Cory Branan at Caledonia Lounge on Sept. 25

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I arrive at Caledonia in the middle of Betsy Franck’s performance. The simple two-man show was enough to capture me. Alongside a killer electric violin, Franck’s vocals were deep and flowing. Furthermore, anyone with a Loretta Lynn autograph on his/her guitar has my vote.

Franck leaves the stage but lingers among the small crowd, the size of which can be attributed to the Reptar/New Madrid concert down the street at the Georgia Theatre. Sometimes these things happen. Nevertheless, I think all of the artists at Caledonia, although deprived of a proper Athens audience, left their emotions on the stage. On the bright side, the show becomes exceptionally personal and engaging.

Cory Branan makes his way to the stage with drink in hand. A quick sound check, and he’s ready to go. He has a very relaxed manner and a “unique” sense of humor. He starts by saying, “It’s not about the number” in regards to the intimate crowd.

The first song is one from his newest album, The No-Hit Wonder. With each hard strum of his guitar, Branan displays a little frustration and a little lightheartedness. After a few energetic songs, Branan gets the crowd loosened up and states, “Okay, I’m happy now,” confirming this with his performance of “You Make Me.”

One thing I know that the people at the packed-out Reptar/New Madrid concert aren’t getting – direct acknowledgment. Branan calls people out in the crowd by name and asks the audience for requests. “Survivor Blues!” someone yells, and Branan promptly accommodates.

Branan and Franck are both relatable, approachable. Although this is true for many artists, this show in particular seemed to make it easier. There’s no backstage at Caledonia.  There’s only one stage, one front door, one back door, and one bar. During Branan’s concert, it feels like we could have just as easily been sitting around the bonfire, sharing a bottle and a laugh.

Although Athens may not have been Branan’s favorite crowd, I can honestly say he gained a few more fans after his show at Caledonia. I took my cousin and her roommate along with me, and I was curious about how they would react to the music. After listening to and reviewing The No-Hit Wonder, I decided that Branan was the country for me, and I hoped my companions would feel the same way.  Success. This won’t be the last time I see Branan, and I suggest you do the same.

Nikki grew up in an imitation German town in Georgia by the name of Helen. It wasn’t until middle school that she started to get interested in the arts: painting, music, and writing. She wrote in her diary, sketched in art class and listened to regretful music. By high school, her tastes became a little more refined. She found Fiona Apple, Lou Reed and Giant Drag, and they remain her favorites in college. She was accepted to the University of Georgia in 2012 and is currently majoring in English. Upon moving to Athens from a town with more trees than people, Nikki was a bit overwhelmed. However, there is certainly no lack of inspiration in Athens, and she appreciates its love for the arts and its service as a platform.

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