When a band gets to the level where they graduate out of spaces where music is generally intended to be played in, it can conjure a feeling of, “Well, where to next?” In the case of Zac Brown Band, the long-running band of country-rock experimenters has risen to the level of popularity in the Boston area that has almost become bigger than the city can contain. The band will be in town for two shows at Fenway Park this weekend, and if they sell both out, they will hold the record for 11 consecutive sold-out shows — beating their own previous record of nine sell-out shows at the legendary ballpark.
For most bands, getting to sell out a place like Fenway is a dream you can only aspire to. So where do you go when that dream keeps coming true? “It is incredible,” says Zac Brown Band bassist Matt Mangano. “I mean, that’s the biggest fear as a musician, is that you’re going to show up onstage, and there’s not going to be anyone out in the audience. To see that many people, it doesn’t get old to see that many people out there. It certainly is powerful every time. You don’t get desensitized to it.”
Longtime guitarist Clay Cook tries to focus on this feat in the simplest of terms and treat it like another big show in Boston. After all, that’s really what it is when it comes down to it. It’s more fun to ignore the fine print of the situation.
“I don’t know, we’re just really excited to even play the park again. It’s not anything anyone in the band focused on, the sellout record or anything like that. We really, truly appreciate the Boston fans for making that happen for us, which is great. It’s an amazing feeling. There’s nothing like it until you walk up on stage. I’d imagine walking out to center field to play your first major league game would be pretty damn cool, or stepping up to bat. I’d imagine that’s the only thing that you could make it like what it is like.”
Outside of the Northeast being the area where Zac Brown Band has really found their biggest audience, both Mangano and Cook have a strong connection to Boston after both going to school at Berklee College of Music.
“Matt and I individually have a lot of nostalgia wrapped up in the city of Boston specifically, just because of the Berklee connection,” remembers Cook. “We spent a lot of formative years walking the streets of Back Bay and beyond, and we’re both pretty big Red Sox fans, too. So it’s really cool to play Fenway, no matter how many times you get to play it.”
Check out footage from Zac Brown Band at Fenway in 2018
In fact, as Red Sox fans, the feeling of standing where their heroes play every night couldn’t be more thrilling for the two musicians.
“It’s cool, too. I remember the first time that we played there,” Mangano recalls. “The park itself has its own trademark sound. We walked out there, and first of all, when we … it was just … I still can’t ever forget that first night that we walked out on to the stage at showtime at Fenway Park, because you don’t really see the park from that perspective, ever. The stage is, whatever, 10 feet off the ground. You’re in center field, so not many people get to see the field from that point of view. So seeing that was pretty enormous. Then the baseball park has its own sound. When I could hear our music bouncing around the baseball park, it sounded like the sounds of a baseball park. It sounded like Fenway Park. You hear the announcer over the speakers, hearing his voice bounce back and forth. It has a very distinct echo, and our music was sort of running through that filter. It was really … we didn’t expect to hear that.”
It was recently announced that the Zac Brown Band will be releasing their new album, “The Owl” — the band’s follow-up to “Welcome Home” — next month. With the release just around the bend, the band promises to give fans a sneak peek of the material this weekend.
“You’ll hear a lot of new songs live,” Mangano assures. But what can fans expect from the ever-adventurous band’s new album? “Just be ready for whatever we’re going to throw at you,” he says. “Because it’s all going to be different. It’s going to be music you’ve never heard before.