The Christmas season typically abounds with images of Santa and “Silent Night.”
Not this year, Santa.
It will be a “Not So Silent Night” when singer/songwriter Phil Vassar’s holiday tour, featuring Lonestar, stops at the Weinberg Center on Saturday. Show time is 7 p.m. Tickets are $40 to $75.
Virginia native Vassar made his debut on the country music scene in the late 1990s and, in addition to songwriting, is known as a piano-pounding powerhouse on stage. His signature songs include “Carlene,” “Just Another Day in Paradise,” “Six-Pack Summer” and “When I Love You.” He’s also written hit songs for other artists, including Alan Jackson’s “Right on the Money,” Tim McGraw’s “For A Little While,” Collin Raye’s “Little Red Rodeo,” and “Bye Bye,” recorded by Jo Dee Messina.
Joining him on this tour is the 1990’s chart-topping band Lonestar, whose hits include “Amazed,” “No News,” “I’m Already There,” “Mr. Mom,” “What About Now” and “Walking in Memphis.” The band members all hail from Texas — Michael Britt, lead guitar, backing vocals; Richie McDonald, lead vocals, piano; Keech Rainwater, drums; and Dean Sams, keyboards, acoustic guitar and backing vocals.
For this tour, Vassar joined with Lonestar to record the new Christmas single, “Not So Silent Night.” One hundred percent of the proceeds from sales of the single will benefit the Salvation Army, nationwide. The video was filmed at Vassar’s home over two nights, with the performance being filmed on one night and the not-so-silent-night craziness on a second night.
The tour kicked off Nov. 30 in Biloxi, Mississippi, and it will end here in Frederick on Saturday.
“It’s been so much fun,” said Lonestar’s Britt in a recent phone interview from the Nashville area, where all the band members live “within a dart’s throw” of each other. The show “has so many moving parts with two bands and two sets of equipment on the stage,” he added. “It’s a logistical nightmare! We spent three days rehearsing before the first show.”
But, he said, by the time the 12-date tour gets to Frederick, “we’re going to be having a blast!”
Britt said the audience will hear “some Lonestar hits, some Christmas songs, some of Phil’s hits and some more Christmas songs,” some featuring new arrangements as both artists join together to sing them. Vassar and McDonald unite to sing “Walking in Memphis” at the piano. Vassar will sing some Lonestar songs; Lonestar will sing some Vassar-penned songs, including “Just Another Day in Paradise.”
“That’s a song we almost recorded,” Britt said.
Actually, they did record it for an album but before it was released, Vassar got his first recording contract and wanted the song back.
He said Lonestar has always included some holiday music in their show at this time of year, but this is the first time they have been part of a tour like this.
“We’ve known Phil over the years,” Britt said. “Dean Sams talked to Phil one day and he suggested the tour and invited us along. We said yes.”
At each show, a female representative from the local Salvation Army will join Lonestar and Vassar on stage to sing a song with them. The representative in Frederick is slated to be Lt. Carla Raymer, corps officer with the Frederick office. Volunteer bell ringers with the SA’s signature red kettles will be set up at the Weinberg to accept donations, too, one hour before doors open.
Carla Raymer will rehearse the two songs she will be singing with Lonestar and Phil Vassar during soundcheck the afternoon of the concert.
“She’s ready,” said her husband, Lt. Chris Raymer, also with the Frederick Salvation Army office. She will join the artists for “Wonderland” and “Let It Snow,” he said. She has a degree in early childhood education with a focus on music from Georgia State University. Her performance experience includes church and choral music.
From Kiss to Lonestar
As an air-guitar playing young teen, Britt’s dream was to be in a rock band, like Kiss. A few years later, living in Austin, Texas, he discovered blues, then country music.
“I realized I could play all the blues licks and the rock licks in country, plus it has its own style and it’s more fun to play,” Britt said.
All the band members are from Texas and in the very early years, they played several sets a night, four to five nights a week on the Texas bar circuit.
“If you add all those shows up, we played about 280 dates a year,” Britt said.
Once they signed a record deal as Lonestar, 26 years ago, they played about 160 to 180 dates a year, he said. Today, it’s about 70 to 80.
“There are so few places to play Monday through Wednesday, we generally do weekends and play like rock stars,” Britt said, and that leaves time for family and other interests, like the latest in technology for musicians. Sams, for instance, works in lighting, Rainwater produces and edits music videos and McDonald is the bus mechanic.
“It’s his way of tinkering. He keeps us off the side of the road,” Britt said.
The bus pulls into Frederick on Saturday. For tickets or more information, call 301-600-2828 or visit www.weinbergcenter.org.