Everyone always says country audiences are getting younger and younger, and I now think I know why. It's because guys like Florida Georgia Line's Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley take time to show little kids just how they do it 'round here.
Before their first show of a two-night stop in Moline, Ill., on Saturday (Jan. 18), the duo brought 20 aspiring musicians -- from age 8 to 18 -- into the empty iWireless Center arena for a private show and meet-and-greet. It was all part of the Quad Cities' QC Rock Academy, and the school's director Greg Hipskind told me his students were thrilled with the chance to see the band so up close and personal.
"The kids freaked out about it. Whenever any bands come to town, I attempt it. But most of the time I get no response," Hipskind told me, saying that when he got word that Florida Georgia Line was willing and able to meet the students, he sent out an email to his entire student body.
"We have about 175 kids, so when I sent out the announcement that the first 20 people who wrote back could hang out with Florida Georgia Line, those spots were filled up within a half hour," he said.
And when it came time for the band to meet the students, Hipskind said Hubbard and Kelley were top-notch guys.
"They came out and did 'This Is How We Roll' with their whole band in the big empty arena," he said. "Then they came off the stage, and each kid got a picture with them and an autograph. I wanted the students to see, 'This is what it's like to be a big rock star.'"
Since the students were allowed into the arena before the band's soundcheck was done, they got to see some very real behind-the-scenes work.
"They watched the roadies set up the lights and the techs soundcheck the drums and guitars. The stuff nobody gets to see," Hipskind said. "And the tour manager was explaining everything that was going on."
One 10-year-old boy -- a major Florida Georgia Line fan -- had Kelley and Hubbard sign his guitar strap.
"And when he spun around to get his picture taken with them, he just mouthed the words, 'Oh, my God.'" Hipskind said. "He had the biggest grin on his face. That alone made the whole thing worthwhile."