Jared + The Mill
Words by Liz | Photos by Emma
I started this with the intentions of writing a live review, but needless to say, it turned into more of a diary entry.
I'm all about honesty here, and before I actually heard Jared + the Mill play, I was under the impression that they were a country band and I cringed a bit (ok, a lot) while I thought about listening to an entire set. I'm not about that boot stompin', beer drinkin', pop-country life. Don't get me wrong, folks; I can get diggity down to some Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson, but I kind of one hundred percent expected Jared + the Mill to be one of those Florida Georgia Line/Little Big Town sounding bands that are quite literally the enemy of alternative-indie-pop-rock (and basically every other genre besides country) fans such as myself. BUT, lo and behold, it was quite the show. And to clarify: I was wrong. They’re folk rock and I’m so into that. I was also into their south western vibes. More specifically, the giant metal prickly pear cactus resting up onstage.
When it was time for the final act to start, I was shocked- and kind of confused- when just a couple people trickled in. Now, let me add, this was no packed venue. I was expecting the Saturday Night Crowd to barge in at any moment. It should've been poppin' ...but it wasn't. At one point, Emma leaned over and said “ I just counted 27 people.” My heart always sinks a bit when that happens. Call it second hand embarrassment or maybe even pity. I'm always curious to see how bands play for tiny crowds like that, though. I've seen bands play for scarce crowds as if they were playing for a sold-out stadium. I've also seen the disappointment on the faces of the band members when there's not nearly as many people as expected, and their music suffers. I've had this discussion with various bands: if they play with the same energy the crowd has, or if they play with the energy they want the crowd to give them back. Most bands, like Jared + the Mill, bring and play with all the charisma and passion that they want the audience to feel too- no matter how big or small. That makes my heart swell, folks. I have a much higher sense of respect for those bands and artists who don’t care about how many people show up. They really just care about the music and giving the people who did come an amazing set.
I watched the show from the side while Emma snapped photos. There was a handful of people up front and the rest were sitting at the tables in the back, sipping on beers. After the first few songs, I decided it wasn't bad. I liked it. While Jared's voice could be confused with the voice of a Top 40 country pop star, the way the music worked alongside his voice was a lot more Mumford and Sons (second album plus a banjo) and a lot less...Dierks Bently? Or some other country radio artist I'm not particularly accustomed to. But, I was diggin' it. He used that same sweet voice to take every chance he could to talk to the audience and invite us to come together. I noticed about half way through that I was tapping my foot, then clapping my hand on my leg and, of course, beaming while I watched a group of people do what they love with such devotion and joy. At one point, Jared announced that he loved us all- and it wasn't one of those expected "Good night, Tulsa! We love you!"' I love you’s. The music was at a halt and he said "I love you. Each and every one of you. You might not love me back, but I love you. Thank you so much for coming out." Right then and there, I felt his love, I really did.
A few songs after that, the band invited everyone to stand up and gather around the center of the floor in front of the stage. They hopped down and I felt obligated- but also excited- to hop up off the sidelines and join whatever was about to happen. I grabbed Emma, talked Sam and Hugh (of the first act of the night) into boot scootin’ with us, and waited. What I didn’t expect to happen was that this would turn into one of my favorite unplugged performances so far. Jared + the Mill brought a spirit that can only be described as a feeling of togetherness. My heart melted and Emma got a little misty eyed as we all mmh-ed and ahh-ed to their song Crawl. After it ended, I had a genuine love for the band and all 26 people in the crowd. I don’t think I was the only one either. After they got back onstage, we found ourselves with our arms wrapped around the stranger next to us- and it wasn't weird! It was beautiful. I couldn’t even wipe a silly little smile off my face because I was again reminded of the power of music. Whether you’re in a packed arena and everyone is singing every word to every song or in a tiny venue where only a handful of people have even listened to the band before that night, music has the ability to bring a closeness between strangers that nothing else can. I can tell that the hearts of Jared + the Mill are solid gold. They are an entirely independent band and they put their all into their music. After the show, I watched out of the corner of my eye as Jared handed a free CD to a couple who bought T-shirts. They offered to pay but he declined and responded with, “Give this to someone you really care about.”
This is the stuff I live for, my friends. There's nothing better than seeing people who survive off of making others happy. Just genuine folks on and offstage. To Jared and the Mill, thank you for a beautiful night of music. Thank you for opening up my eyes and my heart a little more. I wish you all the luck and would be happy to sing and dance with you again!