/live music venue with locations in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. He also runs a Fort Worth art gallery.
Earlier this year, Green released the single “Til the Last Whistle Blows,” which he co-wrote with George Dunham for the film “The Last Whistle,” winner of the Best Feature Film Award at this year’s Deep In The Heart Film Festival.
Lubbock-based folk-Americana band Flatland Cavalry makes another Waco stop with Friday’s concert. The band, which played both the Heart O’ Texas Fair and Rodeo and The Backyard’s Winterfest last fall, is touring in support of its second album, “Homeland Insecurity.”
Louisiana native Kylie Frey, like Johnson a former rodeo rider, will open Friday’s show. With two No. 1 hits on the Texas Regional Radio charts (“Too Bad” and “Rodeo Man”), she recently released “Ain’t Enough Beer” and last fall was a contestant in USA Network’s music competition “Real Country.”
Editor's note: This event was originally scheduled to take place at Touchdown Alley at McLane Stadium. Due to venue-change information received after press deadline, that information appeared in the May 9 print edition of Access waco.